Helping Teenagers Understand Responsibility

Helping Teenagers Understand Responsibility

We have people blaming teenagers and college students for not wearing masks, having big parties, such as pool parties, on the weekends and that college students are hanging out at bars and as a result of their behavior we blame them for Coronavirus rates increasing across the Country. College students and teenagers have been involved in a number of protests, such as Black Lives Matter, and we are saying the virus is increasing because of protestors not wearing masks and not social distancing too. Finally, we are looking at teenagers and college students across the Country having Coronavirus parties and this is another reason the virus is spreading. As of today, August 4, 2020, there have been 159,000 deaths in our Country due to the Coronavirus and we are averaging 1,000 more every day (CDC). There are a tremendous amount of people who have died in our Country and in my opinion we are being unfair blaming teenagers, college students and protestors.

If we look at the White House, what do we expect from teenagers? Today in an interview the President stated yes a 1,000 people are dying, but that is how it is. No empathy in his tone of voice and taking no responsibility. He has been holding press conferences about the Coronavirus and he has stated people can wear masks but he will not require it. Additionally, he has been going all over the Country and he does not wear a mask. He wore one only once. Therefore, what message is he sending to the Country and teenagers especially? Additionally at the President’s press conferences he continues to state that the malaria drug is a cure for the virus. However, numerous studies by our top medical experts have all shown that the drug is ineffective and can cause deadly side effects. Yet he stands in front of the Country and makes it a popularity contest by saying people like Dr. Fauci better. Again this is what teenagers do, if you confront them on a story that they cannot back up with facts, they say you don’t like me. How can we expect teenagers to be responsible about their actions, when the President cannot be reasonable about his actions?

The President has been pushing that all school children must return to school on time and in their school buildings. However, his son’s school has delayed the beginning of their school until October and they will be doing remote learning (ABC, CBS News, CNN). Again we have a message of do as I say not as I do. What are teenagers and college students going to think when it is clear the President is willing to gamble with their lives, but not his son’s life or his family’s life?

Let’s take a different look at this situation. If your teenage son was not doing well in school and he was in danger of not passing his classes and his response to you was, “it is what is.” How would you feel? If this same son spent every weekend hanging out with friends and not doing his homework or studying, what would you think? Furthermore, if your teen did see any reason to spend his weekend trying to repair his grades and he believed it was more important to hang out with friends because he needed a rest, what would you think? I don’t think you would approve of your son’s behavior. We are in the middle of a global pandemic and the President spends his weekends golfing not addressing the pandemic. Today, 8/4/20, was the first time in six months that he attended a meeting of the Coronavirus Task Team (ABC, CBS News, CNN). Looking at the standard the President is setting for teenagers, I’m sure, as I stated above, you would be disappointed in your son’s behavior, but how can you say anything based on the President’s actions? How do you argue with your teenager to do his geometry homework, when the President is ignoring 159,000 Americans dying?

Parents you are faced with only one option in my opinion. You need to explain to your son that yes the President is not being responsible and ignoring his duties. However, two wrongs do not make a right. The President can choose to be irresponsible and he will have to face the American voters and may lose his job. Just like the President will be judged by the voters for his choices, you need to point out to your son that his teacher will judge his choices about studying by the grade he receives in the class. Additionally, you will be judging his choices about school based on the grades he receives in his classes. Finally, you need to point out and educate them on the fact that just because someone else chooses to ignore their responsibilities, even if he is the President, it does not give him the right to ignore his responsibilities. The final choice is up to him and he must face the consequences for his actions.

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 at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or listen to his podcast on Apple or Spotify.

Teenagers May Need more Access to Electronics during the Pandemic

Teenagers May Need more Access to Electronics during the Pandemic

Most middle school and high school students have grown up with smart phones and computers for gaming and texting their friends. This brings up the common argument about how much time teens are spending on line. Many parents have concerns that their teenager is addicted to their smart phones and gaming. Teenagers feel that their parents are over reacting and they can’t become addicted to their devices.

However, due to the pandemic gaming is now one of the few safe activities teenagers can do. Most places such as movie theaters and malls are closed so gamine provides a safe way to hang out with friends. This is very important to their social development at their age. Additionally, research is showing that teenagers who have little access to normal social activities are becoming depressed during the pandemic (CDC). Therefore, we need to re-evaluate the issue of gaming during the pandemic.

While the truth is teenagers can become addicted to their computer devices and gaming. The World Health Organization (WHO) took a step this year and classified “Gaming Disorder” as a formal diagnosis. As I stated, many parents have been concerned about this for years. Also it does not just impact teenagers, as many may think. I have had couples come in for marriage counseling because Gaming was destroying a marriage. For several years the American Psychological Association has said it would be adding Gaming addiction as a formal diagnosis to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, however, so far the APA has not been able to decide on the specific criteria for this diagnosis. What the WHO has done is they have acknowledged what many parents have been reporting for years and helping us to take a step so it is acknowledged as a diagnosis. While it is a diagnosis according to the WHO, gaming again is one of the safe activities teenagers can engage in during the pandemic. This does create a difficult situation.

The United States appears to be behind other countries in identifying that video game addiction does exist and does create problems for individuals and families. Seoul, South Korea and Tokyo, Japan have inpatient treatment centers for gaming addiction. These rehabilitation centers have been open for years and have treated thousands of people over the years. Therefore, other countries have acknowledged Gaming addiction that United States parents have been reporting for years.

As a psychotherapist who treats teenagers, I would have to agree with the parents and I say Gaming addiction is real. I have seen teenagers become violent, punching holes in walls or physically threatening their parents, if there video games or cellphones are taken away as a punishment. Teenagers have told me they cannot function without their video games or cellphones and will do anything to get them back. This sounds like and look like a problem to me. A cellphone or PlayStation should not be a teenager’s life line.

However, as I stated above, the pandemic does create a different situation regarding teenagers gaming online with friends. Since this is a safe way for teenagers to maintain social contacts, I think we need to create new guidelines for the pandemic. Parents are aware that teenagers can become addicted, but they can monitor how their teenagers are acting before and after using electronics. Also maybe have a day without electronics, while allowing some extra time on other days. So try to balance out how much time they are on electronics along with doing other things such as going outside for walks to get exercise.

The statement from the WHO states that the Gaming must be interfering with activities of daily life, such as homework, and be present for at least a year. These guidelines seem sensible to me. Also the WHO cautions that issues such as depression and anxiety need to be ruled out before assigning the diagnosis of Gaming Addiction. Many teenagers who are depressed or dealing with severe anxiety do self-medicate with video games. Finally, the WHO states your child needs to be evaluated by a mental health clinician who specializes in treating and assessing children and teenagers. This is very important because typically children and teenagers do not always have the typical symptoms we associate with depression or anxiety. A clinician experienced in assessing children and teenagers can make the appropriate diagnosis. Given these guidelines it appears to me that parents can allow teenagers to use their electronics more during this time of the pandemic. Parents can make sure to balance electronic time with other activities such as exercise. Furthermore, parents need to be observing their teenagers mood on a daily basis. If the teen is looking depressed or acting anxious then the parents need to schedule a time to have their teenager evaluated by a mental health professional who specializes in treating children and teenagers.

I have included a link to a segment on Good Morning America which discusses the diagnosis and other issues I have discussed to assist you in understanding what the WHO is referring to with Gaming Addiction, https://youtu.be/axG1tLdutmY.

The World Health Organization has taken an important step in helping us understand and define a problem many parents have been reporting for years. This is not a bad thing. I view it as a positive step. Technology is moving very fast. In fact, it is moving so fast we cannot keep up with all the new issues we need to deal with as a result of new technology. The more we understand this technology the more we all can benefit and avoid potential serious problems.

With that be stated, the Coronavirus pandemic does present parents and teenagers with a entirely new set of issues. If we stay calm and flexible, we should be able to address these new issues without a great deal of stress for parents or teenagers. Remember this is a new situation for everyone and no one has experienced this type of health situation before. Therefore, if we all work together, we should be able to find solutions to the new issues we continue to face on a daily basis.

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

What’s Next?

What’s Next?

The quarantine has caused financial and emotional problems for many people. It has disrupted what we consider normal life and many people do not see an end in site. As a result, many people have been demanding and demonstrating that the quarantines in all the states end so they can resume their lives. The President has been leading people to believe that this is a very easy task. However, reopening the economy is not as easy as the President or as many people may think it will be. The medical professionals have stated we are moving too fast and we need to listen to the medical experts who study viruses not the President.

We still have people contracting the virus and dying from the virus at an alarming rate. Los Angeles County reported a significant increase in deaths due to the virus over the weekend. New models just released expect that towards the end of May and the beginning of June we will see another significant increase in the number of people dying from the virus and contracting it.

Yes having to shelter in place is boring and it is costing people their jobs. Therefore, we have people worrying about how they will pay their bills and we have people who are becoming depressed and anxious due to not being able to leave the house. They feel that once the quarantine is lifted everything will be alright, but will it?

After the quarantine, what’s next? We cannot resume life as normal because we are still dealing with the virus. Therefore, we will need to wear masks and maintain social distancing requirements. As a result, we will not be able to attend movies or concerts. Restaurants will not be the same either due to social distancing requirements. Children and teenagers will not be able to attend school in the same manner and our work environments will change significantly too.

Now the quarantine and worry about contracting the virus has already placed a great deal of stress on many people. There now will be people who will be afraid of leaving the house because they are afraid of catching the virus. Besides these people, other people will be feeling stressed and depressed due to all the changes needed to open the economy. They were hoping to return to their lives and they will find out that they have to adjust to an entirely new lifestyle.

In addition to these changes, we will still be facing the issue of needing to take precautions so we do not catch the virus and we will still be worrying about family members who are at high risk due to age or other health underlying health conditions getting the virus. Additionally, we will continue to have family members who contract the virus and die. Just because we open the economy doesn’t mean people won’t be catching the virus and dying. Also it does not mean the economy will return to normal and people will be able to find new jobs. If restaurants are only allowed to operate at 25% capacity and tables need to be six feet apart in addition to having to use disposable menus, would you want to go to a restaurant under those conditions? The answer is most likely no. Therefore, since business will be down in numerous industries, no one will be hiring and people still will be worrying about paying the bills.

As a result of working with trauma victims for over 20 years, I understand the first impulse is to try to resume living your daily life as soon as possible so you feel a sense of control over your life that was taken from you. We have all been traumatized by the Coronavirus. We are the United States and we can handle anything. However, the Coronavirus has turned the tables on us. We are not in control, the virus is in control.

So what’s next? We listen to the medical professionals and we follow their advice. We have made some progress getting a handle on the virus. However, if we move to fast, the virus will come back and many more people will become sick and die. The President is not allowing the professionals to speak out because it is not good for his image. For those of you who say this is wrong, when there was a cruise ship in the San Francisco Bay waiting to dock, the President stood outside the CDC and said, “I don’t want it to dock because the increased numbers don’t look good for me”. We need to consider what is best for the entire country not just the President.

Therefore, as difficult as it maybe, we need to listen to the medical and mental health experts and develop a safe plan to reopen the country. A plan which will minimize the number of people who will become ill and a plan that addresses the mental health issues that will be triggered and exacerbated by reopening the economy.

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

The High School Prom in 2020

The High School Prom in 2020

Yes it is that time of year again — Prom Season. I am already hearing teens worrying about who to ask and parents who are shocked at how much the prom can cost. Along with the prom come the concerns of who will I go with? What will I wear? How much can I spend on a dress? And a number of other issues. Hopefully, you and your teen have already discussed the issues around dating and have agreements regarding dating. If not, Prom may be a harder issue because now you have to deal with issues regarding dating and Prom.

As a parent, the first thing to do is to contact your teen’s High School and see what rules and guidelines the school has already established. Many High Schools have rules regarding who can attend, such as only students of that high school can attend, a dress code (such as how low cut a dress can be or colors for tuxedos) and some high schools require you to inform them if you are going and your date’s name and the telephone numbers for both set of parents. They do this so if your teen fails to arrive by the designated time or if there are any problems at the Prom, they know who to call.

Another reason to contact the school is to find out where the Prom is being held. Due to the number deaths associated with alcohol or drug use, and now with the concern about the virus, a number of high schools have decide to have the entire Prom on the school campus. They serve dinner and have the dance at the school. Once you have the details then it is time to discuss with your teen what your expectations are regarding the Prom. This is also the time where you will set the rules for the Prom and make your agreements with your teen.

Assuming the Prom is not being held at the campus and instead being held at a Hotel, there are a few items to discuss. The first issue is price. Most teens want to go to an expensive dinner, hire a limo for the night and for the girls there is the Prom dress. I have seen teens spend over $2,000 on their Prom dresses. A limo for the night can cost $2000 and dinner can cost $350. If you have this money and are willing to indulge your teen then there is no problem. However, most parents don’t have this extra money so you need to agree on a budget. For example, a limo is not a necessity for the Prom. As a parent you may feel safer with a limo because your teen is not driving. Also there is a law and limos cannot carry liquor when they are driving for Proms and they must card anyone consuming alcohol in the limo and passengers must use seat belts. You can bring the price down by having your teen split the cost of the car with 2 to 3 other couples. However, you will want to talk to the parents of your teen’s date and any friends they are going with to ensure all the parents agree.

Another option is letting your teenager pay for part of their prom. There is nothing wrong with expecting them to contribute to the cost of their prom. In fact, it is a good way to educate them about money. If they are having to spend their own money, they may choose some cheaper options. This is a good way to start teaching your teen about managing money. You can have your teen purchase the prom tickets, pay for the dinner, girls can pay for part of their dress and boys can pay to rent a tuxedo and for a corsage for their date. As a parent you may want to help with the limo, if they are using one, and the Prom pictures. Some teenagers may need some help budgeting money and parents can help teens with figuring out ways to budget and less expensive options for some items. For example, parents can suggest a very nice restaurant that is not very expensive.

If you have a daughter you need to negotiate the cost of the dress or consider renting a dress. In my opinion she does not need to spend $500 on a dress or more to look good. The same rule goes for her hair. She does not need to spend $300 on styling her hair for one night. She can rent a dress and there are beauticians who do not charge as much but still do an excellent job.

You also need to talk with your teen regarding your expectations about consuming alcohol, using drugs and sexual activity on Prom night. Many teens plan After Parties for their Proms. Quite often at the After Parties is where the drinking, drug use or sexual activity occurs. This is another reason why it is important to know who your teen will be going with to the Prom and their parents. You should never allow your teen to go to an After Party where there is no adult supervision. If the party is at a friend’s house with adult supervision and you have spoken with the adult, there should be no problem. If your teen wants to rent a hotel room so their date and their friends can have a party, this is a huge problem and should not be allowed. There are too many incidents where teens overdose, drink to the point of alcohol poisoning, get pregnant or trash the hotel room. Most hotels will not rent a room to someone under 18, but many teens find away around this rule using friends or cousins who are 18 years or older. Also some parents will rent the room for their teen because they want to be viewed as the nice parent. Remember being a parent is not a popularity contest and some times you need to make an unpopular decision because that is what is best for your teenager. This is also a reason why you would want to talk to the parents of the friends your teenager is going to the Prom with. You may want to ask if any of the parents agreed to rent a hotel room.

Another issue to discuss is curfew. Yes it is their Prom and you want them to have a good time, but there is no reason why they need to stay out the entire night or for the entire weekend. If there is adult supervision the entire time it may work. If there is not adult supervision it is a recipe for disaster. Yes some parents plan a breakfast for the morning after the prom. They may serve breakfast at 4 am. If there are plans such as these, your teen could simply text you at some point that everything is going fine. No one needs to know that they checked in with you.

One other issue you need to be prepared for is if your teen does not have a date for the Prom. This can be devastating to a teenager. If this occurs reassure them that it means nothing about them as a person and allow them to express their feelings. Many schools are realizing how much pressure having a date is placing on teenagers and some teens are not ready to date in High School. Therefore, a number of High Schools have changed policies regarding the Prom. Many schools allow teens to make a choice. If they want to take a date they can or if they do not want to take a date and just go with friends that is fine. So if your teen does not have a date and the school does not require one explain not everyone is ready to date in High School and there is nothing wrong with them. Reinforcing their self-esteem can be very important because as a teen many teenager’s self-esteem are fragile and they need your support.

For teenagers who are questioning their sexuality or who have decided they are homosexual or bisexual, the prom can present additional challenges. Some High Schools have LGBT clubs so there probably won’t be an issue. However, many high schools do not have LGBT clubs. If your teenager has decided they are not heterosexual, then I suggest you call the High School and see what arrangements have been made. They have the same right to attend the Prom as the other students.

Finally, you need to have a discussion with your teen regarding acting responsibly and to have self-respect. The Prom is a major event and it is another step that your teen is taking into the adult world. They need to remember if they want to act like adults, they have to be willing to accept being treated like an adult. So if they violate the rules that their school has established for the Prom, they may be giving up their right to graduate with their class. The Prom should be a happy event that you and your teen both remember for a long time. If you discuss the issues before the Prom and come to agreements that you both accept then it should be a safe, happy event for all. Good luck!

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with teenagers, their parents and high schools. For more information on his work visit his website www.rubinocounseling.com, his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Smartphone as Holiday Gifts for Teenagers

Smartphone as Holiday Gifts for Teenagers

It is the Holiday Season and many middle school students will be asking for their first cellphone or Smartphone and many high school students will be asking for the newest smartphones available such as the IPhone 11. In today’s society many people including teenagers view cell phones as a necessity of life. I have seen teenagers argue with their parents how they could not function at school or in life without their cellphones. In fact, some teenagers become physically violent, if you take their phone. Most teenagers also say they need Smatphones, a regular cellphone will not work. However, cellphones are a privilege not a necessity. We need to remember that fact. Yes for some parents it is a tool they use to keep in contact with their child and for their child to use if they feel they are in danger. However a regular cellphone will do this it doesn’t have to be an IPhone 10XR or 11.

During the Holidays many elementary, middle school and high school student will be asking to upgrade their phones. They need the latest version otherwise they cannot function at school or contact their friends. Therefore, many children will be asking for the IPhone XR or 11. Most children and teenagers who are asking for these expensive phones usually never consider the price. They believe they are entitled to have the latest cellphone.

Many people have forgotten that cellphones are privileges especially teens and children in Middle School. They have grown up with everyone having a cellphone so they don’t see it as a privilege. This is a common argument I encounter between children and parents. The other argument that is common between parent and teenagers is many teens tell their parents if they cared, they would by them a smartphone. Being a parent is not a popularity contest determined by how much money you spend. As a parent you need to do what you feel is best for your child.

Parents if you stop and think about it, why does an 11 year old child need an IPhoneXR? They do not need to track mileage or expense accounts nor do they remember their own appointments. There is really no reason they need a Smartphone. Setting limits where they use them is important too. Why do they need their cellphone when they go to bed? Most teens who take their cellphones to bed will typically spend hours texting friends or watching YouTube. When morning comes, they are too tired to get up because they were awake until 3am playing with their phone.

Smartphones are an area where technology has moved faster than our ethics. If you think about it, IPhones and Smartphones were not around in the year 2000. Now everyone including a majority of teens have an IPhone or Smartphone. In my opinion an adolescent does not need a cellphone until they enter Middle School and at that point all they need is a basic cellphone. They need a basic phone so they can check-in with you if their plans change or if they feel they are in need of help.

As I stated above, there is no reason that a teenager really needs a Smartphone. They are not taking care of a family nor are they running a business. Therefore, a basic cellphone should be adequate for what they need it for. I understand that given the way our society has changed some parents may find that it is helpful to their family if a child in middle school has a cellphone. This is a decision that every parent needs to make based on their family’s situation.

The parent needs to make this decision, not let the child guilt them into buying them a cell phone. If you are divorced and have children, this may be extremely difficult, but the decision about if your child gets a cellphone or not, should be a joint decision by both parents and a decision you both agree on. One parent should not buy a cellphone without consulting the other parent and they should not use it as a weapon in the divorce.

If you decide that your middle school child is mature enough for a cellphone, you should discuss the rules and guidelines about using the phone prior to getting a phone. Some things to discuss are who they give their cell number to, not texting during class and not taking it into the bedroom at night so they can text most of the night. As I stated, many kids will text with their friends until 2 or 3 am and then be too tired for school the next day.

Also there should be a discussion about sharing photos. You never know what someone will do with a photo if they get mad with you. Also there needs to be a discussion about the law. It is not uncommon for teens to send their boyfriend/girlfriend nude photos of themselves. What they don’t understand is they are under the age of 18 years old. Therefore, if they have a nude picture of their 15 year old girlfriend, they can be charged with possession of child pornography. Many may say this won’t happen to me, but I have had a number of teens in psychotherapy because they were charged with having child pornography. Also you need to remember, once those pictures are out on the internet, they are out there forever. There also needs to be a discussion about on-line perpetrators too. There are many pedophiles on line trying to lure unsuspecting teens into their plans. Your children need to understand this is a real risk and what to watch for.

Finally, it should be made clear that the phone does not belong to the child — the phone belongs to you the parent. Yes you are giving them the phone to use, but it still belongs to you. If you ask for it back, then the child hands it over no questions asked. Also if you feel they are using their phone in an inappropriate manner, all you need to do is call your cellphone carrier and request that their phone line be suspended. It cost you nothing and it is an easy way to control the phone. When you feel that your child has earned the right to have the cellphone back all you do is call your carrier to reinstate that phone line.

It is very important that you and your teen have an agreement about conditions regarding their cellphone use. All of these conditions and agreements should be written down in an agreement that you sign and the child signs. You each get a copy of the agreement and one copy is posted on the refrigerator. If there are any disputes about a rule, you simply go back to the agreement and you follow what is written. A written agreement is very important because I have seen parents have conversations, make agreements and then 6 months later there is a disagreement and everyone’s memory is slightly different so you have a big fight.

Also given how many adults have gotten into trouble with their Smartphones, if you are going to allow your child to use any kind of cellphone you must discuss the pros and cons so the child does not get into major trouble with the phone.

Below I have included a sample contract that you can use with your child and modify as you need.

Cellphone Contract

I, child’s name, will not bring my cellphone to the family dinner table.

I will not go over our plan’s monthly minutes or text message limits. If I do, I understand that I may be responsible for paying any additional charges or that I may lose my cellphone privileges.

I understand that I am responsible for knowing where my phone is, and for keeping it in good condition.

I understand that my cellphone may be taken away if I talk back to my parents, I fail to do my chores, or I fail to keep my grades up.

I will obey rules of etiquette regarding cellphones in public places. I will make sure my phone is turned off when I am in church, in restaurants, or quiet settings.

I will obey any rules my school has regarding cellphones, such as turning them off during class, or keeping them on vibrate while riding the school bus.

I promise I will alert my parents when I receive suspicious or alarming phone calls or text messages from people I don’t know. I will also alert my parents if I am being harassed by someone via my cellphone.

I will not use my cellphone to bully another person.

I will send no more than _____ texts per day I understand that having a cellphone can be helpful in a emergency, but I know that I must still practice good judgment and make good choices that will keep me out of trouble or out of danger.

I will not send embarrassing photos of my family or friends to others. In addition, I will not use my phone’s camera to take embarrassing photos of others. I understand that having a cell phone is a privilege, and that if I fail to adhere to this contract, my cell phone privilege may be revoked.

Parent Responsibilities I understand that I will make myself available to answer any questions my tween might have about owning a cellphone and using it responsibly.

I will support my child when he or she alerts me to an alarming message or text message that he or she has received. I will alert my child if our cellphone plan changes and impacts the plan’s minutes.

I will give my child _______ warning(s) before I take his or her cellphone away

Signed ______________________________ (Tween) Signed ______________________________ (Parents). Date ______________________________

Dr. Michael Rubino has been working with middle school and high school students for over 20 years. He is considered an expert in this field. Dr. Rubino is one of the founding members of the National Alive & Free Program, a program designed to work with teens. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or http://www.rubinocounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Dealing with Christmas after A Divorce

Dealing with Christmas after A Divorce

The Holiday season is usually a difficult and stressful time for many families. Everyone trying to make plans and trying to see grandparents and other family members. It can be especially difficult for divorce families. After a divorce the issues often become even more stressful.

One thing that parents need to remember is that they decided on the divorce the children did not. I often hear arguments about parents want their time or wanting to continue their family’s holiday traditions. However, they often ignore what the children want to do.

Many times a divorce may be finalized, but the parents are not done fighting with each other. Therefore, the use the Holidays as a reason to continue to argue or try to hurt each other. What they forget is they are really hurting their children more than each other.

Based on dealing with families who are divorced, I make the following recommendations to parents. First, parents need to remember that Holidays are more about the children and family not their divorce. Next they need to develop a plan together regarding the Holidays. The first step is for the parents to talk together about what the children seem to enjoy the most about each Holiday. Also parents should also ask the children what they enjoy most about the Holidays.

After you have this information then sit down civilly and see how you can allow the children to do what they enjoy most about the Holidays. Another thing to remember is the children should not be forced to choose between Mom and Dad. Come up with a plan where the children have equal time with both parents. Also they should have equal time with grandparents, cousins and other Extended family from Mom and Dad’s side.

The other thing is don’t turn the Holidays into a competition. Gifts should not be used to influence the children. You should discuss with each other what your children want and what you plan to get the children. When you were married you discussed what to get them so even after the divorce you can coparent and discuss what is realistic and what is not.

Finally, remember the Holidays are a time to get together as a family and enjoy each other. Therefore, for the sake of your children put your divorce aside and decide how this can be a happy family time for everyone. If you can do things together, that would be the ideal situation. If you can’t then being kind to each other and making the Holiday season fun for the children is the goal for you as parents. Stated another way, the children should still feel like they have one family during the Holidays not two. Maybe things are being done a little differently because of the divorce but they still have a mother and father.

If you achieve this goal, it will make you feel better too. A divorce should not wreck your lives. Obviously, your lives will change after a divorce but you can still be a family.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience as a psychotherapist working with children/teenagers and families. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

The Real Face of Autism

The Real Face of Autism

Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with many children and teenagers who happen to be autistic. Often their parents are very worried. They worry about their child’s future and how people will treat their child. They have this concern because society tends to treat autism like some terrible disease. Many people assume that someone with Autism will never have a future or decent life.

This has not been my experience. The children and teens I have had the pleasure to work with who have autism are caring, smart, decent people. When they are given a chance, they can achieve a great deal. Many teenagers on the autistic spectrum are able to go to college, get a job, have a family and be productive members of society. However, for this to occur we need to eliminate the negative stigma associated with autism and mental health. We also need to provide them with the mental health services so they can succeed. They should be able to access these services without being judged. However, many children with Autism are teased at school and many insurance companies refuse to pay for psychotherapy. Autism is not a disease and you cannot catch it. Also people with Autism having feelings and being teased at school does a great deal of damage to their self-esteem. Children and teenagers need to be treated with respect meaning schools need to eliminate the teasing they endure at school. Insurance companies need to pay for psychotherapy so they can develop their abilities to express their emotions and so they can interpret social cues. If we do this, a child with Autism can achieve a lot in their life. The show the Good Doctor, shows an autistic young man who became a doctor. This is not a fantasy. There are several physicians with Autism who are perfectly capable of working as doctors and do.

I saw a video of a teenager talking to a judge. This teen with autism shows why we need to eliminate the negative stigma associated with mental health and provide access to services without judgement. Also he shows why we should not judge people or label people. Watch how impressed the judge is by this young man. He is very mature, acts appropriately, has a plan for himself and not ashamed about being autistic. People can surprise you when you don’t judge them https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:ugcPost:6507566653688160256.

If we provide other teens who are on the autistic spectrum or are depressed with the appropriate services, you would be amazed at what they can do. I have never met and worked with a child or teen on the autistic spectrum who has not impressed me with what they can do once they are given a chance.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers many have been on the autistic spectrum. For more information regarding his work or private practice practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com, his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

The Link between Social Media and Teenage Depression and Anxiety

The Link between Social Media and Teenage Depression and Anxiety

Over the past few years we have noticed a significant increase in anxiety and depression in children and teenagers. We have identified some reasons, but not all of the reasons. Social media and smartphones have been identified as one source related to anxiety and depression in children and teenagers. Many parents agree and have described their teenagers becoming violent if they do not have access to their social media. It does appear that smartphones and social media do contribute to anxiety and depression in children.

A study done in South Korea appears to support the fact that social media and smartphones do increase anxiety and depression in teenagers. They also have documented teenagers being addicted to social media and smartphones.

South Korea is more technologically advanced than the United States. Therefore, it makes sense they are better able to document some of these issues than we are in the United States. South Korea found that 90 percent of their children over the age of 11 years old use smartphones and social media on a regular basis. They also found that 30 percent of these teens were addicted to social media and smartphones. Some teens were using their smartphones for 13 to 15 hours a day. The teens stated they usually start texting their friends and then may be using YouTube and 13 hours later they were still on their phones. They had no idea they had been using their smartphones as much as they were using their smartphones. Parents also noted their teenagers becoming violent if their phones were removed.

Since it definitely appears these teenagers are addicted to their smartphones, South Korea developed rehabilitation centers for teenagers addicted to social media and smartphones. These rehabilitation centers are reporting that they are very successful. The main component of their programs is teaching the teens to interact with people directly not using their phones or social media. Therefore, teens talk directly to each other and they do things together without technology. These programs have just started so we don’t know how long the teens continue this behavior once they leave the rehabilitation center. However, so far it looks very good.

South Korea researchers have been studying the brain activity of teenagers who have become addicted to social media and smartphones too. What they have discovered is since the adolescent brain is still developing, social media and smartphones impact the development of an adolescent brain. Specifically, they noted that teenagers who were addicted to social media and smartphones show less development in the frontal lobes of the brain. The frontal lobes are involved in the higher functions of our brain such as assessing, reasoning and decision making. The researchers have concluded that because the frontal lobes are not fully developing it is leading to anxiety, depression and violent outburst that we are observing in teenagers. While this may sound very alarming, there is a positive note to this problem. The researchers have also noted that if the amount of technology use is reduced to a healthier level such as two hours a day, the frontal lobes can start to grow again and even develop to their normal size. Remember in adolescence, a teenagers brain and central nervous system are still developing. Therefore, if you remove something slowing development, the brain can compensate and resume its normal development.

As a psychotherapist who treats teenagers, I would agree this is one issue why teenagers and children are reporting increased anxiety and depression. However, issues such as mass shooting and mass shooter drills are also definitely resulting in increased anxiety and depression in children and teenagers. The rise in anxiety and depression in children is a complex situation and we need to solve it a step at a time. Therefore, I would recommend that parents monitor how many hours their children use their smartphones and social medial per day. Not including homework, I would recommend one to three hours a day. Also I strongly recommend no smartphones in the bedrooms when children and teens go to bed. Hopefully this will help.

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

Coping with Extended Family during A Divorce

Coping with Extended Family during A Divorce

A divorce is always a stressful event for the entire family. When it is a hostile divorce, meaning the parents will not talk to each other at all and fight over every little decision, it is especially stressful on the children. As a psychotherapist, who specializes in working with children caught in hostile divorces, I hear the children complain about their parents fighting and wishing it would stop. The children and teenagers tell me how confused they are by the arguing. They also talk about feeling helpless.

These children often state that they feel like they are in the middle of a civil war. Often they feel they need to choose Mom’s side or Dad’s side. This is how their parents’ fighting makes them feel and sometimes parents do push their children to choose a side. What children and teenagers really want is for their lives to be like they were before the divorce.

At times, parents involve the children in the divorce and they don’t realize what they are doing. Often parents say things about Dad or Mom in front of the children. When kids or teens hear about Mom or Dad, they sometimes feel they are expected to choose between the two. What parents often forget is this is a choice a child cannot make. They love both their parents and want a relationship with both, therefore they cannot pick between the two. This type of pressure on children creates depression, anxiety and children who act out at school as a way to cope with their stress and also some teens get involved with alcohol or drugs due to the stress.

Unfortunately, this pressure does not always end with the parents. Often grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins get involved. They talk negatively about the other parent so the kids feel like they should take aside. This creates even more stress for the children. When their grandparents are talking negatively about the other parent, sometimes the kids start to doubt themselves. They start to feel like they are doing something wrong by not choosing a side.

This pressured is intensified because usually both parents’ families are pressuring the children. The children become overwhelmed, confused and angry very quickly. First, there is no where for them to escape the pressures of the divorce. Also every time they think they have a handle on the situation someone in the family is giving them new information or pressuring them to take a side.

When this occurs, I see children become less involved in the family and more involved with friends. Also their grades tend to go down and they start to get into trouble at school. Some teens will start to get involved with alcohol and drugs. This usually occurs because the child or the teenager has come to the point where they do not care anymore. They are tired of hearing their parents fight and they are tired of getting pressured by their grandparents. They wish that someone would start to look at things from their point of view.

This is a very important point. When a family is going through a divorce the parents and extended family need to consider how the kids are feeling. Also they need to stop doing anything that makes the child feel like they have to take a side.

This means that parents do not discuss the divorce in front of the children. Also neither parent says anything negative about the other parent when their children are around. Finally, both parents tell their families not to discuss anything pertaining to the divorce when the children are around and they are not to say anything negative about the other parent. If the families cannot abide by these guidelines, then parents need to restrict visits to the grandparents. Furthermore, they can only see the grandparents when the parent is present so they can intervene, if the grandparents start saying negative things about Mom or Dad. You are not punishing the grandparents, you are protecting your children. Remember you can divorce your spouse, but you cannot change who your child’s mother is or father. You can also not change that they are related to both families.

In summary, a divorce is a difficult, sad experience for everyone. However, your children did not choose the divorce and are not getting divorced. So as their parent, you need to do whatever you can to minimize the stress and to ensure they are able to maintain a relationship with both parents and their parent’s families.

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