Children Need a Dad too

Children Need a Dad too

We have all heard very often how important a mother is to a child especially a young child. While this is true Dads are just as important to children and young children. I say Dad because any man can father a child, but it takes work to be a Dad to a child.

Because of the stereotype we have about men in our culture, Dads are often not considered to be important in children’s lives. We tend to focus on mothers and what they provide children. Also because men tend to work a lot and have a tendency not to express emotions, many people assume Dads are usually not emotionally available to children.

However, if we look at the stereotype it also demonstrates why Dads are important. Dads are the male role models to their sons. Dads teach their sons how to treat women, their wives and their children. They teach their sons how a man is supposed to act in relationships and react to people in general.

Dads are also role models for their daughters. Their daughters see how their Dads treat their Moms. This is the first example girls have of how they should be treated in an intimate relationship. If their Dad is verbally and physically abusive, they will most likely expect their boyfriend or husband to treat them that way. Additionally, if girls are exposed to a Dad who is verbally, emotionally or physically abusive, they are more likely to have low self-esteem as adults and be bullied as a child. Boys also are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and be bullies, if their Dad is verbally, emotionally or physically abusive.

Additionally, boys tend to look for validation from their Dads that they are doing a good job developing into an adult man. If their Dad is not emotionally available, many boys interpret this as they are a failure to their Dad and they become hurt and angry. Since men and boys tend to have difficulties expressing their emotions, because men don’t express sadness or similar emotions, they tend to express these emotions as anger. In other words, boys and men tend to project their pain onto others.

If we change our mind set and see how valuable a Dad is to kids then may be Dads can start meeting the emotional needs of their children and families. However, this requires men to stop living up to the stereotype society has about how men are supposed to act. Since men tend to focus on the stereotype about male behavior, they tend to pass this stereotype on to their sons.

I have a friend who was able to ignore the male stereotype and write a wonderful poem to his son. He wanted his son never to doubt how he felt about him and he wanted to make sure he shared it with his son. What a tremendous gift he gave to his son! Also what a fantastic role model he is being to his son about how to be a Dad.

I asked for his permission to print it here and he graciously said yes. I hope other Dads will read this and share a gift like this with their son or daughter. Also I hope it helps to eliminate the false stereotypes we have about Dads.

I never want this to go unsaid, about my son,

So here in this poem, for all to hear

There are no words to express how much you mean to me,

with a smile upon my face, and warm feelings in my heart, I must declare!

A son like you, always polite and full of joy,I thought could never be.

Since the day you were born, I just knew you were like a mini me,

from your first breath I knew,

God sent me a blessing- and that was you.

For this I thank him every day,

You are the true definition of a son, in every way.

Your kindness and caring with love for all,

you give my life meaning, for us to share.

Becoming your father has shown me a new sense of being.

I want you to know that you were the purpose of my life,

Turning everything I ‘am – into a happy place.

Always remember that I know how much you care,

I can tell by the bond that we share.

For a son like you there could be no other,

And whether we are together or apart,

Please do not ever forget-

You will always have a piece of my heart.

This is a fantastic example of a Dad!

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with 20 years experience working with children & teens. He is an expert in this area of treatment. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Facebook http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

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Teens Ask Please Accept Me For Who I Am

Teens Ask Please Accept Me For Who I Am

Being a teenager in today’s world is very difficult. Teenagers face expectations regarding needing to make money to be a success. They face stereotypes about how boys must act if they want to be men and girls face stereotypes about how they must act to be considered women. I hear teens tell me everyday how overwhelmed and confused they are trying to fit into all the necessary stereotypes. They feel overwhelmed because at times they are not sure how to act and confused because at times they don’t agree with the stereotype. If they don’t, they are not sure what to do. This is a lot of pressure for a 13 year old child to be trying to cope with on a daily basis. It’s no surprise that many teens turn to drugs as a way to cope. It is also not a surprise that Cutting is at epidemic rates for teens and suicide is now the second leading cause of death for teens (CDC)

Now what if you don’t fit into the stereotypes? What if you suffer from depression? If you have a learning disability? Or if you are homosexual or bisexual? What do these teenagers do? This is how they were born and they cannot change that fact. Many of these teens will struggle trying to fit the stereotypes and also try desperately to hide from friends and family that they do not fit the teenage stereotypes. Some are lucky and parents or a teacher intervene helping them to get the help they need. Many are not so lucky and often choose suicide. Teenagers who are homosexual or questioning their sexuality are five times more likely than the average teen to think about and attempt suicide (CDC). These are very scary and sad facts.

The CDC found one in five teenagers are dealing with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or stress. Many may think about psychotherapy but quickly block that option. Only “crazy people” need psychotherapy. If they had to go to therapy they are really a “loser.” For teenagers who are willing to try therapy, they often cannot find a therapist who treats teenagers or their family cannot afford it. Also for many cultures such as Latin or Asian, they believe that personal issues need to be resolved within the family and you would never share intimate family issues with strangers. Therefore, for these teens psychotherapy is not an option.

However, as a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers, I hear daily from teens that all they want is to be accepted for who they are and they don’t want to have to always hide. The teen with depression or the learning disabilities wants to be considered just as important as the star quarterback on the football team. They want this from their school, their friends, society and finally from their families. Is this too much to ask for?

These teenagers are not stealing or doing anything to be ashamed of, they are being themselves just the way they were born. Why can’t they be accepted and celebrated? The answer is they can! It is something I teach them in every session we have together. There are organizations such as Alive and Free in San Francisco and Challenge Day in the San Francisco Bay Area who work with teens and society so these teens can feel accepted being themselves.

Another organization addressing this issue is called Born This Way. It was started by Lady Gaga and her organization works with teens and society so all teens feel accepted for who they are just the way they were born. Lady Gaga explains the mission of her foundation this way, “Safety, skills, and opportunity. Number one, I want everyone to feel safe in their community: school, home, whatever city you live in. Two: developing the skills that are needed to be a loving, accepting, and tolerant person, and to also inject that sentiment into all the people around you, being a supportive human being. And the third is opportunity. I believe once you feel safe in your environment and you acquire the skills to be a loving and accepting person, the opportunities for you are endless to become a great functioning human in society.”

For people who do better by hearing something or seeing it, I have included a link to a YouTube video where Lady Gaga explains Born This Way, https://youtu.be/

The concept really is very simple. Why can’t we accept children and teenagers just the way they were born. Every person is unique and everyone has talents to contribute to the world. So why do we pressure boys into the stereotype the must have big muscles and play sports to be a man? Why do we tell girls that boys are smarter and if someone touches them in a way they do not like it is their fault because of the clothes they are wearing. This is insane!

If we do away with the stereotypes and focus on teenagers liking their own personalities and bodies, we would have less cutting, suicide and drug use. We would also have many more teenagers who are happy and successful at life. Being happy is a successful life not a big bank account. Therefore, let’s get started on helping teens. We need people to support more organizations like the ones I named above. If we do we can eliminate the stereotypes and stigma of not fitting a stereotype. We also need to make psychotherapy more accessible to all teenagers and remove the negative stigma associated with mental health care. Now some people may think what I am proposing is impossible and just a dream. However, you are seeing more groups like the ones I mentioned open every year. We are seeing teenagers and parents being attracted to them. It is possible to improve the lives of children and teenagers. It may need to start with a dream. Dreams do come true look at what Walt Disney created with his dream.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience working with children and teenagers. He is on the nations advisory board for Alive and Free. For more information about his work and private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Eating Disorders Impact Boys Too

Eating Disorders Impact Boys Too

Eating disorders and body image issues are a major problems for teenagers. Despite what most people may think, these issues impact girls and boys. Most people assume eating disorders only impact girls, but they impact boys too. Boys worry about their abdominal muscles having the “six pack” look and how strong they are compared to other boys. Also for some sports such as wrestling they must make a certain weight to compete. Therefore, they worry about their weight. So eating disorders impact boys too.

Looking at the prevalence of eating disorders in teens can be very difficult. Some break the statistics down to diagnoses such as anorexia. While some focus on under eating, teenagers who over eat can also have an eating disorder. Another classification is unhealthy eating that many teens engage in. Some may skip meals or some may consume to many calories to make weight for their sport and then go days without eating. Therefore, eating disorders can take many shapes and forms. Overall, it is estimated that eating disorders impact 5% of female teenagers and 1% of male teens (NIMH). However, the number for males is considered to be under reported. This assumption exists due to the belief many have that eating disorders only impacts girls. Therefore, there is an assumption that the 1% for boys is an underestimate due to under reporting. Working with adolescents I am sure the 1% is incorrect. I hear many teenage boys complain about their bodies or needing to make weight for their sport. I also hear things they do such as only drinking water a week before a weigh in or loading up on protein drinking before working out. What they report may not fit the picture of anorexia we have, but it definitely is not healthy and is involved with body image. This is a major factor in all eating disorders whether it be anorexia or over eating.

One reason I’m addressing this subject is as I stated above most people assume that eating disorders do not impact boys. Eating disorders impact boys and teens from every economic level, ethnicity and religion. They are an equal opportunity disorder. Another reason I’m addressing this issue is suicide is the number one mental health issue killing teenagers in our country. Eating disorders are the second leading mental health issue killing teenagers. It is estimated that every 62 minutes someone dies from an eating disorders (NIMH). The death may occur after someone has received treatment and is considered in recovery. Eating disorders take such a toll on teenage bodies they may die even though they are considered to be recovered. The singer Karen Carpenter is a prime example. She struggled with an eating disorder for years and struggled with treatment too. However, she finally reached a point where she was considered recovered from her eating disorder and started to resume her life. Unfortunately, she died suddenly one day from a heart attack. The toll the eating disorder put on her body weakened her heart severely. So severely that it caused her to have a heart attack even though she was in recovery.

This is a very sad story and fact. We can avoid these issues by early diagnosis and treatment. We also must realize that eating disorders impact boys too. If we do not we are not addressing the entire problem. We need to address how our society look at men’s bodies and women’s bodies and the expectations we place on both genders. No one can live up to the female and male stereotypes we have created. In order to change these stereotypes we need to start with teenagers and provide them with enough self-esteem to reject the stereotypes.

As I stated early treatment is necessary. To have early treatment we must have early diagnosis. I have included a link to a video by Dr. Pooky Knightsmith which discusses the ten common warning signs of an eating disorder in teens and children, please watch this video https://youtu.be/nKwbE8mP_PA.

If your teen or child displays any of these warning or signs or if you feel your teen maybe struggling with an eating issue, make an appointment with an adolescent psychotherapist who specializes in adolescents and eating disorders. Do not feel ashamed or embarrassed. A mental health issue is no different than a physical health issue. We only believe their is a difference due to the stigma we have created. However, keeping this stigma is endangering the lives of many teens so help your teen and ignore the stigma. Help them deal with their health issue.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. He also treats teens including boys with eating disorders. For my information about his work and private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

Helping Children Traumatized by Mass Shootings

Helping Children Traumatized by Mass Shootings

I recently wrote an article about mass shootings and the impact they are having on children. In light of this week’s events it appears another article is needed. There was another mass shooting and at least 12 people lost their lives. This shooting also created more fear regarding mass shootings. The shooter used a silencer on his gun so you could not hear the shot. This is part of the training we give to students. We tell them to run away from the sound of the gun, but if there is no sound how do the run. First responders are now re-evaluating how they will handle mass shootings, if they cannot hear the gun. Children are already anxious about going to school and being killed. This new fact will only add to their fear.

I anticipate that I will be hearing more teenagers talking about needing to carry a knife with them for their own safety. They tell me you never know when someone might try to attack you. These are not juvenile delinquents or gang members, these are average teenagers. They come from healthy families and are doing well in school and not involved in drugs. This need they feel to protect themselves is an alarming trend, but given the number of mass shootings in makes sense.

However, if you take a step back and look at what these children have seen over their lives it makes sense. Most of these teenagers were very young on 9/11, or were not even born yet, when the United States was attacked. Since 9/11 they have also seen two wars and heard on the nightly news about numerous terrorist alerts or attacks around the world and here in the United States. They also hear how the TSA at times are putting tighter security on travelers and places such as Disneyland are increasing security due to concerns about terrorism.

In addition to terrorism, this is the first generation growing up with mass shootings. According to ABC News from 2000 to 2015 there have been 140 mass shootings and since January 1, 2016, there have been more mass shootings than the previous 15 years. With the recent shooting it is estimated that there have been over 150 mass shootings since the year 2000 (CNN). According to the statistics on mass shootings every day 36 people are killed in the United States by a gun. Also it is estimated that every 11.8 days there is a mass shooting in the United States (CDC). This does not include suicides. For the group we are discussing, suicide was the third leading cause of death for children between 10 and 18 years old. It is now the third leading cause of death for teens and using a gun is one of the most popular methods of suicide. Also because of school shootings, students have seen increased security on their school campuses. Many campuses have metal detectors that students have to pass through as the enter the campus and there are police officers assigned to school sites due to the fear of violence.

Now, in addition to these facts stated above, think about what these children see on the news nightly and the video games they play daily. Anytime there is a shootings incident in the United States, or any where in the world, there is pretty much 24 hour news coverage of the event for days. Also when there are bombing or shootings in Europe there is 24 hour news coverage for days too. And now we have moved on to covering funerals. When the officers were killed in Dallas the memorial was televised nationally. If we look at the video games these kids are playing most have to do with killing and death. Since computer graphics have significantly improved, many of these games look real.

Additionally, children in the fourth and fifth grades are telling me they are worried about their safety due to the President. They have heard what the President has said and they are afraid other countries may attack us or that the President may start a war. Also Hispanic children who are legal citizens are still afraid that they will be deported. This is a great deal for a nine or ten year old child to worry about.

Looking at all of this it begins to make sense why I am seeing more depressed and anxious teenagers who fear for their lives. These teenagers are being traumatized. They may not be experiencing the trauma personally but they are experiencing vicarious trauma. With all of the pictures on television and news reports and realistic video games these teenagers are playing, they are being traumatized vicariously. We have never had a generation of children grow up with the amount of trauma that these children are growing up with in the world. Even children growing up during World War II didn’t experience this amount of trauma. We didn’t have instant access to news nor did we have the graphic videos being shown by the news media.

The question now becomes, what do we do? Well we can not change the world unfortunately. However, we can demand that the Senate act. Telephone Senator’s McConnell office at 202-224-2541and demand that he stop refusing to put the bills passed by the Congress on the Senate floor for a vote. Parents can monitor how much exposure children are receiving to mass shootings when they occur. We can monitor the video games they are playing and limit access to games that focus on violence and killing. Again, we must demand that the Congress and the Senate pass gun control laws that make sense. No one needs an assault weapon or silencer to hunt a deer. All the weapons in this last shooting were purchased legally. The government must act.

Another thing parents can do is listen to what our children are saying and talk to them about their concerns. When a mass shooting occurs we can ask them how they are feeling, ask if they have any concerns and reassure them that you are there as their parents to protect them.

Finally, if you start to notice a change of attitude in your child that you are concerned about have a talk with your child or have them assessed by a psychotherapist. I have included a link to an article by the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry which describes what parents can do http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Talking-To-Children-About-Terrorism-And-War-087.aspx. There is nothing to be ashamed of if a child needs therapy. We are exposing children to situations that most adults have problems dealing with themselves. You may find it very upsetting to talk to your child about these incidents. For these reasons and many more, if you feel your teenager has been traumatized vicariously make an appointment with a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers and victims of trauma. Our kids have had to deal with a lot. We can help make it easier for them growing up in this time by providing the help they need.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers and is an expert treating victims of trauma and also performs Critical Incident Debriefing. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Eliminating the Mental Health Stigma

Eliminating the Mental Health Stigma

For many years many people have avoided seeking mental health care due to the negative stigma associated with it. However, this stigma has cost many teenage lives and the lives of veterans. Suicide for teens has recently moved from the third leading cause of death for children 10 to 18 years old to the second leading cause of death (CDC). Veterans from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan to name a few of our recent wars, are more likely to develop PTSD and have significantly higher rates of suicide compared to the general population.

Now for many years many of us have accepted that there is no way to remove the stigma associated with mental health. However the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex started the non-profit HeadsTogether. One of their many goals is removing the negative stigma associated with mental health. Their efforts are paying off and they are changing how people view mental health in England.

Now Seth Moulton, a democratic candidate for President, has proposed a plan to expand mental health care for military and vets. His plan also includes providing mental health checkups for all teenagers and establishing a mental health emergency number similar to the 911 emergency system. You may not like what he stands for but take the time to read the mental health plan he proposed. It could save many teenagers from committing suicide. It could also identify possible teenagers who may be the perpetrators of a mass school shooting before it happens. It also would provide active military and veterans with the mental health support they need https://politi.co/2Kb3Chr via @politico.

It has the possibility of doing all of this and removing the stigma associated with mental health. This plan makes physical health and mental health equal. Research shows they are equal. Physical and mental health issues are tied together so why shouldn’t we treat them the same?

Dr. Michael Rubino is an adolescent psychotherapist with over 20 years experience working with teens and children. For more information about his work visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.

Memorial Day A Day We Need to Look at Our Actions

Memorial Day A Day We Need to Look at Our Actions

It’s Memorial Day weekend and it’s also the beginning of graduations too. For many teenagers this means parties, hanging out with friends and staying out late. It’s a popular weekend to celebrate by drinking and some head for the beaches or swimming pools depending on the area you live in. Most people assume these are every day activities and everyone will have a good time.

However, this is not reality. Every year 5,000 teenagers are killed in motor vehicle accidents and 400,000 are injured (CDC statistics). These injures may range from cuts and bruises to someone being paralyzed by breaking their back. Concussions are very common and can have life long effects on someone.

Also regarding swimming, there are 3,500 accidental drowning every year. And out of these drownings 1 out of 5 are teenagers (CDC statistics). This is the number who die. It doesn’t include brain injuries due to lack of oxygen to the brain or breaking a neck by diving. A broken neck can result in death, paralysis or being in a Halo Brace for 6 months. Again this is an activity we assume is safe and nothing would happen swimming in a friend’s pool. These injuries can occur in car accidents too.

With it being the Memorial Day weekend and the beginning of graduations and graduation parties, there are going to be a lot of parties and drinking. There are also going to be a lot of drunk driving accidents, drownings and accidental overdosing. You have no way to know if your teenager or your family might be one of the unlucky families this weekend. It could be your teen who is killed or it could be you.

You never know what is going to happen in life. Especially given everything that is happening all over the world. And if you look at the above statistics, you never know when or if something is going to happen.

A mother experienced this fact when her son committed suicide. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for teenagers (CDC). After that she wrote the following poem to her son. She also encouraged all parents of teenagers to remember to say “I love you,” to your teenager. You may not get another chance.

I Love You

How could you?

They asked you,

How could you?

But you could not answer

As you were not here.

Why would you?

They asked you,

Why would you?

But their questions fell onto

The world’s deafest ears.

I loved you!

They told you,

I loved you.

But they told you too late,

Through their tears.

I’ll miss you,

They told you,

I’ll miss you.

And in death now

They hold you more dear.

The point is don’t take the risk. Since you never know what may happen and many teens feel that their parents don’t care, take the opportunity while you have it to express your feelings. Don’t spend the rest of your life regretting I never told him I loved him or wondering if that would have made the difference.

Also the ironic part to this weekend is it really a time to honor the men and women who have served in the military. To remember all those soldiers who have been killed, injured for life or coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or a Traumatic Brain Injury, so we can benefit from a democracy that allows us the freedom to live our lives how we want to live life. So we can go to church if we want and express our opinions without having to fear for our lives.

However, over time we have forgotten the meaning of today. Therefore, we do not value what we have and take chances with our lives we do not need to take. We also forget the veterans who are paralyzed or trying to cope with PTSD and reliving the war they were in daily. This also has a major impact on veteran’s families too. Another fact we forget.

May be if we take a few minutes to remember the true meaning of this weekend, we will value life more and be less likely to take senseless chances such as driving drunk. We may also remember the veterans who are still struggling with their injuries today and ensure they get the help they need and deserve. Many do not and as a result the suicide rate for veterans is very high compared to the general population. There are few treatment option for them too. A very sad fact when they provided us with the freedom we enjoy daily.

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist is Pleasant Hill who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 20 years of working with teens. To find out more about his work, his private practice or to contact him visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.