Why Teenage Boys Refuse Psychotherapy

Why Teenage Boys Refuse Psychotherapy

Teenage males and men hate to go to therapy. Therefore, let’s address this issue. Here is a link for a movie, “The Mask You Live In” https://youtu.be/hc45-ptHMxo. The above trailer contains explicit language, but it is language your third grader hears every day at school, from friends and television. Men and teenage boys are very resistant to taking care of their physical and mental health. The question then becomes, why? If you watched the trailer, you will have a very good idea why.

In our society there is a stereotype of what it takes to be a “man.” A man is strong, healthy, and can take care of himself, knows everything about sex and is sexually active, has a lot of money and never afraid to fight and never cries. These are a just a few parts of the stereotype. Many parents may be saying, “but I don’t bring up my son like that.” You don’t have to, but it is part of our society. If a little 5 year old boy falls down at school, the school staff picks him up and tell him shake it off, don’t cry, take it like a man. A boy playing soccer or baseball gets hurt during the game, the coach says shake it off, take it like a man. You have even saw examples of it on Dancing with The Stars. A couple of times some of the men have started to get teary eyed and the asked for the camera to be moved because they did not want anyone seeing them cry.

Boys continue to be exposed to the stereotype in high school. There is a major focus on losing their virginity as fast as possible and sleeping with as many girls as possible. They can’t be a man if they are a virgin. Also boys are getting into fights and having a friend record it and post it on YouTube. They want everyone to see how tough they are and it makes them feel like a man. Also in High School boys stop accepting and asking for help, they are a man and they can handle life on their own. Also look at the movies and video games boys play. They have to do with fighting, killing and sex. Emotions are never mentioned and if a boy does cry he is called a “sissy, or a fag” just to list a few.

If men and boys are living with this stereotype going to a physician or a therapist is a very dangerous thing to do. They might have to confront the fact that they are not able to do everything by themselves and they might need help. This would mean they are not the tough guy. Also they know physicians and therapists have treated other men and they are afraid how they might be compared to other males. If they are not as tall or as strong or don’t measure up to the other men they are not a man. They feel like a failure.

Going to a therapist is extremely dangerous for boys and men. Therapists ask you to deal with your feelings. What if they cry or admit they feel overwhelmed by life or inadequate to other men? If they do, they worry about their identity as a man. I have men and teenagers who cry in my office. They all get really embarrassed and beg me not to tell their family and want to know if other guys cry have ever cried in my office. They need reassurance that they are still a man. The truth is it takes more strength to cry than not to cry, but most guys don’t believe this due to the male stereotype.

We need teenage boys to focus on their emotions. The best way for us to help boys and men is to eliminate this stereotype. Parents contact your son’s school and ask them to invite groups to the campus that are trying to eliminate this stereotype. Challenge Day is an excellent organization which tries to help teenage males face their feelings. Also monitor what they watch and how they talk with friends. Fathers don’t be afraid to cry and go to the doctor regularly and ask for help. Look for movies that show males as men even though they don’t follow the stereotype. This is a problem in our society which leads to crime, killings and needless deaths from heart attacks and strokes. It is going to take all of us to solve the problem.

While teenage boys resist therapy for these reasons, you need to remember you are the parent. If you notice your teenage boy is depressed and talking about suicide, therapy is not a choice. Yes you want to give choices about their lives, but remember they still are kids and cognitively not able to reason as an adult. Therefore, at times you must say there is no choice. Would you give them a choice of having surgery, if they had appendicitis?

Dr. Michael Rubino is a local psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teens. He had over 20 years experience working with teenagers. To find out more about Dr. Rubino and his practice or to contact him visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3

Teenagers and Dating Relationships

Teenagers and Dating Relationships

Having a girlfriend or boyfriend is very important to many teenagers. Often teenagers feel defective if they do not have a girlfriend or boyfriend. Many people are familiar with this line, “you complete me,” from the movie, Jerry McGuire, starring Tom Cruise. A deaf couple signs this message to each other in an elevator and Tom Cruise’s character assumes they must really be in love. However, this may not be the reality. In reality it may be an unhealthy relationship.

As a psychotherapist with 20 years experience treating couples and teenagers, I have observed a common mistake that many people make regarding relationships and love. Many people tell me they feel an emptiness inside themselves and describe it as a “big empty hole.” They assume that a relationship will fill this emptiness. In other words, they are relying on their partner to eliminate the empty feeling they are experiencing.

This is a mistake. The only person that can fill that emptiness you feel is you. When I work with couples or an individual who is experiencing this emptiness, they usually are upset with their partner. They are upset because their partner is not filling the emptiness. Also the other partner is frustrated because they are tired of having to constantly reassure their partner. They report they are tired of always having to worry about meeting their partner needs and that their needs are constantly being pushed aside.

This type of pattern is very common in relationships where there is domestic violence or a substance abuse problem. Also jealousy is a major issue in these relationships. The person who is experiencing the emptiness is very sensitive to feeling rejected or abandoned. This is usually a result from childhood issues that have never been addressed. However, as an adult, if they sense these feelings in their relationship they tend to over react to them. The person may drink excessively to reduce their fears and men often result to verbal or physical abuse. Anything that will keep their partner in the relationship and continue to fill the empty space.

This tends to occur because as we grow up there is a great deal of pressure for people to be in relationships. You see this in children in first grade or kindergarten when adults jokingly ask children if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. If a child doesn’t they often feel there is something wrong with them.

I see this issue a lot with teenagers. I have teenagers who feel they are defective because they never had a girlfriend or boyfriend. This defective feeling increases significantly, if the teenager never has been on a date. They believe if they are going to be a “normal” teenager, they must at least be dating. Boys tend to believe they must be sexually active too. I have had teenagers tell me they felt suicidal or were using drugs because they did not have a girlfriend or boyfriend. They are willing to risk their lives using drugs or believe they are better off dead, if they don’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend. They are so tied up trying to live the stereotype, they can’t believe that many teenagers do not have a girlfriend or boyfriend and do not date in High School.

This pattern continues into adulthood. Many women feel defective if they are 30 years old and not married. Men feel as if they are not men if they do not have a girlfriend. Both men and women often settle for anyone as long as they can say they are in a relationship.

As children, we never learn how to love and care for ourselves. Ask someone if they would go out to dinner by themselves and most people look terrified by the idea. They have no idea what they would do and they are afraid about what other people with think. This is a sad state that we cannot love ourselves. If we always need someone to reinforce we are lovable, we turn our power over to strangers. If someone says something nice about us we feel good, if they say something hurtful, we feel unworthy as a person. But, why should someone else determine our value? We should be the one who judges if we are lovable or not. A relationship should add to our life like a bottle of wine adds to a meal. A relationship should not define us as a person.

As a result of this problem, many couples end up divorcing because a partner is tired of having to reassure their spouse daily. I have seen these divorces become very nasty and costly. So both parties are hurt even more and so are the children. They only people benefiting are the attorneys.

We also have this same issue with teenagers. However, when they break up it tends to be more dramatic. A teenager may start to use drugs, develop an eating disorder, start cutting, become depressed and may attempt suicide. The behaviors are not uncommon after teenagers break up.

We see this acting out behavior more in teenagers and children. Teenagers and children are desperate to feel that they are loved by their parents especially. If they don’t feel they are loved, there is a tendency to act out. Disney’s movie, Frozen, has a segment where the trolls explain that if someone doesn’t feel loved they may act out in pain or make poor decisions in an attempt to find love. Oprah, during her last show, had a very good way of expressing this need. She stated, “everyone wants to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you.” The program Challenge Day, which Oprah recommends, states what teens are looking for this way: every teenager wants to feel safe, loved and celebrated. I see it every day, when teens don’t feel loved, they act out. Negative attention is better than no attention.

How do we handle this issue? We need to start to acknowledge as a society that a relationship doesn’t make you a complete person. Only you can make yourself feel complete as a person. Also we need to remove the stigma of seeking mental health care. We need to encourage adults who feel incomplete without a relationship to seek psychotherapy and deal with their issues. Parents, if you notice that your teenager is desperate to be in a relationship, help them get psychotherapy so they can deal with the pain they are feeling. Remember this emptiness feeling typically begins in childhood. Therefore, if we show children and teens that they are loved or get them help when they are acting out, we can prevent them from dealing with this emptiness for years.

Again, please remember a relationship should add to your life, it should not make you a person or define you as a person.

Dr. Michael Rubino has 20 years experience working with families and teenagers. If you would like more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Having A Safe, Fun Super Bowl Party

Having A Safe, Fun Super Bowl Party

Super Bowl Sunday is coming up in a couple weeks. Since the San Francisco 49ers are playing, there will be a large number of Super Bowl parties and events in the San Francisco Bay Area. As I stated in my previous article for many people it is a day to party and have fun, but it is also the day when the most domestic violence occurs in the United States. This statistic is for adults and teenagers. So, how do you have a safe, fun Super Bowl Sunday? You need to develop a plan that reduces stress and too much drinking.

First, remember that it is just a day and just a football game. Therefore, if everything is not perfect such as you don’t have all the food you wanted or things are not arranged how you wanted, do not stress over it. You can still enjoy the game without a lot food or alcohol. Also if everything is not arranged perfectly, you can still enjoy the game. In other words, do not stress and argue over minor details.

If you are going to have small children around, set up a separate room with food and activities for them. Many children under 10 years old will lose interest in the game and if there is nothing else for them to do, they will want attention and distract people from the game. Therefore, set up another room where they can watch other television shows and have games to play. This way they are not bored and they can enjoy themselves.

People drinking too much is a common problem during Super Bowl parties. Therefore, when your friends arrive, tell them you care about them and their safety. Therefore, you want everyone to put their car keys in the basket as they enter. This way if someone accidentally has too much to drink, you can give them a ride home. This way if someone has too much to drink, you don’t have to argue about them driving if they are not safe to drive. This can help avoid an argument and a possible physical fight.

Also watch how much alcohol you are serving. If you are serving alcohol, serve food too. The food helps to absorb the alcohol and decreases the likelihood that someone will drink too much. Also towards the end of the game stop serving alcohol and switch to sodas. If someone has had too much to drink, this gives them a chance for their body to process the alcohol they consumed so they can lower their blood alcohol level.

Another good idea is to set rules for your party. Announce to your guests that you want everyone to have a good time and no arguing or fighting. Therefore, cheering for their team or favorite player is fine, but you do not want any name calling nor is there to be any insulting other people at the party. Also good nature teasing is fine but no swearing and if someone asks you to stop the joking, respect their request. Bottom line, state that regardless of who wins or loses, you expect everyone to act like adults and to treat each other respectfully so it is a fun day for everyone.

It would also be helpful to remember the acronym HALT:

H – hungry

A – angry

L – lonely

T – tired, too much alcohol

If you notice someone expressing these emotions or drinking too much, this is a situation which could result in an argument or violence. Therefore, if you notice a potential violent situation, try talking to the person to see what is bothering them. If you notice a couple arguing try having one person step outside with you for a time out so they can calm down. You may want to let them know that they seem slightly upset and you are just checking-in to see if there is a problem and if you can help. Instead of ignoring the situation try to offer some help so people can calm down. This can help a great deal.

At the end of your party, if someone is not sober enough to drive, offer to drive them home. Remember all the car keys are in a basket so you do not have to argue to get the car keys. Remind them that you are only offering to drive because you care about them. You do not want to see them arrested for driving under the influence, you do not want to see them get into a car accident and you definitely do not want to see them kill someone else or themselves in a car accident.

If you notice a couple who appear to be arguing, offer to allow one person to stay for a while and you will drive them home later. Giving them a chance to calm down could help avoid a domestic violent incident. If after a little while the person at your house or the person who went home tells you they do not feel safe around the other person right now – listen to them! Offer to let the person stay at your house for the night. You do not want to assign blame to anyone. Simply state that they seem to be having a stressful day and instead of them both staying in the same house that night and arguing all night and arguing in front of the children is not a good idea. It is okay if they need to take a break for the night and talk about it tomorrow. You are providing them and the children with a safe environment and hopefully avoiding a domestic violent incident. Many people are afraid to step in and offer help when they see a potential domestic violent situation. However, if more people offered to help and did not shame the family, the incidence of domestic violence could decrease and more people may be willing to seek help.

If you are a couple who are having incidents with domestic violence, discuss the issue before the day. Hopefully, the two of you are in psychotherapy and can discuss the issue in a therapy session. Discussing a potential problem with a therapist or even a friend prior to the event can be very helpful. If you are not in therapy and afraid to talk to a friend and do not feel safe call the following number for help: The National Domestic Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Someone will answer 24 hours a day, 356 days a year. Do not be embarrassed to call. If you need help, please reach out and ask for it before someone gets seriously injured or killed.

Hopefully these suggestions help and you can enjoy the game in a fun peaceful environment.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and he is certified to assess and treat domestic violence. If you want additional information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his websites http://www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Super Bowl Sunday and Domestic Violence

Super Bowl Sunday and Domestic Violence

The teams have won their positions in the Super Bowl and in next week the Super Bowl will be played in Miami, Florida. Many people look forward to Super Bowl parties and having a fun weekend. In some ways, the Super Bowl has almost become a holiday for some people. However, it is not a fun weekend for everyone. For many it is a weekend of terror.

Because people tend to drink more alcohol at the parties or just at their homes watching the game, this can raise tension between people. The result can be violence. In fact some statistics rate Super Bowl Sunday as the day of the year that the most domestic violence occurs. It is serious enough that the NFL has started running PSAs regarding domestic violence.

To get a better idea click this link http://jezebel.com/the-super-b… and read the statistics and watch the PSA.

The other issue is that children are exposed to the domestic violence which occurs on Super Bowl Sunday and the rest of the year. This can have a serious impact on children. They can grow up thinking it is acceptable to hit their partner or to be verbally abusive to their partner. They may also grow up thinking that if they are hit by a boyfriend or girlfriend that they deserve it. So they do not end the relationship or seek help because they believe the deserve to be abused.

Domestic Violence is a very complex problem that can go back many generations. It is also one of the reasons for bullying that we see at schools. Children are acting out what they see and hear at home. Therefore, domestic violence effects the entire family. It effects adults and children in very dramatic ways.

As I stated above, children who witnessed domestic violence are impacted by it too. Domestic violence occurs with teenagers too and is just as serious. Click this link and learn the shocking facts https://youtu.be/cSJmTrxO16M.

I encourage you to learn more about this issue and to talk to your teenagers about it. No one has a right to hit them or to verbally tear them apart. If they feel they are in an abusive relationship, there is help. If your teenager or anyone feels like they are involved in an abusive hotline call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

As for Super Bowl weekend, remember it is just a game and a chance to have a good time. Help yourself and your friends and watch how much alcohol people are consuming. If you think someone has had too much to drink tell them in a caring manner. Try to agree before the game that there will be no fighting and it is a day for everyone to have fun no matter who wins. Also serve plenty of food. Just a few things you can do to decrease the odds of a fight occurring.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in treating children and adolescents and he is certified in the assessment and treatment of Domestic Violence. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @Rubinotherapy or visit his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Divorce Impacts Children emotionally during and after, If Parents Don’t Put Their Egos Aside

Divorce Impacts Children emotionally during and after, If Parents Don’t Put Their Egos Aside

As a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers, I have worked on many high conflict divorces. I have been the therapist for the children, an Expert Witness regarding custody, worked as part of the mediation team and served as a 730 Court Appointed Expert regarding custody and visitation. In the various roles I have had in high conflict divorce cases and also the average divorce cases, there is a common issue I have encountered. The issue I have encounter is making decisions. Many times I have seen divorce cases become vicious because one parent is reluctant about making a decision. They feel they have made too many concessions already or they feel they will look weak. So in other words the decision now becomes a matter of pride and not what is in everyone’s best interest.

Divorces are very emotional and hurtful experiences for both partners. They are also very hurtful and emotional experiences for the children. The children feel like they are in the middle of a civil war and that they need to pick a side. This is usually an impossible task for a child. They have to decide who the love more, mom or dad, how does a child make this choice? Parents often get so caught up in the fight that they do not see what they are doing to their children. I have had children tell me they wish this whole divorce stuff would go away because they cannot stand it. They cannot choose between their mother or father. They are also afraid of what will happen if they make a choice or if they do not make a choice. They feel they are in a no win situation.

I usually meet with the parents to tell them how their child is handling the divorce. Very often the first half an hour to 45 minutes I hear from the parent how unfair this whole divorce has been and how much it has cost them and they are running out of money. Mothers have their reasons about how unfair Courts and attorneys are to mothers and fathers also complain that the Court and attorneys are unfair to fathers. They also talk about a particular decision that is being made at that point. Such as what school the children will go to or how holidays will be divided.

Typically at this point both parents feel they have had to give in a lot and they are not going to give in anymore. All this attitude does is create more attorney bills and put the children under a great deal of stress. By this point in the divorce process many children are having difficulties with their school work, their parents and teenagers often have started to use alcohol or pot for a temporary escape from the stress. Younger children usually start reporting stomach aches and headaches and often have started to wet their beds at night again. These are all common reactions for younger children under stress.

When I do meet with the parents, I encourage them to take a step back and look at the entire situation. What is the divorce costing them financially, emotionally? Also what is the divorce costing their children emotionally in the short term and long term? I ask them is the price worth the fight? They are possibly doing damage to their relationship with their children and they are effecting how their children will view and think about relationships. Also they are damaging their relationship with the other parent. After the divorce is finalized, the other parent is not going to disappear. They have children together. Therefore, they are going to need to co-parent together. With all the bad blood being created, it may make it very difficult to co-parent together so the arguing and attorney bills will continue. However, the most important point is the children will still be caught in the middle. This will create emotional damage for the children. They can understand the arguing during the divorce, but not after. At that point, the children expect their parents to act like adults.

Trying to help the children, I encourage the parents to put their egos away and what ever one is telling them that they deserve. I encourage the parents to use their emotions and imagine how their children are feeling and how their children will feel the longer that the fighting continues. I recommend to parents that they need to put their children first and make the decision that is best for their children not their ego. They may win this battle, but is it worth losing the war. They lose the war by the emotional turmoil they are creating for their children. We also know from research studies that putting children under this type of stress can have long lasting effects.

Therefore, I point out it is more important to do what is best for the children. It might be hard right now, but in the long run their children will be happier and so will they. Therefore, my recommendation when making decisions regarding child support, visitation or anything to do with the children is to put pride to the side and do what is in your children’s best interest. It is your responsibility as a parent. Also remember you are ending your marriage, but you still need to co-parent with the person you are divorcing. Again as a responsible parent, you need to make the decision that will allow you to co-parent.

One issue that I have not explicitly stated. The approach I am discussing are for divorces where a spouse had an affair or is tired of being married etc. I am not discussing a marriage where there was domestic violence, child abuse physically or emotionally or severe substance abuse by one parent. If any of these issues exist then it is a different matter and requires a different approach.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has worked with children, teenagers and divorce cases for over 20 years. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit one of his websites at http://www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy. Th

Children and Holiday Gift Issues

Children and Holiday Gift Issues

At this time of year most people are worried about finishing Christmas shopping before Christmas and buying the right gifts for everyone. People also worry about how much to spend and who to buy a gift for. While we have these worries so do many of our family members and friends. It is especially difficult for families who cannot afford to spend money on gifts because they can barley afford the rent. We need to remember how much someone spends on a gift is not the point. The thought is what is important. Someone can make a gift and that gift is just as important as the gift someone bought. Parents need to educate children about this fact and model appropriate behavior for children.

One of the most awkward situation is what to do when someone receives a gift they don’t like or want. This is even more of a sensitive situation when a child or teenager receives a gift they don’t want. It is more difficult because children and teenagers often do not have the social skills to cope with the situation.

All of these worries regarding gifts can ruin Christmas for people. We should be more concerned about spending time with the people who are important to us not gifts.

This is a lesson parents need to teach to their children. The Holidays are not about gifts, they are about love.

In preparing for this article I found as list by Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. which deals with this issue. She outlined the topic in away to make it easy for parents to use with their children. I have included her points below:

▪ Be sure the adults model gratitude and courtesy.It’s impossible to teach children to be gracious if they are watching their parents and other role models behave badly. Raising children well often means cleaning up our own acts. When we remember to regularly say please and thank you and demonstrate our gratitude both for the gifts we receive and the givers who enrich our lives by their very presence, we provide our children with powerful lessons in both politeness and love. When we thank our children for presents they give us — whether it is a drawing they made or something they purchased — we show them how good it makes people feel to be appreciated.

▪ Talk to your child about what giving is all about. Ideally, it is an act of love and caring. It’s a way people say, “You’re special to me. I want to make you happy.” Even when a gift is a disappointment, the intention was to please.

▪ Kids as young as 5 can learn to figure out something positive to say about a disappointing gift.Finding a reason to be grateful when it would be so much easier to get upset is an invaluable life skill. At age 8, Jocey’s son could have said, “I’ll like playing with this fire truck with my little brother.” (At only 3, my son was too young to be that sophisticated when confronted with the robot though he surprised us all by finding a way to make it less scary.) Give your kids some practice by imagining together some outrageous “gifts” and thinking about what positive things they could say to compliment the gift or the giver.

▪ Teach them that if they can’t find something to like about the gift, they can always focus on the love. Someone loved them enough to think about what to get, to go to the store to buy it, and to wrap it up and deliver it. They can always tell the person that it makes them feel good and special that someone went to all that trouble.

▪ Emphasize that it’s never, ever, okay to hurt the giver’s feelings. They mustn’t poke fun at the gift or embarrass the giver — even if the giver isn’t there to hear it. Laughing at another’s expense isn’t being funny. It’s just unkind. If those unkind comments get back to the person, it can damage the relationship.

▪ Reassure your children that if they really, honestly don’t like a gift, they can quietly come to you later to talk about it. Often gifts can be exchanged or a parent can tactfully help the giver better understand what would be a better choice at another time. And sometimes at least, what at first seemed like the most inappropriate, useless gift ever can become a dear reminder of the person who gave it.

While how a child might respond to gift is an issue, buying gifts can be an issue. Also regifting can be an issue. Again gift buying and regifting can become major issues for some families. In an attempt to avoid this issue, I have included a link regarding gift giving and receiving etiquette. I think it can help many families with some common gift buying and receiving issues. http://www.designsponge.com/20…

Dr Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience as a psychotherapist working with children and adolescents. For more information about his work and services offered at his private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Smartphone as Holiday Gifts for Teenagers

Smartphone as Holiday Gifts for Teenagers

It is the Holiday Season and many middle school students will be asking for their first cellphone or Smartphone and many high school students will be asking for the newest smartphones available such as the IPhone 11. In today’s society many people including teenagers view cell phones as a necessity of life. I have seen teenagers argue with their parents how they could not function at school or in life without their cellphones. In fact, some teenagers become physically violent, if you take their phone. Most teenagers also say they need Smatphones, a regular cellphone will not work. However, cellphones are a privilege not a necessity. We need to remember that fact. Yes for some parents it is a tool they use to keep in contact with their child and for their child to use if they feel they are in danger. However a regular cellphone will do this it doesn’t have to be an IPhone 10XR or 11.

During the Holidays many elementary, middle school and high school student will be asking to upgrade their phones. They need the latest version otherwise they cannot function at school or contact their friends. Therefore, many children will be asking for the IPhone XR or 11. Most children and teenagers who are asking for these expensive phones usually never consider the price. They believe they are entitled to have the latest cellphone.

Many people have forgotten that cellphones are privileges especially teens and children in Middle School. They have grown up with everyone having a cellphone so they don’t see it as a privilege. This is a common argument I encounter between children and parents. The other argument that is common between parent and teenagers is many teens tell their parents if they cared, they would by them a smartphone. Being a parent is not a popularity contest determined by how much money you spend. As a parent you need to do what you feel is best for your child.

Parents if you stop and think about it, why does an 11 year old child need an IPhoneXR? They do not need to track mileage or expense accounts nor do they remember their own appointments. There is really no reason they need a Smartphone. Setting limits where they use them is important too. Why do they need their cellphone when they go to bed? Most teens who take their cellphones to bed will typically spend hours texting friends or watching YouTube. When morning comes, they are too tired to get up because they were awake until 3am playing with their phone.

Smartphones are an area where technology has moved faster than our ethics. If you think about it, IPhones and Smartphones were not around in the year 2000. Now everyone including a majority of teens have an IPhone or Smartphone. In my opinion an adolescent does not need a cellphone until they enter Middle School and at that point all they need is a basic cellphone. They need a basic phone so they can check-in with you if their plans change or if they feel they are in need of help.

As I stated above, there is no reason that a teenager really needs a Smartphone. They are not taking care of a family nor are they running a business. Therefore, a basic cellphone should be adequate for what they need it for. I understand that given the way our society has changed some parents may find that it is helpful to their family if a child in middle school has a cellphone. This is a decision that every parent needs to make based on their family’s situation.

The parent needs to make this decision, not let the child guilt them into buying them a cell phone. If you are divorced and have children, this may be extremely difficult, but the decision about if your child gets a cellphone or not, should be a joint decision by both parents and a decision you both agree on. One parent should not buy a cellphone without consulting the other parent and they should not use it as a weapon in the divorce.

If you decide that your middle school child is mature enough for a cellphone, you should discuss the rules and guidelines about using the phone prior to getting a phone. Some things to discuss are who they give their cell number to, not texting during class and not taking it into the bedroom at night so they can text most of the night. As I stated, many kids will text with their friends until 2 or 3 am and then be too tired for school the next day.

Also there should be a discussion about sharing photos. You never know what someone will do with a photo if they get mad with you. Also there needs to be a discussion about the law. It is not uncommon for teens to send their boyfriend/girlfriend nude photos of themselves. What they don’t understand is they are under the age of 18 years old. Therefore, if they have a nude picture of their 15 year old girlfriend, they can be charged with possession of child pornography. Many may say this won’t happen to me, but I have had a number of teens in psychotherapy because they were charged with having child pornography. Also you need to remember, once those pictures are out on the internet, they are out there forever. There also needs to be a discussion about on-line perpetrators too. There are many pedophiles on line trying to lure unsuspecting teens into their plans. Your children need to understand this is a real risk and what to watch for.

Finally, it should be made clear that the phone does not belong to the child — the phone belongs to you the parent. Yes you are giving them the phone to use, but it still belongs to you. If you ask for it back, then the child hands it over no questions asked. Also if you feel they are using their phone in an inappropriate manner, all you need to do is call your cellphone carrier and request that their phone line be suspended. It cost you nothing and it is an easy way to control the phone. When you feel that your child has earned the right to have the cellphone back all you do is call your carrier to reinstate that phone line.

It is very important that you and your teen have an agreement about conditions regarding their cellphone use. All of these conditions and agreements should be written down in an agreement that you sign and the child signs. You each get a copy of the agreement and one copy is posted on the refrigerator. If there are any disputes about a rule, you simply go back to the agreement and you follow what is written. A written agreement is very important because I have seen parents have conversations, make agreements and then 6 months later there is a disagreement and everyone’s memory is slightly different so you have a big fight.

Also given how many adults have gotten into trouble with their Smartphones, if you are going to allow your child to use any kind of cellphone you must discuss the pros and cons so the child does not get into major trouble with the phone.

Below I have included a sample contract that you can use with your child and modify as you need.

Cellphone Contract

I, child’s name, will not bring my cellphone to the family dinner table.

I will not go over our plan’s monthly minutes or text message limits. If I do, I understand that I may be responsible for paying any additional charges or that I may lose my cellphone privileges.

I understand that I am responsible for knowing where my phone is, and for keeping it in good condition.

I understand that my cellphone may be taken away if I talk back to my parents, I fail to do my chores, or I fail to keep my grades up.

I will obey rules of etiquette regarding cellphones in public places. I will make sure my phone is turned off when I am in church, in restaurants, or quiet settings.

I will obey any rules my school has regarding cellphones, such as turning them off during class, or keeping them on vibrate while riding the school bus.

I promise I will alert my parents when I receive suspicious or alarming phone calls or text messages from people I don’t know. I will also alert my parents if I am being harassed by someone via my cellphone.

I will not use my cellphone to bully another person.

I will send no more than _____ texts per day I understand that having a cellphone can be helpful in a emergency, but I know that I must still practice good judgment and make good choices that will keep me out of trouble or out of danger.

I will not send embarrassing photos of my family or friends to others. In addition, I will not use my phone’s camera to take embarrassing photos of others. I understand that having a cell phone is a privilege, and that if I fail to adhere to this contract, my cell phone privilege may be revoked.

Parent Responsibilities I understand that I will make myself available to answer any questions my tween might have about owning a cellphone and using it responsibly.

I will support my child when he or she alerts me to an alarming message or text message that he or she has received. I will alert my child if our cellphone plan changes and impacts the plan’s minutes.

I will give my child _______ warning(s) before I take his or her cellphone away

Signed ______________________________ (Tween) Signed ______________________________ (Parents). Date ______________________________

Dr. Michael Rubino has been working with middle school and high school students for over 20 years. He is considered an expert in this field. Dr. Rubino is one of the founding members of the National Alive & Free Program, a program designed to work with teens. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or http://www.rubinocounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.