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.

Facts About Teenagers and Underground Parties

Facts About Teenagers and Underground Parties

Many of people still remember and are grieving over the terrible fire in the Oakland Warehouse which resulted in a tragic loss of many lives. Many young lives were lost needlessly and many families and friends are still grieving because they lost a loved one. Unfortunately, this was a tragedy waiting to happen and it could happen again.

Summer is coming to an end and many teens are thinking about having to start high school soon. Others will be starting college so they are thinking about their upcoming move and not be able to spend as much time with their high school friends. Therefore, as summer comes to an end many teens are thinking about being able to spend as much time as possible with their friends handing out, going to parties and having a good time. Some of these parties they will be planning to attend are referred to as “underground parties.” Such as the one in the Oakland warehouse where so many people died in the tragic fire.

These “underground parties” are very common with teenagers and college students. The place of the parties are usually is posted the day before the party on Facebook or other social media sites that teenagers use. Typically these parties occur in warehouses in Oakland and San Francisco. The party organizers do not get permits nor do they consider safety. Typically at these parties there is a lot of alcohol and drugs such as ecstasy, pink, spice, wax, heroin etc. Therefore, the party organizers are looking for out of the way locations were they are unlikely to be detected by the police.

Many teenagers view these parties as fun because of the dancing and because typically these parties start late at night and go until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. Also since it is underground, if they want to drink or use any of the drugs they can. All they need is the money to buy it or a friend who is willing to buy it and no one will stop them.

Typically a teen will be looking on social media to find the underground parties for the weekend. Often while online they meet other people who are going and they often make plans to go with someone they just met online. Since the parties start usually after 10pm many parents don’t know if their teenager is going to an underground party or not. The teen usually says they are spending the night at a friends house and they sneak out of the friends house to go to the party.

I have had many teenagers tell me about these parties. When I point out the risk such as they don’t know anything about who set it up, the safety of the area or the people who will be there, they also have no idea about the people just met online. They have a tendency to say I’m over reacting or being too careful. I also mention they are taking a tremendous risk going to these parties a drinking anything or using any drugs. Again they have no idea what they are drinking or taking and how their body will respond to the substances. Again, teenagers tend to say that I am overly concerned and there is nothing to worry about because they have gone to these parties before and they know how to handle it.

However, the fire that occurred in the Oakland warehouse shows there is something to worry about. The organizer had no concerns about safety nor did he take responsibility for the fire and what happened. Furthermore, since it was done secretly no one knew for a long time who was there and if they were safe or not. Facebook posted a page for people to check in as safe. However, that didn’t help the families who were waiting to hear, if a loved one was safe or not.

Parents this time of the summer is an excellent time to sit down with your teenager and talk about these “underground parties.” Teenagers have a lot of free time during the summer and they feel entitled to be able to party because they will school is starting soon and some of their friends are leaving for college. Therefore, since they have a short amount of time to be together with all their friends, they also have a right to party and have a good time. Discuss the dangers associated with these parties. Teenagers may argue about the fact that these parties are safe, but point to the Oakland party as an example that these parties are not always safe. Discuss with your teen other places they can go with their friends to have a good time without taking such a big risk.

Parents we also need to put pressure on the authorities to hold the owner of these warehouses and party organizers responsible for what happens at these parties. The Oakland fire was a horrific event. In addition to the building may not be safe, many kids overdose at these parties. Many of these teens die because no one wants to call the police or everyone is so busy dancing and using that they don’t notice if someone has overdosed. Again, the organizer is never held responsible.

One last point, parents when you discuss the “underground parties” with your teenagers use the Oakland fire as proof that bad things can and do happen to teenagers. Many teenagers feel safe taking chances with their lives because they don’t believe anything will happen to them. The tragedy in Oakland proves something can happen.

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

Issues Related to Teenagers and Their Cellphones

Issues Related to Teenagers and Their Cellphones

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 IphoneXR.

School will be starting soon and 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. 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 children is how much and where the being a parent is not a popularity contest. 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.

You Don’t Treat Me With Any Respect

You Don’t Treat Me With Any Respect

This article is slightly different from my other articles. This article is written for teenagers. School is starting soon and many teens will be starting middle school or High School. Since they have advanced in school they often feel entitled to more freedom. This is a common argument I hear where teens feel they are being disrespected.

Parents while the target audience for this article is teenagers, you may find some of the issues I mention helpful when speaking with your teen. You may be able to use this article as a way to start a discussion with your teen about your house rules and respect.

In my office, I hear daily from teenagers how they feel disrespected by their parents. This is common problem between teens and their parents. Teenagers feel disrespected by their parents and that their parents treat them like children. Sometimes this may be true, but overall teens are expecting too much from their parents.

Yes it is true that as teenagers you are becoming young adults and that you should be able to handle more responsibility. The big word in that last sentence is SHOULD. Just because you turn 13 or 16 doesn’t mean you are in charge of your life. You are a YOUNG adult. Noticed I capitalized the word young. There are still a number of life experiences for you to learn and until you do, your parents are responsible for you.

A number of you have heard your parents say when you are 18 you can do as you like and that is the truth. Prior to you turning 18, any trouble you get into, your parents are responsible for it. If you damage property, your parents are legally responsible. If you get arrested and put in Juvenile Hall, your parents receive a bill from the County for the length a time you were in Juvenile Hall.

You may think that you do not need your parents, but you need their permission to drive and basically for anything you want to do. Even if they give you permission to drive and you get your license, they have the ability to have your driver’s license suspended at any time they want while you are under the age of 18. Also if your parents are divorced, both parents must sign the consent for your driver’s license. You cannot play your parents against each other to get your driver’s license.

As I started off, now that you are a teenager you SHOULD be able to handle more responsibility. This responsibility is not an automatic gift you receive when you turn 13. This respect you so desperately want is something you have to earn. How do you earn it? You earn it by respecting the rules that your parents have set and by taking care of your responsibilities – for a teen, your primary responsibility is school. This means going to school on a regular basis, doing your homework and turning it in, earning decent grades and not making poor choices such as drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes, marijuana or vaporizing. You may say this is unfair, well welcome to the adult world.

Ask your parents how many times they have to do something at work they feel is unfair, but if they want their job they have to do it. Ask your parents how many days they get up tired or not feeling well and they would prefer to stay home from work, but they still go to work. They go to work because the have a family to support and bills to pay. Your parents want you to succeed in life. If you feel they really are not giving you enough freedom, then ask your parents if you can discuss this issue with them. However, ask in a mature, respectful manner do not demand a conversation. When you discuss the issue with your parents have some things you have been doing, e.g., your homework, respecting curfew, that demonstrate you can handle more responsibility. Do not just demand it because your friends have it.

Remember the respect and maturity that you want, you must earn. You earn it by respecting your parents, other adults and recognizing that you have responsibilities. You do not get it because you turned 13 or because your friends have it. This can be a difficult time of life, but it can be a time when you learn a lot about the world and yourself. If you remember you need to earn your parents trust and you actively try to do so, your parents will work with you and start to trust you. The choice is yours, you can make your teen years difficult or make them easier by working with your parents – you decide.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers. He has over 20 years experience working with teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work with teenagers or his private practice visit his websites http://www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Take Your IEP to College with You

Take Your IEP to College with You

Working with children and adolescents I have had many parents ask about 504 plans and Individual Educational Plans (IEP). Parents tend to focus on the assistance their child may need in elementary or high school due to a learning disability or mental health issues. Over 20 years as a psychotherapist, what I have observed is that children who need assistance in elementary and high school typically need assistance in college. However, many students are not aware that they are entitled to assistance in College too. Right now many students are preparing to leave home and start their new lives in college. Parents are trying to anticipate what their child will need at college, such as laptop etc. However, do not forget their Individual Educational Plan (IEP) so they can arrange for accommodations at their college.

From my experience, most families assume there is no assistance in college. However, typically if a child has an IEP, they are also entitled to assistance in college. Most colleges in their Counseling departments have people and programs designated to help disabled students. A student with a physical or learning disability or mental health issue such as ADHD or depression would qualify for assistance by the Disabled Students Program at a college. I have recently been receiving many questions from Parents about what happens to their child’s IEP when the go to college and questions from parents who have college freshmen asking about their child’s IEP. Therefore, I thought it would be beneficial to provide information about how IEPs are handled by colleges. In addition to an IEP, any student with a learning disability or mental health issue is entitled to accommodations by their college because they are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991.

Additionally, if you live in California and you have a physical or learning disability or a mental health issue and if you had or did not have an IEP while in school, you may qualify to be a client of the California Department of Rehabilitation. This Department is responsible for assisting people in California, with a disability, find a job and get the education they may need to find a job. The Department may assist their clients by providing tuition assistance for community or state colleges and provide financial assistance to buy text books and school supplies. What they are able to do depends on the State budget.

This is another reason for parents to insist when their child does need an IEP that the school district places the child on an IEP. The lies schools tell parents that an IEP will prevent their child from getting into a college, the military or getting a job are not true. Another reason to insist on the IEP, if your child qualifies for an IEP, as a result of having an IEP, your child can be granted accommodations on the SAT or ACT. These are tests seniors typically need to take when they are applying to four year universities. The common accommodation most students require is additional time to complete the tests. I have had many teens with ADHD come to me seeking accommodations on the SAT or ACT. A common requirement that the testing boards require is that a student needs to have had an IEP if they are seeking accommodations on these tests.

Therefore, many students who have disabilities or mental health issues can receive assistance in college. While many people may be surprised, it is true. However, for many college students finding the assistance can be confusing and overwhelming. For a Freshman in college, dealing with heath or mental health issues, the confusion and embarrassment the feel at times because of society’s stereotypes can cause students to give up. The best place for a college freshman to start is the student counseling center. They can then direct them to the correct department and they can avoid some of the embarrassment and confusion.

Also I was contacted by bettercollege.com with a resource guide they developed for college students with mental health issues. While their guide was created for students with mental health issues, it can also be used as a guide for students with physical or learning disabilities. This guide can help a student not feel so overwhelmed or embarrassed too.

Since I feel this is a valuable guide to Freshman students and their families, I am including a link to this resource guide below:

Guide to College Planning for Psychiatrically Impaired Students – https://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/college-planning-with-psychiatric-disabilities/

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience working with children, teenagers and college students. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit one of his web sites http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or http://www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Information About Teenage Gangs

Information About Teenage Gangs

There are many ideas people have about gangs especially who they are and what they do. People have ideas of how gangs function from movies such as, The Outsiders, or from plays such as, West Side Story. Also the President has made numerous comments about, MS-13. This the gang most people know about and have ideas about. However, there are many gangs around and with High School, Middle School and College starting soon, gangs will be targeting new members. Lisa Ling’s episode on CNN explains the myths and the truths about the gang issue.

For parents of teenagers it’s important that you watch this episode. You need to be aware of how this gang targets certain teenagers to join their gang. Most teenagers have no idea what they are getting into. However, once they are in the gang it is almost impossible to get out alive. Many teens who join do not feel accepted at home or school. They feel like they are failures at life. The gang gives them a sense of pride and acceptance. The attraction for the teenager is this gang will always accept them and it feels like love to them. Additionally, it gives them a sense of pride and they no longer feel like a failure.

While this is not true, a teenager who is desperate for acceptance and tired of feeling worthless is a teenager the gang targets. The gang is able to emotionally manipulate the teen because of the emotional pain the teenager is feeling. The teens who are feeling emotionally isolated may come from a physically abusive environment or they may not feel accepted at home. They may have a learning disability and believe they are a disappointment to their families. Teenagers with ADHD and other learning disabilities are targets for gangs. They are targets because they feel they do not fit in with the “normal” kids and they are a disappointment to their families. Therefore, when a gang or a group of guys approach them, they are somewhat excited because someone is interested. The rules for belonging is just go a long with what everyone else is doing and you are part of our group. They feel accepted by others and that they are important as a person. Furthermore, it removes the stigma that they are a nobody and they feel like they are a success.

The guys in the group encourage this feeling. If someone at school puts them down the other guys defend them. If parents criticize them or are abusive, the guys provide emotional support and a place to stay. These guys, this gang has become their family. As a result, many teenagers find themselves committed to this gang and doing what the gangs expect them too. In the Alive and Free Program we refer to these type of relationships as “fearships.” You are there and stay there because you are afraid of what will happen if you don’t go along with a group. A “friendship” or friend would never encourage you to do something that is not good for you or you could get into serious trouble for doing. However, some teens don’t start to see reality until they are in the group and they see this is not a family and they are being used. The problem is many teenagers realize this reality to late. Trying to leave can cost them their lives so many teens resign themselves to a life as a gang member. Therefore, it is important for parents to know how these gangs operate so they can try to protect their teenager.

I have included a link to this show below. It is a very good documentary and will provide explains of how gangs act. It is easier to understand the mentality seeing it in action. As a psychotherapist I hear teenagers discuss gangs and not understand what they are considering. If you are concerned that your teen is becoming involved with a gang or maybe a target for a gang, please make an appointment with a psychotherapist who specializes in gangs. However, with the help of family and professionals hopefully we can save some teenagers. Please watch this episode https://youtu.be/A_01ADA6iok.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience working with teenagers. He is a founding member of the National Alive and Free Advisory Board and is a guest cohost for the Street Soldier Radio Program. For more information about his work and private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.