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.

Trusting A Teenager’s judgement

Trusting A Teenager’s judgement

Working with teenagers as a psychotherapist, I very often hear from parents that they feel their teenager is not responsible and they have concerns about trusting their teenager. I also hear from teenagers how they are upset with their parents for not trusting them and not allowing them to make decisions. I understand the parents’ concerns, but at times they are being unfair and unrealistic about their ability to control their teenagers’ decisions.

We routinely tell teenagers that they need to be responsible for their choices and actions. However, we seldom allow teenagers the ability to make their own decisions. It is not uncommon that parents have set rules and curfews for their teenagers. Also with the advancement in technology many parents have software installed on their teenagers’ cellphones so they can read their teenagers’ emails or texts. Also they have GPS programs so they can determine where there teenager is and try to figure out what they are doing.

Teenagers are aware that their parents have software programs on their cellphones so they can read their emails or texts or use a GPS program to determine where they are and what they are doing. This usually makes teenagers upset that their parents do not trust them. Teenagers’ tell me if they want me to be responsible how can I be responsible if they do not give me a chance? Also most teenagers have found ways to bypass these programs or they have developed a Texting code so parents will not know what they are texting about to their friends.

Teens there are some facts you need to be realistic about too. You cannot demand that your parents treat you like adults, but if you get into trouble, you want mom and dad to fix it. If you want people to respect your choices and opinions, then you must be prepared to accept the consequences and reactions from other people regarding your choices and opinions. You cannot have it both ways.

The other fact that parents need to accept is you cannot control everything your teenager is doing. You can monitor your teen all you want, but if a teenager wants to do something they will figure out away to do it. Also if you want your teen to be responsible you have to learn to accept their decisions and the consequences that may result from their choices. Additionally, your teenager needs to learn their decisions have consequences and teenagers need to learn to accept the consequences for their actions.

What parents need to do is have a calm conversation with their teenager. During this conversation you discuss issues that your teenager will be facing such as alcohol, drugs, sex and their futures. Explain what you expect and what you are willing to do or not to do. Therefore, they may begin to understand what consequences they will face depending on the decisions they make. They also may start to understand that you will not always be able to solve their problems. If they want to be treated as adults, they need to be able to deal with the consequences of their actions.

This is an important lesson for teenagers to learn. They need to understand that their actions have consequences and they are responsible for dealing with these consequences. One consequence may be that as parents you may be upset with their decision. This is a consequence that they need to be able to accept. Not everyone is going to always accept or approve of your choices. Teenagers need to learn this fact. It is important that they understand that their choices have consequences and they are responsible for their choices.

It is important that parents learn to accept the fact that they cannot control their teenager’s choices all the time. Allowing them to learn from their poor choices is the best way for them to learn responsibility. It is also away for parents to learn to allow their teenagers to grow up and be responsible adults. Yes at times this may be difficult, but parents need to be realistic that they cannot control their teenager. Also it is better if they make mistakes before they are 18 years old. Typically these mistakes can be resolved easier if they are under 18 years old. When they are 18 years old or older, they face the same consequences as a grown adult not the consequences teenagers face. Parents it is important to remember that part of your teenager becoming an adult is allowing them to make choices and to learn from those choices. Also the time to start educating them about choices and right and wrong is when your child is in elementary school. If you wait until they are teenagers, they think they know more than they do and they are less likely to listen to you.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their families. He is considered an expert working with teenagers. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3.

Gratitude is A Daily Lesson for Teenagers

Gratitude is A Daily Lesson for Teenagers

We live in an area where most kids have more than they need. For example, most fifth graders have Smartphones, IPads and laptops. However, many parents worry are they providing their children with enough. Many parents are so worried about if the teen or child has enough that they often don’t realize how fortunate most children are in this area.

While parents are worrying about meeting the needs of their teens so they have they same amount of stuff as other kids, they often forget to teach their teens about gratitude. Yes it is very important to meet a child’s basic needs, but it is also important that teens are grateful for what they do have and the sacrifices their parents make for them.

Gratitude is an important lesson and gift for children. What some parents may want to do is instead of buying your child a large number of things is to teach their child about gratitude. In the United States, we have many children who are homeless and hungry. Yes, in the United States, we do have homeless children. We also have many children who have more toys than they need and are unaware that there are children who are homeless in our Country. Therefore, think about taking you and your family to the to buy children who cannot afford them back to school supplies. May be you and your family can donate some time at a homeless shelter or cleaning out your closets and donate items you are no longer using to the Salvation Army. While doing these things, teach your child about the fact that there are others in need and to appreciate what they have in their lives. Also that giving can be more important than receiving.

Furthermore, I read an article by Joshua Becker and he listed gifts that parents give to their children every day and that children usually do not forget these gifts. I think it is important for parents to remember the daily priceless gifts we give children daily. Especially when your teen tries to make you feel guilty because other parents give their teens more.

Here are some of Joshua Becker’s thoughts. I have countless memories. Very few childhood memories actually include the things I received. I distinctly remember the year that I got a blue dirt bike, the evening my brother and I received a Nintendo, and opening socks every year from my grandparents. But other than that, my gift-receiving memories are pretty sparse. Which got me thinking… what type of gifts can we give to our children that they will never forget? What gifts will truly impact their lives and change them forever?

To that end, here is an alphabetical list.

35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget:

1. Affirmation. Sometimes one simple word of affirmation can change an entire life. So make sure your children know how much you appreciate them. And then, remind them every chance you get.

2. Art. With the advent of the Internet, everyone who wants to create… can. The world just needs more people who want to…

3. Challenge. Encourage your child to dream big dreams. In turn, they will accomplish more than they thought possible… and probably even more than you thought possible.

4. Compassion/Justice. Life isn’t fair. It never will be – there are just too many variables. But when a wrong has been committed or a playing field can be leveled, I want my child to be active in helping to level it.

5. Contentment. The need for more is contagious. Therefore, one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is an appreciation for being content with what they have… but not with who they are.

6. Curiosity. Teach your children to ask questions about who, what, where, how, why, and why not. “Stop asking so many questions” are words that should never leave a parents’ mouth.

7. Determination. One of the greatest determining factors in one’s success is the size of their will. How can you help grow your child’s today?

8. Discipline. Children need to learn everything from the ground-up including appropriate behaviors, how to get along with others, how to get results, and how to achieve their dreams. Discipline should not be avoided or withheld. Instead, it should be consistent and positive.

9. Encouragement. Words are powerful. They can create or they can destroy. The simple words that you choose to speak today can offer encouragement and positive thoughts to another child. Or your words can send them further into despair. So choose them carefully.

10. Faithfulness to your Spouse. Faithfulness in marriage includes more than just our bodies. It also includes our eyes, mind, heart, and soul. Guard your sexuality daily and devote it entirely to your spouse. Your children will absolutely take notice.

11. Finding Beauty. Help your children find beauty in everything they see… and in everyone they meet.

12. Generosity. Teach your children to be generous with your stuff so that they will become generous with theirs.

13. Honesty/Integrity. Children who learn the value and importance of honesty at a young age have a far greater opportunity to become honest adults. And honest adults who deal truthfully with others tend to feel better about themselves, enjoy their lives more, and sleep better at night.

14. Hope. Hope is knowing and believing that things will get better and improve. It creates strength, endurance, and resolve. And in the desperately difficult times of life, it calls us to press onward.

15. Hugs and Kisses. I once heard the story of a man who told his 7-year old son that he had grown too old for kisses. I tear up every time I think of it. Know that your children are never too old to receive physical affirmation of your love for them.

16. Imagination. If we’ve learned anything over the past 20 years, it’s that life is changing faster and faster with every passing day. The world tomorrow looks nothing like the world today. And the people with imagination are the ones not just living it, they are creating it.

17. Intentionality. I believe strongly in intentional living and intentional parenting. Slow down, consider who you are, where you are going, and how to get there. And do the same for each of your children.

18. Your Lap. It’s the best place in the entire world for a book, story, or conversation. And it’s been right in front of you the whole time.

19. Lifelong Learning. A passion for learning is different from just studying to earn a grade or please teachers. It begins in the home. So read, ask questions, analyze, and expose. In other words, learn to love learning yourself.

20. Love. …but the greatest of these is love.

21. Meals Together. Meals provide unparalleled opportunity for relationship, the likes of which can not be found anywhere else. So much so, that a family that does not eat together does not grow together.

22. Nature. Children who learn to appreciate the world around them take care of the world around them. As a parent, I am frequently asking my kids to keep their rooms inside the house neat, clean, and orderly. Shouldn’t we also be teaching them to keep their world outside neat, clean, and orderly?

23. Opportunity. Kids need opportunities to experience new things so they can find out what they enjoy and what they are good at. And contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t have to require much money.

24. Optimism. Pessimists don’t change the world. Optimists do.

25. Peace. On a worldwide scale, you may think this is out of our hands. But in relation to the people around you, this is completely within your hands… and that’s a darn good place to start.

26. Pride. Celebrate the little things in life. After all, it is the little accomplishments in life that become the big accomplishments.

27. Room to Make mistakes. Kids are kids. That’s what makes them so much fun… and so desperately in need of your patience. Give them room to experiment, explore, and make mistakes.

28. Self-Esteem. People who learn to value themselves are more likely to have self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. As a result, they are more likely to become adults who respect their values and stick to them… even when no one else is.

29. Sense of Humor. Laugh with your children everyday… for your sake and theirs.

30. Spirituality. Faith elevates our view of the universe, our world, and our lives. We would be wise to instill into our kids that they are more than just flesh and blood taking up space. They are also made of mind, heart, soul, and will. And decisions in their life should be based on more than just what everyone else with flesh and blood is doing.

31. Stability. A stable home becomes the foundation on which children build the rest of their lives. They need to know their place in the family, who they can trust, and who is going to be there for them. Don’t keep changing those things.

32. Time. The gift of time is the one gift you can never get back or take back. So think carefully about who (or what) is getting yours.

33. Undivided Attention. Maybe this imagery will be helpful: Disconnect to Connect.

34. Uniqueness. What makes us different is what makes us special. Uniqueness should not be hidden. It should be proudly displayed for all the world to see, appreciate, and enjoy.

35. A Welcoming Home. To know that you can always come home is among the sweetest and most life-giving assurances in all the world. Is your home breathing life into your child?

Of course, none of these gifts are on sale at your local department store. But, I think that’s the point.

Dr. Michael Rubino has 20 years experience working with teens and their parents. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work and his private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Hate is The Problem Not Mental Health

Hate is The Problem Not Mental Health

The United States has an epidemic of mass shootings. According to the CDC, there is a mass shooting every eight days. Furthermore, since Columbine 214,000 students have experienced a school shooting with over 141 students killed. With the shooting at the Gilory Garlic Festival, in El Paso, Texas, Daytona, Ohio and last night Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the statistics from the CDC seem to be right. Since the shooting in Parkland, Florida, teenagers have been marching and contacting Congress to pass sane gun laws. Unfortunately, their requests have been ignored. Instead, the President has decided to blame people who have mental health issues.

Today he again blamed people with mental health issues and said the answer is we need to build more mental health asylums. According to him, these people all need to be locked up. His idea and approach to these mass shootings has only served to increase the negative stigma about mental health issues and those people who are dealing with mental health issues. Besides the solution he proposed, the language he uses reinforces the negative stigma. He has referred to some of the shooters as “sick puppies.” These shooters who have committed these terrible crimes have done horrific things to families and communities, but they are still human beings.

His idea that all mass shooters have a mental illness is ignorant and wrong. Most mass shooters have been single, white males. Additionally, the Chairman of the American Psychiatric Association issued a statement last week documenting that most people with mental illness are dangers to themselves more than others. I have been treating people for various mental health issues for over 20 years. During that time I have dealt with many patients who were suicidal, cutting or burning themselves and trying to starve themselves. They were all hurting themselves and did not want anyone else to get hurt. I have never had a patient threaten to hurt others physically. Therefore, my work and the work of my other colleagues support the statement by the American Psychiatric Association. Patients with mental illnesses are rarely violent to others they tend to be dangerous to themselves.

Many people are afraid to seek help for themselves or their teenagers for fear of what will happen if they are diagnosed with a mental health issue such as depression. They are afraid of losing health insurance, not being able to get a job or their teen may not be able to get into a college. Overall they are afraid of becoming society outcasts and losing their rights. The way the President has referred to shooters as “sick puppies” has only served to reinforce the negative stigma about mental health issues. If he is saying people with mental health issues need to be locked up in asylums, people are going to be less likely to seek help. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for teenagers. If we take the President’s approach, it will become the number one cause of teenage deaths.

The President did get one aspect of the shootings right. He stated hate is involved. When these shooters are investigated they all have hate towards certain groups. These mass shootings are hate crimes. Hate crimes were created for people who are victims of a crime due to their ethnic background, religion or sexuality. To be charged with a hate crime you need to hate someone not be mentally ill. The Klu Klux Klan has been terrorizing and killing people for years due to someone’s ethnicity or religion. No one has ever called a member of the KKK mentally ill. People refer to the KKK and other groups like them as hate groups not mentally ill groups. So instead of blaming mass shootings on people who have mental illnesses, why don’t we address the source of the problem? Everyone of these shooters have left writings and social media posts showing their hate for a particular group and their plans to kill as many people as they can that belong to this group. Hate is the problem.

We do not need asylums to help people with mental health issues. We need more community based programs and we need insurance companies to cover the necessary treatment a person needs if they have a mental health issues. Most people are born with mental health issues such as depression or develop an issue such as PTSD or traumatic brain injury from a car accident or being exposed to a traumatic event. Therefore, mental health issues are really not that different than physical health issues except there is funding to treat physical health issues and not enough to treat mental health issues.

If you are dealing with a mental health issue, please ignore the President and seek treatment. You will not be put into an asylum. If you are having issues, the sooner you seek treatment the better. The only time a person is hospitalized is if you are actively suicidal. This means you have decided to kill yourself and have everything ready to do it. Otherwise, you do not need to worry about being hospitalized.

Please write your Senator and demand that they pass sane gun laws so children are safe to go to school. Also ask for stricter laws for perpetuators of hate crimes. Finally ask for funds for community mental health centers and mental health education. We need to educate the public about mental health issues so we can remove the stigma the President is promoting.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. He is also a founding member of the National Street Soldier Advisory Board, a community based program for teenagers. For more information about his work visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3

How to Avoid Arguments with Your Teenager

How to Avoid Arguments with Your Teenager

Teenagers at times like to get into power struggles. In addition to power struggles, teens tend to like to argue with their parents. If they get their parents into an argument most parents forget the main point of the discussion and the teenager wins. Since school will be starting soon and parents need to re-establish rules for school or establish new rules because their child is starting high school, there are likely to be a number of intense discussions between parents and teens.

It is important to remember that a teenager’s brain is not fully developed. The prefrontal cortex is still developing in teenagers. This part of the brain is responsible for reasoning and other executive functions such as making decisions. Therefore, while teenagers look mature enough to have a reasonable conversation, their brains may not be mature enough. Therefore, they are more likely to argue or be disrespectful. However, an argument is not always bad. There are ways to have a healthy argument and ways to have destructive, hurtful arguments. Most of us never learned how the have a healthy, reasonable disagreement.

Many people feel that a disagreement or fight is always a bad thing for a relationship. However, this is not true. If you handle a disagreement or argument fairly, it can be a very healthy thing for a relationship. It can help you overcome past miscommunications or help you to resolve a problem.

As I stated above, parents who are dealing with teenagers need to remember that for teenagers their Frontal Lobes in their brains are still developing. Therefore, they cannot always reason like adults and often have difficulties having fair disagreements. I have included a list by TherapyAid.com which explains fair fighting rules.

Yes this might sound odd, but you can have a disagreement that is fair. You do not always need to use insults or not listen to each other. By using these rules, you and your teenager may be able to resolve an issue or at least come to an understanding without saying things that will hurt one another.

Parents what I suggest is that you sit down with these rules with your teenager and discuss that you would like to start to using these rules in your family. Take the time and go over each rule so you both understand the rules. Also make a copy for yourself to keep, your teen to keep and a copy to put on the refrigerator to remind everyone. Remember, these rules will be a change for both of you so don’t be surprised if it takes you some time to get use to these rules and use them on a regular basis. Change usually never occurs over night.

While these rules are beneficial for parents and teenagers, these rules are also useful for couples too. Very few people in our society were brought up learning how to clearly communicate. Just look at how many arguments occur due to miscommunication if you need proof. For couples I would recommend the same steps as parents and teens. First sit down and go over the rules so you both have the same understanding of the rules and keep a copy for yourselves. The next time you have a disagreement practice using these rules. Keep practicing until you become comfortable using these rules. This way the entire family can start using these rules and hopefully improve communication within the family.

Fair Fighting Rules

1. Before you begin, ask yourself why you feel upset.

Are you truly angry because your partner left the mustard on the counter? Or are you upset because you feel like you’re doing an uneven share of the housework, and this is just one more piece of evidence? Take time to think about your own feelings before starting an argument.

2. Discuss one issue at a time.

“You shouldn’t be spending so much money without talking to me” can quickly turn into “You don’t care about our family”. Now you need to resolve two problems instead of one. Plus, when an argument starts to get off topic, it can easily become about everything a person has ever done wrong. We’ve all done a lot wrong, so this can be especially cumbersome.

3. No degrading language.

Discuss the issue, not the person. No put-downs, swearing, or name-calling. Degrading language is an attempt to express negative feelings while making sure your partner feels just as bad. This will just lead to more character attacks while the original issue is forgotten.

4. Express your feelings with words and take responsibility for them.

“I feel angry.” “I feel hurt when you ignore my phone calls.” “I feel scared when you yell.” These are good ways to express how you feel. Starting with “I” is a good technique to help you take responsibility for your feelings (no, you can’t say whatever you want as long as it starts with “I”).

5. Take turns talking.

This can be tough, but be careful not to interrupt. If this rule is difficult to follow, try setting a timer allowing 1 minute for each person to speak without interruption. Don’t spend your partner’s minute thinking about what you want to say. Listen!

6. No stonewalling.

Sometimes, the easiest way to respond to an argument is to retreat into your shell and refuse to speak. This refusal to communicate is called stonewalling. You might feel better temporarily, but the original issue will remain unresolved and your partner will feel more upset. If you absolutely cannot go on, tell your partner you need to take a time-out. Agree to resume the discussion later.

7. No yelling.

Sometimes arguments are “won” by being the loudest, but the problem only gets worse.

8. Take a time-out if things get too heated.

In a perfect world we would all follow these rules 100% of the time, but it just doesn’t work like that. If an argument starts to become personal or heated, take a time-out. Agree on a time to come back and discuss the problem after everyone has cooled down.

9. Attempt to come to a compromise or an understanding.

There isn’t always a perfect answer to an argument. Life is just too messy for that. Do your best to come to a compromise (this will mean some give and take from both sides). If you can’t come to a compromise, merely understanding can help soothe negative feelings.

Again, this might seem simple to some people, but communication problems are one of the biggest problems I encounter as a psychotherapist. We simply don’t educate children about clear communication, which creates problems when these children become adults and try to talk with each other. So don’t be embarrassed or assume you do not need help in this area. Simply read the rules and try them in your life and see what happens.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience and he specializes in treating teenagers, children and families. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/Drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoFamily.