Celebrating Halloween during the Pandemic

Celebrating Halloween during the Pandemic

In about a month it will be Halloween. This is a holiday that many children look forward to every year. However, this year most children will be missing Halloween due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Many states are reporting an increase in Coronavirus cases and the flu season is beginning too. Therefore, it is not medically safe for children to be trick or treating this year. The major problem is most of these children have missed their birthdays, playing with their friends, summer vacation and now they are having to go to school remotely. As a result, main children are feeling depressed and do not want to participate in school.

With everything these children have been through, hopefully we can find some safe, fun ways for them to celebrate Halloween. One possible option is, as a family, you can let your children pick out their costumes and since Halloween is on a Saturday this year, let them wear these costumes all day. Additionally as a family you can pick out scary movies to watch all day and night and treats they can have for the day. You can also carve pumpkins and prepare a special Halloween dinner. If you google Halloween recipes, you will find a number of dishes that have a Halloween theme. This may not be the same as trick or treating but it can be a fun time for the entire family.

Another possibility is to arrange trick or treating with your family and family friends. You can arrange that with family members and friends that are taking appropriate precautions such as wearing masks and social distancing so they are not likely to have the Coronavirus that you can stop by their homes and trick or treat. This way your children do get to trick or treat but at least you are trying to do it in the safest manner possible. Obviously, your children would need to wear masks and being feeling well. If they had a runny nose or a slight fever, you would need to keep them home. However, this occurs every year, if at the last minute a child is looking or acting ill, you need to keep them home. Obviously, your family and friends would be wearing masks when you went to their houses and if they were feeling sick they would let you know before you left your house so you would know to skip their house.

Another option would be if your city or church has a community center. You can have people who volunteer to pass out candy on Halloween at the hall. All the volunteers would wear masks and their temperatures would have been taken to keep it as safe as possible. You could schedule 10 children at a time to go through the hall and trick or treat. Again, the children will need to be wearing masks and have had their temperatures taken. This way you are making it safe for the children and volunteers. You would need a schedule so you would not have too many children in the same space at the same time. Yes this will take a fair amount of work. However, it will allow children to celebrate a holiday specifically for children and they have a chance to act like children and forget the pandemic for a night. This would be a tremendous gift to children who have missed a lot of their childhood due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Some people may be tempted to say just forget the pandemic and let the children celebrate Halloween like they usually do. However, the research does document that children can and do contract the Coronavirus. The research also shows that children do need to be hospitalized due to the Coronavirus. The research shows that 1out of 3 children who are hospitalized will end up in the ICU. Finally the research numbers show children will and have died due to the Coronavirus. However, an additional complication during this time of the year is it is flu season too. It is possible for a child to have the flu and Coronavirus at the same time. Therefore, we cannot treat this like any other year and we need to brainstorm how children can celebrate Halloween safety.

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

Dads Help Children Mature into Adults

Dads Help Children Mature into Adults

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.

Mother’s Day Is A Difficult Day for Some People

Mother’s Day Is A  Difficult Day for Some People

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.

Additionally, this year we are under quarantine. This may make it more difficult for people to visit their mother or grandmother. If someone has been exposed to the virus or if their grandmother is over 70 and has other health issues visiting mom or grandma may not be possible. However, you can use Zoom or FaceTime, but this Mother’s Day will be different and some people may have a hard time accepting it.

I work with many of these children, I described above, 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.

How Much Screen Time is Appropriate before Bed?

How Much Screen Time is Appropriate before Bed?

How much time a child or teenager spends on electronics is always a big debate between parents and their children. Many teenagers act like they cannot live without them. Also teenagers tend to argue there are no negative side effects to computer screens. Many parent feel differently and have research to back up their point of view. However, most teenagers dismiss their parents opinions and they feel their parents are overreacting.

One of the major concerns parents have is what do electronics do to a child’s sleep. Many parents feel if a child or teen uses electronics up until the time they go to bed, the child will have a hard time getting to sleep and staying asleep. By the way, parents are correct based on all the research in this area. Parents also are concerned about teenagers watching YouTube or texting on their phones until 3 or 4am in the morning and then being to tired the next day for school or anything.

During the quarantine this probably has become a bigger issue in some households because kids don’t need to get up for school. I have written previous articles recommending that electronics be limited and definitely not before bedtime. I did some more research in this area and found the following information by Lori Lite maybe helpful in determining how much screen time is appropriate before bed. She runs a program and website regarding helping kids to relax and control anger.

First let’s start by looking at how electronics impact children and teenagers brains. Electronics, and especially screens, can be stimulating. While that might be a good thing during the day, it’s not at night when it’s time for kids to sleep.

Part of the stimulation from electronic screen time is from the blue wave light that comes from screens. During the day, many things stimulate our brains, and blue wave light is one of them. But at night, blue wave light exposure sends a signal to the brain that it’s daytime. When exposed to blue wave light, children may struggle to wind down and begin the process of falling asleep.

Besides the effects of blue wave light, screen time affects sleep if children become stimulated having conversations over the phone or text, playing games, or engaging in social media. Video games or movies might include disturbing themes or images that will affect sleep and emotional health.

How to Manage Screen Time for Better Sleep

Your pediatrician may have their thoughts about how screen time affects sleep Limiting screen time mostly to daytime hours is best. Blue wave light exposure during the day isn’t as problematic as nighttime exposure. And stimulation from screens during the day is normal.

As parents, it’s essential to set clear rules on screen time use. A good rule of thumb is to avoid screen time at least 2 hours before bedtime. Encourage kids to engage in other relaxing evening activities during that time as part of a healthy bedtime routine. They can read a book, work on a puzzle while listening to relaxation music, and get ready for the next day. The other rule parents should enforce is to avoid screen use in your child’s bedroom. Their bedroom should be an environment devoted to sleep and relaxation, and when you bring screens into it they may be tempted to engage rather than sleep).

Another factor to consider is how screen time has replaced play time in some households. Kids who are using screens for many hours a day may be sedentary while they do so. Activity and exercise are a part of a healthy lifestyle, as they reinforce a circadian rhythm that’s in sync with the environment and allow kids to be tired when it’s time for bed.

Screens have become a part of everyday life and are an important tool for kids and adults. It’s imperative for parents to show their children the proper way to use screens without negatively affecting their lives. Take the lead to demonstrate responsible use so children can enjoy screen time as well as a good night’s sleep.

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

Teenagers reactions to being quarantined

Teenagers reactions to being quarantined

The Coronavirus and quarantine are difficult on everyone and are scaring a lot of people. Besides learning how the virus works and is spread, we have learned that it impacts people’s mental health and so does the quarantine. The quarantine has exacerbated symptoms in people dealing with various mental health issues and has made many people depressed or anxious who are under quarantine. When you think about the situation, it is no big surprise that people are becoming depressed or anxious. However, one age group is at a higher risk for mental health issues due to the quarantine and that group are teenagers.

Teenagers are use to feeling in control of the environment. When they do not feel in control it can cause mental health issues. The quarantine is taking away their sense of control. Furthermore, we have no specific answers to give teenagers. This creates anxiety and exacerbates anxiety in teenagers who already suffer from anxiety. At this age teenagers have a very difficult time tolerating uncertainty. Remember, the prefrontal cortex of the brain which is responsible for reasoning skills is not fully developed in teenagers yet. Therefore, they are more likely to act impulsively rather than try to reason out a healthy way for them to tolerate what they are feeling.

Before the virus, depression, anxiety, cutting, vaping and suicide were at epidemic rates for children 10 years old to 18 years old. Since the quarantine, the rates have naturally increased. Every teen I deal with is feeling helpless, depressed and anxious. They are asking for answers when they can resume their normal lives. They are even asking when they can return to school. This is not a question you expect from most kids or teenagers. Usually, they want to know when the next school holiday is going to occur. By asking to return to school this is a definite indication that children and teenagers are desperate to resume their normal lives.

Since they cannot resume their normal lives this is putting teenagers who have mental health issues and other teenagers at engaging in risky behavior so they feel in control and normal. One behavior to watch for is cutting. This is when a teenager uses a knife, scissors, paperclips or even erasers to cut or scratch themselves. The wrist is a typical place to cut but teens also cut their stomachs, legs and inside of their thighs. These areas are less noticeable. If your teenager is spending a great deal of time in their room and you are noticing attitude changes and evasive answers about what they are doing, they may be cutting.

Another behavior they may be resorting to is vaping. This is particularly dangerous because their is a pneumonia which is attacking kids who are vaping and we don’t have a cure for it yet. The virus also attacks the lungs. Therefore, if a teenager is vaping and develops the pneumonia associated with vaping and contract the virus, the combination most likely would be deadly. Again teenagers spending a great deal of time in there rooms with the window slightly open could be a sign of vaping.

Another possible issue is the common one of drinking alcohol. They may have a stash in their room or they may be stealing it from the house. Most parents should be able to spot the signs of a teenager who has had too much to drink.

Finally, any teenager who has mental health issues could be regressing to old behaviors. Therefore, they may becoming suicidal or those with eating disorders could be purging again. If your teen has regressed or has developed new behaviors, approach them with an empathetic mood. They are regressing because they are afraid and feel out of control. If you make them feel guilty, they will regress more. At this time they need your support and to feel that someone is in control of the situation.

These are a few examples of how the virus and quarantine can impact children and teenagers at this time. We know the quarantine can exacerbate existing issues or create new ones. Also for those who do contract the virus research is showing there is a mental health component. Bottom line, if you feel your child or teenager has regressed to old behaviors or they have developed new behaviors seek professional help immediately. Some psychotherapy offices are open for sessions in the office or many therapists are doing video sessions. Research is showing that video sessions are effective and if your teenager is cutting you cannot wait until the quarantine is lifted. Interview the therapist throughly but get your teenager into therapy as soon as you can.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children, teenagers and victims of trauma such as rape or earthquakes. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino please visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

There is Nothing Wrong If You Don’t have a Boyfriend/Girlfriend in High School

There is Nothing Wrong If You Don’t have a Boyfriend/Girlfriend in High School

It’s Valentine’s Weekend and a major issue for many teenagers is if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Having a girlfriend or boyfriend is very important to many teenagers. Often teenagers feel defective if they do not have a girlfriend or boyfriend. Many people are familiar with this line, “you complete me,” from the movie, Jerry McGuire, starring Tom Cruise. A deaf couple signs this message to each other in an elevator and Tom Cruise’s character assumes they must really be in love. However, this may not be the reality. In reality it may be an unhealthy relationship.

As a psychotherapist with 20 years experience treating couples and teenagers, I have observed a common mistake that many people make regarding relationships and love. Many people tell me they feel an emptiness inside themselves and describe it as a “big empty hole.” They assume that a relationship will fill this emptiness. In other words, they are relying on their partner to eliminate the empty feeling they are experiencing.

This is a mistake. The only person that can fill that emptiness you feel is you. When I work with couples or an individual who is experiencing this emptiness, they usually are upset with their partner. They are upset because their partner is not filling the emptiness. Also the other partner is frustrated because they are tired of having to constantly reassure their partner. They report they are tired of always having to worry about meeting their partner needs and that their needs are constantly being pushed aside.

This type of pattern is very common in relationships where there is domestic violence or a substance abuse problem. Also jealousy is a major issue in these relationships. The person who is experiencing the emptiness is very sensitive to feeling rejected or abandoned. This is usually a result from childhood issues that have never been addressed. However, as an adult, if they sense these feelings in their relationship they tend to over react to them. The person may drink excessively to reduce their fears and men often result to verbal or physical abuse. Anything that will keep their partner in the relationship and continue to fill the empty space.

This tends to occur because as we grow up there is a great deal of pressure for people to be in relationships. You see this in children in first grade or kindergarten when adults jokingly ask children if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. If a child doesn’t they often feel there is something wrong with them.

I see this issue a lot with teenagers. I have teenagers who feel they are defective because they never had a girlfriend or boyfriend. This defective feeling increases significantly, if the teenager never has been on a date. They believe if they are going to be a “normal” teenager, they must at least be dating. Boys tend to believe they must be sexually active too. I have had teenagers tell me they felt suicidal or were using drugs because they did not have a girlfriend or boyfriend. They are willing to risk their lives using drugs or believe they are better off dead, if they don’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend. They are so tied up trying to live the stereotype, they can’t believe that many teenagers do not have a girlfriend or boyfriend and do not date in High School.

This pattern continues into adulthood. Many women feel defective if they are 30 years old and not married. Men feel as if they are not men if they do not have a girlfriend. Both men and women often settle for anyone as long as they can say they are in a relationship.

As children, we never learn how to love and care for ourselves. Ask someone if they would go out to dinner by themselves and most people look terrified by the idea. They have no idea what they would do and they are afraid about what other people with think. This is a sad state that we cannot love ourselves. If we always need someone to reinforce we are lovable, we turn our power over to strangers. If someone says something nice about us we feel good, if they say something hurtful, we feel unworthy as a person. But, why should someone else determine our value? We should be the one who judges if we are lovable or not. A relationship should add to our life like a bottle of wine adds to a meal. A relationship should not define us as a person.

As a result of this problem, many couples end up divorcing because a partner is tired of having to reassure their spouse daily. I have seen these divorces become very nasty and costly. So both parties are hurt even more and so are the children. They only people benefiting are the attorneys.

We also have this same issue with teenagers. However, when they break up it tends to be more dramatic. A teenager may start to use drugs, develop an eating disorder, start cutting, become depressed and may attempt suicide. The behaviors are not uncommon after teenagers break up.

We see this acting out behavior more in teenagers and children. Teenagers and children are desperate to feel that they are loved by their parents especially. If they don’t feel they are loved, there is a tendency to act out. Disney’s movie, Frozen, has a segment where the trolls explain that if someone doesn’t feel loved they may act out in pain or make poor decisions in an attempt to find love. Oprah, during her last show, had a very good way of expressing this need. She stated, “everyone wants to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you.” The program Challenge Day, which Oprah recommends, states what teens are looking for this way: every teenager wants to feel safe, loved and celebrated. I see it every day, when teens don’t feel loved, they act out. Negative attention is better than no attention.

How do we handle this issue? We need to start to acknowledge as a society that a relationship doesn’t make you a complete person. Only you can make yourself feel complete as a person. Also we need to remove the stigma of seeking mental health care. We need to encourage adults who feel incomplete without a relationship to seek psychotherapy and deal with their issues. Parents, if you notice that your teenager is desperate to be in a relationship, help them get psychotherapy so they can deal with the pain they are feeling. Remember this emptiness feeling typically begins in childhood. Therefore, if we show children and teens that they are loved or get them help when they are acting out, we can prevent them from dealing with this emptiness for years.

Again, please remember a relationship should add to your life, it should not make you a person or define you as a person.

Dr. Michael Rubino has 20 years experience working with families and teenagers. If you would like more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Teenagers and Valentine’s Day

Teenagers and Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is coming and if you have a teenager so is teenage drama. There are two main issues which parents and faced with around Valentine’s Day. The first issue is if your teenager is not dating someone. Your teenager is embarrassed and feels like no one will ever love them. The second issue is if your teenager is dating someone. Then there are issues such as gifts, the cost of the gifts and how late they can stay out on Valentine’s night. To many adults some of these issues seem very clear cut, but to some teenagers it’s a matter of life or death.

Let’s start with the first issue, your teen is not dating anyone. This can make them feel worthless, ugly and they may even feel no one will ever love them. The teenage years are very confusing especially when it comes to a teenager’s self-esteem. Most teens are trying to live up to their image of a “normal teenager.” If your teenager is not dating, explain to them that many teenagers do not date in high school. In fact, many people do not start dating until college. Try explaining some of your high school experiences if you feel that would help. Also point out their positive traits and things they do that you are proud of. Help their self-esteem by pointing out things they may over look. Try to change the focus slightly for them. Discuss that St. Valentine’s Day is about being with people who you love and care about. Maybe you can go out as a family for dinner or they have some friends who also are not dating and maybe they can do something together. The main point is let them know whether someone is dating or not it has nothing to do with their self-esteem and when they are ready they will start dating too. Do as much as you can to destruct the “average teenage image” that is incorrect.

If your teen does have a girlfriend or boyfriend, there are a number of different issues you get to confront. The first issue is gifts. Many teenagers have no concept of money and plan these elaborate gifts for their valentine. As they start to assembly the gifts, the quickly determine that they cannot afford everything they planed on buying. At this point, many teens expect mom and dad to help out because it’s Valentine’s Day. This is when mom and dad need to discuss with their teenager about budgeting money. Also it’s important to discuss what is appropriate and not appropriate at their age for gifts. For example, diamond earrings from Tiffany’s are not appropriate. Instead, may be they can buy flowers, a card or go to an outlet and look at costume jewelry. Also explain it’s really the thought that counts not how much or where they purchased the gift. For example, if their Valentine has a teddy bear collection that would be appropriate and showed you had been paying attention to the things that are important to them.

When your teen is dating another major issue is curfew and what they will be doing. Since St. Valentine’s Day is a romantic day, many teenagers may be planning on having sex. Unfortunately, in today’s world teens are becoming sexually active often around the sixth grade. However, typically sixth graders do not consider oral sex as being sexually active. Therefore, St. Valentine’s Day is another opportunity to discuss sexuality with your teenager. You can explain your expectations, the consequences of being sexually active (pregnancy and STDs) and precautions they need to take if they decide to become sexually active. Just because you discuss precautions doesn’t mean you are giving your approval and you can tell your teenager that fact.

Besides discussing sexual activity take this opportunity to discuss drinking alcohol or using drugs. Many teens believe vaping is now safe, but we still do not have all the answers and teens need to beware of these facts. They also need to be aware that using some drugs just once can cause someone to die or become addicted. Again they need the real facts so they can make responsible choices. For example, antidepressants and drugs for ADHD do not interact well with street dugs such as molly or pink and can result in death.

These are a few examples of what parents of teenagers face today. My best advice is not to avoid the subjects. Look at this as an opportunity to improve your communication with your teenager and to ensure they are getting the appropriate information. You cannot stop what they will encounter or do once they walk out your front door, but you can do your best to prepare them and to let them know you are always there no matter what. If they make a mistake, you prefer to help them deal with it appropriately rather than hide it from you.

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

Helping A Child Grieve the Loss of a Parent, Sibling or Close Friend

Helping A Child Grieve the Loss of a Parent, Sibling or Close Friend

The tragic deaths of Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old daughter along with the seven of their friends has brought up the issue of grief and especially the issue of children and teenagers grieving the death of a parent, sibling or close friend. Our society does not deal with grief in the first place. Therefore, when the person grieving is a child grieving the loss of a parent or sibling, we really do not know how to respond. Many people may decide to give the child privacy because they do not know what to say and it is easier. However, unless the child has asked for privacy, this is the wrong approach.

The death of a parent, sibling or close friend for a minor child or teenager violates how we expect life to occur. We expect kids to grow up, develop an adult life with loved ones and friends and also they will have a career. We assume people will die later in life such as 80 years old and people will lose their parents and sibling started around the age of 60. When it occurs at the age of 13 years old it violates all our assumptions about life. The 13 year old child must deal with something we assumed they would not have to face until they were 60 years old. We are in shock because our assumptions about life have been violated and we can’t imagine how the 13 year old can handle this tragedy.

The 13 year old must now figure out how they are going to continue living their life without the parent, sibling or close friend that they lost. This is a large part of grief learning to live your life without the loved one you lost. This is difficult for adults it is especially hard for a child or teenager. A fact we need to remember as the teen is grieving and as you are trying to help them and be supportive.

The first major point to remember is grief is not the same for everyone and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. There are stage theories about the grieving process. The main stage theory is by Kübler-Ross. This theory states there are five stages of grief. However, research has shown that grieving is an individual process and people experience different emotions depending on their process. Therefore, do not force a teen into the emotions you believe they should have as the grieve. Allow them to have whatever feelings they need to. In other words, if they don’t get angry or cry, it’s okay. They will have their own way of expressing the feelings they need to express. Allow them and support them in this process. Reassure them that whatever feelings they have or don’t have is normal and their is nothing wrong with them.

They are going to need to talk at times about the death. Be open and honest with them about the death. Hiding facts will not help them and cause more harm when they find out everyone was keeping a secret from them. Talk to them on their level using the terms they use. Try not to avoid the subject. If you avoid it, you send a message to the teen that they should avoid the topic too. This prevents the teen from coming to terms with the death.

Be prepared that children and teenagers will have a lot of different emotions regarding the loss. Therefore, expect mood swings and try to provide healthy ways for teenagers and children to express their feelings. Such as hitting a pillow for anger, writing a letter to the loved one to help with the feeling of missing the person who died. Also ask the teen if they have an idea on ways to express their feelings. Teenagers and children often have the best ideas. The main point is help them express their grief in a healthy manner rather than turning to drugs or alcohol.

As they are starting to express more emotions, this is a good time to bring up the idea of psychotherapy. Most people who experience a close personal loss can benefit from psychotherapy. Children and teenagers are no different. At first, the concept of therapy may be too soon. Remember to allow the child to go through the process at their pace. Often it helps to make a deal about psychotherapy. Ask the child or teenager to try a minimum of six sessions. After six sessions the need for therapy can be reassessed. If they are benefiting they continue, but if everyone feels they were doing just as well before they started therapy then they can stop. They can always resume therapy if needed.

Allow them to be involved in the funeral services. Many people feel a funeral is too much stress for a child or teenager having a difficult time accepting the death. The point of a funeral is a way to say good-bye to the loved one. I have worked with many children who were not allowed to plan or attend the funeral and they are usually mad that they didn’t get to say good-bye like everyone else. Remember to have some flexibility. Allow the child to participate in the part of the funeral services they want to participate in. If they do not want to go to the cemetery no problem. After the funeral mass have someone take them to where the reception is being held, while everyone else goes to the cemetery.

Finally, remember to be flexible with children and teenagers who are grieving. The grieving process takes at least a year. Therefore, there may be issues at school, with grades and mood swings. It will be a tough year for everyone. Especially birthdays and holidays during that first year. Therefore, you know it’s going to be difficult so don’t expect perfection. Allow the child time to continue grieving. If their grades fall for one year no big deal. This also may be another time to try therapy. If you remember everyone is hurting and everyone tries to work together, you will make it through this tragedy. It may not seem like it, but you will.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience treating kids and does specialize in working with grieving teenagers. For more information about his work visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or visit his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Teenagers and Dating Relationships

Teenagers and Dating Relationships

Having a girlfriend or boyfriend is very important to many teenagers. Often teenagers feel defective if they do not have a girlfriend or boyfriend. Many people are familiar with this line, “you complete me,” from the movie, Jerry McGuire, starring Tom Cruise. A deaf couple signs this message to each other in an elevator and Tom Cruise’s character assumes they must really be in love. However, this may not be the reality. In reality it may be an unhealthy relationship.

As a psychotherapist with 20 years experience treating couples and teenagers, I have observed a common mistake that many people make regarding relationships and love. Many people tell me they feel an emptiness inside themselves and describe it as a “big empty hole.” They assume that a relationship will fill this emptiness. In other words, they are relying on their partner to eliminate the empty feeling they are experiencing.

This is a mistake. The only person that can fill that emptiness you feel is you. When I work with couples or an individual who is experiencing this emptiness, they usually are upset with their partner. They are upset because their partner is not filling the emptiness. Also the other partner is frustrated because they are tired of having to constantly reassure their partner. They report they are tired of always having to worry about meeting their partner needs and that their needs are constantly being pushed aside.

This type of pattern is very common in relationships where there is domestic violence or a substance abuse problem. Also jealousy is a major issue in these relationships. The person who is experiencing the emptiness is very sensitive to feeling rejected or abandoned. This is usually a result from childhood issues that have never been addressed. However, as an adult, if they sense these feelings in their relationship they tend to over react to them. The person may drink excessively to reduce their fears and men often result to verbal or physical abuse. Anything that will keep their partner in the relationship and continue to fill the empty space.

This tends to occur because as we grow up there is a great deal of pressure for people to be in relationships. You see this in children in first grade or kindergarten when adults jokingly ask children if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. If a child doesn’t they often feel there is something wrong with them.

I see this issue a lot with teenagers. I have teenagers who feel they are defective because they never had a girlfriend or boyfriend. This defective feeling increases significantly, if the teenager never has been on a date. They believe if they are going to be a “normal” teenager, they must at least be dating. Boys tend to believe they must be sexually active too. I have had teenagers tell me they felt suicidal or were using drugs because they did not have a girlfriend or boyfriend. They are willing to risk their lives using drugs or believe they are better off dead, if they don’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend. They are so tied up trying to live the stereotype, they can’t believe that many teenagers do not have a girlfriend or boyfriend and do not date in High School.

This pattern continues into adulthood. Many women feel defective if they are 30 years old and not married. Men feel as if they are not men if they do not have a girlfriend. Both men and women often settle for anyone as long as they can say they are in a relationship.

As children, we never learn how to love and care for ourselves. Ask someone if they would go out to dinner by themselves and most people look terrified by the idea. They have no idea what they would do and they are afraid about what other people with think. This is a sad state that we cannot love ourselves. If we always need someone to reinforce we are lovable, we turn our power over to strangers. If someone says something nice about us we feel good, if they say something hurtful, we feel unworthy as a person. But, why should someone else determine our value? We should be the one who judges if we are lovable or not. A relationship should add to our life like a bottle of wine adds to a meal. A relationship should not define us as a person.

As a result of this problem, many couples end up divorcing because a partner is tired of having to reassure their spouse daily. I have seen these divorces become very nasty and costly. So both parties are hurt even more and so are the children. They only people benefiting are the attorneys.

We also have this same issue with teenagers. However, when they break up it tends to be more dramatic. A teenager may start to use drugs, develop an eating disorder, start cutting, become depressed and may attempt suicide. The behaviors are not uncommon after teenagers break up.

We see this acting out behavior more in teenagers and children. Teenagers and children are desperate to feel that they are loved by their parents especially. If they don’t feel they are loved, there is a tendency to act out. Disney’s movie, Frozen, has a segment where the trolls explain that if someone doesn’t feel loved they may act out in pain or make poor decisions in an attempt to find love. Oprah, during her last show, had a very good way of expressing this need. She stated, “everyone wants to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you.” The program Challenge Day, which Oprah recommends, states what teens are looking for this way: every teenager wants to feel safe, loved and celebrated. I see it every day, when teens don’t feel loved, they act out. Negative attention is better than no attention.

How do we handle this issue? We need to start to acknowledge as a society that a relationship doesn’t make you a complete person. Only you can make yourself feel complete as a person. Also we need to remove the stigma of seeking mental health care. We need to encourage adults who feel incomplete without a relationship to seek psychotherapy and deal with their issues. Parents, if you notice that your teenager is desperate to be in a relationship, help them get psychotherapy so they can deal with the pain they are feeling. Remember this emptiness feeling typically begins in childhood. Therefore, if we show children and teens that they are loved or get them help when they are acting out, we can prevent them from dealing with this emptiness for years.

Again, please remember a relationship should add to your life, it should not make you a person or define you as a person.

Dr. Michael Rubino has 20 years experience working with families and teenagers. If you would like more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Having A Safe, Fun Super Bowl Party

Having A Safe, Fun Super Bowl Party

Super Bowl Sunday is coming up in a couple weeks. Since the San Francisco 49ers are playing, there will be a large number of Super Bowl parties and events in the San Francisco Bay Area. As I stated in my previous article for many people it is a day to party and have fun, but it is also the day when the most domestic violence occurs in the United States. This statistic is for adults and teenagers. So, how do you have a safe, fun Super Bowl Sunday? You need to develop a plan that reduces stress and too much drinking.

First, remember that it is just a day and just a football game. Therefore, if everything is not perfect such as you don’t have all the food you wanted or things are not arranged how you wanted, do not stress over it. You can still enjoy the game without a lot food or alcohol. Also if everything is not arranged perfectly, you can still enjoy the game. In other words, do not stress and argue over minor details.

If you are going to have small children around, set up a separate room with food and activities for them. Many children under 10 years old will lose interest in the game and if there is nothing else for them to do, they will want attention and distract people from the game. Therefore, set up another room where they can watch other television shows and have games to play. This way they are not bored and they can enjoy themselves.

People drinking too much is a common problem during Super Bowl parties. Therefore, when your friends arrive, tell them you care about them and their safety. Therefore, you want everyone to put their car keys in the basket as they enter. This way if someone accidentally has too much to drink, you can give them a ride home. This way if someone has too much to drink, you don’t have to argue about them driving if they are not safe to drive. This can help avoid an argument and a possible physical fight.

Also watch how much alcohol you are serving. If you are serving alcohol, serve food too. The food helps to absorb the alcohol and decreases the likelihood that someone will drink too much. Also towards the end of the game stop serving alcohol and switch to sodas. If someone has had too much to drink, this gives them a chance for their body to process the alcohol they consumed so they can lower their blood alcohol level.

Another good idea is to set rules for your party. Announce to your guests that you want everyone to have a good time and no arguing or fighting. Therefore, cheering for their team or favorite player is fine, but you do not want any name calling nor is there to be any insulting other people at the party. Also good nature teasing is fine but no swearing and if someone asks you to stop the joking, respect their request. Bottom line, state that regardless of who wins or loses, you expect everyone to act like adults and to treat each other respectfully so it is a fun day for everyone.

It would also be helpful to remember the acronym HALT:

H – hungry

A – angry

L – lonely

T – tired, too much alcohol

If you notice someone expressing these emotions or drinking too much, this is a situation which could result in an argument or violence. Therefore, if you notice a potential violent situation, try talking to the person to see what is bothering them. If you notice a couple arguing try having one person step outside with you for a time out so they can calm down. You may want to let them know that they seem slightly upset and you are just checking-in to see if there is a problem and if you can help. Instead of ignoring the situation try to offer some help so people can calm down. This can help a great deal.

At the end of your party, if someone is not sober enough to drive, offer to drive them home. Remember all the car keys are in a basket so you do not have to argue to get the car keys. Remind them that you are only offering to drive because you care about them. You do not want to see them arrested for driving under the influence, you do not want to see them get into a car accident and you definitely do not want to see them kill someone else or themselves in a car accident.

If you notice a couple who appear to be arguing, offer to allow one person to stay for a while and you will drive them home later. Giving them a chance to calm down could help avoid a domestic violent incident. If after a little while the person at your house or the person who went home tells you they do not feel safe around the other person right now – listen to them! Offer to let the person stay at your house for the night. You do not want to assign blame to anyone. Simply state that they seem to be having a stressful day and instead of them both staying in the same house that night and arguing all night and arguing in front of the children is not a good idea. It is okay if they need to take a break for the night and talk about it tomorrow. You are providing them and the children with a safe environment and hopefully avoiding a domestic violent incident. Many people are afraid to step in and offer help when they see a potential domestic violent situation. However, if more people offered to help and did not shame the family, the incidence of domestic violence could decrease and more people may be willing to seek help.

If you are a couple who are having incidents with domestic violence, discuss the issue before the day. Hopefully, the two of you are in psychotherapy and can discuss the issue in a therapy session. Discussing a potential problem with a therapist or even a friend prior to the event can be very helpful. If you are not in therapy and afraid to talk to a friend and do not feel safe call the following number for help: The National Domestic Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Someone will answer 24 hours a day, 356 days a year. Do not be embarrassed to call. If you need help, please reach out and ask for it before someone gets seriously injured or killed.

Hopefully these suggestions help and you can enjoy the game in a fun peaceful environment.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and he is certified to assess and treat domestic violence. If you want additional information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his websites http://www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.