Try Looking at the Quarantine as a Gift

Try Looking at the Quarantine as a Gift

Many people are tired of being quarantined and demanding that the quarantine be ended. However, medical experts argue that it is too soon. They have stated if we are not careful with the virus there will be a worse wave during the winter and eventually 70% of the people in the United States could contract the virus. While the medical facts are being debated, we can look at and take advantage of the opportunities provided by the quarantine.

Yes, I am not crazy, the quarantine does offer us some great opportunities. Typically we most of us live in a very fast past, chaotic lifestyle. Many times when I try to schedule a psychotherapy appointment for a ten year old child, it is very difficult. Between school, homework and after school sports, most kids are on at least two teams, we can barely find time to schedule a psychotherapy appointment. Now with the quarantine in place we can all take a break and slow down. We can also look at what we have been missing.

A major area to evaluate is your family. Prior to the quarantine, an average family of four did not eat dinner together and spent very little time together. Parents typically saw their children either when they were driving them to school or to practice for a sport. Also spouses often saw each other in the morning on the way out to work and in the evening when they were going to bed. It was not uncommon to hear the primary way that a married couple communicated was via text and email. This communication pattern often extended to their teenagers too.

I have heard from many families that because of the quarantine they have time to talk to each other. So take advantage of this time have game nights, movie nights and reconnect to your children and spouse. Amazon sells games which provide the beginning of a sentence and then the person must finish it. Children and teenagers love this game and it’s a great way to reconnect and find out what is going on in their lives. Also if you look at my Facebook site I have posted several handouts that do the same thing. You and your spouse can do this at a separate time so the two of you can reconnect. Hopefully you will see what you have been missing and make it a routine. So when the quarantine is ended, you could dedicate at least one night where the entire family has dinner together and you spend the evening together playing a game or talking.

Besides reconnecting with your family, you can try to reconnect with friends and extended family. Use your phone to call someone and see how they are doing and what has been going on in their lives. You can use FaceTime or Zoom so it feels more personal. Post on your Facebook page that you want to reconnect and encourage people to message you or call. We spend so much time working, many of us find it very difficult to spend time with friends or extended family. The quarantine gives us that time. Therefore, make the most of it. Typically if you were at home for a week it would be because you are sick. If you are sick, you won’t feel like reaching out to others. The quarantine gives you plenty of time to reach out to others. Therefore, take advantage of the time you have been given.

Finally, you can use this time to re-evaluate your life and how you are spending your time. Are you doing what you really want to do? Do you find you enjoy family time and time with friends? Are you satisfied with your job? Is there a hobby you want to start or try? These are all things you now have time to think about. You may find you are very happy with your life prior to the quarantine or you may decide there are some changes you want to make. If you are not content with how you are living your life, this can lead to depression, drinking problems, gambling addictions, anything to take your mind off the fact that you are not happy. The quarantine gives you time to decide if you are happy or not and if not what you want to do about it. Therefore, my recommendation to people is stop complaining about the quarantine and make use of the time you have been given. Yes the quarantine is boring, but it is necessary for our health. This may help us understand our children and teenagers when we say no to them. Therefore, look at this time as a gift and re-evaluate your life. Take advantage of this time. It maybe the best thing you have ever done for yourself and family.

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

Being Quarantined with Your Children

Being Quarantined with Your Children

The coronavirus has taken a turn no one expected. Before we were thinking about precautions we should take and now the entire San Francisco Bay Area is under quarantine for at least 3 weeks. This means 3 weeks of no school and 3 weeks of the kids at home. Many parents are starting to panic. They may not be able to go to work, but many people are being asked to work from home. So how do you work from home and cope with kids who are going to be very bored? In some ways it sounds like a horror movie, but it’s not. This is our reality.

The first thing to do is not to panic. If you panic it’s going to make it harder to make rational choices to get through the quarantine. Also if you panic you children will feel anxious and insecure and will be more likely to act out. It’s important to remember that you are all in this together and you will need to get through this together.

The first thing to do is to sit down with your children and discuss the situation. Reassure your children you are taking all necessary precautions to keep them safe and that children tend not to catch this virus. Explain that the doctors have decided to have this quarantine as away to get control of the virus so that more people do not get sick. It is important to explain this calmly so your children will remain calm. They will be watching you as a way to gauge the situation. If you are panicked and anxious, they are more likely to be anxious. If you are calm, they are more likely to be calm and not over react.

The next thing I recommend is a family meeting to discuss the new house rules during the quarantine. Explain it will be important to keep a schedule because the quarantine will end and they will be returning to school. Also some schools may have sent homework home or they may be having classes online. Therefore, they need time to do their homework. However, point out that you can use some of the time to have fun. You can have a family game night, a family movie night and other things that you may decide to do. Try not to have the news on a lot because most news stations are running stories about the virus 24/7 and this can provoke anxiety for children and adults.

As for IPads, texting and time online, this would be a good time to renegotiate your standard rules. Typically an hour a day is what is recommended. However, given the fact children and teenagers will not be able to see friends at school or go out with friends on the weekends, allowing more screen time would be appropriate. This can also help them cope with the quarantine by being able to maintain contact with friends. However, it is a good idea to checkin with your children about what their friends are saying about the virus. This way you can correct misinformation that your children may be hearing from their friends. Remind them their friends do not have all the answers and if they have questions or concerns regarding the virus to ask you.

As for a schedule, set a time for everyone to wake up, get dressed and have breakfast. It doesn’t need to be at 7 am, but I would suggest no later than 9am. After breakfast have everyone do something related to school. If the school has assigned work or having work online this would be a prefect time to do their assigned work. If their is no assigned work have them read a book or use their IPad or laptop to long on to a site that has school work. There are many sites devoted to learning. Your school website may have some posted or local news station such ABC7 are posting the sites on their websites.

After a couple hours of work take a break for lunch. After lunch, if the weather permits have your children spend some time in the backyard getting some fresh air and playing a game for exercise. After they have spent some time outside have them return to their school work. Around 3pm let them stop their school work and use their electronics to play and keep in touch with their friends.

When it’s getting to be dinner time have the entire family participate in preparing dinner and have dinner together as a family. Take the time to catch up with your children and teenagers about what is going on in their lives. Also take this time to decide on an after dinner activity such as a game, a movie or if there is a certain television show everyone likes to watch. Again this can be good family bonding time and can help you when the quarantine ends. If your teenagers find out spending time and talking to their parents is not torture, they are more likely to continue talking with you after the quarantine.

Again, since the quarantine is not forever and children and teenagers will be returning to school after the quarantine, set a bedtime for children and teenagers. It should be age appropriate, but make it slightly later than when school is in session. This will help your children are teenagers not resist the quarantine so much if they are getting some benefits from it. They may be small benefits but any will help. Also I would suggest allowing an hour after family game time for teenagers to be able to text friends and wrap up their day.

The quarantine is going to be stressful on everyone but if you remember you are in it together as a family, it can help you with the stressful times. In addition to settling a schedule, if you have neighbors who are elderly or family friends who are elderly, volunteer to help them with shopping or just stop by to check on them and see if they need anything. By helping others it helps you not to feel so sorry for yourself and to appreciate what you do have in your life.

The choice is yours, you can look at the quarantine as a disaster and feel like you are being tortured for the next three weeks or you can look at it as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your children and teenagers. By trying to strengthen your relationship with your children and teenagers during the quarantine, when the quarantine ends you may have a better relationship with your children and teenagers. You may find out that strengthening your relationship with your family was worth all the difficulties created by the quarantine.

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

Grieving During the Holiday Season

Grieving During the Holiday Season

It’s the Holiday Season a time to spend time with family and friends. However, many people have lost a loved one this year or they are still grieving the lost of a loved from from last year or the year before. Grief has no time limits on how long it will last. I have had many patients ask me how to respond to a family member or friend who is grieving especially during this time of year. People ask me questions about grief because our society has a very difficult time with death and grief. We try not to discuss it and avoid the topic. With a mass shooting happening every 1.2 days (CDC). It becoming very difficult to avoid this topic.

While doing research regarding grief for patients who have asked me what to say to grieving people, I found this information from the grief center. I think it is very good information and very easy to understand. Therefore, I will present the information in three sections.

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

Sheryl Sandberg’s post on Facebook gave us a great deal of 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 need people to talk to without people feeling awkward.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has over 20 years experience treating adolescents, children and their families. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website http://www.rcs-ca.com or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy

The Good News is You are not Crazy, You have a Teenager

The Good News is You are not Crazy, You have a Teenager

Many parents of teenagers feel like they are going crazy. One day their teen is acting like an adult and like they don’t need a parent and the next their teen is acting like a child and cannot live without parents. It becomes very frustrating to many parents because they never know how their teen will be acting that day.

Many parents feel like they cannot win because if they treat their teen like an adult that is the day their teen is acting like a child. Besides not knowing what mood their teen will be in, parents get tired of their teens being angry at them because their parents guessed the wrong mood. Well parents, you are not crazy and the confusion you are feeling is real. Teens do switch from acting mature to acting child like very quickly and very often. It has nothing to do with how you are parenting your teen, it has to do with their biology.

The Prefrontal Cortex in teenagers is not fully developed yet. As a result, you see and experience the mood swings in your teens that we just described. The Prefrontal Cortex is the part of the brain that is responsible for reasoning skills and the ability to make mature consistent decisions. One of the best ways that I have seen to deal with this situation is make no assumptions. When dealing with your teen see what mood they are in and respond accordingly. As your teen is getting older make suggestions how they could have looked at the situation or sit down with them and discuss how they made their decision. The most important thing is to remember they are not doing it on purpose, it is part of the process they need to go through as they become adults. They need to learn how to make rational, mature decisions. Right now when dealing with a teen, the best thing as a parent can do is to take a deep breath and assess the situation. The way you respond to them is modeling how to act like an adult. Also this will reduce fights in the family and improve communication. If you remember back to when they were toddlers you did not expect them to understand everything because they were a little child. Just because physically your teen may look and can physically act like an adult doesn’t mean that emotionally they are adults. Remember they are still maturing and need your help. A little understanding can go a long way.

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience specializing in the mental health issues and providing psychotherapy for adolescents. He also has a private practice in Pleasant Hill. You can learn more about his work or private practice by visiting his web site http://www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

How to Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed by Christmas

How to Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed by Christmas

The Holiday Season is here and people are stressing about buying gifts and spending the day with relatives. For many people this Holidays are a happy time and for others it is a stressful time. The Holidays can be stressful because they may bring up family issues that have not been resolved yet or everyone is trying to make the day prefect that it becomes a stressful day not a happy one. Also parents are concerned how their children will act around the entire family and what will happen if their child receives a gift they do not want?

Thanksgiving has passed and next we have Christmas. Parents you can start by looking at what occurred on Thanksgiving. Overall we’re you happy with it or are there somethings that you would like to change?

Next after you have assessed how the day went sit down with your children and ask for their opinions. Also ask about what their expectations are for Christmas. It is especially important to discuss this point with teenagers. Are they expecting to spend Christmas Eve and Day with the family or are they expecting to spend time with friends and girlfriends or boyfriends. It is important to settle this issue before Christmas. By discussing expectations and trying to accommodate everyone’s wishes, you can avoid arguments. However, many times you cannot accommodate everyone’s wishes and as the parents you may need to make the judgement call. If this occurs explain to your teenager you know they may be mad, but you hope they can understand and you would appreciate their cooperation. May be you make arrangements for them to spend time with their friends the day before or after Christmas.

The next discussion is gifts. Explain to your children the point of Christmas is to appreciate and to be grateful for the people in your life and what you do have in your life. Therefore, if your grandparents give you something you do not like, be grateful that they thought about you and say thank you. Try not to make faces or act disappointed and hurt your grandparents feelings. Again remind them the Holidays are a time to be grateful for what you have in your life.

Reminding your children about being grateful leads us into the next tip for decreasing Holiday Stress. Lori Lite who writes about stress uses the acronym G-R-A-T-E-F-U-L as her Holiday 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 Holiday 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 the Holidays. Ask them what they would like to contribute to the evening or day. Let them what they feel they can contribute.

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. Be present with love… Speak with love… Show your love and gratitude for your family during this Holiday time.

This might seem very simple and obvious, but at times the best solutions are rather simple. Also you may want to practice using this in your daily life. It may seem simple, but it may be harder to do 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.

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 we need to do. 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 creates stress and disappointment. Finally, since we feel we must always be doing something, disconnecting from cellphones and other electronics can be very difficult for the children and for adults too. 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 of happiness becomes a day of anger and disappointment.

If you notice you are getting angry or your teenager is getting angry use the acronym HALT:

H – hunger, do not try to discuss a difficult situation if you or your teen are hungry.

A – anger, if it is obvious someone is angry give them time to calm down before discussing an issue. Pushing a discussion when someone is angry will only result in making a bad situation worse.

Lonely – lonely, if someone is feeling down or alone again pushing them to talk can make it worse. Let them know when they are ready you are there to listen.

Tired – tired, trying to have a conversation with a tired teenager can turn into an argument fast. Wait until they are ready to talk. There is no need to make a bad situation worse.

Therefore, in order to avoid the possibility of an unpleasant Holiday for everyone try to

use the words GRATEFUL and HALT as 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 http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or visit his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

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.

Talking To Kids about Mass Shootings

Talking To Kids about Mass Shootings

Mass shootings have become a daily occurrence in our country. Just the other day there was another shooting at the Naval Base in Pensacola, Florida. Closer to home there was a threat of a possible shooting at Foothill Middle School in Walnut Creek. The police determined in was not a valid threat and it was a kid trying to scare people. However, I did receive calls from parents asking me, how do I talk to my child about this threat? Many parents said to me before it was easier because the shootings were far away. Now it was in our backyards and parents were not sure what to do.

It is not surprising that parents are feeling overwhelmed. According to the CDC, as of November 15th which was the 319th day of the year, there have been 336 shootings as in November 15th for the year 2019. Also there have been 250 deaths and 979 injuries in 2019. According to the CDC, there have been a total of 1347 deaths and 1684 injuries in mass shootings many of them occurred at schools. With the recent shootings at Santa Clarita and the Naval Base, the numbers will increase. When you look at these numbers and you look at there are 1.2 shootings, this is very overwhelming. It is difficult for adults to comprehend how do you discuss with a 10 year old child.

Many people think they can ignore discussing it with their children because they do not watch the news. They may not watch the news, but the hear people talking and see things on the internet. Also most schools have intruder shooting drills now. So children are very aware of mass shootings. In fact, over the last 2 years, I have seen a significant increase of children for anxiety, depression and not wanting to go to school. The kids tell me they are afraid of getting killed if they go to school. Therefore, parents need to discuss mass shootings with their children.

When you speak to your children you need to do so in an age appropriate manner. Reassure them everyone is doing everything they can to keep them safe. Do not deny that there have been shootings at schools because they know there have been shootings. If you lie about the shootings, they will not trust what you have to say. The main point children are looking for is that people are there to keep them safe and everyone is doing everything possible to keep them safe. Children look towards adults to keep them safe so it is very important as parents you say and do whatever you can to reassure your child, you are doing everything you can to keep them safe.

This is a very difficult topic for children and parents. As a parent you want to reassure your child, but you do not want to lie. I have included a link to a very good video. It goes over different age groups and explains to parents how to approach your child regarding this issue. I encourage every parent to watch it and to talk to your child. Remember, if you do so in a loving way, you will help your child a great deal. The most important thing to them is that you love them and they know you are trying to keep them safe. https://youtu.be/Ddk0RUKbAMk.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. He is also certified to treat trauma victims. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website at 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.

The Holidays and Special Need Children

The Holidays and Special Need Children

The Holidays are here and many people expect it to be a great family time and a great deal of fun for the kids. However, this is not true for every family or child. 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. 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.

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. 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 http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3