A Self-Absorbed Teenager is Normal

A Self-Absorbed Teenager is Normal

Many times I hear parents ask for help because there teenagers are too self-absorbed. All they do is think about what they want and what they need. Well, teenagers are supposed to be self-absorbed. Okay yes some teenagers can go overboard, but in general being self-absorbed is part of being a teenager.

Developmentally, teenagers are in the process of defining their own identities and discovering their own value systems. They are trying to define themselves as young adults and how they are going to relate to people in their lives and what they do and don’t believe in. In order to accomplish this goal, it does require a fair amount of self-reflection and exploring the world. It also requires a great deal of focus on their feeling so they can form their identities and value systems. At times, it may seem like a teenager is self-absorbed and only thinking about themselves. Externally this is how it may look to parents, but internally it feels very different to the teenager.

Remember when you were a teenager or some of the things your teenager may have said to you. Teens often talk about feeling very confused about their emotions or overwhelmed by their emotions. They often state they are not sure what to feel or think about their emotions. Also many teens often express feeling overwhelmed by what is happening in the world and are not sure what they should do as an adult or what people expect from them. It is a very confusing time and requires a fair amount of introspection from the teenager.

Very often in therapy, I serve as a sounding board for teens to sort out the feelings they are having about themselves and the expectations they feel from people in their lives. Also they often are trying to sort out how they want to act as an adult and they are trying to understand what is expected of them as an adult.

This is a very confusing time and requires a great deal of introspection because no one teaches teenagers about what it takes to be an adult and often no one discusses these issues with them. Some parents do try to discuss feeling and expectations with teenagers, but often these conversations result in an argument. Remember a teenager’s brain is still not fully developed. The prefrontal cortex which handles most of what we are discussing is still developing in a teenager. Because of this many teens may feel like they are being talked down to and they get angry. Parents often forget how teenagers think and don’t know how to approach their teenager which can result in an argument. Even though the parent and teen may have the best intention of trying to discuss this turmoil it still can result in an argument.

As I said in the beginning some teenagers are too self-absorbed. They are not trying to resolve emotional turmoil they are just selfish or spoiled. If your teenager appears more self-absorbed than they average teenager or if people are commenting on how selfish your teenager is then you need help. At this point I recommend therapy. The teenager won’t listen to you because parents know nothing in their opinion. Often in therapy I say the same things as parents and the teen will listen because I am not Dad or Mom and they don’t feel like they are admitting they are inadequate accepting my suggestion. The main point is they understand they are too self-absorbed and how to change it.

So if your teen is somewhat self-absorbed, relax it is part of being a teenager. They will out grow it around 17 or 18 years old. In the meantime, work with your teen doing your best to help them sort out the emotional turmoil they are experiencing internally. If you feel lost as a parent or if you see your teenager struggling very hard then you may want to consider having your teenager attend therapy to cope with this emotional turmoil.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with teens and parents and is recognized as an expert in this area. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com

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Toys Can Result in A Child’s Death

Toys Can Result in A Child’s Death

Parents it’s sad to say but in today’s world toys can result in a child being killed. We would like to assume we still live in a world that is safe for our kids, where they can go outside to play and we know they will be safe. However, this is no longer the truth. The world has changed and kids are no longer just safe to go out and play.

One major change is the increase in violence in our society. Since the year 2000 there have been 160 mass shootings and they are increasing every year (ABC News). There were two school shootings this past week. As a result, law enforcement and people in general are more sensitive to guns and violence.

The problem for our children is a number of toy manufactures are making toy guns that look real. There is a man selling toy assault weapons on the Internet and he has a waiting list for people wanting to buy these “toys” for their kids. We need to think about the toys kids are playing with before they go out to play. If they are outside or at school playing with a “toy gun” that looks real they may end up getting killed. Kids video games have become violent and many involve shooting and killing. If a police officer tells a child to drop their gun, they may think it is a game or that the officer knows it is a toy and ignore the officer and the officer may shoot because of the risk to him and others that may be around. What happens, the child gets killed because they thought they were playing a game. In fact, one child is killed by a gun every 30 minutes in the US (CDC). This rate is higher than the Middle East.

Video games and movies have become also become very violent. In the 1990’s a movie received an R rating for swearing. Now those movies are PG. Movies that receive R ratings today are very graphic violently and sexually. Many kids believe these movies represent daily normal life. The children I work with are now only interested in watching movies and playing video games that are graphically violent with people getting killed. Remember children don’t reason like adults. They can hit the reset button on a game and start over and everyone is a live. Therefore, many children and teens do not think they will be killed because the typical belief most children have about life are that children are not killed, adults are killed.

In addition to movies and games becoming violent children today are being exposed to mass shootings all most daily. As a result, children are accepting violence as an everyday fact of life. I do an anger management group for teens and when the topic of caring knifes or guns came up, most of the teens thought it was a good idea. When I asked about being killed accidentally, they didn’t care. Many of them felt there already was a chance they could be shot or stabbed by someone, therefore, they should at least be able to defend themselves. This is a sad way for children to be growing up.

Teens are also seeing that guns can be an answer to some of their problems. We have seen news stories where teens have planned and murdered another kid because they did not like the other child. The recent shooting at the game arcade in Florida occurred because a teen was mad that someone beat him at a video game. For teens 10 to 24 suicide is the third leading cause of death and using a gun to commit suicide is one of the top three choices (CDC). Therefore, guns pose a major health hazard to children and teenagers.

What does this mean to parents? It means when you are buying games, Holiday gifts or birthday gifts that parents need to think. It is important to pay attention to the rating and the age of your child. If you buy the video games rated mature which can deal with killing or raping, do you want your child exposed to these issues? Do not allow them to play with realistic toy guns without appropriate education especially teaching them never to point it at someone. A police officer may not have the time to determine if your teen has a toy gun or real gun. Furthermore, monitor the movies they watch. Do not allow them to watch movies or television shows that glorify violence. Remember their brains are not totally mature yet, so they need their parents to think for them when it comes to violence.

When the US in ranked number one in kids being killed by guns and are children assume they have a good chance of being killed by a gun, and kids think a video game or movie is good only if there is killing, parents must act. Parents must try to re-educate our children. It’s not too late.

Dr Michael Rubino specializes in treating children and adolescents. He has 20 years experience working with teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Mental Health Issues Are Not A Punishment

Mental Health Issues Are Not A Punishment

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. 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 decade.

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. 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.

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.

Mental Health Care in the 21st Century

Mental Health Care in the 21st Century

In our society there is a huge negative stereotype about mental illness and treatment for mental illness. You would think with all the advancements in the world and society, that our attitude towards mental health would have changed by now. However, it has not and that is why the month of May is dedicated to mental health awareness. Many people are surprised that in the United States in the 21st century, statistics show that 1 in 5 people could benefit from psychotherapy (CDC). Also suicide is the third leading cause of death for children 10 years old to 18 years old (CDC).

Most people when they think about psychotherapy or mental illness, think of someone sleeping in the street or some one with severe schizophrenia. Because of this stereotype many people feel ashamed or embarrassed if they are told they need therapy. Family members also feel ashamed and embarrassed and never mention it to other people if someone in their family needs psychotherapy. People are afraid that other people will think they are “crazy” too, if someone in their family is going to therapy. However, most people who need treatment for a mental illness need treatment for depression or anxiety not schizophrenia.

Research studies show that most depression is due to a chemical imbalance in brain. Diabetes is due to the pancreas not being able to coordinate glucose levels in the body. We don’t make a person with diabetes feel embarrassed or ashamed so why do we make someone dealing with depression feel embarrassed or ashamed?

What is the cost of this stereotype? People who have depression are at risk for suicide. The Center for Disease Control statistics show that suicide is the third leading cause of death for people aged10 to 24. Yes ten year old children are suffering from depression and are killing themselves. One of the most common methods is a gun. People assume this is a guarantee. Wrong, a gun is not a guarantee. Quite often the gun jumps and the person lives. However, they have to undergo multiple surgeries to try to rebuild their face. However, no matter how good the surgeon, the person is left with multiple permanent scars. Psychotherapy and medication might have prevented the suicide attempt.

However, because of our negative stereotype, depression and suicide have never been taken seriously. As a result, the Golden Gate Bridge is the most common place in the world for people to jump off when they are trying to commit suicide. It wasn’t until just recently that the Bridge District voted on what type of anti-suicide barrier they are going to build. However, even though they have voted for an anti-suicide net, they are still debating the details. The Golden Gate Bridge is 78 years old. It has taken over 78 years to do something about a life or death issue and they are still debating over minor details. BART has been around for decades and people have been jumping in front of trains for years. However, BART understands the issue and that it must be addressed despite the stigma. BART has an anti-suicide campaign showing we can address the issue of mental health without shame.

Often we assume it is a money issue. Only poor people commit suicide because they cannot afford treatment. The suicide of Robin Williams destroyed that myth. He had plenty of financial resources for treatment and had been in and out of treatment centers for years. In an interview with Dyane Swayer he described how overwhelming depression is, he said, “no matter what there is always that little voice in the back of my mind saying jump.” If that voice is always there but society is saying there is something wrong with you for having depression in the first place or because you have not over come it, are you going to ask for help or keep seeking help? No.

Yes society often blames the patient. Why don’t they try harder? Why didn’t they think of their family? After Robin Williams’ suicide a number of comedians and actors talked about their silent struggle with depression. Rosie O’Donnell stated it best, “when you are that deep down in that black hole with intense emotional pain, the only think you can think about is how to stop the pain. You don’t think about your family or anything else.”

I ask you to think about your opinion or thoughts about mental illness. Think about a 10 year old boy feeling that suicide is the only way out of his pain. Think about the fact that he is dealing with a medical diagnosis similar to diabetes or high blood pressure. If this is right, why is there this negative stigma about mental illness? If a child has diabetes he receives medical treatment, there are summer camps and there is no shame put on the child or the family. Think about the fact that the bill President Trump is pushing would make Depression and anxiety pre-existing conditions so insurance companies could deny people health care.

We need to make a change in how we view or react to mental illness. We live in the United States of America and we are supposed to be the super power in the world. You wouldn’t think that in the most powerful nation in the world that the third leading cause of death for our children is suicide. We must change this ridiculous stereotype we have about mental illness and start providing people and children with appropriate treatment for their mental illness. The life you save might be your’s child’s life or the life of a family member or friend.

We may want to look at England. The Duke and Duchesses of Cambridge and Prince Henry have formed a program called, Heads Together. The goal of the program is to eliminate the negative stereotype about mental health and to make sure people who need psychotherapy receive it. In fact, the Duchess of Cambridge said publicly that if either of her children ever need psychotherapy that they will receive it. We might want to follow their example.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. Dr. Rubino has over 20 years experience as a psychotherapist. He is very active in eliminating the stereotype about mental health. He is an active member in Heads Together in London, a non-profit founded by Prince Willam, Henry and Princess Kate to help people understand that people need mental health care. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s practice or his work visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

How To Respond to a Grieving Teenager

How To Respond to a Grieving Teenager

It is graduation time which means graduations and also end of the year parties. Unfortunately, this also means teenage deaths due to car accidents, accidental drug overdosages and accidents. When this occurs no one knows what to say or do. Many patients have asked me about what to do in these situations. While doing research regarding grief for patients, 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 much insight into how those in grief feel about the responses of others to loss. Many of us have said “The Best” and “The Worst.” We meant no harm, in fact we meant 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. Also everyone is around immediately after the death and through the funeral services. Most people then go back to their normal lives. However, those who were really close to the person are still grieving and trying to figure out how to proceed with life. So don’t forget the person who is grieving can use emotional support for the first year especially. Therefore, do not forget to call, send a card or stop by occasionally. Especially around the holidays and birthdays.

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

Improving Communication with Your Teenager

Improving Communication with Your Teenager

As a psychotherapist works with teenagers and their parents, I have heard a common complaint from both teenagers and their parents. Both complain about difficulties with communication. Teenagers feel that their parents don’t understand them. And parents tell me they feel like they cannot communicate with their teenagers.

I have stated in prior articles that if parents want to have good communication with their children, they must work on the parent-child relationship early. The earlier the better. If you wait until your child in a teenager, it is very difficult due to the brain development during puberty. When children are born their brains are not fully developed. Their brains, reasoning and communication skills continue to develop as a child grows. Parents need to be prepared for these changes.

I recently read a blog by Dr. Denny Coats which deals with this issue. He breaks the issue down to thee points for parents to understand and work on. I think these three points make it easy for parents to understand what is occurring and what they need to do. So hear they are:

1. Improve your communication skills

You can get away with almost any way of communicating during early childhood; but once adolescence arrives, reacting in the typical way not only won’t get you the results you hope for, it will erode the relationship. In my opinion, five skills matter most.

Listening. If learning only one skill is all your busy life permits, this is the one you should focus on. Learn all you can about listening and set a goal of to continuously improve the way you listen for the rest of your life.

Encouraging your child to think – analyzing, evaluating, learning from experience, problem-solving, decision-making, goal-setting, planning, and organizing. Yes, you’re a lot smarter than your child and you can the thinking for them, just as you’ve done during early childhood. But these mental skills take time and quite a lot of repetition to master, and your child will need them to succeed in a career, life and relationships.

Giving effective feedback – both praise and constructive feedback. Your child will need it, but you need to offer it in a specific, positive way, so that it both guides and encourages.

Dialogue. When you have differences of opinion, arguing is the instinctive reaction. The problem is that it resolves nothing and tends to alienate the child. You can learn to share and probe each other’s thinking, instead.

Conflict resolution. When your child wants something that is unacceptable to you, it’s possible to explore other alternatives that satisfy both your needs and those of your child.

These are the skills you’ll need to deal with daily challenges and opportunities and to have the dozen or so “talks” every parent should have with their growing child. Search my blog for articles about these skills. The online self-paced Strong for Parenting program has videos, articles and tip sheets about these skills. Begin experimenting with one skill at a time and learn from your experiences using it with your family.

2. Get smart about the brain development that will happen during adolescence.

It will be invisible, slow, silent and relentless, with enormous consequences. So much depends on the kind of thinking your child exercises during the teen years, and there’s much you can do as a parent to optimize the result. I wrote the free ebook, The Race against Time, to help parents appreciate what’s going on and what they can do.

3. Acknowledge that during adolescence, you’ll be raising an adult, not a child.

Yes, prior to puberty, you are definitely dealing with a child. And after puberty, you won’t be dealing with an adult. Your kid will be a no-longer-a-child-but not-yet-an-adult, what we call an adolescent.

During those six or seven years before he or she leaves home to go to college, start a career, enter military service, or even start their own family, your child hopefully will construct the foundation for the mental skills that will be needed for adult life. And aside from academic learning, teenagers have plenty of social and life skills to learn. if you think of your child as an “apprentice adult,” you’ll deal with them on that level, expect more of them and give them opportunities to learn the skills and wisdom they’ll need. If you realize you’re helping your child become a successful, responsible, happy adult, you can get a lot done. And believe me, for too many teenagers much of this development is haphazard or nonexistent.

So start now. Start improving the communication skills that matter. Help your child practice the mental skills that will give them a superior mind. Start thinking of your tween as an “emerging adult,” so that month by month and year by year you can help them prepare for adult life.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their parents. For more information regarding his work or private practice please visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

Mother’s Day is not A Happy Day For Every Child

Mother’s Day is not A Happy Day For Every Child

Many people assume Mother’s Day is a happy day for people because they can honor their mother. However, for some adults, it is not a happy day. For some people their mother may have died when they were children. For some people their mother may have left them when they were children and they had to live in foster care. For others, their parents separated and their father raised them and they rarely or maybe never saw their mother. Therefore, Mother’s Day may not be a happy day. Also for children who were raised in foster care all their lives, today typically is a very difficult day.

While this may not be a happy day for adults, it also can be a very difficult day for children too. Some children may be dealing with the death of their mother. As I stated above, some children may have a mother who left the family and are not involved with them any longer. Seeing the television commercials or having other family members tell them that it still can be a good day can be difficult for them.

I work with many of these children in psychotherapy. Many don’t express their feeling, but they tend to deal with the emotional pain by acting out. They may be very oppositional during the week and the day as away to express their feelings. Other children may isolate and not want to be involved with anything having to do with Mother’s Day.

I have had parents ask me how they should handle Mother’s Day when a parent has passed away or left the family. They understand that it is a difficult day, but they do not know what to do in order to help their children.

My recommendation is let the child cope with the day in the way they need to. Try not to make an issue about the day. The other thing I recommend to a parent is to talk to their child. Acknowledge that Mother’s Day may be difficult but it is just one day. They may have a rough day today but tomorrow is another day. I also recommend to a parent, when a parent has passed away, to ask the child if there is anything they may want to do. A child may want to release a ballon with a note, they may want to visit the cemetery or they may want to do something for an aunt or another female role model in their life. If they do have an idea, go with what they want to do. If they don’t have an idea, let them know that is okay. If they come up with an idea then you can do it. If they do not have an idea, then remind them it’s just one day that you all need to get through and tomorrow will be better.

This approach can help children whose mother has left the family. Many children may believe their mother will return one day. Confronting this belief around Mother’s Day is not the time to confront it. However, if they have an idea regarding how they want to honor their mother, allow them to do it.

Hopefully this will help parents understand the issues their children may be dealing with on Mother’s Day and make it easier for everyone.

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