Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover

Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover

These last couple of weeks there have been numerous protests regarding how African Americans are treated by police and by society in general. The point that has been being made over and over is that African Americans are not treated fairly in our society. Many people felt that with the election of President Obama that racism was over. Many people felt if a Black man could be elected President, how could our society be racist?

However, the racism and prejudice still continue. The death of George Floyd was a prime example that racism continues in our society. Additionally, the protestors are not just talking about obvious racism, they are protesting institutional racism which exists at many levels in our society. One place in exist is in our schools. Children and teenagers are not born with racism and prejudice, but we teach it to them as they grow up. We need to change how children are raised if we want to eliminate racism and prejudice.

One example is Jill Elliot’s blue eyed/brown eyed exercise. The day after Martin Luther King assignation’s, she put her third grade class through this exercise. At first she told her class research showed that Blue eyed people were better and made all the brown eyed children wear a necklace identifying them as brown eyed people. Within a couple of hours these third grade students, who they day before were treating each other as equals, were putting down the brown eyed children. The next day she said she had been mistaken and Brown eyed children were better so all the blue eye children needed to wear the necklaces. Again within a couple hours all of the Brown eyed third graders were forming prejudice attitudes about the blue eyed children and treating them according to these prejudice attitudes. This amazing exercise demonstrated how easily prejudice and racism are taught and how easily children will adapt to and treat others with the prejudice attitudes they have been taught by society. This was a very bold step for Mrs. Elliot to take, but it taught us a lot. Her exercise still works today. Oprah had Mrs. Elliot on a show and put the audience through the same exercise and 50 years later the results were the same. The thing many of us have found so amazing about this exercise is that with very little information prejudice and racism can take hold of people very quickly without people being aware of what is happening. In the original third grade class you had best friends stop being friends due to eye color. Thankfully the results were not long lasting. On the third day when Mrs. Elliot explained what she did the children stopped treating each other differently. However the point was clearly made how easy it is to teach children to be prejudice and how easy it is to keep prejudice and discrimination going.

The 1984 movie, The Breakfast Club, is another excellent example of how we teach children to be prejudice and to discriminate. In the movie five teenagers representing the common high school stereotypes, the rich popular kid, the jock, the nerd, the weirdo and the juvenile delinquent, are all together having to serve Saturday school for various mistakes they made at school. The teacher overseeing the Saturday school reacts to the teens according to the stereotype the fit. He asks them to write an essay describing themselves.

At the beginning of the movie the teens treat each other according to the stereotypes. As a result, they are rude to each other and put each other down when ever they can. They never stop to think how they are making each other feel even when it’s obvious they are hurting someone’s feelings. It’s all part of the stereotypes they have learned so it’s alright. In other words, they are already operating from a point of view that some people matter and other people do not matter. If they don’t matter you can say or do whatever you want to them and not feel guilty or any remorse.

However during the course of the day, they begin to notice and learn things about each other. They start to learn that they are not as different from each other as they thought. They begin to identify things they have in common and notice they have the same feelings as each other. Once they remove the stereotypes they started to see how similar they were to each other. However, then the question came up, what happens when they return to school on Monday? Could they maintain the friendships they made that day? Finally one person speaks up and says no due to the peer pressure. They felt they would have to continue to follow the stereotypes at school if they wanted to keep their other friends. Even though they had learned how wrong the stereotypes were and the friendships they were missing out on, they felt no one else would understand and accept what they were doing. Since this was a movie they were able to discuss the price they were paying conforming to the stereotypes and the friendships they were losing. At the end they decided to abandon the stereotypes and take the risk of no conforming to the norm, so they could maintain their friendships. Exactly what we need teenagers to do if we are going to eliminate racism and discrimination.

As for the easy, they wrote a group easy for the teacher. They realized that no matter what they said the teacher would still see the stereotypes; the princess, the jock, the nerd, the weirdo and the juvenile delinquent. I find the closing line very interesting because they state what they discovered during the day was each of them had parts of all the stereotypes as part of their personalities. Therefore, no one was better or worse, they were all equal and deserved to be treated equally. They also felt no need to explain themselves to the teacher because in their opinion he was going to continue to see what he wanted. It would not matter to him what they said. He already made up his mind about them.

This movie does an excellent job showing how teenagers learn to conform to society’s prejudices and discrimination. However, it also provides hope that if we take down the preconceived ideas that we may discover the similarities we share and celebrate the our differences. Wouldn’t the world be boring, if we all were the same? Also the United States has always been referred to as the great American melting pot. The meaning is clear our Country was suppose to accept all who want to join and contribute their unique cultures. When did we forget this point?

The children and teenagers are the future of our Country. We need to listen to them and we need to allow them to have experiences like the Breakfast Club. There is a group Challenge Day that does provide this opportunity for teenagers. As adults we need to be honest with ourselves about the prejudice attitudes we teach children. Parents demand that your schools make Challenge Day and other programs like it as part of the school’s Curriculum. We need to end racism, discrimination, people not being given a fair chance to succeed and especially people being killed.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. He is a founding member of the national Street Soldier Advisory Board and has worked with Challenge Day. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Raising Children without Prejudice

Raising Children without Prejudice

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis has created a number of protests, conversations and people using his death as an excuse to commit crimes and cause damage. What I want to focus on is that his murder has shined a spotlight on the fact that Black Americans and other minorities are not treated equally in the United States. An issue we have ignored for a long time. Unfortunately, Mr. Floyd’s death gives us a chance to change this fact. It also provides us a chance to change how children are raised in the United States so hopefully we can eliminate prejudice regarding race, religion, sexual orientation, physical disabilities, mental health issues and financial status just to name a few issues.

Some people may ask who am I to address this issue. I am a white man, who has a physical disability, but my status of being white provided me the chance to an excellent education, I was able to go to the best schools, and I was able to earn a doctorate degree. It also gave me the opportunity to open my own business, live in a nice home in a nice neighborhood, to have very nice clothes, a nice car and plenty of food to eat. Additionally, I have access to excellent medical care when I need it. Therefore, being white and working hard has provided me with a number of advantages. The way my family raised me and what I was taught by the Christian Brothers is the more you know the more you owe. In other words, since I was fortunate enough to have all these advantages, I have an obligation to speak out for all those people who are not as fortunate as me. Something I am able to do because I am white. Because I am white with a doctorate degree people are more willing to listen to me than a Black man on the ground saying he cannot breathe.

A Black man made a YouTube video about who he is as a person. Please take the time to watch this video by this black man. As he describes himself, I do not see a big difference between him as a person and myself except he is black. The color of his skin should not make a difference in how I treat this man, in my opinion. Watch it for yourself and see what you think https://youtu.be/oGu_xGBekpo.

In order to address some of the issues people are protesting about those of us who have the privilege and power, we need to look at ourselves and how we have benefited from the privilege and power we were born into. As a result of this power, we have the ability to try to change the way things work in the United States so everyone is treated fairly. Being treated fairly means treating people for who they are not based on race, religion, sexual orientation or physical disability or mental health issues. Michael Jackson said it perfectly, in my opinion, in his song, “The Man in the Mirror.” He describes how the privileged act and how we discriminate against and ignore minorities, the poor and those with disabilities. His challenge to us is do we have the courage to look at ourselves and make real changes so everyone is treated equally. I have included a link to the lyrics of that song. Please review them and look at how they apply to today’s world and ask yourself do you have the courage to really change yourself? https://youtu.be/j2mJZwOMLdQ.

After we have made the appropriate changes then we can teach our children not to discriminate and to treat everyone fairly. Yes, it’s seems impossible, but this is the United States. If enough of us decide to make these changes and work together, we can make these changes. Or maybe we need to let the children teach us. A year ago a video went viral of two preschoolers who were best friends and not afraid to hug each other. They did not care that one boy was white and the other was black. They did not care because they were not yet taught about prejudice and discrimination. I have included the link to that video too https://youtu.be/M68evpsDC8M. These two boys are very happy and very good friends. Wouldn’t it be nice if as adults we could be so nice to each other? Maybe we need to watch the innocent children so we can learn how to unlearn the prejudice thoughts that we have all been raised with by our society. When I see we I mean we. Whites, blacks, hispanics, asians, rich people, poor people, educated and uneducated people, we all have our prejudices and ways we discriminate against each other. However, in order for us to really make a change, white people need to take the first step because we have the majority of the power. However, if we are going to make a permanent change, black people, hispanic people and asian people need to take steps at the same time. We all need to work together if we want our children to have better lives and not have to continue to live with prejudices and discrimination.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Teenagers Growing up with Racism

Teenagers Growing up with Racism

This week our nation witnessed another senseless tragedy the murder of George Floyd by the police. Is this the first time that a Blackman or another minority has been mistreated by the police or society no! However, what are we teaching our children with the violent protest that have been occurring all over the Country.

Our children have grown up with chaos. They were first exposed to 9/11, then terrorist attacks, a war which has gone on for 17 years, mass shootings at their schools and finally being in quarantine for 2 1/2 months due to the Coronavirus virus. This is a lot for a child to comprehend. They already believe they won’t live past 30 because of the violence in the world. What will these violent protests do to this belief?

Is there a reason for the protest? Yes. We all saw a man brutally murdered for no reason by the police again. Are minorities treated fairly in our Country, No. I am a psychotherapist who has over 20 years experience working with teenagers. Many of the teenagers I have worked with have been on probation, expelled from school or picked up by the police for walking around our city treats. I have also went to Juvenile Hall many times to continue a teenager’s therapy or to complete a Court Ordered assessment. What I have seen over and over is that minority teenagers are not treated the same as Caucasian teenagers. Minority teenagers always receive the tougher punishments while Caucasian teenagers walk away with a warning. However, financial class makes a difference too. If you are a poor Caucasian teenager you are treated like a minority. One judge even referred to one poor white teenager’s family as “trailer trash.” The teen was devastated but no one in authority gave it a second thought.

What we need to do for our children is elect leaders who will demand a change in the system. The President encourages this discrimination. He called the people “thugs” in his tweet and uses other racial statements. Anytime there has been a racial issue he tends to ignore it choosing to focus on how he is mistreated. Also look at his history of how he has referred to people of color, women, people with disabilities and people who live below the poverty level. He makes fun of them and blames them for the problems in our Country. We can change this with our votes.

However, if we are going to really address the issue we must all look at ourselves. Listen to Michael Jackson’s song “Man in the Miroor.” He states, “I’m going to make a change and I’m starting with the man in the mirror.” We have all been brought up in this society where minorities or anyone who is slightly different is not treated equally. Every person wether you are white, black or brown has some racist attitudes. Therefore, to eliminate the inequality in our Country, we must address our issues first and then teach our children about these issues. Burning a building or breaking car windows will change nothing. The Mayor of Atlanta said it best last night. I have included a link to her speech. I encourage each and every one of you to listen to it and apply to your own lives. Give our children a chance at a better life by having the courage to face your racism https://youtu.be/BVs8JXqLPs8.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Helping Children Cope with Anxiety during the Pandemic

Helping Children Cope with Anxiety during the Pandemic

Anxiety is a common issue for children especially during the quarantine and having to attend school from home. Remember children’s imaginations are very active. During the last few months we have had little to no information about how the Coronavirus works. Therefore, there has not been a lot to explain to children and they have heard a lot on the news. Many parents tell me they have limited the access to news but with their IPads, phones and friends, they hear more than we are aware of. Also don’t forget, prior to the pandemic the children were dealing with mass shootings on a daily basis. Therefore, there is a lot going on to cause anxiety in children.

According to the CDC and what I have seen in my office, anxiety is at epidemic levels for children. The most common reason children are coming into therapy right now is anxiety or depression. Many parents want to know what they can do in between therapy sessions to help their child with their anxiety. I ran across an acronym by Lori Lite that is designed to help children who are anxious. The acronym is ASSURE. I will explain what is stand for and how to use it below.

A – Align with your child
 with their body language
 with their tone and volume of speech
 validate their feelings
S – Share your experience
your feelings in stressful moments
mistakes you’ve made and how you emerged from them
how you cope with stress in day-to-day situation
perspective you’ve gained from seeing “this too shall pass”
S – Skills-training
give them words for feelings and worries
get them involved in appropriate exercise and activities to release stress
teach and model coping strategies like visualization, deep breathing, positive imagery
U – Uncover stress-related signs and symptoms
body aches – head, stomach
irritability and mood change
appetite change
sleep changes
R – Reassure them
that they’ll come through
that you’re there for them
that you’re proud of the effort they’re investing in calming and coping
things will normalize – recall examples
E – Engage the topic when they’re calm
listen to what they say and don’t say
respect their process in overcoming stress and worry
brainstorm options while they’re calm, since that’s when the “thinking” part of the brain is turned on.
This may not eliminate their anxiety all together, but it should help reduce their anxiety. Also remember if their anxiety is severe also seek psychotherapy for your child with a therapist who specializes in treating children. Psychotherapy can now be done via telemedicine so there is no risk of exposing them to the virus. Between the mass shootings and the pandemic caused by the Coronavirus, our children are living through historic times. We have never experienced events like we currently are experiencing so there should be no surprise that children may need psychotherapy at this time.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. His practice does offer telemedicine. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Teenage Suicide During the Quarantine

Teenage Suicide During the Quarantine

Many parents ask me, if their child could be suicidal and what to do if their child is suicidal? This concern has increased since the CDC no longer ranks suicide as the third leading cause of death and now rates it as the second leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. Furthermore, since the quarantine has been in place, there has been an increase in suicides and deaths from drug overdoses. As a result, parents are worrying more about if their teenager may be feeling suicidal. Additionally, before the quarantine, parents were worrying more about suicidal teenagers as we learned more about suicides of survivors involved in mass shootings. The issue of suicide is very scary especially because we do not discuss mental health issues in our society. As a result, parents are not sure what signs they should be looking for or what to do if they feel their teen is suicidal. Parents are aware there is a teenage suicide epidemic, but have no idea what to do or how to get help.

A successful suicide attempt is definitely a tragedy for the entire family. However, an unsuccessful attempt can be a tragedy for the child and the family too. Depending on the method used, a child who has an unsuccessful attempt may have to live their entire life with major medical complications. They can cause brain damage which may cause them to lose the ability to speak or the ability to breath on their own. Therefore, they may spend the rest of their life on a ventilator. Guns are one of the top three ways teenagers attempt suicide. However, teenagers are not aware that guns jump when fired. Many teens who use a gun do not kill themselves, but they do shoot off their face. The result is they have to have numerous surgeries to reconstruct their face, but their face and life are never the same.

I read this very good article describing what to do if you think your child is suicidal. It provides the steps you need to take in a non-threatening manner. It also addresses issues parents often may not think about, if they are concerned about their child being suicidal. The most important step is don’t be afraid to ask your child if they are feeling suicidal. It is a myth that if you ask someone if they are suicidal that you will cause them to become suicidal. In fact, you may save their life by asking them if they are suicidal. By asking you let them know it’s ok to talk about their feelings. Also by asking you reassure them there is nothing wrong with them and that you are emotionally strong enough to cope with the situation. Therefore, you may save their life by asking, if they are feeling suicidal.

Another reason many parents do not ask their teenager about suicide is the negative stigma associated with suicide. Often when someone dies of suicide the family will give another reason. Many families also request suicide not be listed as the cause of death. The Lighthouse Project conducted at Columbia University is attempting to remove this stigma. The Project has also developed questions that family members, friends and first responders can ask a person who they think might be suicidal. The questions have shown to be very effective at identifying someone who is suicidal and having the person to get help. I am including the link to the Lighthouse Project so you can learn more about it and download the questions that are most appreciated for you, if you feel someone in your life maybe suicidal. http://cssrs.columbia.edu/. It is a very good list of questions and the research shows that the questions are very effective at identifying someone who is suicidal.

I have included the link to this article and I encourage parents to read it and to save it. What to Do if You’re Worried About Suicide |. https://childmind.org/article/youre-worried-suicide/#.W9PRyfwKel8.twitter.
Bottom line, if you feel your teenager is suicidal do not be embarrassed. Make an appointment to have your teen evaluated by a psychotherapist who specializes in suicidal teenagers. If you walk in on an attempt, call 911 immediately.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating suicidal children and teenagers. For more information on his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

Why Are We Ashamed of Mental Health?

Why Are We Ashamed of Mental Health?

Mental health is a topic we tend to avoid in our society. We avoid it so much that the month of May is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness. Many people are afraid that if other people know they are feeling down or anxious that people will think they are crazy. Many people think of someone living in the streets when you mention mental health. This is not reality. This negative stigma makes it difficult for adults to seek help for mental health issues. This negative stigma also makes it very difficult for children to ask for help when they feel depressed or anxious. They are afraid their friends won’t understand and won’t want to be friends with them. They are also afraid their parents will think they are crazy and be disappointed with them. These ideas are incorrect, but if mental health is overwhelming for an adult, imagine how it can be for a child.

It is very important that children and teenagers do ask for help when they are experiencing mental health issues. The CDC estimates 1in 5 children need psychotherapy for a mental health issue. Furthermore, the CDC has stated that Suicide is an epidemic for children between the ages of 10 and 18 years old and is the second leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. Cutting, self-harming behaviors, are also now at an epidemic rate in children. Most teenagers I work with, as a psychotherapist, have had suicidal thoughts and have cut before starting therapy with me. They also tell me about many of their friends who are feeling suicidal and cutting. According to the CDC, the Suicide rate and the number of teenagers engaging in self-harming behaviors has been increasing every year for the past twenty years.

While the need for teenagers needing psychotherapy is increasing, the reluctance to attend psychotherapy is increasing. Most teenagers I see for psychotherapy are afraid that their friends would stop being their friends if they knew they were going to therapy. They are afraid it makes them crazy and nothing will help because they are weak. They blame themselves for the feelings they are having. They are shocked when I explain that they are not weak and it is not their fault.

We need to change this stigma associated with mental health. Mental health should be treated the same way a physical health because they are the same. Clinical depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. If some one is diabetic, do we call them crazy or weak because their pancreas is not producing the correct level of insulin? No we do not. Therefore, when we have numerous research studies which show a link between physical health and mental health, why do we continue to view mental health so negatively? By doing so we are causing a number of teenage deaths. Suicide use to be the third leading cause of death for teenagers, however now according to the CDC it is the second most common cause, as I stated above. Many teens also die every year from eating disorders. Eating disorders occur in both girls and boys despite the belief girls only have eating disorders. Bullying is a severe problem and many teenagers are opting to commit suicide rather than discuss the pain and torture they are experiencing due to being bullied. This does not make sense that teenagers should be dying because the teen or their family are embarrassed to seek treatment.

I was researching this subject and found a video by the Anna Freud Institute. It is called, “We all have mental health.” It is a short video directed at teenagers and middle school students. It discusses the issue in a very relaxed manner and provides teenagers with options for how they can talk about their own feelings. I encourage parents, teachers and anyone who deals with children to watch this video. You may want to watch it with your teen and begin a discussion about feelings. The link to the video is https://youtu.be/DxIDKZHW3-E.

We need to start to change the negative stigma associated with mental health. Besides causing the deaths of teenagers, this stigma effects an entire family. A death impacts everyone in a family. Not being able to talk openly about a death because it was related to a mental health issue, creates more problems for the survivors. Nothing will change until we start to approach mental health differently. I also encourage you to look at the foundation started by Prince William and Henry, Heads Together. It provides a number of ways we can start to change the negative stigma associated with mental health and save lives.

Furthermore, at this time in our world, when we are in the middle of a pandemic which besides killing thousands of people daily, it is creating mental health issues for those in quarantine, those with the virus and our first responders. These issues will not disappear quickly just like the virus will not disappear quickly. As a result, we will have even more people needing mental health care. How will they receive it if they feel ashamed for needing treatment or if we continue to treat mental health as a disease? Mental health and physical health go hand in hand, when will we treat them equally?

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience working with teenagers and children. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Mother’s Day Is A Difficult Day for Some People

Mother’s Day Is A  Difficult Day for Some People

Many people assume Mother’s Day is a happy day for people because they can honor their mother. However, for some adults, it is not a happy day. For some people their mother may have died when they were children. For some people their mother may have left them when they were children and they had to live in foster care. For others, their parents separated and their father raised them and they rarely or maybe never saw their mother. Therefore, Mother’s Day may not be a happy day. Also for children who were raised in foster care all their lives, today typically is a very difficult day.

While this may not be a happy day for adults, it also can be a very difficult day for children too. Some children may be dealing with the death of their mother. As I stated above, some children may have a mother who left the family and are not involved with them any longer. Seeing the television commercials or having other family members tell them that it still can be a good day can be difficult for them.

Additionally, this year we are under quarantine. This may make it more difficult for people to visit their mother or grandmother. If someone has been exposed to the virus or if their grandmother is over 70 and has other health issues visiting mom or grandma may not be possible. However, you can use Zoom or FaceTime, but this Mother’s Day will be different and some people may have a hard time accepting it.

I work with many of these children, I described above, in psychotherapy. Many don’t express their feeling, but they tend to deal with the emotional pain by acting out. They may be very oppositional during the week and the day as away to express their feelings. Other children may isolate and not want to be involved with anything having to do with Mother’s Day.

I have had parents ask me how they should handle Mother’s Day when a parent has passed away or left the family. They understand that it is a difficult day, but they do not know what to do in order to help their children.

My recommendation is let the child cope with the day in the way they need to. Try not to make an issue about the day. The other thing I recommend to a parent is to talk to their child. Acknowledge that Mother’s Day may be difficult but it is just one day. They may have a rough day today but tomorrow is another day. I also recommend to a parent, when a parent has passed away, to ask the child if there is anything they may want to do. A child may want to release a ballon with a note, they may want to visit the cemetery or they may want to do something for an aunt or another female role model in their life. If they do have an idea, go with what they want to do. If they don’t have an idea, let them know that is okay. If they come up with an idea then you can do it. If they do not have an idea, then remind them it’s just one day that you all need to get through and tomorrow will be better.

This approach can help children whose mother has left the family. Many children may believe their mother will return one day. Confronting this belief around Mother’s Day is not the time to confront it. However, if they have an idea regarding how they want to honor their mother, allow them to do it.

Hopefully this will help parents understand the issues their children may be dealing with on Mother’s Day and make it easier for everyone.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

What’s Next?

What’s Next?

The quarantine has caused financial and emotional problems for many people. It has disrupted what we consider normal life and many people do not see an end in site. As a result, many people have been demanding and demonstrating that the quarantines in all the states end so they can resume their lives. The President has been leading people to believe that this is a very easy task. However, reopening the economy is not as easy as the President or as many people may think it will be. The medical professionals have stated we are moving too fast and we need to listen to the medical experts who study viruses not the President.

We still have people contracting the virus and dying from the virus at an alarming rate. Los Angeles County reported a significant increase in deaths due to the virus over the weekend. New models just released expect that towards the end of May and the beginning of June we will see another significant increase in the number of people dying from the virus and contracting it.

Yes having to shelter in place is boring and it is costing people their jobs. Therefore, we have people worrying about how they will pay their bills and we have people who are becoming depressed and anxious due to not being able to leave the house. They feel that once the quarantine is lifted everything will be alright, but will it?

After the quarantine, what’s next? We cannot resume life as normal because we are still dealing with the virus. Therefore, we will need to wear masks and maintain social distancing requirements. As a result, we will not be able to attend movies or concerts. Restaurants will not be the same either due to social distancing requirements. Children and teenagers will not be able to attend school in the same manner and our work environments will change significantly too.

Now the quarantine and worry about contracting the virus has already placed a great deal of stress on many people. There now will be people who will be afraid of leaving the house because they are afraid of catching the virus. Besides these people, other people will be feeling stressed and depressed due to all the changes needed to open the economy. They were hoping to return to their lives and they will find out that they have to adjust to an entirely new lifestyle.

In addition to these changes, we will still be facing the issue of needing to take precautions so we do not catch the virus and we will still be worrying about family members who are at high risk due to age or other health underlying health conditions getting the virus. Additionally, we will continue to have family members who contract the virus and die. Just because we open the economy doesn’t mean people won’t be catching the virus and dying. Also it does not mean the economy will return to normal and people will be able to find new jobs. If restaurants are only allowed to operate at 25% capacity and tables need to be six feet apart in addition to having to use disposable menus, would you want to go to a restaurant under those conditions? The answer is most likely no. Therefore, since business will be down in numerous industries, no one will be hiring and people still will be worrying about paying the bills.

As a result of working with trauma victims for over 20 years, I understand the first impulse is to try to resume living your daily life as soon as possible so you feel a sense of control over your life that was taken from you. We have all been traumatized by the Coronavirus. We are the United States and we can handle anything. However, the Coronavirus has turned the tables on us. We are not in control, the virus is in control.

So what’s next? We listen to the medical professionals and we follow their advice. We have made some progress getting a handle on the virus. However, if we move to fast, the virus will come back and many more people will become sick and die. The President is not allowing the professionals to speak out because it is not good for his image. For those of you who say this is wrong, when there was a cruise ship in the San Francisco Bay waiting to dock, the President stood outside the CDC and said, “I don’t want it to dock because the increased numbers don’t look good for me”. We need to consider what is best for the entire country not just the President.

Therefore, as difficult as it maybe, we need to listen to the medical and mental health experts and develop a safe plan to reopen the country. A plan which will minimize the number of people who will become ill and a plan that addresses the mental health issues that will be triggered and exacerbated by reopening the economy.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims. For more information about Dr. Rubino visit his website at www. RubinoCounseling or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Dealing with Teenage Issues during the Quarantine

Dealing with Teenage Issues during the Quarantine

During this period of quarantine common issues parents have with their teenagers may intensify. Let’s face it being together 24/7 for at least three weeks can and will bring up a lot of old and petty issues. One such issue you may face with your teenager is their bedroom. Many parents tell me that their teenager’s bedroom is like a junk yard. Parents are embarrassed by the bedroom and feel the teenager is being disrespectful. Many parents ask me should they demand that their teenager clean their bedroom. Also many parents ask about is it appropriate if they search their teenager’s bedroom. Also during the summer, but I hear it all year long, parents feel teenagers spend too much time in their room Let’s deal with this one issue at a time.

Parents it is very important to remember to pick and choose your battles. There are a lot of issues you will need to discuss with your teenager. Therefore, it is important to ask yourself, is it worth an argument? Teenagers are at a point in their life where they do need their privacy. They are also at a point where they are trying to find their own identity. Their bedroom is a place they use for part of this process. Also you want your teenager to learn responsibility. Their room is something they can be responsible for.

My recommendation is not to make an issue of their bedroom. During this quarantine you and your teenager will become stressed over numerous issues. Also in the long run you will have more important issues such as school, how late your teen wants to stay out, where they want to go and the common issues of alcohol, drugs and sexual activity. Therefore, their bedroom really is a minor issue. In my opinion it is not worth the fight. Arguing about their bedroom, which they view as their private space, can lead to bigger problems with some of the other issues I listed above. During this quarantine period, teenagers need a private space so they can take mental breaks. Also remember these are only some of the issues you will need to set guidelines and expectations about your teenager’s behavior after the quarantine. This is why I strongly recommend leaving the bedroom alone.

Many parents ask me, “then I should just let them live in a junk yard?” The answer is yes. However, there are some guidelines I do set with teenagers. I tell them that Mom and Dad are not going to clean their room as long as they comply with the following guidelines:

The bedroom door must be able to be closed so no one else has to look at the mess.
People can walk by the room without smelling anything such as rotting food.
There are no ants or bugs going into or coming out of the room.
They do not keep dishes in their room so Mom has dishes when she needs them.
They are responsible for getting their clothes out of the room and cleaned. They are also responsible for putting away their laundry.

If they do not follow these guidelines, then they are giving Mom and Dad permission to go in and clean the room as they see fit. I ask the teenager and parents to both agree to these guidelines. I also recommend writing down the guidelines. Therefore, two months from now if someone remembers the agreement differently, you have a document you can refer back to which states what everyone agreed to.

Therefore, I recommend to parents if their teenager can agree to these guidelines, let them live in a junkyard. If they forget to get their clothes to the washer then they will be the one wearing dirty clothes. This is helping them to learn responsibility. It also gives them a sense of independence which they need.

I remind teenagers, if you do not want Mom and Dad cleaning their room then they need to abide by the guidelines. I also remind them it is their responsibility to get their clothes to the washer. If they don’t then they will be wearing dirty clothes to school. I also remind them that they cannot stay home from school because they do not have any clean clothes. I am basically telling the teenager that their parents and I feel they are responsible enough to take care of their room. This again helps the teen feel more mature and understand that they have to start assuming more responsibility for theirselves.

Now for the next issue, searching your teenager’s room. I do not think it is something parents should do on a regular basis just because their child is a teenager. As parents you have a responsibility to make sure you are raising a responsible young adult and if they need help, you have an obligation to provide them with the help they need. Therefore, if you have valid reasons to believe your teenager is using drugs or alcohol on a regular basis, then yes search the room. A valid reason would be noticing the smell of marijuana on their clothes or coming from their room. Finding marijuana or alcohol bottles in their backpack or car that they use. Other signs could be changes in their behavior and grades that are associated with drug use. However, before searching the room, I would recommend when your child enters middle school that you discuss with your child about the conditions which would make you search their room. If you feel it is necessary, tell your teen that you will be searching their room. Obviously, you do not tell them a week a head of time so they can hide things. I suggest you calmly inform them when they are home that you will be starting to search their room in a few minutes. It is important you explain the reasons why you are searching their room.

Parents may be concerned about an argument. This may start an argument, but this argument is worth it. Remind your teen about the agreement the two of you had made about searching their room. If you feel your teenager is not mature enough to abide by the agreement and is likely to start a physical fight, then you do not tell them and search it when they are out of the house. Remember you are only searching the room if you feel your teen is having a serious problem and need professional help. As a parent, it is your responsibility to get them help when they need it. You will want to remember this fact because your teenager may be very angry with you. However, it is better to have an angry teenager than a dead teenager. Many of the drugs teens are using today can kill someone very quickly and teenagers are not usually aware of all the risks.

Therefore, in general respect the privacy of your teenager’s bedroom, however, if you notice signs that indicate your teen is having difficulties then search the room.

As for the last issue that become more apparent during the quarantine is parents feel teenagers spend too much time in their bedroom. They hear them staying up late, sleeping until noon and the rest of the time playing games on their laptops and talking with friends using the games. Yes this can be an issue. The best approach is to discuss this issue prior to summer. However, if you did not, it is not too late. Let your teen know you need to talk to them about their room. Do not attack telling them they are spending too much time in their room. They will simply stop listening and the discussion is over. Before talking to them think about what and why you are concerned about the time in their room. One major reason hopefully is you want the opportunity to spend some time with them. Explain your concerns and some possible solutions you have developed. At this point ask your teen how they feel and do they have any solutions. If you have a calm, caring conversation and you are willing to consider all options, you should be able to resolve the issue. Most teens want to hear that their parents care and want to spend time with them. They tend not to admit to these feeling but they are their. Also teens do better when they feel you have listened to their ideas and are not just telling them what to do.

Remember the quarantine is stressful and scary for everyone. This is not a time you want to be arguing daily with your teenagers. If we all remember we are all in the same situation and decide to work together, we can get through this quarantine together.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience as a psychotherapist who teats teenagers and children. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino 3.

The Least Restrictive Environment

The Least Restrictive Environment

Many schools are currently closed due to the coronavirus, however they can still have IEP meetings or the meeting will resume when school resumes. This will give parents time to prepare for their IEP meetings. An IEP refers to an Individualized Educational Plan that the parents and school agree upon to help a student who is having difficulties learning at school. This plan is a legal agreement which states the school environment and accommodations a child needs in order to benefit from their education. Unfortunately not all schools tell parents about all of their rights they have at their child’s IEP meetings (Individualized Educational Plan). Also they do not fully explain all the terms. This creates a great deal of confusion and anxiety for parents. Typically any time I write an article regarding IEPs, I receive emails from parents across the country asking if they are being treated fairly in their IEP meetings.

A common term that is used at IEP meetings is Least Restrictive Environment. At times this term is used to deny a child services. Parents may be asking about Resource Assistance or a Special Day Class and the school may say the Resource Room is not an option because it is not the least restrictive environment. They may insist that the child be placed in a general educational classroom. In other words, the typical classroom people think about when they think of a classroom. However, placing a child in a general education classroom or school is not always the least restrictive environment. Also schools and at times parents may worry about how much inclusion their child will be receiving with the proposed IEP.

Inclusion refers to providing children, who need special educational services, access to the general educational atmosphere and students. However, this is not always the least restrictive environment for your child. The least restrictive environment is the environment in which your child will benefit the most from their education. This may not always be a general education classroom. Remember, least restrictive refers to the environment where your child has the least amount of difficulties learning so they can benefit fully from their education. Therefore, a Special Educational Classroom may be the least restrictive environment for your child depending on their educational needs. If they will benefit more from their education in a Special Day Classroom then that is the least restrictive environment for your child.

This can be a confusing term to understand especially since most people have been lead to believe that inclusion is the same thing as the least restrictive environment. I have included a link to a video which further explains this term. I strongly recommend you watch it so you have a clear understanding of what least restrictive environment refers to and what inclusion refers to https://youtu.be/I7HFRF8y288.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers in Special Education. He often assists parents with IEPs and school accommodations. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his websites www.RubinoCounseling.com, his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or www.LucasCenter.org.