Teenagers Need to Know They are Important

Teenagers Need to Know They are Important

I have many teenagers who see me for therapy believing that no one loves them and that they are worthless. They tell me their parents don’t love them, their siblings don’t care about them and no one at school cares about them. They feel they are unloveable and no one cares if they live or die. Because they have this belief, they don’t care about themselves. They don’t care how they are doing in school and they see no future for themselves. As a result they don’t care what happens to them either.

There are many reasons why children have this feeling about themselves. For some their parents were drug addicts, for some were sexually or physically abused, some have gone from foster home to foster home their entire lives. As a result, they see no hope and no future for themselves. The most important point is not why teenagers have developed this attitude about themselves, it’s that they have this attitude. We need to look at what this belief will do to these teenagers and their lives.

Many teenagers who feel unlovable turn to drugs or alcohol to numb these feelings. Some turn to self-mutilating behaviors, such as cutting, again as a way to numb these feelings or as a way of punishing themselves. Often teenagers become sexually active at an very early age. They equate sex with love. Also many of these teens become involved with gangs and bullying. The gangs serve as a psedufamily for the teenagers. In fact, gangs consider their members as family members. Bullying is another way teens numb out their pain. They believe by making someone else look weak that it makes them look strong and people will respect them and love them. Also they can it is a way they feel they can hide from other that they feel worthless.

The above stated behaviors are a few ways that teenagers deal with feeling unlovable. However, the number of teenagers who feel this way are creating numerous problems for everyone. As a result of teens feeling unlovable, we have a severe drug problem in the teenage population. Teenagers are dying from accidental drug over dosages at an epidemic rate. According to the CDC the number of teens using drugs, such as heroin and meth, is at an epidemic rate. Cutting, suicide and being murdered are all at epidemic rates for teenagers (CDC). All because many of them don’t feel loved.

We are receiving this message in many ways that teenagers need to feel loved. In Disney’s movie, Frozen, they mention that people make poor choices and do hurtful things because they feel unloved. The movie goes further to say that if people feel loved you would be amazed at how they can change. Oprah in her last show commented on one thing she had learned from her show was that everyone wants to know that they are important to someone and that someone sees them and cares about what they say and do. Challenge Day, a program designed to work with teenagers, believes all teens deserve to feel loved and cared for by people. I have worked with Challenge Day and I am amazed every time that this big, tough teenager ends up crying on the floor when he realizes that someone cares. Teenagers are trying very hard to let us know they need to be loved when they act out. I have teenagers telling me they are willing to take a chance of overdosing just so they can escape the pain of feeling abandoned and unloved. It is heartbreaking to hear a teen tell you this as they try to hide the fact that they are crying.

We know love makes a difference to many people so why not teenagers? The teenagers I work with don’t really want to be the tough guy. They want to know that they are loved. When I tell a teen I’m working with in therapy that they deserve to be loved, they think I’m crazy. They test me in numerous ways to get me to throw them out of my office. They are testing the point I made that they are lovable. They try everything they can think of to prove me wrong. However, in reality they are hoping to fail and prove that I am right that they are lovable. So, I hold strong and tell them I won’t change my mind and I will not give up. I will not throw them out of therapy. If they decide to walk out that is their choice and I can’t stop it, but I will not throw them out because I know they are worthy of being loved. I also let them know if they do walk out that my door will always be opened to them.

After testing me, many of these teens decide they are worth it and decide to make a future for themselves. It is amazing to see and it is very nice to see. However, there are those teenagers who walk out and that is very disappointing. It’s not disappointing because I lost it is disappointing because the teenager will continue to live in pain.

The main point is that Challenge Day, Alive and Free (another program for teens) and other therapists like myself cannot be the only ones trying to help teenagers. We need everyone to help. Parents, teachers, physicians, psychotherapists, the juvenile justice system and our communities. We need to let children know from the day that they are born that they deserve to be loved and that they are important members of our society. We cannot continue to wait until these children are teenagers to tell them they are lovable. Waiting until they are teenagers may be too late and the teen may not believe you. If we start when they are babies, they will grow up with a sense that they are important and deserved to be loved. This could help reduce how many teens turn to drugs or violence.

So, think about how you can show a teenager that they deserve to be loved and that they are important. If everyone starts with one teenager, you would be surprised the changes we can make in someone’s life and the world.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience treating teenagers. If you want more information about Dr. Rubino visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

The High School Prom in 2020

The High School Prom in 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teenagers and Valentine’s Day

Teenagers and Valentine’s Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teenagers and Dating Relationships

Teenagers and Dating Relationships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The purpose of this day is to honor the memory of Dr. King and his message of acceptance and tolerance. However, are we honoring his memory and message? An argument could be made that no we are not honoring him or his message. In fact, you can say we have forgotten his message. Hate crimes have been increasing and antisemitic acts have increased significantly. Some people are trying to find out why, but the Executive Branch appears to be ignoring these changes.

In addition to an increase in hate crimes, we have had mass shootings targeting people who were homosexual or Jewish. This does not honor Dr. King and his message of love and acceptance.

If we are not honoring his message, what are we teaching children born after the year 2000? These children never had a chance to be exposed to Dr. King’s message nor have they seen the discrimination that has occurred in the past. Many teenagers are wearing shirts or getting tattoos with racist symbols. Many of these teens have no idea what these symbols really mean. For many people we have felt we made a great deal of progress in our country regarding race relations. In fact, we had an African-America President. Therefore, some people have feel we qdo not need to teach children about past discrimination.

However, discrimination based on race, color, creed, sexuality and physical ability is very much alive in the United States. We do need to teach children about Hitler and the Holocaust. We need to teach children about the White Supremest. We need to educate our children about their message and their symbols they use. We also need to educate children about how easily these people can come back and that discrimination still exist in the United States.

Dr. King’s message was to accept everyone and respect their human dignity. We have no right to judge someone based on race, color, creed, sexuality or physical ability. We are all human beings and deserve to be treated respectfully. He did point out that there are people who will decide to judge and hate others based on differences. Dr. King, like Ghandi before him, pointed out that we accept these people too. They are still people even though they are choosing to be cruel to others.

While he told people to acknowledge these people as human beings, he did not say to accept their hate. His message, like Ghandi, was nonviolence. You can accept the person without being cruel to them because of their message. Dr. King believed the power of love is stronger than the power of hate. Finding away to accept and love those who judge you is the strongest way of fighting the hate in their hearts.

If we look around, this message is still be taught to children. As adults we need to reinforce it. The Disney movie Frozen is an example. In the movie it teaches children how if someone does not feel love they will act out and make poor decisions. It also teaches that “love will thaw.” In other words, love is a stronger force than hate and can eliminate hate. This movie also looks at judging people based on differences. So here is a modern day example of Dr. King’s message. Love and acceptance will triumph over hate. As adults we need to reinforce this message to our children.

The High School Musical movies, by Disney, teach kids to accept people for who they are, not based on stereotypes. Therefore, a very smart girl can be pretty and a great dancer. A boy who is great at basketball can also enjoy baking and be a great baker too. These are great examples of accepting people for who they are and who they were meant to be. This is Dr. Martin Luther King’s message.

It is very important that we do so at this time in our country. We have people killing people due to the color of the skin, their religion or sexuality. This is not what Dr. King was teaching us. We have people in our government who want to treat people differently because of their color, religion or sexuality. Again this is not Dr. King’s message. Dr. King did not want us to hate these people either. He encouraged all of us to accept and love each other. Love can triumph over hate. It has in the past and it can again.

Therefore, in order to honor Dr. King and his message sit down with your children and teenagers and educate them about Dr. King’s message. Love is stronger than hate. I have included one of his quotes at the top of this blog that you can use.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. He is also one of the founding members of the National Alive and Free Board. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

The Good News is You are not Crazy, You have a Teenager

The Good News is You are not Crazy, You have a Teenager

Many parents of teenagers feel like they are going crazy. One day their teen is acting like an adult and like they don’t need a parent and the next their teen is acting like a child and cannot live without parents. It becomes very frustrating to many parents because they never know how their teen will be acting that day.

Many parents feel like they cannot win because if they treat their teen like an adult that is the day their teen is acting like a child. Besides not knowing what mood their teen will be in, parents get tired of their teens being angry at them because their parents guessed the wrong mood. Well parents, you are not crazy and the confusion you are feeling is real. Teens do switch from acting mature to acting child like very quickly and very often. It has nothing to do with how you are parenting your teen, it has to do with their biology.

The Prefrontal Cortex in teenagers is not fully developed yet. As a result, you see and experience the mood swings in your teens that we just described. The Prefrontal Cortex is the part of the brain that is responsible for reasoning skills and the ability to make mature consistent decisions. One of the best ways that I have seen to deal with this situation is make no assumptions. When dealing with your teen see what mood they are in and respond accordingly. As your teen is getting older make suggestions how they could have looked at the situation or sit down with them and discuss how they made their decision. The most important thing is to remember they are not doing it on purpose, it is part of the process they need to go through as they become adults. They need to learn how to make rational, mature decisions. Right now when dealing with a teen, the best thing as a parent can do is to take a deep breath and assess the situation. The way you respond to them is modeling how to act like an adult. Also this will reduce fights in the family and improve communication. If you remember back to when they were toddlers you did not expect them to understand everything because they were a little child. Just because physically your teen may look and can physically act like an adult doesn’t mean that emotionally they are adults. Remember they are still maturing and need your help. A little understanding can go a long way.

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience specializing in the mental health issues and providing psychotherapy for adolescents. He also has a private practice in Pleasant Hill. You can learn more about his work or private practice by visiting his web site http://www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

How to Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed by Christmas

How to Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed by Christmas

The Holiday Season is here and people are stressing about buying gifts and spending the day with relatives. For many people this Holidays are a happy time and for others it is a stressful time. The Holidays can be stressful because they may bring up family issues that have not been resolved yet or everyone is trying to make the day prefect that it becomes a stressful day not a happy one. Also parents are concerned how their children will act around the entire family and what will happen if their child receives a gift they do not want?

Thanksgiving has passed and next we have Christmas. Parents you can start by looking at what occurred on Thanksgiving. Overall we’re you happy with it or are there somethings that you would like to change?

Next after you have assessed how the day went sit down with your children and ask for their opinions. Also ask about what their expectations are for Christmas. It is especially important to discuss this point with teenagers. Are they expecting to spend Christmas Eve and Day with the family or are they expecting to spend time with friends and girlfriends or boyfriends. It is important to settle this issue before Christmas. By discussing expectations and trying to accommodate everyone’s wishes, you can avoid arguments. However, many times you cannot accommodate everyone’s wishes and as the parents you may need to make the judgement call. If this occurs explain to your teenager you know they may be mad, but you hope they can understand and you would appreciate their cooperation. May be you make arrangements for them to spend time with their friends the day before or after Christmas.

The next discussion is gifts. Explain to your children the point of Christmas is to appreciate and to be grateful for the people in your life and what you do have in your life. Therefore, if your grandparents give you something you do not like, be grateful that they thought about you and say thank you. Try not to make faces or act disappointed and hurt your grandparents feelings. Again remind them the Holidays are a time to be grateful for what you have in your life.

Reminding your children about being grateful leads us into the next tip for decreasing Holiday Stress. Lori Lite who writes about stress uses the acronym G-R-A-T-E-F-U-L as her Holiday stress guide. It helps her and others get through the day in a peaceful manner. Each letter reminds you of something to do or a way to view the day so you do not get upset.

So here is how to use Gratitude as your Holiday Stress Reliever.

G- Gratitude is the opposite of stress. It is difficult to feel stressed out when we are feeling gratitude.

R- Relax your expectations and let the day unfold. You might be surprised by the outcome.

A- Acceptance is the opposite of judgment. If we accept our family member for who they are and what they are capable of we can relax and enjoy ourselves.

T- Teens can be a part of the Holidays. Ask them what they would like to contribute to the evening or day. Let them what they feel they can contribute.

E- Empower children and let them help with age appropriate assignments. Putting the nuts out or making the centerpiece. Let them do it their way…not your way.

F– Focus on family for this day. Put all work and worries on the shelf

U– Unplug the electronics for dinner so that everyone can be fully present.

L- Love is often overlooked when we are busy. Be present with love… Speak with love… Show your love and gratitude for your family during this Holiday time.

This might seem very simple and obvious, but at times the best solutions are rather simple. Also you may want to practice using this in your daily life. It may seem simple, but it may be harder to do than you think because you are accustomed to doing things and viewing life in a certain way. This idea may challenge you to reassess how you approach life in general.

Many of us are not use to looking at our lives in terms of what we have to be grateful for. Also many of us have a hard time relaxing and not worrying about work or other things we need to do. I have found that just being in the moment is difficult for most people. Most of us believe we always have to be doing something. This creates stress and disappointment. Finally, since we feel we must always be doing something, disconnecting from cellphones and other electronics can be very difficult for the children and for adults too. However, think about it? How can you have fun and enjoy the day with your family, if your mind is not fully present? You can’t. Furthermore, this can create tension for others because they feel ignored and for you because you feel they don’t respect how important what you are doing at the moment is to you. As a result, you have stress which can turn into an argument and everyone is upset. A day of happiness becomes a day of anger and disappointment.

If you notice you are getting angry or your teenager is getting angry use the acronym HALT:

H – hunger, do not try to discuss a difficult situation if you or your teen are hungry.

A – anger, if it is obvious someone is angry give them time to calm down before discussing an issue. Pushing a discussion when someone is angry will only result in making a bad situation worse.

Lonely – lonely, if someone is feeling down or alone again pushing them to talk can make it worse. Let them know when they are ready you are there to listen.

Tired – tired, trying to have a conversation with a tired teenager can turn into an argument fast. Wait until they are ready to talk. There is no need to make a bad situation worse.

Therefore, in order to avoid the possibility of an unpleasant Holiday for everyone try to

use the words GRATEFUL and HALT as guidelines for the day. What do you have to lose?

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

Children and Holiday Gift Issues

Children and Holiday Gift Issues

At this time of year most people are worried about finishing Christmas shopping before Christmas and buying the right gifts for everyone. People also worry about how much to spend and who to buy a gift for. While we have these worries so do many of our family members and friends. It is especially difficult for families who cannot afford to spend money on gifts because they can barley afford the rent. We need to remember how much someone spends on a gift is not the point. The thought is what is important. Someone can make a gift and that gift is just as important as the gift someone bought. Parents need to educate children about this fact and model appropriate behavior for children.

One of the most awkward situation is what to do when someone receives a gift they don’t like or want. This is even more of a sensitive situation when a child or teenager receives a gift they don’t want. It is more difficult because children and teenagers often do not have the social skills to cope with the situation.

All of these worries regarding gifts can ruin Christmas for people. We should be more concerned about spending time with the people who are important to us not gifts.

This is a lesson parents need to teach to their children. The Holidays are not about gifts, they are about love.

In preparing for this article I found as list by Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. which deals with this issue. She outlined the topic in away to make it easy for parents to use with their children. I have included her points below:

▪ Be sure the adults model gratitude and courtesy.It’s impossible to teach children to be gracious if they are watching their parents and other role models behave badly. Raising children well often means cleaning up our own acts. When we remember to regularly say please and thank you and demonstrate our gratitude both for the gifts we receive and the givers who enrich our lives by their very presence, we provide our children with powerful lessons in both politeness and love. When we thank our children for presents they give us — whether it is a drawing they made or something they purchased — we show them how good it makes people feel to be appreciated.

▪ Talk to your child about what giving is all about. Ideally, it is an act of love and caring. It’s a way people say, “You’re special to me. I want to make you happy.” Even when a gift is a disappointment, the intention was to please.

▪ Kids as young as 5 can learn to figure out something positive to say about a disappointing gift.Finding a reason to be grateful when it would be so much easier to get upset is an invaluable life skill. At age 8, Jocey’s son could have said, “I’ll like playing with this fire truck with my little brother.” (At only 3, my son was too young to be that sophisticated when confronted with the robot though he surprised us all by finding a way to make it less scary.) Give your kids some practice by imagining together some outrageous “gifts” and thinking about what positive things they could say to compliment the gift or the giver.

▪ Teach them that if they can’t find something to like about the gift, they can always focus on the love. Someone loved them enough to think about what to get, to go to the store to buy it, and to wrap it up and deliver it. They can always tell the person that it makes them feel good and special that someone went to all that trouble.

▪ Emphasize that it’s never, ever, okay to hurt the giver’s feelings. They mustn’t poke fun at the gift or embarrass the giver — even if the giver isn’t there to hear it. Laughing at another’s expense isn’t being funny. It’s just unkind. If those unkind comments get back to the person, it can damage the relationship.

▪ Reassure your children that if they really, honestly don’t like a gift, they can quietly come to you later to talk about it. Often gifts can be exchanged or a parent can tactfully help the giver better understand what would be a better choice at another time. And sometimes at least, what at first seemed like the most inappropriate, useless gift ever can become a dear reminder of the person who gave it.

While how a child might respond to gift is an issue, buying gifts can be an issue. Also regifting can be an issue. Again gift buying and regifting can become major issues for some families. In an attempt to avoid this issue, I have included a link regarding gift giving and receiving etiquette. I think it can help many families with some common gift buying and receiving issues. http://www.designsponge.com/20…

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

Facts about Teenage Domestic Violence

Facts about Teenage Domestic Violence

We often think about adults when we think about or hear about domestic violence. However, physically, emotionally and verbally abusive relationships occur in teenage relationships too. While reviewing this subject I came upon a video discussing the Stockholm Syndrome or trauma bonding. This typically involves a relationship with someone who is narcissistic. However, while listening to it, the video describes my experience treating adults and teens who are in abusive relationships. I think the video makes it very clear what occurs in an abusive relationship and why they can be difficult to get out of an abusive relationship. Here is the link for the video https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pUKgIXHD278.

The video mentions four major warning signs. The warning signs to watch for are:

1. The person being abused feels threatened by their partner.

2. The partner does nice things to entice the person to be in the relationship.

3. The partner isolates the person from friends and family. They want you do only listen to them to depend on them. If you have plans to do something without your partner, they will sabotage your plans. They don’t want you anywhere without them.

4. The person is afraid of ending the relationship because the partner may become upset and this is scary to the person trying to leave. The partner will usually do something nice at this point to confuse you and keep you in the relationship

These are the major warning signs. Typically at the beginning of the relationship everyone thinks the abuser is a very nice person. This only further confuses the victim when they try to leave the relationship.

Over time people start to notice some of the isolation and people very close to the victim notice something is not right. However, the abuser will then do something nice and this confuses the victim, especially a teenager. They are not sure what to do. Also the video mentions male victims too. Yes men and young men can become in abusive relationships too. A girl can be physically, verbally and emotionally abusive. If a teenage boy is involved in an abusive relationship, they can find it very difficult to admit. They feel very embarrassed because they were abused by a girl. They are young men and according to the outdated male stereotype, they should be strong enough to handle a girl. Also maybe the partner is a guy. So besides admitting they are in an abusive relationship, they may need to admit to family and friends that they are homosexual before they are ready. Think about it, this is a lot for a teenage boy to deal with at one time.

How common is the issue? According to the CDC, 1 in 11 high school girls report being in an abusive relationship. Also according to the CDC, 1 in 15 high school boys report being in an abusive relationship. These numbers are probably higher in reality. The are most likely higher because many teenagers think you can’t be in an abusive relationship in high school or they are not aware what an abusive relationship is. Another reason the numbers are probably higher is that many teenagers don’t want to admit they are in an abusive relationship. Regardless of the numbers, abusive relationships do exist in high school. Besides physical, emotional and verbal abuse, there is sexual abuse in high school. A person is physically forced to do or made to feel guilty into performing a sexual act they do not want to. If physical force is used, we are looking at rape. However, many teens use verbal and emotional abuse to get their girlfriend or boyfriend to engage in a sexual act they do not want to do. This is another reason teens may not report an abusive relationship because they feel ashamed about what they did. They brains have not developed enough so they can understand it was not their fault.

So we know abusive relationships occur in high school, what do we do? First, parents talk to your teens and explain they are normal if they do not have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Teenagers are desperate to fit in and most believe they must be dating and have a boyfriend or girlfriend to be normal. They also believe being sexually active is normal in high school. Explain everyone is different and what they see on television is not reality. It is also normal not to date in high school and it is also normal not to be sexually active. It is also important to discuss and explain verbal and emotional abuse. You may want to look online for some examples. Explain no one ever has the right to disrespect them and treat them that way. Also explain if someone is being abusive it is alright to ask for help and there is nothing to be ashamed about. You will need to repeat these facts to your teen once in a while so they remember and believe it. Also watch how members of your family are treated. At times it is easy when you are angry and you may say something inappropriate to your child making them feel like they are worthless. If it happens, acknowledge it and apologize. By modeling you made a mistake, and everyone makes mistakes, you help your teen understand what is appropriate and inappropriate treatment.

Finally, if you notice changes such as a decrease in your teen’s self-esteem or they seem overly concerned about upsetting their boyfriend, a decrease in grades and they won’t speak to you, schedule an appointment with a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers and abusive relationships. There is nothing to be ashamed about. However, if they are involved in an abusive relationship get them the help they need now. Research shows that if someone is in an abusive relationship and they do not receive psychological help, their following relationships will also be abusive. They abuse begins to feel like love and they will seek it out.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over twenty years treating teenagers and he is certified in domestic violence issues. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page 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.