Helping Children Cope with Anxiety during the Pandemic

Helping Children Cope with Anxiety during the Pandemic

Anxiety is a common issue for children especially during the quarantine and having to attend school from home. Remember children’s imaginations are very active. During the last few months we have had little to no information about how the Coronavirus works. Therefore, there has not been a lot to explain to children and they have heard a lot on the news. Many parents tell me they have limited the access to news but with their IPads, phones and friends, they hear more than we are aware of. Also don’t forget, prior to the pandemic the children were dealing with mass shootings on a daily basis. Therefore, there is a lot going on to cause anxiety in children.

According to the CDC and what I have seen in my office, anxiety is at epidemic levels for children. The most common reason children are coming into therapy right now is anxiety or depression. Many parents want to know what they can do in between therapy sessions to help their child with their anxiety. I ran across an acronym by Lori Lite that is designed to help children who are anxious. The acronym is ASSURE. I will explain what is stand for and how to use it below.

A – Align with your child
 with their body language
 with their tone and volume of speech
 validate their feelings
S – Share your experience
your feelings in stressful moments
mistakes you’ve made and how you emerged from them
how you cope with stress in day-to-day situation
perspective you’ve gained from seeing “this too shall pass”
S – Skills-training
give them words for feelings and worries
get them involved in appropriate exercise and activities to release stress
teach and model coping strategies like visualization, deep breathing, positive imagery
U – Uncover stress-related signs and symptoms
body aches – head, stomach
irritability and mood change
appetite change
sleep changes
R – Reassure them
that they’ll come through
that you’re there for them
that you’re proud of the effort they’re investing in calming and coping
things will normalize – recall examples
E – Engage the topic when they’re calm
listen to what they say and don’t say
respect their process in overcoming stress and worry
brainstorm options while they’re calm, since that’s when the “thinking” part of the brain is turned on.
This may not eliminate their anxiety all together, but it should help reduce their anxiety. Also remember if their anxiety is severe also seek psychotherapy for your child with a therapist who specializes in treating children. Psychotherapy can now be done via telemedicine so there is no risk of exposing them to the virus. Between the mass shootings and the pandemic caused by the Coronavirus, our children are living through historic times. We have never experienced events like we currently are experiencing so there should be no surprise that children may need psychotherapy at this time.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. His practice does offer telemedicine. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Teenage Suicide During the Quarantine

Teenage Suicide During the Quarantine

Many parents ask me, if their child could be suicidal and what to do if their child is suicidal? This concern has increased since the CDC no longer ranks suicide as the third leading cause of death and now rates it as the second leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. Furthermore, since the quarantine has been in place, there has been an increase in suicides and deaths from drug overdoses. As a result, parents are worrying more about if their teenager may be feeling suicidal. Additionally, before the quarantine, parents were worrying more about suicidal teenagers as we learned more about suicides of survivors involved in mass shootings. The issue of suicide is very scary especially because we do not discuss mental health issues in our society. As a result, parents are not sure what signs they should be looking for or what to do if they feel their teen is suicidal. Parents are aware there is a teenage suicide epidemic, but have no idea what to do or how to get help.

A successful suicide attempt is definitely a tragedy for the entire family. However, an unsuccessful attempt can be a tragedy for the child and the family too. Depending on the method used, a child who has an unsuccessful attempt may have to live their entire life with major medical complications. They can cause brain damage which may cause them to lose the ability to speak or the ability to breath on their own. Therefore, they may spend the rest of their life on a ventilator. Guns are one of the top three ways teenagers attempt suicide. However, teenagers are not aware that guns jump when fired. Many teens who use a gun do not kill themselves, but they do shoot off their face. The result is they have to have numerous surgeries to reconstruct their face, but their face and life are never the same.

I read this very good article describing what to do if you think your child is suicidal. It provides the steps you need to take in a non-threatening manner. It also addresses issues parents often may not think about, if they are concerned about their child being suicidal. The most important step is don’t be afraid to ask your child if they are feeling suicidal. It is a myth that if you ask someone if they are suicidal that you will cause them to become suicidal. In fact, you may save their life by asking them if they are suicidal. By asking you let them know it’s ok to talk about their feelings. Also by asking you reassure them there is nothing wrong with them and that you are emotionally strong enough to cope with the situation. Therefore, you may save their life by asking, if they are feeling suicidal.

Another reason many parents do not ask their teenager about suicide is the negative stigma associated with suicide. Often when someone dies of suicide the family will give another reason. Many families also request suicide not be listed as the cause of death. The Lighthouse Project conducted at Columbia University is attempting to remove this stigma. The Project has also developed questions that family members, friends and first responders can ask a person who they think might be suicidal. The questions have shown to be very effective at identifying someone who is suicidal and having the person to get help. I am including the link to the Lighthouse Project so you can learn more about it and download the questions that are most appreciated for you, if you feel someone in your life maybe suicidal. http://cssrs.columbia.edu/. It is a very good list of questions and the research shows that the questions are very effective at identifying someone who is suicidal.

I have included the link to this article and I encourage parents to read it and to save it. What to Do if You’re Worried About Suicide |. https://childmind.org/article/youre-worried-suicide/#.W9PRyfwKel8.twitter.
Bottom line, if you feel your teenager is suicidal do not be embarrassed. Make an appointment to have your teen evaluated by a psychotherapist who specializes in suicidal teenagers. If you walk in on an attempt, call 911 immediately.

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

Why Are We Ashamed of Mental Health?

Why Are We Ashamed of Mental Health?

Mental health is a topic we tend to avoid in our society. We avoid it so much that the month of May is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness. Many people are afraid that if other people know they are feeling down or anxious that people will think they are crazy. Many people think of someone living in the streets when you mention mental health. This is not reality. This negative stigma makes it difficult for adults to seek help for mental health issues. This negative stigma also makes it very difficult for children to ask for help when they feel depressed or anxious. They are afraid their friends won’t understand and won’t want to be friends with them. They are also afraid their parents will think they are crazy and be disappointed with them. These ideas are incorrect, but if mental health is overwhelming for an adult, imagine how it can be for a child.

It is very important that children and teenagers do ask for help when they are experiencing mental health issues. The CDC estimates 1in 5 children need psychotherapy for a mental health issue. Furthermore, the CDC has stated that Suicide is an epidemic for children between the ages of 10 and 18 years old and is the second leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. Cutting, self-harming behaviors, are also now at an epidemic rate in children. Most teenagers I work with, as a psychotherapist, have had suicidal thoughts and have cut before starting therapy with me. They also tell me about many of their friends who are feeling suicidal and cutting. According to the CDC, the Suicide rate and the number of teenagers engaging in self-harming behaviors has been increasing every year for the past twenty years.

While the need for teenagers needing psychotherapy is increasing, the reluctance to attend psychotherapy is increasing. Most teenagers I see for psychotherapy are afraid that their friends would stop being their friends if they knew they were going to therapy. They are afraid it makes them crazy and nothing will help because they are weak. They blame themselves for the feelings they are having. They are shocked when I explain that they are not weak and it is not their fault.

We need to change this stigma associated with mental health. Mental health should be treated the same way a physical health because they are the same. Clinical depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. If some one is diabetic, do we call them crazy or weak because their pancreas is not producing the correct level of insulin? No we do not. Therefore, when we have numerous research studies which show a link between physical health and mental health, why do we continue to view mental health so negatively? By doing so we are causing a number of teenage deaths. Suicide use to be the third leading cause of death for teenagers, however now according to the CDC it is the second most common cause, as I stated above. Many teens also die every year from eating disorders. Eating disorders occur in both girls and boys despite the belief girls only have eating disorders. Bullying is a severe problem and many teenagers are opting to commit suicide rather than discuss the pain and torture they are experiencing due to being bullied. This does not make sense that teenagers should be dying because the teen or their family are embarrassed to seek treatment.

I was researching this subject and found a video by the Anna Freud Institute. It is called, “We all have mental health.” It is a short video directed at teenagers and middle school students. It discusses the issue in a very relaxed manner and provides teenagers with options for how they can talk about their own feelings. I encourage parents, teachers and anyone who deals with children to watch this video. You may want to watch it with your teen and begin a discussion about feelings. The link to the video is https://youtu.be/DxIDKZHW3-E.

We need to start to change the negative stigma associated with mental health. Besides causing the deaths of teenagers, this stigma effects an entire family. A death impacts everyone in a family. Not being able to talk openly about a death because it was related to a mental health issue, creates more problems for the survivors. Nothing will change until we start to approach mental health differently. I also encourage you to look at the foundation started by Prince William and Henry, Heads Together. It provides a number of ways we can start to change the negative stigma associated with mental health and save lives.

Furthermore, at this time in our world, when we are in the middle of a pandemic which besides killing thousands of people daily, it is creating mental health issues for those in quarantine, those with the virus and our first responders. These issues will not disappear quickly just like the virus will not disappear quickly. As a result, we will have even more people needing mental health care. How will they receive it if they feel ashamed for needing treatment or if we continue to treat mental health as a disease? Mental health and physical health go hand in hand, when will we treat them equally?

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

Mother’s Day Is A Difficult Day for Some People

Mother’s Day Is A  Difficult Day for Some People

Many people assume Mother’s Day is a happy day for people because they can honor their mother. However, for some adults, it is not a happy day. For some people their mother may have died when they were children. For some people their mother may have left them when they were children and they had to live in foster care. For others, their parents separated and their father raised them and they rarely or maybe never saw their mother. Therefore, Mother’s Day may not be a happy day. Also for children who were raised in foster care all their lives, today typically is a very difficult day.

While this may not be a happy day for adults, it also can be a very difficult day for children too. Some children may be dealing with the death of their mother. As I stated above, some children may have a mother who left the family and are not involved with them any longer. Seeing the television commercials or having other family members tell them that it still can be a good day can be difficult for them.

Additionally, this year we are under quarantine. This may make it more difficult for people to visit their mother or grandmother. If someone has been exposed to the virus or if their grandmother is over 70 and has other health issues visiting mom or grandma may not be possible. However, you can use Zoom or FaceTime, but this Mother’s Day will be different and some people may have a hard time accepting it.

I work with many of these children, I described above, in psychotherapy. Many don’t express their feeling, but they tend to deal with the emotional pain by acting out. They may be very oppositional during the week and the day as away to express their feelings. Other children may isolate and not want to be involved with anything having to do with Mother’s Day.

I have had parents ask me how they should handle Mother’s Day when a parent has passed away or left the family. They understand that it is a difficult day, but they do not know what to do in order to help their children.

My recommendation is let the child cope with the day in the way they need to. Try not to make an issue about the day. The other thing I recommend to a parent is to talk to their child. Acknowledge that Mother’s Day may be difficult but it is just one day. They may have a rough day today but tomorrow is another day. I also recommend to a parent, when a parent has passed away, to ask the child if there is anything they may want to do. A child may want to release a ballon with a note, they may want to visit the cemetery or they may want to do something for an aunt or another female role model in their life. If they do have an idea, go with what they want to do. If they don’t have an idea, let them know that is okay. If they come up with an idea then you can do it. If they do not have an idea, then remind them it’s just one day that you all need to get through and tomorrow will be better.

This approach can help children whose mother has left the family. Many children may believe their mother will return one day. Confronting this belief around Mother’s Day is not the time to confront it. However, if they have an idea regarding how they want to honor their mother, allow them to do it.

Hopefully this will help parents understand the issues their children may be dealing with on Mother’s Day and make it easier for everyone.

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

Guns Will Not Cure the Coronavirus

Guns Will Not Cure the Coronavirus

Being under quarantine can be a very stressful and scary situation. It has changed all of our daily routines plus we have no idea how long the quarantine will last and how many people will become sick or die. The last time our country experienced anything similar to this was the Spanish flu in 1918. Therefore, no one has any experience with a pandemic since the last one was in 1918 and most of us were not a live at that time.

As a result, of fear and no one being able to answer how long this will continue, people are hoarding. If you go to the grocery store bleach, Kleenex and toilet paper cannot be kept on the shelves. Stores are having to limit how many bottles of bleach or packages of toilet paper people can buy at one time. This hoarding will not stop you from getting the coronavirus, but it does add to the hysteria. People watch the news and see the empty shelves so when they go to the store they also start hoarding. They are afraid with all the empty shelves that they may not be able to buy what they need in the future. Additional hysteria is not what we need right now.

This hysteria is increasing anxiety in children too. They see the news and hear people talking about not being able to buy toilet paper in addition to hearing this week that all schools are closed for the year and this makes them anxious. I hear about this anxiety in their sessions. Additionally, they tell me they are afraid that people will break into their homes to steal toilet paper. I have been telling them they do not need to worry about such things and the situation is not that bad. However, I can no longer say this to the children.

Today it was reported that since the quarantine has started there has been a significant increase in gun sales. Stores that sell guns are reporting it has been a long time since so many people have been coming in and buying guns. Children hear this and their fears about someone breaking into their homes seem possible.

This is a scary and anxious time for everyone. We do not need to add to the anxiety or hysteria regarding the coronavirus. The virus is a medical condition and will require medicine or medical treatments to cure it. A gun will not cure the virus, but guns will add to the hysteria about the virus and possible other unfortunate situations.

During times such as the quarantine, depression, anxiety and incidents of domestic violence do increase and this increase has been documented by research studies and the CDC. Therefore, guns around the house during quarantine can increase the odds of a suicide attempt, someone being shot accidentally or even someone being killed by a gun shot. Therefore, while being quarantined does provoke anxiety and is scary because we do not know exactly what is happening, we do not want to add to the anxiety. Therefore, before you buy a gun, stop and think. Will it help end the quarantine? No. Is a role of toilet paper worth taking the risk of someone attempting suicide or being killed by accident? No. What will the gun do? It will add to the anxiety and fear people are experiencing especially children. Therefore, its probably better not to buy the gun and look around your community and look at how you can help at this time. Maybe helping an older neighbor who needs help shopping or carrying grocery items into their house. This would be a better use of your time than buying a gun. Finally, we do not need a mass shooting incident while everyone is being quarantined. You never know what will happen when a gun is around.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience and specializes in treating children, teenagers and dealing with trauma incidents. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

The quarantine and domestic violence

The quarantine and domestic violence

The isolation of the quarantine can exacerbate mental health issues such as anxiety & depression. People are cut off from their normal support system such as psychotherapy and this can trigger their mental health issues. Another issue is Domestic violence victims, stuck at home, are at risk during coronavirus pandemic. The victim is isolated with the abuser who may use the isolation to increase their control over the person. Also being isolated can cause the perpetrator to become anxious and out of control of life so they turn to domestic violence again to help them feel empowered again. If you know someone at risk call and checkin on them. If you do not receive an answer or the conversation seems odd to you, call your local police and ask them to do a safety check. Explain why you are asking for the safety check so the officers know what to look for. You may be saving a life.

I have included a link to an article which will explain in more detail why the quarantine places victims of domestic violence at risk. https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/27/health/domestic-violence-coronavirus-wellness-trnd/index.html.

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

The Least Restrictive Environment

The Least Restrictive Environment

Many schools are currently closed due to the coronavirus, however they can still have IEP meetings or the meeting will resume when school resumes. This will give parents time to prepare for their IEP meetings. An IEP refers to an Individualized Educational Plan that the parents and school agree upon to help a student who is having difficulties learning at school. This plan is a legal agreement which states the school environment and accommodations a child needs in order to benefit from their education. Unfortunately not all schools tell parents about all of their rights they have at their child’s IEP meetings (Individualized Educational Plan). Also they do not fully explain all the terms. This creates a great deal of confusion and anxiety for parents. Typically any time I write an article regarding IEPs, I receive emails from parents across the country asking if they are being treated fairly in their IEP meetings.

A common term that is used at IEP meetings is Least Restrictive Environment. At times this term is used to deny a child services. Parents may be asking about Resource Assistance or a Special Day Class and the school may say the Resource Room is not an option because it is not the least restrictive environment. They may insist that the child be placed in a general educational classroom. In other words, the typical classroom people think about when they think of a classroom. However, placing a child in a general education classroom or school is not always the least restrictive environment. Also schools and at times parents may worry about how much inclusion their child will be receiving with the proposed IEP.

Inclusion refers to providing children, who need special educational services, access to the general educational atmosphere and students. However, this is not always the least restrictive environment for your child. The least restrictive environment is the environment in which your child will benefit the most from their education. This may not always be a general education classroom. Remember, least restrictive refers to the environment where your child has the least amount of difficulties learning so they can benefit fully from their education. Therefore, a Special Educational Classroom may be the least restrictive environment for your child depending on their educational needs. If they will benefit more from their education in a Special Day Classroom then that is the least restrictive environment for your child.

This can be a confusing term to understand especially since most people have been lead to believe that inclusion is the same thing as the least restrictive environment. I have included a link to a video which further explains this term. I strongly recommend you watch it so you have a clear understanding of what least restrictive environment refers to and what inclusion refers to https://youtu.be/I7HFRF8y288.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers in Special Education. He often assists parents with IEPs and school accommodations. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his websites www.RubinoCounseling.com, his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or www.LucasCenter.org.

Being A Teenage Boy in 2020

Being A Teenage Boy in 2020

Being a teenage boy in 2020 is very difficult for many boys. Most teenage boys are still trying to live up to to the old stereotype regarding what it takes to be a “man.” As a result of trying to live up to this image, it cost many teenage boys a big price. Many boys get into trouble because of this stereotype and they don’t deserve it. They need someone to explain to them what is acceptable or not acceptable for young men in 2020. This is what this article will try to address.

First let’s look at the traditional stereotype. According to the traditional stereotype boys need to be tall, their muscles need to be in shape. Many teenage boys are working day and night so they have a six pack. Many boys feel inadequate about their bodies if they do not have a six pack.

Besides having to be physically fit, they need to be able to take on any challenge, they should be able to handle alcohol, drugs. and sex and are not emotional. If they are not able to handle these issues they are looked down upon and as weak. This makes it difficult for teenage boys to make the decisions that are best for them. Furthermore, these issues do not make someone a man. Yes men need to deal with them, but if a man doesn’t drink alcohol or a teen is waiting to have sex, he is still a man. At times it more difficult to say no instead of going along with the crowd and say yes when you don’t want to.

Another issue boys have to face is technology. Boys have to be careful about what they post in today’s world. Colleges and employers now search the web when you apply to a college or a job. They look for posts containing alcohol or posts containing negative statements about girls, sex or racial slurs. Many teenagers have had their acceptance to college revoked due to what they posted online. The best example is Harvard University. A couple years ago they revoked the acceptance to several freshmen because of racial slurs and slurs about women they had posted. The teens thought it would be looked at as boys being boys but many places no longer accept this excuse. Sadly many boys are getting in trouble for their behavior because in the past it was acceptable and no one has really explained to teenage boys that i

their current behavior is no longer acceptable.

Another issue which gets teenage boys into trouble is texting. Specifically sexting or sending nude or sexually suggestive photographs. Many teenage boys feel their is no problem with these issues because they is mutual consent. However, what teenagers forget is that since they are under the age of 18, this is considered child pornography. While they may have mutual consent, if you are sending sexually explicit material to anyone under the age of 18, you are violating child pornography laws. Typically boys are the ones who are blamed and may face legal charges. The tragic part of this situation is the boy had no idea he was doing anything wrong. He never knew because no one ever explained that he was making a mistake.

Another area which gets boys into trouble is language. Many teenage boys are use to swearing when they talk because that is how boys think they are suppose to talk. Again often the boys get into trouble because they are doing what they see and hear other boys talk. However, no one has told the boys that the language they are using where they are using it is not appropriate. They are acting based on this old stereotype so they will be accepted. Before punishing the boys, they need to educate the boys and give them a chance.

Bottom line, the old stereotype regarding male behavior is in appropriate and boys are being taught they must use alcohol, be physically aggressive towards others and they must be sexually active if they want to be considered men. This behavior can get teenage boys now into major trouble. Therefore, we need schools and male role models to educate young teenage boys that the old male stereotype is outdated. We need the schools and male role models to educate young teenage males what behavior is appropriate regarding alcohol, language and sexual activity. Also teenage boys today need male role models to educate them how to respect themselves. If we don’t start to educate teenage males about how the old stereotype is inappropriate, how can we expect boys to react appropriately?

Furthermore, this old stereotype is resulting in many teenagers and men to feel isolated and depressed because they have to ignore their feelings in order to follow this stereotype. The suicide rate for teenage boys’ has increased from the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death. Therefore besides ruining people’s lives, including girls, the old male stereotype is costing the lives of teenagers. The time has come to make a change.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with male teenagers. He is a cofounder of the National Advisory Board for Alice and Free which addresses issues such as this one. For more information regarding his work and private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3

Helping Your Child Cope with The Coronavirus

Helping Your Child Cope with The Coronavirus

Many people are concerned about the coronavirus. They are worried about being exposed and they are worried about what happens if they contract the virus. Many people are stock piling water, soap, disinfect wipes and surgical masks. People are even canceling their vacation plans. When so many adults are worried and taking numerous precautions, children begin to worry about their safety. They are afraid to go to school because they don’t want to catch the coronavirus. This excessive anxiety is not good for children. Therefore, parents need to get the accurate information and discuss it with their children.

This is a new virus and spreading faster and easier than expected. However, when you compare this virus to the influenza (the flu), the flu is much more contagious and deadly. According to the CDC, 49,000,000 people in the United States contracted influenza this year, typically referred to as the flu, and 20,000 people died from the flu this year. When you contrast this with the coronavirus, there are currently 500 reported cases and 17 deaths as of March 6, 2020 according to the CDC. While these numbers will rise as we continue to test people, it appears that the flu virus is responsible for more deaths. The coronavirus is getting a great deal of attention because we do not have specific protocols for how to prevent and treat this virus yet. The CDC is still developing guidelines for how we need to respond and are currently working on a vaccine.

Therefore, parents it is important that you calmly talk to your child about the current situation. Explain that this is a new virus and the doctors need time to decide what is the best way to treat it and that the flu is more dangerous than the coronavirus. Explain that until the doctors know the best way to treat the virus that it is very important that they wash their hands after using the bathroom, playing outside or touching things outside of the house. Tell them to sing happy birthday while washing their hands with soap and water. This is a good way to know they have washed their hands long enough. Also let them know if their is no soap or water, they can use hand sanitizer instead and that is good enough. Also remind them to try not to touch their eyes, nose or mouth when they are at school or playing because it is a way to catch germs. Also if they sneeze or cough to cover their mouths. Remind them the doctors are doing everything they need to in order to figure out the best way to deal with the coronavirus so they do not need to worry.

Another aspect to address is if they notice they are coughing, feeling achy and like they have a fever to tell you. If they have these symptoms you will take them to the doctor who will tell you what to do. Remind them they do not need to worry about dying. Remind them more people die from the flu and nothing happened to them. Also point out that the people who have died from the coronavirus were usually around 75 or 80 years old and already had health problems such as problems with their heart. The reports show that children their age have nothing to worry about.

This should help your child’s anxiety about the current virus out break. In the meantime pay attention to the reports from the CDC and look at what you and your family have planned. If you have plans to go to events where there are a lot of people such as sporting events you may want to change your plans until the CDC has developed firm guidelines to deal with the current situation. If you stay calm, your child should stay calm. Make the best decisions for you and your family based on the information you have at the time. If we all stay calm and follow common sense guidelines, we should all be fine. Remember the statistics for influenza are much worse than the coronavirus. The flu virus changes every year too. Therefore, staying calm and following the CDC guidelines is the best approach at this time.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. He has a sub specialty in medical psychology. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3

The High School Prom in 2020

The High School Prom in 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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