Ways for Families to Cope with Holiday Stress

Ways for Families to Cope with Holiday Stress

The Holiday Season is here and so is stress about gifts, family dinners and Holiday parties. For example, many people will be worrying about how they will survive the Holidays with certain relatives and since prices have increased this year many people are worrying about how they will be able to afford the Holiday Season. Additionally, there is the Coronavirus pandemic. Many people have been vaccinated, but others for some reason have decided not to get vaccinated. Therefore, some families are faced with decisions about do they celebrate with relatives who have not been vaccinated. This can be very difficult and a very stressful situation. In addition, the Holidays can be stressful because they may bring up family issues that have not been resolved yet or you have some family members trying so hard 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? Finally this year prices on everything have increased significantly and many families are struggling with being able to afford the rent, in addition to Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season.

We had Thanksgiving and next there is Christmas and Chanukah depending on your family’s tradition. Since we have had Thanksgiving, you can evaluate how Thanksgiving went for everyone and decide if you want to make changes for the remaining holidays.

After you have assessed how you would like the remaining Holidays to go, the next step is to sit down with your children and ask for their opinions. Also ask about what their expectations are for the Holidays. It is especially important to discuss this point with teenagers because they have been isolated from friends due to the pandemic. 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 the Holidays. 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 certain Holidays.

The next discussion is gifts. Explain to your children the point of the Holidays 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 25 years experience. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or visit his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcast on Spotify or Apple.

How to Respond to Someone Grieving during the Holidays

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. However given the fact we have had 612 mass shootings this year and 110 shootings every day which involve one or two people, in addition to over one million people who have died due to Covid (CDC), there are millions of people grieving during this Holiday Season. Therefore avoiding the topic of grief is becoming very difficult to do.

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 25 years experience treating adolescents, children, their families, trauma victims and first responders. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page

Loneliness Increases during the Holidays not Suicides

Loneliness Increases during the Holidays not Suicides

The Holiday Season is here and many people assume the Holidays and depression go together. In addition to assuming the Holidays and depression go together, people assume that suicide rates increase during this time of year. Well according to the statistics from the CDC, suicide rates actually drop during the Holiday Season. The study by the CDC is not sure why they drop but they do. May be they drop because during this time of year we pay more attention to depression and suicide. There are a number of ads and social media posts where people can call if they feel suicidal. We finally have a national suicide crisis line, 988, that people can call if they feel suicidal. In addition, now social media sites are offering assistance to teenagers and people who are feeling suicidal. Therefore, there definitely is more focus on people feeling suicidal than other times of the year. For example, we tend to forget about suicide during the summer and focus on the sun and swimming.

What the CDC did find is that loneliness increases during this time of year. During the Holidays there are songs and plenty of television shows regarding getting together with family and friends. You also have people talking about all the Holiday parties that they have to go to. Furthermore, you hear people talking about how well their lives are going. However, this is not the case for everyone. Especially with inflation, many people are struggling to afford food and a home for their families. Buying Holiday gifts is the least of their worries.

If you are a military family, a loved one may be stationed overseas and won’t be home for the Holidays. Also during the year some close friends or loved ones may have died and you are grieving their death. We are still dealing with the pandemic and we still have many people dying daily due to the Coronavirus. Since the pandemic started in 2019, over 1,000,000 Americans have died. Therefore, there are a lot of people in our Country grieving and feeling lonely due to a loved one dying from the Coronavirus. Additionally during the Holidays is a time when many people are talking about family and friends that have died and they remember the people they have lost over the years. The first Holiday Season without a close loved one or friend can be very difficult. You may not feeling like celebrating or you may have to change Holiday traditions which can make some one feel sad and lonely. However, it may be necessary so you can tolerate the Holidays.

Another common difficulty during this time of year is money. Especially this year with inflation and the costs for most things increasing significantly. Many people feel like they need to spend a great deal of money to show love. They may just be able to pay their monthly bills and cannot afford Holiday gifts. Why do we need to spend money to show that we care? What if you write a letter to someone telling them how important they are to you and how much you appreciate them. Isn’t that the real purpose of the Holiday Season? Isn’t this the time of year we take to tell people in our lives how much we appreciate them. Also it’s an opportunity to tell people we tend to ignore, people sleeping on the street or who are dealing with mental illness that they are important too? Everyone is important and should be included. Also instead of spending a lot of money, you can donate your time so someone who is struggling financially or emotionally has an easier time.

As a psychotherapist, I have seen that people dealing with mental illness feel lonely and out of place during this time of year. They don’t often feel the joy of the season. Sometimes they struggle just to make it through the day. Also mental illness is something we don’t discuss as a society. We tend to act like it doesn’t exist so we ignore the issue. Also since it is an uncomfortable issue for many people because they often feeling ashamed and embarrassment about family members who are mentally ill. As a result, they tend to ignore their family members and friends who struggle with mental illness because it makes them feel awkward. This makes it less likely for people dealing with family members or friends who have a mental illness to talk about it with others or seek help professional about how to cope with the holidays. This can make people feel lonely and isolated especially during this time of year.

We seldom acknowledge the daily struggle that people and families dealing with mental illness go through on a daily basis. It is important to acknowledge that mental illness is not a weakness it is a medical condition. There is no reason to look down on someone with mental illness. We offer encouragement and support to people with cancer, diabetes and chronic health conditions, why can’t we do the same for people with mental illness?

Additionally with so many teenagers experiencing depression and anxiety disorders due to the pandemic, many individuals are having a very difficult time finding therapist who are accepting new patients. Besides finding a therapist who is accepting new patients, people are having difficulties finding therapists who are accepting their insurance. Many insurance companies are denying claims for psychotherapy. Therefore, even if someone wants to go to therapy they may not be able to find a therapist or be able to afford it.

I have included a link to a video where a teenager discusses dealing with depression https://youtu.be/dAzqGcOLXBs. Listen to what he has to say and answer the question, does he deserve to be looked down upon because he is depressed?

Also remember the Holidays can be a lonely time for people. So if you see someone who looks like they are having a hard time or know someone who is struggling during this season, try to help. Do something kind for them. Another thing to remember, being kind to people should be a year round activity for all of us. We should not just be kind during the Holidays. If we try to be kind all year, we may be able to decrease how many people feel lonely and depressed. Also if we are kind and offering support year round may be we can eliminate the negative stereotype associated with mental health.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience. He specializes in treating depression and suicide especially depressed and suicidal children, teenagers, trauma victims and first responders. For more information about Dr. Rubino visit his websites at www.RubinoCounseling.com, www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3

Coping with Grief during the Holidays

Coping with Grief during the Holidays

The Holidays are typically a happy time for many people. However, for others it can be a very difficult time. If you lost someone close during the year, the first Holiday season can be very difficult. Also maybe the death occurred last year, you can still be grieving the loss of your loved one. Our society doesn’t really acknowledge grief and that makes it very difficult on the person who is grieving.

Part of the grieving process is learning how to continue your life without your loved one. This can be a difficult process especially depending on how the death occurred and if you had a chance to say good bye. Regardless of if it was sudden or expected there is a grieving process people undergo. There are stage theories about grief, but I encourage people not to worry about those theories, grief is an individual process and you need to allow yourself to experience it the way you need to.

In terms of the feeling of grief, the best way I have heard it explained is think about it as an ocean wave. You never know when the wave will come in or when it will go out so you just have to experience as it happens. However, you know the wave will eventually go out so you do your best to deal with it until it goes back out. However, it’s important to remember it will be back again until you are finished grieving.

During the Holidays you need to take care of yourself and ask others to understand and be supportive. Maybe you cannot do what you have always done during the Holidays. Maybe this year you need to do something totally different such as go on a trip. Maybe you need to allow yourself some quiet time so you can remember your loved one in the way which feels appropriate to you. The important thing is to do what you feel is appropriate for you. There is no right or wrong way to express grief at anytime especially during the Holiday Se

It’s also important to remember that you need to be flexible. You may have a plan for the Holidays which sounds like it will work and at the last minute you discover it won’t work and you need to change it. If that is the situation, then change your plans at the last minute. You need to do what you need to in order to get through the Holiday.

When developing a plan include the immediate family because everyone is grieving and you can support each other. If there are children involved, pay close attention to the children. They may have difficulty expressing their thoughts and feelings and may be very confused.

Also remember there is no timeline on grief. So it may take you a year to process your grief, while it may take someone else two or three years. The main point is do not impose a time frame on yourself or anyone else. If you notice grief is paralyzing you or a family member, you may want to suggest therapy so they can get the additional support they need. Again grief is a very individual process so some people may need psychotherapy and others may not.

The main point is to remember this Holiday will be very different and not to put a lot of expectations on yourself. Do what you can and if you cannot do something do not force yourself. Do not be embarrassed to ask others for emotional support or to cry. Cry as much as you need to. The bottom line is this Holiday is going to be different and you may not be happy and filled with joy. If that is the case, you are not doing anything wrong. You are simply experiencing your grief and it is important to allow yourself to grieve.

On last point, some people find volunteering at a homeless shelter or food bank to be helpful. Helping others and helping others to live without having to struggle can help with some of the helplessness you may be experiencing. Again, do what you and your family need to in order to make it through the Holiday. Do not worry how others may possibly be judging if they are judging you. They are not dealing with the grief, you and your family are dealing with the grief.

I have also included a link to a website that provides additional information about grieving during the Holidays. Having a list to refer back to can be helpful. Please take care of yourself and family during this emotional time. Coping with grief and loss during the holidays – https://go.shr.lc/2AoQ1yR via @Shareaholic.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. He has also been working with people who are grieving too. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Coping with the Epidemic of Anxiety Disorders in Children and Teenagers

Coping with the Epidemic of Anxiety Disorders in Children and Teenagers

Over the years children and teenagers have been exposed to stressful life events especially the last two years. The teens today have grown up with daily school shootings and mass shooting drills. Imagine being a second grader having to rehearse a man with a gun is on campus and you don’t know if you are going to live or die. Teenagers today have also grown up with terrorist alerts and having to be searched anytime they went to a concert or places such as Disneyland. Finally they have had to cope with COVID. Over 1,000,000, and counting, Americans have died from this virus (CDC). Many children and teenagers have lost grandparents, siblings and parents to this virus. Therefore, we also have many children and teenagers who are dealing with grief due to the loss of a loved one. We thought we had turned a corner regarding the Coronavirus, but we found out we have not turned a corner and we are still having spikes in the number of cases. There are still people being diagnosed daily with the Coronavirus and people dying daily from Covid. Many of these people have been vaccinated, however, most people being diagnosed and dying have not been vaccinated. Additionally, this time the virus is effecting teenagers and children. Since schools have resumed on site classes at least 1,000 children have died due to the Coronavirus virus (CDC).

This is a lot for a child or teenager to have to adjust to. Remember, their brains are not fully developed yet. Therefore they cannot understand things like adults do. Furthermore, they have very active imaginations which are fueled by misinformation on social media or from people such as Tucker Carlson on Fox. Having to cope with all of this together has resulted in a significant increase in depression, suicide, drug overdose and anxiety disorders. At my office we get at least 20 requests daily for teenagers seeking psychotherapy due to anxiety disorders.

The fact that we thought we were on the right track with the Coronavirus and we continue to have spikes is confusing and irritating to teenagers. Just as we think we are returning to our normal lives, we see that we need to still take precautions and maybe we will never return to our pre-Covid lives. Again we are not able to give children and teenagers any definite answers regarding when life will return to something normal. Now we have changed the rules again and they are expected to adjust.

With everything teenagers have had to cope with growing up, terrorist attacks, war, the economy collapsing, mass shooting and now the Coronavirus, we failed to make plans for their mental health care. Yes hospitals were running out of beds and physicians have become exhausted, but we are also running out of psychotherapists. Also psychotherapists are exhausted because they are dealing with adults and teenagers daily who dealing with depression, suicide and anxiety. However, psychotherapist do need some breaks so they can keep going. Finally, more and more insurance companies are declining claims or raising copayments so high that families cannot afford their copayments.

This is occurring when children and teenagers desperately need psychotherapy. Prior to the pandemic, anxiety disorders in children and teenagers were at epidemic rates (CDC). Since the pandemic there has been a 25% increase in children and teenagers being diagnosed with anxiety disorders. At this point anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric diagnosis for children and teenagers (CDC). Yes depression, suicide, grief and trauma diagnoses have increased since the pandemic, but we have seen the largest increase in anxiety disorders (CDC). As a result, many children and teenagers have severe anxiety regarding school and many are stating they cannot go to school due to anxiety disorders.

This lack of mental health care is unacceptable in the United States. Parents call the Human Resource Department at your work. They negotiate your benefits with the insurance companies. Therefore, they can renegotiate your coverage so you receive the benefits your family needs. Also call your Senators and demand that insurance companies need to provide mental health care.

As a result, many parents have asked me how to determine if their child is coping with anxiety and what to do if they are coping with anxiety. I can understand why parents are concerned especially because many children tend to try to hide their anxiety because they don’t want to worry their parents. Additionally, parents are trying to find psychotherapist who can treat children and teenagers are parents are trying to figure out how they can afford therapy with the cost of living increasing and insurance companies restricting coverage.

Therefore, the APA (American Psychological Association) developed guidelines that parents can use to determine if their child is dealing with anxiety and what to do if they are dealing with anxiety. You can also use the guidelines for depression too. I have provided an outline to the APA guidelines below:

The American Psychological Association (APA) offers the following tips to recognize if children may be experiencing stress or anxiety:

• Withdrawal from things the child usually enjoys

• Trouble falling or staying asleep

• Unexpected abdominal pain or headaches

• Extreme mood swings

• Development of a nervous habit, such as nail-biting

Parents can actively help kids and adolescents manage stress by:

Being available

• Start the conversation to let kids know you care about what’s happening in their lives.

• Notice times when kids are most likely to talk – for example, in the car or before bed.

Listening actively

• Stop what you’re doing and listen carefully when a child begins to open up about their feelings or thoughts.

• Let kids complete their point before you respond.

• Listen to their point of view even if it’s difficult to hear.

Responding thoughtfully

• Resist arguing about who is right. Instead say “I know you disagree with me, but this is what I think.”

• Express your opinion without minimizing theirs – acknowledge that it’s healthy to disagree sometimes.

• Focus on kids’ feelings rather than your own during conversation.

• Soften strong reactions, as kids will tune you out if you appear angry, defensive or judgmental.

• Word swap.

o   Say ‘and’ instead of ‘but’

o   Say ‘could’ instead of ‘should’

o   Say ‘aren’t going to’ instead of ‘can’t’

o   Say ‘sometimes’ instead of ‘never’ or ‘always’

Consider

• Model the behavior you want children to follow in how they manage anger, solve problems and work through difficult feelings. Kids learn by watching their parents.

• Don’t feel you have to step in each time kids make what you may consider a bad decision, unless the consequences may be dangerous. Kids learn from making their own choices.

• Pay attention to how children play, the words they use or the activities they engage in. Young children may express their feelings of stress during play time when they feel free to be themselves.

• It is important to explain difficult topics in sentences and even individual words kids will understand. For little kids it might mean saying simple things like, “We love you and we are here to keep you safe.” For adolescents, it’s important to be honest and up front about difficult topics and then give them a little space to process the information and ask questions when they’re ready.

Call a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers, if stress begins to interfere with your child’s daily activities for several days in a row. It is very important that you contact a mental health clinician so you get an accurate diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan for your child.

You can find additional helpful information about kids and stress by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Helping Children Cope webpage at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/for-parents.html.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple or on Audible.

When Will We Value the Lives of Children?

When Will We Value the Lives of Children?

Do we have our priorities straight? On May 24, 2022, 19 children were brutally murdered at their elementary school by a mass shooter. The children’s bodies were so torn up by the assault weapon that parents had to provide DNA samples so the corner could identify the bodies. All the funerals had to have closed caskets because the children’s bodies were too mutilated to have an open casket. Today is only June 5th and there have already been over 300 mass shootings since the shooting in Texas on May 24th (Gun Violence Archive). Even with these numbers of shootings and people being injured and killed, the Republicans in the Senate cannot vote for safer, sane gun laws.

These shootings are not new to our Country. In 1999, there was the Columbine High School shooting, then the Sandy Hook Elementary School, then the Parkland High School shooting and now the Robb Elementary School shooting in Texas. This is not a complete list of school shootings. Besides schools there have been mass shootings in churches and shopping malls. Every time we see this is enough and we need to reform gun laws. However, the Republicans in the Senate have continued to debate gun reform laws or to vote on any gun reform laws to protect children. All they do are to offer thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers are not going to solve the problem. It reminds me of the man who drowns and he asked God, why didn’t you answer my prayers and safe me. God said I sent a two boats and a plane but you refused them. We cannot expect God to take care of everything. We have to take action to solve the mass shooting issue too.

While we are not discussing how to protect children, there is a bill in the Senate to provide more protection for judges from mass shooters. Last year a judge’s, 20 year old son was shot at their house. Last week another judge was shot and killed at his home. The judges do not deserve to be shot, but they are public servants. People getting angry at them is part of their job. Yes they need added protection so they are not being killed, but the school children should be protected first.

The bill is being delayed in the Senate because Republican Senator Lyndsey Graham, who states the school shootings do not require gun reform, wants members of the Senate including in the bill in addition to the judges. They won’t discuss gun reform when childrens lives are at stake, but when it involves their lives we need gun reform and can discuss it.

In my opinion this is disgusting. The parents in Texas had to give DNA samples because their child’s body was so torn up that the corner could not identify them. This is happening at all the mass shootings. These AR15 guns are weapons of war and the bullet explodes inside the body tearing the body to pieces. No child deserves to die this way and no parent should have to hear we need DNA to identify their child. The Senators and judges are public servants and people do make threats against them. It is part of their jobs. Given this fact, we should be protecting our children first.

However, we are not protecting our children. The Republicans in the Senate are using their positions to protect themselves first and the children may be one day. Remember Columbine occurred in 1999. We have been waiting since 1999 for gun reform to protect children. A judge’s son was killed 23 months ago and there is already a bill on the Senate floor. Children and families have been waiting for 23 years for the Senate to protect children. The judges and Senators only had to wait less than 2 years. What is wrong with our priorities when we will allow children to die for 23 years and not doing anything seriously to protect children, but when the Senators and judges are at risk, they move with lightning speed. No one is just offering judge’s thoughts and prayers. The Republican Senators are acting to protect the judges, but do nothing for the children.

Parents need to act. Parents need to call Senators and demand that they put the children first. The must demand that the Senate pass safe, sane gun reform that will protect children. They need to focus on the children before they focus saving their own lives. Look at how many mass shootings have been occurring. Do you want a corner to ask you for a DNA sample so they can identify your child’s body. It can happen easier than you think. Look at how many mass shootings have been occurring and they are happening every where. We need safe, sane gun reform today! Please do not let the Republican Senators drag their feet. The next shooting may involve someone you love and then it will be too late.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work please visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

There is No Reason to be Ashamed of Mental Health

There is No Reason to be Ashamed of Mental Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Have We Learned Since Sandy Hook?

What Have We Learned Since Sandy Hook?

Today, December 14th, marks the nine year anniversary of the tragic shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary school where many children and adults where senselessly killed. Since Sunny Hook more than 500,000 people in the United States have been killed by senseless gun violence. Additionally, there have been 350 school shootings since Sandy Hook Elementary and 28 of those shootings occurred this year (CDC). Also since the Columbine shooting in 1999, 278,000 students have been exposed to gun violence, 157 students have been killed and 357 students have been injured by school shootings (Gun Violence Archive).

In reviewing the subject of school shootings, I read an article by Cody Fenwick regarding children and gun violence. His article was very alarming. Since it is the nine year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting and it has been 3 years since the Parkland school shootings, Fenwick’s article about children and guns is very important. His article also outlines a strong connection to guns and the senseless shootings and to the alarming numbers of teenagers who commit suicide with a gun. The article by, Fenwick, confirmed what I am hearing from teenagers and children in psychotherapy. Additionally, other school shootings, such as the one in Nashville, or the shootings in the Synagogue in Pennsylvania or in the Texas Church, confirm the need for gun control. A point the statistics in Fenwick’s article support.

Many of us feel because we live in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek or Lafayette that our children and teenagers do not have to worry about gangs or gun violence. Unfortunately, this is not the truth. According to a new research study in the Journal of Pediatrics, guns continue to be the third-leading cause of death for Americans younger than 18 years old, killing around 1,300 children and teenagers a year in the United States. In addition, almost 6,000 children and teenagers are injured per year. Many teenagers are permanently disabled from these injuries.

The study examined data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Consumer Product Safety Commission between 2002 and 2014. The study found that boys, especially older boys such as teenagers and minorities, were much more likely to be the victims of gun violence. The study did not say anything about where the boys lived. The facts are children who are male and teenagers, are at a higher risk for becoming a victim of gun violence. Therefore, teenagers in any area of the United States are at risk of becoming a victim of gun violence.

The study does indicate there has been a decrease in accidental deaths such as boys cleaning a gun. However, the rate as a method for suicide has increased. I have mentioned before in other articles that suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10 year old boys. This study confirms that statistic and indicates the preferred method of suicide for boys and teenagers are guns. According to Katherine Fowler, one of the lead researchers at the CDC, “Firearm injuries are an important public health problem, contributing substantially to premature death and disability of children.” Understanding their nature [guns] and impact is a first step toward prevention.”

When we look at these numbers, can anyone argue against taking steps to protect our children? Can you imagine a 10 year old boy using a gun to kill himself? Can you imagine a 10 year old boy feeling that his life is so bad at the age of ten that death seems like a better option than living?

The study indicates that in recent years guns were responsible for a large number of adolescent, males who were murdered. The study documented that deaths in the category of murder for boys under the age of 18 years old decreased to 53 percent. This is a decrease yet the rate is still 53%. The other causes of gun-related deaths include:

• 38 percent — suicides

• 6 percent — unintentional deaths

• 3 percent — law enforcement/undetermined cause

The study found 82% of those killed due to a gun were boys. This means 82% of gun deaths were boys who were children or teenagers. Putting it another way, this means these boys were not even 18 years old yet at the time of their deaths. The study also found that Caucasian and American Indian children have the highest rate of suicide using a gun.

We also like to think that the United States in one of the most advanced nations in the world. However, the statistics show that the United States has the highest rate in the world for children under 14 years old committing suicide. Again, the United States has the highest rate of children under 14 years old using a gun to commit suicide. That number scares me and is appalling to me. However, as an adolescent and child psychotherapist, I do not doubt it. I have heard 6 year old boys seriously discussing suicide.

Furthermore, I hear teenagers routinely talking about needing to carry a knife or gun with them for protection. They tell me you never know when you will be jumped and you need to be able to protect yourself. In fact, a few years ago a teenager was shot on his front door step in Danville over a marijuana deal. When I mention to teens the risks they are taking by caring knives or guns, the boys tell me there is no guarantee they will live until 30 years old. They would rather die protecting themselves than doing nothing. Violence in our society has become so severe that many teenagers do not expect to live to the age of 30. Think about that fact.

As a society, we need to look at these numbers and ask ourselves some questions. What are we going to do in order to improve gun safety? Most importantly, why are children as young as 6 years old thinking about suicide? Also what are we going to do so that children who are suicidal have access to mental health care? This is our problem because it does happen in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek and Lafayette.The students at Park Side High School and the Parents from Sunny Hook have marched and petitioned for sane gun control laws. However, nothing has happened so why should children believe us when we say we can keep them safe?

Also the recent school shooting in Oxford, Michigan shows how we are not protecting children from gun violence or providing mental health care when needed. Here is an adolescent teenage boy who one one day researching buying ammunition and the next day drawing a picture of people being killed and saying I can’t stop the thoughts and I need help. The teen should have been hospitalized immediately for being a danger to self or others. Instead the school and the parents have a meeting and they decide the boy needs psychotherapy within 48 hours. Instead of sending the boy home, he is allowed to return to the classroom because the parents decide he should stay at school. As I said he should have been hospitalized and the school should have demanded he leave the campus immediately. However, because the adults failed to follow their duties, students at the school were killed and injured senselessly. You think we would have learned after Columbine, Sandy Hook or Parkland, but we didn’t. How many kids have to die at school before we act? Why won’t we enact sane gun laws?

Dr. Rubino has 24 years experience as a psychotherapist working with children and teenagers, trauma victims and first responders. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

Ways to Have A Happy Holiday Season with Your Family

Ways to Have A Happy Holiday Season with Your Family

Halloween signals the beginning of the Holiday season. Many people will be worrying about how they will survive the Holidays with certain relatives and since prices have increased this year many people are worrying about how they will be able to afford the Holiday Season. Additionally, there is the Coronavirus pandemic. Many people have been vaccinated, but others for some reason have decided not to get vaccinated. Therefore, some families are faced with decisions about do they celebrate with relatives who have not been vaccinated. This can be very difficult and a very stressful situation. In addition, the Holidays can be stressful because they may bring up family issues that have not been resolved yet or you have some family members trying so hard 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?

Thanksgiving is next and then there is Christmas and Chanukah depending on your family’s tradition. Since Thanksgiving is next, you can evaluate how Thanksgiving went for everyone and decide if you want to make changes for the remaining holidays.

After you have assessed how you would like Thanksgiving and the Holidays to go, the next step is to sit down with your children and ask for their opinions. Also ask about what their expectations are for the Holidays . It is especially important to discuss this point with teenagers because they have been isolated from friends due to the pandemic. 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 the Holidays. 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 certain Holidays.

The next discussion is gifts. Explain to your children the point of the Holidays 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 24 years experience. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or visit his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcast on Spotify or Apple.

Parents What Teenagers are Wanting from You

Parents What Teenagers are Wanting from You

Many parents ask me what their teenagers are looking for from them. Teenagers want to know that they are loved, you hear them and see them for who they really are as a person. These statements can help your teenagers. Try it and sees what happens.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims. For more information about his work visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3