Why Teenage Boys Refuse Psychotherapy

Why Teenage Boys Refuse Psychotherapy

Teenage males and men hate to go to therapy. Therefore, let’s address this issue. Here is a link for a movie, “The Mask You Live In” https://youtu.be/hc45-ptHMxo. The above trailer contains explicit language, but it is language your third grader hears every day at school, from friends and television. Men and teenage boys are very resistant to taking care of their physical and mental health. The question then becomes, why? If you watched the trailer, you will have a very good idea why.

In our society there is a stereotype of what it takes to be a “man.” A man is strong, healthy, and can take care of himself, knows everything about sex and is sexually active, has a lot of money and never afraid to fight and never cries. These are a just a few parts of the stereotype. Many parents may be saying, “but I don’t bring up my son like that.” You don’t have to, but it is part of our society. If a little 5 year old boy falls down at school, the school staff picks him up and tell him shake it off, don’t cry, take it like a man. A boy playing soccer or baseball gets hurt during the game, the coach says shake it off, take it like a man. You have even saw examples of it on Dancing with The Stars. A couple of times some of the men have started to get teary eyed and the asked for the camera to be moved because they did not want anyone seeing them cry.

Boys continue to be exposed to the stereotype in high school. There is a major focus on losing their virginity as fast as possible and sleeping with as many girls as possible. They can’t be a man if they are a virgin. Also boys are getting into fights and having a friend record it and post it on YouTube. They want everyone to see how tough they are and it makes them feel like a man. Also in High School boys stop accepting and asking for help, they are a man and they can handle life on their own. Also look at the movies and video games boys play. They have to do with fighting, killing and sex. Emotions are never mentioned and if a boy does cry he is called a “sissy, or a fag” just to list a few.

If men and boys are living with this stereotype going to a physician or a therapist is a very dangerous thing to do. They might have to confront the fact that they are not able to do everything by themselves and they might need help. This would mean they are not the tough guy. Also they know physicians and therapists have treated other men and they are afraid how they might be compared to other males. If they are not as tall or as strong or don’t measure up to the other men they are not a man. They feel like a failure.

Going to a therapist is extremely dangerous for boys and men. Therapists ask you to deal with your feelings. What if they cry or admit they feel overwhelmed by life or inadequate to other men? If they do, they worry about their identity as a man. I have men and teenagers who cry in my office. They all get really embarrassed and beg me not to tell their family and want to know if other guys cry have ever cried in my office. They need reassurance that they are still a man. The truth is it takes more strength to cry than not to cry, but most guys don’t believe this due to the male stereotype.

We need teenage boys to focus on their emotions. The best way for us to help boys and men is to eliminate this stereotype. Parents contact your son’s school and ask them to invite groups to the campus that are trying to eliminate this stereotype. Challenge Day is an excellent organization which tries to help teenage males face their feelings. Also monitor what they watch and how they talk with friends. Fathers don’t be afraid to cry and go to the doctor regularly and ask for help. Look for movies that show males as men even though they don’t follow the stereotype. This is a problem in our society which leads to crime, killings and needless deaths from heart attacks and strokes. It is going to take all of us to solve the problem.

While teenage boys resist therapy for these reasons, you need to remember you are the parent. If you notice your teenage boy is depressed and talking about suicide, therapy is not a choice. Yes you want to give choices about their lives, but remember they still are kids and cognitively not able to reason as an adult. Therefore, at times you must say there is no choice. Would you give them a choice of having surgery, if they had appendicitis?

Dr. Michael Rubino is a local psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teens. He had over 20 years experience working with teenagers. To find out more about Dr. Rubino and his practice or to contact him visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3

Teenagers and Dating Relationships

Teenagers and Dating Relationships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Having A Safe, Fun Super Bowl Party

Having A Safe, Fun Super Bowl Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

It would also be helpful to remember the acronym HALT:

H – hungry

A – angry

L – lonely

T – tired, too much alcohol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Facts About Teenagers and Post Concussion Syndrome

The Facts About Teenagers and Post Concussion Syndrome

Schools are back in session and many high school students are back playing sports. The main sport at this time of year is football and cheerleading goes along with it. Both football and cheerleading are high risk activities for concussions. Parents are also learning that “basic” Concussion in teenagers are more common than people think and can create more problems than people think. A concussion can cause physical impairment such as not being able to walk or emotional issues such as a teenager suddenly having anger problems or depression.

After a concussion many teenagers develop Post Concussion Syndrome. Teenagers can have violent mood swings, difficulties concentrating and difficulties with memory. This can cause problems at school and with family and friends. I have seen teenagers who get so depressed by these changes that they become suicidal. Post Concussion Syndrome can last a year or more and typically physicians do not warn parents or teenagers about this syndrome. This makes matters worse because they feel like they are crazy because they don’t understand why they have the symptoms. Also these symptoms can create problems at school that the student may need accommodations for in order for the student to understand the classes.

We have been hearing more and more about concussions in professional sports in recent years. We have also seen professional athletes walk away from their careers because they are not willing to risk the after effects of multiple concussions. A fact that some in professional sports do not want to be publicized. Will Smith stared in a movie regarding a professional football player and how his life significantly changed after several concussions. The National Football League tried to stop this movie from being made and shown, but they lost.

However, we do have examples. Mohammad Ali is the most notable example of how multiple concussions can change a person and leave them disabled. Also a news anchor for ABC News documented how his life changed after receiving a traumatic brain injury while covering the war in Afghanistan.

Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injuries also occur in teenagers. Teen athletes such as football players routinely suffer concussions. Many of these athletes suffer permanent brain damage such as difficulty remembering things or emotional issues such as mood swings. Also a number of high school athletes do die from concussions every year.

A new research study from Boston University shows that boys who play football before the age of 12 years old are more likely to have memory problems and problems making decisions as adults. This study also shows that boys who play football before age 12 are three times more likely to develop clinical depression as an adult. The study suggests the reason this occurs is because around the age of 12, a child’s brain is undergoing a great deal of development at this age. Robert Stern, one of the authors of the study, explained that “the brain is going through this incredible time of growth between the years of 10 and 12, and if you subject that developing brain to repetitive head impacts, it may cause problems later in life.”

Another MRI study, by the Wakes Forest School of Medicine showed that boys between the ages of 8 years old to 13 years old who played even just one season of football showed signs of diminished brain function.

High school athletes are not the only teenagers at risk for concussions. Teens in general are at risk because teens are willing to engage in risky behavior such as jumping off something or racing cars. Many teens feel they are safe. They hear about these issues but think it would never happen to them. However we never know who it will happen to. Therefore, parents you need to educate and monitor your teenager’s behavior. If you have a teen athlete, you may need to make the decision to stop them from playing a sport if they have suffered a couple concussions. This is not easy but you must think of their lives after high school.

Also boys are not the only ones at risk for concussions. Girls are at risk for concussions too. In fact, some studies show that cheerleaders are at a higher risk of getting a concussion than foot players. Cheerleaders do not use helmets and have no head protection. Also many people assume a child needs to be knocked out in order to sustain a concussion. This is not true. You can sustain a concussion without losing consciousness. So football players are not the only one at risk. Any high school athlete is at risk – boy or girl. Anything that causes a jarring of the head can cause a concussion. Our brain sits in fluid in our skull. Therefore any jarring force can cause the brain to hit the side of the skull and cause a concussion. Also as the brain moves in the skull it can twist causing shirring. When the brain twists microscopic nerves can be severed adding to the concussion. Furthermore, no two brains are the same. This is why it is almost impossible to determine how long it will take someone to recover from a concussion. Two people’s scans may look the same and one may recover quickly and the other may need a long recovery period. There is no way to predict how long the recovery period will be. This is why all high school athletes are at risk for concussions and some may recovery quickly and others do not.

Therefore a concussion or post concussion syndrome can be very serious and impact a teenager for life. For the reason, parents need to be aware of the risks involved and if their child’s school is using the appropriate safety equipment and has a protocol for how they respond to a student with a concussion.

I have included a link to a YouTube video where a physician describes the basic information about what happens to a brain during a concussion and the process of recovery from a concussion. This is a must see for any parent https://youtu.be/zCCD52Pty4A.

In addition to this video I have included a fact sheet from the CDC regarding information about concussions for you to review http://www.cdc.gov/headsup/pdfs/schools/tbi_factsheets_parents-508-a.pdf.

I have also included this link from the CDC which helps parents, coaches and schools https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their families. For more information on Dr. Rubino or his work please visit his websites at http://www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com, his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

What Do I Do, I think My Child is being Bullied?

What Do I Do, I think My Child is being Bullied?

Many kids, despite what they say, really enjoy school. They like seeing their friends, their teachers and learning. However, some kids are not as excited and even worried about going to school. Many of these kids have been bullied and they are afraid of being bullied again. The month of October is dedicated to bully awareness. Hopefully, this article will provide you with information you need to protect your child from being bullied. Hopefully, we may even be able to stop bullying.

Often when a child is being bullied they do not say anything to their parents until the bullying is really bad. They are afraid, especially boys, that you will see them as weak. They are also afraid that you will be disappointed in them for not defending themselves. Parents it’s important that you understand that you have not said anything or done anything to create this feeling in your child. Our society teaches children these messages, especially boys. Children receive these messages about being strong and solving their own problems from television, music, and video games. This is what the documentary “The Mask You Live In”, is trying to address. It is on Netflix and it might be helpful if you watch it.

It is very important to take bullying very seriously these days. It is no longer just one kid calling another kid names. The bullying today occurs at school and may include threats of being killed and it goes beyond school. Now bullies can continue their bullying via text messages, emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. So the bullying becomes non-stop. It can really make someone feel worthless and that they would be better off dead. One example of a child being overwhelmed by bullying is a 13 year old boy, on the east coast, who committed suicide because he could not tolerate the bullying any longer. The boy committed suicide to escape the bullying. He is not the first child to commit suicide due to bullying. One 15 year old girl committed suicide due to bullying and she left a note to be placed in her obituary. In the note she asked kids to be kind to each other. Some kids are turning to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain and we are seeing a significant number of accidental overdosages resulting in teenagers’ deaths. We assume they were accidents, they could also be suicides staged to look like accidents. Also suicide has recently been moved from the third leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old to the second leading cause of death for kids. Therefore, if kids have been commuting suicide to escape bullying, the rate of bullying has most likely increased significantly.

Bullying is not just an elementary school issue. It occurs in High School and College too. A few years back a college student committed suicide because his roommate secretly filmed him in his dorm room with another guy having sex. When the tape was posted on the college’s email for others to see, the boy was so ashamed because he had not made it publicly known that he was gay. He was so upset and humiliated that he ended up committing suicide.

As the rates for bullying in middle schools increase so do the number of suicides and drug use increase. However, this issue also occurs in elementary school and elementary students are committing suicide or starting to use alcohol and marijuana. We know it is a very serious problem in Elementary schools because suicide it is no longer the third leading cause of death for 10 year old children. Suicide is now the second leading cause according to the CDC statistics. Also fifth graders are beginning to use alcohol and marijuana.

Additionally, I am seeing more and more elementary students in therapy because they are being bullied at school. Many of these children are embarrassed because they feel they should be able to stop the bullying. They are also embarrassed and often don’t want me to tell their parents because they believe they must of done something to deserve being bullied. I explain to them they do not deserve it and they should not have to stop it on their own. I also explain that their parents would want to know so they can help them. I need to emphasize that Mom and Dad won’t blame you or be ashamed of you. It is amazing to see how relaxed these children become when I tell them this about their parents.

What should a parent do? One thing is parents should watch for the following warning signs that your child is a victim of a bully:

Avoiding activities they used to enjoy

Loss of friends or avoiding social situations

Problems sleeping

Complaining of stomachaches or headaches

Loss of appetite

Declining grades

Missing or damaged clothing or belongings

Self-destructive behaviors like running away from home

If you notice any of these or just have a sense something is wrong then talk to your child. However, when you talk to your child reassure them they did nothing wrong, there is nothing wrong with them and you are not upset or disappointed with them. Try to develop a game plan of how you are going to deal with it together and ask how you can be supportive. Also ask your child to promise you if they feel really sad like they want to hurt themselves that they will talk to you before they do anything. You may think this is ridiculous, but I use a no suicide contract with many children that I work with and they honor it. The contract lets them you know that you care about them and it is okay to talk about their feelings.

The other thing you can do as a parent is go to your child’s school and ask what is the school’s policy on bullying. You can also ask how the school watches for bullying, how is the policy enforced and what is being done to prevent bullying. You may ask the school to contact or you can volunteer to contact a group such as Challenge Day. This is an international organization that addresses bullying and they are located in Concord, California. I have seen their work and it is fantastic and kids love it.

Another thing you can do as a parent is start talking to your child about bullying on an occasional basis. This gives you a chance to let them know it’s not their fault and to develop a plan of action if it does occur. You should also discuss drugs and alcohol at the same time. I work with kids all day long and at times I am still shocked at how young kids are when they are starting to get involved with drugs and alcohol.

Keeping an open line of communication with your child is very important if you want them to come to you. Research still indicates that children are more likely to turn to their friends when they have a problem. This is good that they have this emotional support, but their friends don’t have the answers or solutions that they need. Remember it is best to speak to your child when you are in a calm environment and no one else, such as brothers or sisters, are around. Also remember the word HALT. It stands for:

Hungry

Angry

Lonely

Tired

If you sense your child is experiencing any of these feelings it is not a good time to talk. When you talk with your child you want it to be productive and for your child to feel like they are not being judged. Therefore, sometimes it is better to put off a conversation so you don’t end up in an argument. This is more likely to close the line of communication with your child.

I have mentioned several times that being bullied is not their fault. What I have seen from working with children who are bullies, abusive men and reviewing the research is that bullies really have very low self-esteem. In fact many times they lack a sense of themselves. The only way the feel important or alive is by putting someone else down. They do this because they are afraid the other kids might be able to figure out how lousy they feel about themselves. It is often said the best defense is a good offense. They hope that by acting like the big guy on campus that other people will see them as the big guy and they are able to keep their secret. Kids usually do this because it was done to them too.

Therefore, we need to remember the bully is usually a kid who has been abused too and is crying out for help. If we are going to stop the problem of bullying we need programs to help the bullies too. They are only repeating what they have been taught.

One last comment, I saw a school install a “buddy bench.” If anyone had been bullied, having a bad day, feeling lonely, all they had to do was sit on the buddy bench. Another student or teacher would then go over and ask how they could help. There was no shame associated if you sat on the buddy bench. It was presented as a brave choice. The school was using it as part of their program to stop bullying at school. This fantastic idea came from a 10 year old student. Children often have fantastic answers and we need to listen.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience working with children and teens especially those who are victims of trauma. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page at Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Facts about Teenage Boys Using Guns Across the United States

Facts about Teenage Boys Using Guns Across the United States

With the significant increase in mass shootings and the recent shootings in Gilroy, Texas and Ohio, I hear many children and teens talking about their safety at school and around town while they are playing or hanging out. Many teenagers seem to believe if they have a gun that will keep them safe. While researching this issue I read an article by Cody Fenwick regarding children and gun violence. His article was very alarming. September is dedicated to suicide prevention and October is dedicated to the issue of bullying so this month and next month are dedicated to safety issues involving teenagers and children. Therefore, it seems appropriate to address the issue of guns because they are a popular method of suicide and they can be used to bully kids too. In addition teenagers who cannot tolerate the bullying they have to endure every day often use a gun as their method of suicide. Some may use a gun to act out their frustrations too.

Many of us feel because we live in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Lafayette or Orinda that our children and teenagers do not have to worry about gangs or gun violence. Unfortunately, this is not the truth. According to a new research study in the Journal of Pediatrics, guns continue to be the third-leading cause of death for Americans younger than 18 years old, killing around 1,300 children and teenagers a year in the United States. In addition, almost 6,000 children and teenagers are injured per year. Many teenagers are permanently disabled from these injuries. For teenagers who commit suicide, guns are the second-leading cause of death. The CDC has recently moved suicide as the third-leading cause of death for teenagers to the second-leading cause of death. This is a scary fact that the rate of teenage suicides are increasing not decreasing.

The study examined data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Consumer Product Safety Commission between 2002 and 2014. The study found that boys, especially older boys such as teenagers and minorities, were much more likely to be the victims of gun violence. The study did not say anything about where the boys lived. The facts are children who are male and teenagers, are at a higher risk for becoming a victim of gun violence regardless of where they live. Therefore, teenagers in our area are at risk of becoming a victim of gun violence.

The study does indicate there has been a decrease in accidental deaths such as boys cleaning a gun. However, the rate as a method for suicide has increased. I have mentioned before that suicide is no longer the third leading cause of death for 10 year old boys. It is now the second leading cause of death for boys 10 to 18 years old. This study confirms that statistic and indicates the preferred method of suicide for boys and teenagers are guns. According to Katherine Fowler, one of the lead researchers at the CDC, “Firearm injuries are an important public health problem, contributing substantially to premature death and disability of children.” Understanding their nature [guns] and impact is a first step toward prevention.”

When we look at these numbers, can anyone argue against taking steps to protect our children? Can you imagine a 10 year old boy using a gun to kill himself? Can you imagine a 10 year old boy feeling that his life is so bad at the age of ten that death seems like a better option than living? At the age of 10, he has given up hope for a decent life. This is a sad fact.

The study also indicates that in recent years guns were responsible for a large number of adolescent, males who were murdered. The study documented that deaths in the category of murder for boys under the age of 18 years old decreased to 53 percent. This is a decrease yet the rate is still 53%. The other causes of gun-related deaths include:

• 38 percent — suicides

• 6 percent — unintentional deaths

• 3 percent — law enforcement/undetermined cause

The study found 82% of deaths by guns were boys. This means 82% of gun deaths were boys who were children or teenagers. Putting it another way, this means these boys were not even 18 years old yet at the time of their deaths. The study also found that white and American Indian children have the highest rate of suicide using a gun.

We also like to think that the United States in one of the most advanced nations in the world. However, the statistics show that the United States has the highest rate in the world for children under 14 years old committing suicide. Again, the United States has the highest rate of children under 14 years old using a gun to commit suicide. That number scares me and is appalling to me. However, as an adolescent and child psychotherapist, I do not doubt it. I have heard 6 year old boys seriously discussing suicide.

Furthermore, I hear teenagers routinely talking about needing to carry a knife or gun with them for protection. They tell me you never know when you will be jumped or there will be a mass shooting and you need to be able to protect yourself. In fact, a few years ago a teenager was shot on his front door step in Danville over a marijuana deal which went bad. When I mention to teens the risks they are taking, they tell me there is no guarantee they will live until 30 years old. They would rather die protecting themselves than doing nothing.

As a society, we need to look at these numbers and ask ourselves some questions. What are we going to do in order to improve gun safety? How are adolescent boys getting access to guns? Most importantly, why are children as young as 6 years old thinking about suicide? Also what are we going to do so that children who are suicidal have access to mental health care? This is our problem because it does happen in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Orinda and Danville.

Dr. Rubino has 20 years experience as a psychotherapist working with children and teenagers. For 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.