Is Your College Freshman Depressed?

Is Your College Freshman Depressed?

Transitioning from high school is difficult. Many freshmen deal with depression or anxiety or both. This year maybe more difficult due to the Coronavirus and the chaos we are experiencing in our Country. Therefore, it’s helpful if family and friends are aware that someone starting college are at risk for depression and check-in with them. If you think they are depressed do your best to be supportive and maybe recommend therapy.

The National Association of the Mental Illness examined this issue. Here are some of the facts that NAMI discovered that maybe helpful to some college freshmen.

In 2018, more than 63% of college students reported experiencing overwhelming anxiety during their enrollment and nearly 42% reported feeling so depressed that they had trouble functioning at some point during the last 12 months. Some of these students may not have battled a mental health challenge before attending college and might not know how to deal with depression in this new environment.

Meanwhile, friends, roommates and classmates often have difficulty recognizing symptoms of depression in students. However, if these peers understand the warning signs to look for, they will be empowered to check in with the college students in their lives who may be struggling sooner and assist them in getting help. Better yet, a familiarity with the warning signs could help curb the thousands of preventable deaths by suicide each year.

So, if you want to be an attentive friend or support system for someone dealing with depression — and help your fellow students — keep an eye out for the following warning signs so you can begin a conversation with anyone you may be concerned about.

Negative Emotions

One of the first warning signs of depression is expressing or showing negative feelings or emotions. For instance, someone might reveal they’re feeling sad, anxious or numb, or perhaps they’ll share that they’re dealing with more stress than usual. Others may not express what they are feeling, but it may be obvious that they are feeling more anger, frustration or sadness than in the past. For example, they may have a short temper, exhibit less engagement in conversation and normal activities or experience sudden outbursts.

Often, people with depression can’t identify why they’re feeling sad or when they began to experience these emotions. It’s also possible that if you ask more questions about “why” or “when,” they may shut down and become avoidant or unresponsive.

What to say:

Let’s say you’re concerned about your roommate. It can be helpful to avoid asking too many questions, remind them they’re not alone, validate their feelings, and prepare to listen if they do open up.

  • You: “I noticed you’ve been quieter than usual lately. I’m not sure what you’re going through, but I’m here for you if you want to talk.”
  • Them: “Yeah. I’ve felt kind of numb these past few weeks and I’m not really sure why. But I don’t want to talk about it.”
  • You: “It’s okay to feel low sometimes. I’m your friend no matter what, and we can get through this together.”

Irregular Sleeping And Eating Habits

If you pay close attention, you might notice irregular eating habits in your friend or roommate. Do they skip meals regularly? Do they eat whenever they are stressed? Both undereating and overeating are warning signs of depression.

Depression also affects people’s sleep schedules. For instance, if your roommate is experiencing depressive symptoms, they may repeatedly sleep for more than 10 hours a night while someone else with depression might struggle with insomnia.

What to say:

It’s best not to comment on someone’s eating or sleeping habits, but rather inquire about the underlying reasons they might be engaging in that behavior.

  • You: “You look like you could use some caffeine. Have you been staying up late to catch up on your favorite show?”
  • Them: “Actually, I haven’t been able to fall asleep lately, so I turned on the TV hoping it’d knock me out.”
  • You: “Has anything been bothering you? I know I struggle to sleep when something’s on my mind. I hope you know I’m always here if you want to talk.”

Disinterest In Extracurricular Activities

Hobbies are a great way to explore your interests and relieve stress while you’re in college. However, students struggling with depression might not care to engage in activities they used to enjoy. They might also avoid social situations, including time with friends.

This general lack of interest is a telling sign of depression and can often perpetuate more feelings of loneliness, isolation and sadness.

What to say:

If your roommate rarely leaves the dorm, offer to do something — or nothing — together.

  • You: “Hey, do you want to go get ice cream with me?”
  • Them: “No thanks. I don’t really feel like going anywhere or doing anything.”
  • You: “Okay, well, I don’t have anything going on. We can just chill here and do nothing together.”

Unexplainable Guilt

Depression doesn’t always come from specific circumstances, and people from all backgrounds and situations can experience it. Unfortunately, this can cause guilty feelings in students who have “had it good” and still struggle with depression.

As a result, these feelings can cause students to spiral because they perceive themselves as a burden or as “incomplete,” which can make symptoms even worse. Therefore, it’s essential to watch out for negative self-talk and twinges of guilt.

What to say:

Discourage negative self-talk, validate your roommate’s feelings and remind them of their worth.

  • Them: “I shouldn’t complain so much. So many people have it worse than I do. Maybe I should just suck it up and move on.”
  • You: “No. You have every right to feel that way. Your experiences are real, and you can take as much time as you need to work through your past trauma. You deserve to feel whole again, too.”

Persistent Pain

Depression can cause unexplainable pain, chronic illness, and discomfort independent of any injury. Muscle aches and joint pain in the chest, back, neck and shoulders are all potential warning signs.

Of course, these symptoms are easy to spot if they’re severe and cause great discomfort. However, if your roommate is avoiding you — or is just really good at hiding their true feelings — you might go weeks without noticing their aches and pains.

What to say:

Ask about potential injuries or underlying conditions before jumping to conclusions. Then, work together to find ways to alleviate discomfort.

  • Them: “Ugh. My lower back is killing me lately.”
  • You: “Did you sleep funny or hurt it playing basketball the other day?”
  • Them: “No. I think it might have something to do with my sleep schedule, but I’ve also felt off lately.”
  • You: “Well, I’m not sure why you feel bad either, but some movement might help. Maybe we can do some stretches later or take a yoga class together. If that doesn’t help, would you consider talking to a doctor?”

If you notice any of these warning signs of depression in college students, it’s crucial that you reach out and encourage them to seek help. Your empathy and concern could save someone’s life, so the sooner you speak up, the better.

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience treating children and teenagers and trauma victims. If you are interested in his work, please visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Helping Teenagers Cope with Peer Pressure

Helping Teenagers Cope with Peer Pressure

Many parents worry about peer pressure and so do a lot of teenagers. Teenagers worry about the stories they have heard and don’t know what to do. Many parents see their teenagers worrying and don’t know what to do about it either.

Let’s face it peer pressure has been part of life for a long time and it does not appear that we will eliminate it any time soon. However, be sides the negative we associate with it, research shows pressure does play an important role in helping Teenagers develop into adults. Therefore, since it doesn’t appear we will be eliminating it soon, we should help our children learn how to cope with it in a positive manner.

Additionally, since the research indicates that it plays a role in the development of teenagers, parents need to understand it better. If parents understand it better, they will be better prepared to help their children deal with it. While researching this topic I found an article which explains these points easily and it is an article that is easy to read. Therefore, I have included the link so parents can read it and gain a better understanding about peer pressure it more.

Here is the link to the article https://yourteenmag.com/social-life/teenagers-friends/peer-pressure

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers and trauma victims. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work, please visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at Facebook.com/Drrubino3

Helping Teenagers Get Enough Sleep

Helping Teenagers Get Enough Sleep

It’s getting close to the end of summer and for many teenagers will be returning to school soon. For most students they will be returning to their school sites. This means no more remote learning and students will need to be getting school on time in the mornings. In order to do so they need to get a good nights sleep. However, many parents have been reporting that with the remote schooling students were able to sleep in because school was starting later. As a result, many teenagers have developed poor sleep habits such as staying up later at night and taking naps during the day. Many parents are concerned how they are going to get their children and teenagers back to a health sleep pattern so they can function at school and get up on time for school.

I have had many parents asking me and emailing me regarding getting children and teenagers back on a healthy sleep pattern for school. Many parents are looking at this as an opportunity to get their children and teenagers on a healthy sleep pattern because their teenagers were never on a healthy sleep pattern to begin with. As a result I researched teenage sleep patterns and found some very good information from James Maas, PhD., who specializes in sleep patterns, and he wrote the book, Power Sleep for Success. According to Dr. Maas many teenagers are sleep deprived because beginning at puberty up until the age of 25 around midnight teenagers brains begin producing human growth hormones and reduces the amount of melatonin the brain produces. As a result, teenagers are not ready to sleep until 2am and their brains are ready to wake up at 11am. Dr. Maas refers to this as Chronic Delayed Phase Syndrome and states that every teenager suffers from it.

Since the amount of natural melatonin being produced in teenagers brains is reduced, many parents try providing their teenagers with melatonin supplements. The parents hope that by increasing the amount of melatonin in their teenagers brains with melatonin supplements that teenagers will be able to sleep easier. However, this may not be the case.

Dr. Maas has this to say about melatonin supplements. He states they are not the best way to get your sleep. First, 3 mg of melatonin is the maximum amount that an adult needs, and many over-the-counter formulations start at 5 mg. Some even go to as high as 10 or 12 mg. You are peeing away a lot of melatonin that your body doesn’t need and can’t process. It does work, but there are other options on the market that work just as well as melatonin or better: (1) lavender, either in tea or in a spray; and (2) valerian root. These two over-the-counter supplements actually have been clinically proven to have a sleep-inducing effect.

Dr. Maas has outlined several steps that teenagers can go through before trying to go to sleep. He believes that if children and teenagers follow these steps on a regular basis that it will help a teenager fall asleep. He also believes these steps will help teenagers get enough sleep so they are not sleep deprived and are ready for school the following day. Here are the steps Dr. Maas recommends that children and teenagers follow before their bedtime:

1. Take a warm bath or shower an hour before bed to relax and to signal to the brain that it’s time to begin to unwind.

2. Avoid eating food late at night that is likely to disturb your sleep: heavy, greasy, spicy, or difficult-to-digest foods like pizza, garlic, or anything really fatty. Instead try fruit (bananas or grapes) or lean protein such as tuna.

3. Get your homework done earlier in the afternoon or evening while you are still awake and alert. This will also reduce your stress if you don’t have so much homework to do in the evening close to bedtime.

4. Watch how you are spending your waking hours. Teenagers don’t typically have great time management skills. They can get caught up on social media or on their phones, which are a huge distraction and eat up that part of the day when you should be in study mode. Catch up on your social things after your homework is over.

We know that the amount of sleep that a child or teenager gets is related to how well they do in school, but it is associated with many more aspects of a teenager’s life. Dr. Maas noted that sleep is really the one thing that underlies all of good health. Good health refers to both physical and mental health. When you are getting enough sleep, stress goes down and immunity goes up. It’s linked to greater longevity and reduced risk of car accidents, cancers, and heart attacks. If teenagers could add just one more hour of sleep to their daily routine, they would find that they have a higher GPA, that their athletic skills are better, and that their social life and ability to manage stress and anxiety improve. Everything hinges on getting enough sleep. If I could tell teenagers one thing, it’s this: If you want to do well in school and on the athletic field, getting more sleep is the single best thing you can do. I have seen this in many teenagers that I see for psychotherapy. Additionally, most teenagers who are having difficulties with anxiety or suicidal thoughts are sleep deprived.

Therefore, parents it is important to make sleep an important issue with your children and and teenagers. If you explain to your children and teenagers why it should be a priority, you increase the probability that your children and teenagers will understand why sleep is important and will work with you to help them increase their amount of sleep especially as they try to adjust their schedules and lives to a post pandemic world.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims and first responders. For more information about his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Coping with Your Teenager during the Pandemic

Coping with Your Teenager during the Pandemic

Many parents worry because their teenager talks more to their friends than to them. Often many parents feel like a failure because their teenager is spending more time with friends than them. This is normal developmentally, but parents do want to be aware of who their teenager has as friends and what they do. However, with the Pandemic and the quarantine many teenagers have not been able to hang out with friends as usual. They have however maintained contact with friends by texting, FaceTime, Zoom and on line gaming where they can play and talk to each other. Some parents have seen the Pandemic as an opportunity to increase the amount of time they spend with their teenagers and as an opportunity to improve their relationship with their teenagers. This is an excellent idea. As a result some parents are trying to get their teen to spend more time with them than their friends. A parent may feel they are doing something positive during the Pandemic and their teenager may resent the parent for intruding into their private lives with their friends. Unfortunately, the idea the parent had of improving their relationship with their teenager during the Pandemic is ruined and instead of improving the relationship, they are ruining their relationship with their teenager.

Most parents want to improve their relationship with their teenager so if their teenager is having a problem, such as drugs or alcohol, they are hoping their teenager will feel safe enough to talk to them and ask for help. Unfortunately many parents tell me they have decided they way they can resolve this issue is“I am going to be my teenager’s best friend.” Unfortunately, many of these parents do not understand that it is normal developmentally for teens to spend more time with their friends.

The solution that you are going to be your teen’s best friend is wrong!! You do not want to be your teen’s friend. You need to be your teen’s parent. Your teen has enough friends. Your teen doesn’t need another friend, they need a parent. They need someone to educate them about life and how to make decisions.

Remember, as a parent it is your responsibility to help guide your teen to be successful as an adult and in life as a productive member of society. This means at times you will have to set firm boundaries, educate them about life and sometimes tell your teen no. It is important to remember being a parent is not a popularity contest. You must set appropriate limits for your teen which means at times they will be mad at you. It is okay if they are mad at you. This is part of the process a teenager experiences as they are maturing into an adult.

Despite what they say, most teens want and like boundaries. At times they can be very helpful to your teen. They may be faced with a great deal of peer pressure to do something that they do not want to do and they can use you as the excuse why they cannot do it. Some may say this is immature because the teen is using their parent as an excuse, but we put our teens in a very, very difficult world so I think they are allowed some extra help now and then.

Another reason why should you not be your teen’s friend because your word and rules will mean nothing to your teen, if you are their friend. A friend is defined as a close associate. In other words, teenagers see their friends as equals. Now think about what this implies, if you are equals, you are on the same level as your teen. Therefore, they think they know as much as you do and since you are equals they can choose to follow your rules or ignore them as they see fit.

I run into this problem daily in my office. A parent will say “we have always been best friends, I talk to my teen and their friends about everything and we have good times together hanging out. I don’t understand why they disregard my authority as their parent.”

The answer is simple: you eliminated your authority as the parent and made yourself an equal as a friend. If you want your teen to respect your authority as the parent, you must remain the parent and not be the friend.

Consider the decisions these teens have to make every day. They are faced with issues regarding alcohol, drugs, sex, gangs and decisions about careers in their future. Teens live in a very difficult and complex world today. They need parents to help set appropriate boundaries and guide them so they make the best choices for themselves and avoid a great deal of trouble. You can only do this as a parent. Remember, as a parent you are not in a popularity contest. You have a responsibility to help guide your teen. If you want to help them survive high school then be the parent and make the tough, unpopular decisions that are in your child’s best interest. This will help your teen to respect you and the rules you made earlier you can enforce. If you set yourself as friend and equal, your teen loses respect for you, your advice and your rules. You find yourself powerless and you leave your teen on their own to decide what is appropriate behavior.

This is a difficult time for you and your teenager, but if you maintain your role as parent and your teen maintains their role as child you both will survive high school easier. Of course there will be difficult moments, but nowhere near as difficult if you blur the relationship boundaries.

Dr Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their parents. He is well respected in the community. To learn more about his work or private practice, visit his website at www.rcs-ca.com or www.RubinoCounseling.com. You can also visit his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3. You can also listen to his podcasts on Spotify and Apple.

Super Bowl Parties and the Coronavirus

Super Bowl Parties and the Coronavirus

This week is the Super Bowl. Usually it is a weekend when family and friends gather together for Super Bowl parties. This has been a tradition for people for many years. However, this year is different because of the Coronavirus. Yes in California, the shelter in place order was lifted and the number of people in the hospital for the Coronavirus has decreased. However, we still need to take precautions. In addition to the Coronavirus, Super Bowl Sunday in 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, this year you need to be careful about who you invite and keep the party small. Everyone needs to be wearing a mask and you need to try to keep appropriate social distance. In addition it would help if you keep the windows open for appropriate ventilation. Some people may think that because some people are now receiving the vaccine that these steps are not necessary. However, only one percent of the population has been vaccinated (CDC). Additionally, the virus has mutated and the new stains are more contagious and deadly. Therefore, in order to have a safe and fun party, precautions are necessary.

Next, 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 www.rcs-ca.com, www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcast on Spotify or Apple.

Today’s Teenagers Need to feel Loved

Today’s Teenagers Need to feel Loved

I have many teenagers who see me for therapy believing that no one loves them and that they are worthless. They tell me their parents don’t love them, their siblings don’t care about them and no one at school cares about them. They feel they are unloveable and no one cares if they live or die. Because they have this belief, they don’t care about themselves. They don’t care how they are doing in school and they see no future for themselves. As a result they don’t care what happens to them either.

There are many reasons why children have this feeling about themselves. For some their parents were drug addicts, for some were sexually or physically abused, some have gone from foster home to foster home their entire lives. As a result, they see no hope and no future for themselves. The most important point is not why teenagers have developed this attitude about themselves, it’s that they have this attitude. We need to look at what this belief will do to these teenagers and their lives.

Many teenagers who feel unlovable turn to drugs or alcohol to numb these feelings. Some turn to self-mutilating behaviors, such as cutting, again as a way to numb these feelings or as a way of punishing themselves. Often teenagers become sexually active at an very early age. They equate sex with love. Also many of these teens become involved with gangs and bullying. The gangs serve as a psedufamily for the teenagers. In fact, gangs consider their members as family members. The play West Side Story is an excellent example of how a gang acts like a family for teenagers. Also the play and movie Grease shows how gangs are like families. Bullying is another way teens numb out their pain. They believe by making someone else look weak that it makes them look strong and people will respect them and love them. Also they can it is a way they feel they can hide from other that they feel worthless.

The above stated behaviors are a few ways that teenagers deal with feeling unlovable. However, the number of teenagers who feel this way are creating numerous problems for everyone. As a result of teens feeling unlovable, we have a severe drug problem in the teenage population. Teenagers are dying from accidental drug over dosages at an epidemic rate. According to the CDC the number of teens using drugs, such as heroin and meth, is at an epidemic rate. Cutting, suicide and being murdered are all at epidemic rates for teenagers (CDC). All because many of them don’t feel loved. These numbers from the CDC were before the Coronavirus. Since the Coronavirus, these numbers have significantly increased because many teenagers do not see a future for themselves. A family’s love can help them not get so depressed and to keep their hope a live.

We are receiving this message in many ways that teenagers need to feel loved. In Disney’s movie, Frozen, they mention that people make poor choices and do hurtful things because they feel unloved. The movie goes further to say that if people feel loved you would be amazed at how they can change. Oprah in her last show commented on one thing she had learned from her show was that everyone wants to know that they are important to someone and that someone sees them and cares about what they say and do. Challenge Day, a program designed to work with teenagers, believes all teens deserve to feel loved and cared for by people. I have worked with Challenge Day and I am amazed every time that this big, tough teenager ends up crying on the floor when he realizes that someone cares. Teenagers are trying very hard to let us know they need to be loved when they act out. I have teenagers telling me they are willing to take a chance of overdosing just so they can escape the pain of feeling abandoned and unloved. It is heartbreaking to hear a teen tell you this as they try to hide the fact that they are crying.

We know love makes a difference to many people so why not teenagers? The teenagers I work with don’t really want to be the tough guy. They want to know that they are loved. When I tell a teen I’m working with in therapy that they deserve to be loved, they think I’m crazy. They test me in numerous ways to get me to throw them out of my office. They are testing the point I made that they are lovable. They try everything they can think of to prove me wrong. However, in reality they are hoping to fail and prove that I am right that they are lovable. So, I hold strong and tell them I won’t change my mind and I will not give up. I will not throw them out of therapy. If they decide to walk out that is their choice and I can’t stop it, but I will not throw them out because I know they are worthy of being loved. I also let them know if they do walk out that my door will always be opened to them.

After testing me, many of these teens decide they are worth it and decide to make a future for themselves. It is amazing to see and it is very nice to see. However, there are those teenagers who walk out and that is very disappointing. It’s not disappointing because I lost it is disappointing because the teenager will continue to live in pain.

The main point is that Challenge Day, Alive and Free (another program for teens) and other therapists like myself cannot be the only ones trying to help teenagers. We need everyone to help. Parents, teachers, physicians, psychotherapists, the juvenile justice system and our communities. We need to let children know from the day that they are born that they deserve to be loved and that they are important members of our society. We cannot continue to wait until these children are teenagers to tell them they are lovable. Waiting until they are teenagers may be too late and the teen may not believe you. If we start when they are babies, they will grow up with a sense that they are important and deserved to be loved. This could help reduce how many teens turn to drugs or violence.

So, think about how you can show a teenager that they deserve to be loved and that they are important. If everyone starts with one teenager, you would be surprised the changes we can make in someone’s life and the world.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience treating teenagers. If you want more information about Dr. Rubino visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

Autism and The Holidays

Autism and The Holidays

Typically during the Holidays many people expect it to be a great family time and a great deal of fun for the kids. However, this year the Holidays are going to be significantly different due to the Coronavirus. In addition to the Coronavirus, the Holidays can be a very difficult time for a child who has Autism or is on the Autistic spectrum or have other types of Cognitive Disabilities. The noise and having a lot of people being around can be upsetting to them. However, due to the Coronavirus most families will not be having big gatherings, but they still will be having smaller gatherings. Also many children on the spectrum are use to a certain daily routine. The festivities of the Holidays can disrupt their routine and upset them. Additionally, changes that need to be made due to the Coronavirus can upset children and teenagers on the Spectrum.

The Holidays, as I said above, are supposed to be a happy time. Therefore, when parents, who have a child on the autistic spectrum, see their child getting upset or agitated, it is difficult for them. Additionally, many parents who have children on the spectrum worry about how other people will react or judge their child.

All of this worry for the parents and change for the kids can make the Holidays a stressful time for autistic children. Also as I stated above, we will have significant changes to our Holidays in terms of how many people will be there and having to change some long standing Holiday traditions, such as Midnight Mass. While researching this issue, I did read a very good article by Lori Lite which has good ideas for parents to use during the Holidays. These ideas can help make the Holidays a happy time for your child and for your family. I would suggest trying these ideas and not worrying how other people may or may not judge your child. Being Autistic is nothing to be ashamed about. I treat many autistic children and they are usually very caring, smart children. We need to change our views regarding autism. It is a medical condition like diabetes or being blind. We make accommodations for children with these issues so we can make accommodations for a child with Autism. Therefore, try some of these ideas to help you and your child enjoy the Holidays.

Get Ready: Social stories, books, and movies can be a big help in preparing your child emotionally for holidays. Comfortable clothing and small dose exposures to holiday sounds can help physically. Think ahead with an eye for anxiety causing issues. If wrapping paper too loud? Use easy open bags or just decorate with a bow. Are the electronic bears with bells at Grandma’s house going to cause sensory overload? Ask her to unplug them before you get there. Let friends and family know about triggers ahead of time. If your child doesn’t like to be hugged suggest a handshake or just a wave. Your friends, family, and special needs children will be glad you did.

Prepare Your Children For Gatherings: Eliminate unnecessary anxiety associated with getting together with family members you rarely see by looking through photos of relatives prior to your event. Play memory games matching names to faces. This will help your children feel more comfortable with people they may not have seen in a while. Aunt Mary won’t seem quite so scary when she bends down to greet your child.

Use Relaxation Techniques: Incorporate deep breathing or other coping strategies into your day. Let your children see you use techniques when you are feeling stressed. Encourage them to use relaxation techniques on a daily basis. Breathing, visualizing, and positive thinking are powerful tools.

Incorporate Positive Statements Into Your Dinner: This is empowering and reflective. Each person at the table can state an attribute of their own that they are thankful for. For example, “I am thankful that I am creative.” Feeling stressed? Try, “I am thankful that I am calm.” Your special needs child can prepare ahead with a drawing or sign language if they want to participate without speaking.

Don’t Rush: It’s simple; none of us are very good at rushing in a relaxed way. The two just do not go together. It is impossible for children or teens to rush without getting angry. Make sure you leave enough time to enjoy the journey and avoid meltdowns. Children with special needs should be given notice of transitions.

Write Things Down: Getting the constant chatter and lists out of your head decreases stress and anxiety. Kids love making lists. Give them a clipboard or dry erase board. Help your child make a list of what they want to do for the holiday. It might be helping decorate or what to pack for self-care relaxation bag. This will help you relax and help your children feel involved. Encourage them to add happy words like laugh or draw a smile face on their list.

Schedule Downtime: Don’t overbook your children. It’s important to use holiday time for relaxation. Try staying in pajamas till noon. Pop your favorite popcorn and watch a movie when you wake up. You’ll be surprised how an hour or two of relaxation can rejuvenate your children’s bodies, minds, and spirits.

Shopping: Avoid taking your children shopping on the busiest shopping days of the year. The chaos, noise of large crowds, and long lines will definitely add stress to your life. If your child is absolutely known to meltdown during shopping you can select a few gifts and bring them home. Set up a shopping experience in your home for your child. The whole family can participate. Have a checkout counter and a gift-wrapping table.

Be Flexible: Relax your expectations and definitions of what a fun experience is for your children. Most of us do not need the full blown exhausting experience of holidays to reflect that we had a good time. A few positive minutes is worth a lifetime of memories!

Let The Children Participate: Let your children do one thing for the holiday that makes them feel proud. Kids can collect acorns or place a few jingle bells into a bowl for a beautiful stress free centerpiece.  Children can fold the napkins or put the forks out. Let them draw a special picture to place on your guest’s chair. Be prepared to accept their participation as perfect and wonderful. Restrain for correcting or straightening out the napkins and enjoy the holidays with your special needs child!

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. Many of these children and teens are on the Autistic Spectrum. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Some Kids Only Want Food for the Holidays

Some Kids Only Want Food for the Holidays

The Holiday Season is here, however, this year it will be very different due to the Coronavirus. We have 225,000 people who have passed away from the virus so far. So we have numerous people who are grieving for spouses, grandparents, siblings, parents and friends. Furthermore, many parents are unemployed. Millions of families cannot afford to pay the rent or buy food. Food Banks are reporting a significant increase in the number of people seeking food. Parents are getting in line at 5 am when the Food Bank opens at 9am. There are doing this because they are desperate for food so they can feed their children.

A teacher asked her first grade class to write letters for Christmas. She asked each student to write one thing they want and something they need. One of the children wrote this heartbreaking letter asking for food and shoes. However, she was not the only one. Many children were asking for food, clothes and a place to live.

This video details the need that many families are facing and how many children are focusing on food and clothes for survival not toys. https://youtu.be/j_05ZuhqCZM

This video is the tip of the iceberg. Currently in the United States one out of five children are going to bed without food and are homeless (CDC). This is the United States, how are we allowing this to occur? While families are having to beg for food and a place to live, President Trump is focusing on lies about how he did not lose the election and playing golf instead of discussing World leaders how we can cope with the Coronavirus. He is the President and the welfare of these families should be his first priority not playing golf.

Many people assume that hunger is not a problem in the United States. However the current statistics of one in five children living below the poverty level and not having enough to eat and many living on the streets tells us that we have a severe problem in the United States. It’s not because they have drug addicted parents either. Many of their parents work 2 or 3 jobs, if they can find a job. As a result of the pandemic, we have unemployment rates that are similar to the Great Depression. We have been aware of this fact before the elections, but the President has refused to act.

I do see children in this situation for psychotherapy. These children are often depressed and see no hope for the future. They feel that they will be homeless for their entire life. In therapy I am trying to help them to not give up. The suicide rate has increased due to the Coronavirus pandemic and if a child sees no hope for their future they do think about suicide. I am able to provide these children psychotherapy because I see them pro bono.

The other sad fact is that the United States government continues not to act. Additionally, the few programs that are helping these families will expire the day after Christmas. Many of these programs are their only source of food. The children are the future of our country. Why would the United States, considered the richest country in the world, cut programs that will increase the number of children living in poverty? Should a child in the United States, need to be asking Santa Claus for food and a blanket? Should the Country’s focus be taking care of President Trump’s ego or children who have no food or a place to live? Where are our priorities?

Dr. Michael Rubino has 20 years experience as a psychotherapist working with children and teenagers. For more information about his work with children visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple or Audible.

Thanksgiving Stress during the Pandemic

Thanksgiving Stress during the Pandemic

The Holiday Season is coming up fast and for many people instead of a happy time it is a very stressful time especially this year with the Coronavirus. Typically the Holidays can bring up family issues that have not been resolved and these issues can make everyone uncomfortable. First since you may need to limit who attends Thanksgiving dinner this year due to the Coronavirus, if you state the guidelines regarding why certain people were not invited can make life easier. There are also the family issues which are like elephants in the living room that no one discusses which adds to the stress. Another issue is that everyone is trying so hard to make the day prefect that it becomes a stressful day and no one enjoys the day. However this year there is the added stress of do we get together, do we do Thanksgiving by Zoom and finally if the family is getting together what safety precautions do you take so no one gets the coronavirus.

Thanksgiving is coming up first so let’s deal with that day.

Thanksgiving dinner with multiple family members can create chaos and stress. Again this year you may need to reduce who comes to dinner due to the Coronavirus. This adds to the Holiday stress. If you’re having a get together having a Thanksgiving plan can reduce anxiety, decrease the likelihood of arguments and increase the likelihood that everyone has a happy and enjoyable Thanksgiving that they were expecting.

Lori Lite who writes about stress uses the acronym G-R-A-T-E-F-U-L as her Thanksgiving stress guide. It helps her and others get through the day in a peaceful manner. Each letter reminds you of something to do or a way to view the day so you do not get upset.

So here is how to use Gratitude as your Thanksgiving Stress Reliever.

G- Gratitude is the opposite of stress. It is difficult to feel stressed out when we are feeling gratitude.

R- Relax your expectations and let the day unfold. You might be surprised by the outcome.

A- Acceptance is the opposite of judgment. If we accept our family member for who they are and what they are capable of we can relax and enjoy ourselves.

T- Teens can be a part of Thanksgiving. Ask them what they would like to bring to the table. Let them bring it.

E- Empower children and let them help with age appropriate assignments. Putting the nuts out or making the centerpiece. Let them do it their way…not your way.

F– Focus on family for this day. Put all work and worries on the shelf

U– Unplug the electronics for dinner so that everyone can be fully present.

L- Love is often overlooked when we are busy. Cook with love… Speak with love… Show your love and gratitude for your family on this Thanksgiving Day.

Since the day can be stressful, it can lead to anger and arguments. Another acronym you can use to help with stress and anger is H-A-L-T. Here is what Halt stands for:

H – Hunger, if someone feels hungry they are more likely to become stressed or angry.

A – Anger, if someone is already angry, they can easily become stressed or have their anger increased by some small event because they are already agitated.

L – Lonely, if someone is feeling ignored or left out of the group, this lonely feeling can turn into anger or stress.

T – Tired, if someone is tired, their defenses are down and they can become agitated or angry very easily.

If you remember HALT and monitor yourself for these feelings or if you notice these feelings in someone else, you can try to do something for yourself or someone else to change the situation creating this feeling and hopefully avoid an angry incident.

This might seem very simple and obvious, but at times the best solutions are rather simple. Also you may want to practice using these acronyms in your daily life. It may seem simple, however it may be harder than you think because you are accustomed to doing things and viewing life in a certain way. This idea may challenge you to reassess how you approach life in general. Therefore, these acronyms may be helpful in your daily life.

Many of us are not use to looking at our lives in terms of what we have to be grateful for. Also many of us have a hard time relaxing and not worrying about work or other things occurring in our lives. I have found that just being in the moment is difficult for most people. Most of us believe we always have to be doing something. This can create stress and disappointment because we miss important family time. Finally, since we feel we must always be doing something, disconnecting from cellphones and other electronics can be very difficult for many people. However, think about it? How can you have fun and enjoy the day with your family, if your mind is not fully present? You can’t. Furthermore, this can create tension for others because they feel ignored and for you because you feel they don’t respect how important what you are doing at the moment is to you. As a result, you have stress which can turn into an argument and everyone is upset. A day we planed as a happy day can become a day of anger and disappointment easily.

Therefore, in order to avoid this possibility try using the acronyms GRATEFUL and HALT following the guidelines for the day. What do you have to lose?

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with children, teenagers and their families. He has over 20 years experience. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.rcs-ca.com or www.RubinoCounseling.com or visit his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple or Audible.

Responding to Someone Grieving during the Holidays

Responding to Someone Grieving during the Holidays

The Holiday Season is just around the corner. For many people it is a very happy time, however, if someone you loved passed away this year the Holidays most likely will not be a happy time because you are missing your loved one. This is true every Holiday Season, however this year it is likely to very different. In previous years there have been a few families grieving the loss of a loved one. However, this year due to the Coronavirus, there are over 225,000 families grieving. Therefore there will be a lot of people grieving this year.

A common problem people face regarding grief is they do not know what to say or do at times when someone is grieving. The reason we have this problem is that we do not really talk about death and grief in our society. There is a tendency to think that after funeral services are completed that people quickly resume normal life. This is not true. The grieving process can take a long time and everyone has their own way of grieving. This makes knowing what to say or do very difficult especially during the Holidays.

I have had many patients ask me what should I say or do when they are talking about someone who is grieving. Therefore, I researched the literature on grieving and came up with these suggestions about how you can respond to someone who is grieving during the Holidays or anytime.

The 10 Best and 10 Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief

Sheryl Sandberg’s post on Facebook gave us much insight into how those in grief feel about the responses of others to loss. Many of us have said “The Best” and “The Worst.” We meant no harm, in fact the opposite. We were trying to comfort. A grieving person may say one of the worst ones about themselves and it’s OK. It may make sense for a member of the clergy to say, “He is in a better place” when someone comes to them for guidance. Where as an acquaintance saying it may not feel good.

You would also not want to say to someone, you are in the stages of grief. In our work, On Grief and Grieving, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and I share that the stages were never meant to tuck messy emotions into neat packages. While some of these things to say have been helpful to some people, the way in which they are often said has the exact opposite effect than what was originally intended.

The Best Things to Say to Someone in Grief

1. I am so sorry for your loss.

2. I wish I had the right words, just know I care.

3. I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in anyway I can.

4. You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.

5. My favorite memory of your loved one is…

6. I am always just a phone call away

7. Give a hug instead of saying something

8. We all need help at times like this, I am here for you

9. I am usually up early or late, if you need anything

10. Saying nothing, just be with the person

The Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief

1. At least she lived a long life, many people die young

2. He is in a better place

3. She brought this on herself

4. There is a reason for everything

5. Aren’t you over him yet, he has been dead for awhile now

6. You can have another child still

7. She was such a good person God wanted her to be with him

8. I know how you feel

9. She did what she came here to do and it was her time to go

10. Be strong

Best & Worst Traits of people just trying to help

When in the position of wanting to help a friend or loved one in grief, often times our first desire is to try to “fix” the situation, when in all actuality our good intentions can lead to nothing but more grief. Knowing the right thing to say is only half of the responsibility of being a supportive emotional caregiver. We have comprised two lists which examine both the GOOD and the NOT SO GOOD traits of people just trying to help.

The Best Traits

Supportive, but not trying to fix it

About feelings

Non active, not telling anyone what to do

Admitting can’t make it better

Not asking for something or someone to change feelings

Recognize loss

Not time limited

The Worst Traits

They want to fix the loss

They are about our discomfort

They are directive in nature

They rationalize or try to explain loss/li>

They may be judgmental

May minimize the loss

Put a timeline on loss

The above information is meant to be used as a guideline. Everyone goes through the grieving process in their own way. It is very important to understand that point. It is also important to remember while the above is a guideline, the most important thing is your intent. So if you say a worse thing but you said it out of love the person will understand. The guideline will hopefully make you more comfortable to offer support to your grieving loved one or friend. Because someone who is grieving needs people to talk to without people feeling awkward. Also everyone is around immediately after the death and through the funeral services. Most people then go back to their normal lives. However, those who were really close to the person are still grieving and trying to figure out how to proceed with life. So don’t forget the person who is grieving can use emotional support for the first year especially. Therefore, do not forget to call, send a card or stop by occasionally. Especially around the holidays and birthdays.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience as a psychotherapist treating adolescents, children and their families. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple or Audible.