Helping Kids Cope with Today’s World

Helping Kids Cope with Today’s World

We are expecting children and teenagers to cope with and adjust to a a number of teenagers. One main issue is the pandemic and Coronavirus. They have had to deal with remote learning and then all of a sudden they are expected to go back to school. In addition to the changes in school many teenagers are dealing with the deaths of parents, grandparents and other people close to them. In addition they were locked in their houses for a year without being able to see friends. This is a lot for children and teenagers to adjust to.

Now we are starting to reopen the Country and children and teenagers again have to cope with mass shootings again. Therefore, they are dealing with more people dying and afraid that they may be killed too. As of today, June 13th, there have been 270 Nass shootings. This is a significant increase from 2019. We have experienced a 65% increase in Nass shootings since 2019 and the year is only half over (Gun Violence Archive).

Teenagers and children are also seeing a tremendous increase in violence in our Country. Hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased significantly and so have hate crimes against people who are Jewish (CDC). In addition there is violence occurring around people having to wear face masks in certain situation. A flight attendant on Southwest Airlines had her front teeth punched out of her mouth by a passenger because she asked him to wear a masks. Besides people arguing about face masks, they are arguing about the Coronavirus vaccinations which ever Public Health Professional states we need to overcome this pandemic. However, we are hearing people purpose crazy ideas such as the vaccinations will make you magnetic and Bill Gates has placed mico chips in the vaccines. The pandemic is scary enough without people making up insane conspiracies that may scare children.

Add to these issues such things as the violent attack on the US Capital Building and we have children and teenagers living in a chaotic environment. To add to the pressure we are expecting children and teenagers to simply adjust to all the chaos. We expect them to ignore it and go on like nothing has changed. Children and teenagers are expected to be able to achieve at school and not act out due to the chaos in their lives.

It’s not realistic and it’s not happening. There is a significant increase in the number of teenagers and children reporting anxiety disorders and depression. Additionally, we have seen an increase in the number of teenagers committing suicide and dying from drug overdoses. Teenagers and children are desperately looking for a peaceful environment. In my office we have seen an increase by a factor of 20 of teenagers and children seeking therapy due to the chaos. We must provide teenagers and children with mental health care and sane gun laws to help them cope with this chaos they are experiencing.

I have included a link to an article which provides suggestions parents can try to help their children and teenagers cope with the chaos we are living in currently. https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/57946/striving-or-thriving-steps-to-help-kids-find-balance-and-purpose.

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

Teenagers Learn About Life by Making Mistakes

Teenagers Learn About Life by Making Mistakes

Dealing with teenagers, at times, can be very difficult for parents, especially when teenagers think they have all the answers. In my experience as a psychotherapist who has been working with teenagers as for over 20 years, I am a strong believer in allowing teenagers to learn from their mistakes. When they make mistakes there are consequences that follow these mistakes. From my experience, teenagers need to be allowed to make mistakes and learn from the consequences. I know some parents try to warn their teenagers about potential mistakes. However, many teenagers feel they know more than you. Therefore, allowing them to make mistakes is the only way some teenagers learn that their actions have considered .

As I just stated, teenagers being allowed to make mistakes helps to teach teenagers that their actions have consequences. They also put responsibility for the mistake on to the teenager. Therefore, they cannot blame parents or teachers for their mistakes. They have to deal with the consequences of the choices they made. They cannot blame you because they made the choice not you.

As a way to help teenagers learn from their mistakes is to set up a behavior contract. A written contract which specifies the consequences for your teenager when they make a mistake saves a lot of arguments. A written construct signed by you and your teenagers which spells out their consequences, if they make a mistake or poor decision can save you and your teenager a lot of arguments. Also it helps your teenager to take responsibility for their actions because the contact focuses on their choices only.

While I believe contracts and consequences work well with teenagers, some parents have difficulties. I often hear from parents that their teenager doesn’t care about the consequences or the contract. The parents find this very frustrating. Therefore, I have listed below suggestions that can help you improve the odds of a contract and consequences working with your teenager.

1. Use Consequences That Have Meaning

It’s almost never effective to give your child a consequence in the heat of an argument. Often, parents will be either too harsh or too lenient, because nothing appropriate comes to mind immediately. I advise parents to sit down and write a Consequences List and then discuss it with your teenager. If they are included in the process, the likelihood of success is higher. When compiling a list of consequences, remember that you want the consequence to be things that will get your teenagers attention, because you want your child to learn from the consequences. If, like most teens, your teenager acts like they cannot live without their cellphone, don’t hesitate to use losing use of their cellphone as a consequence. It’s also important to think about what you want him to learn—and this lesson should be attached to the consequence. So let’s say your teenager swears at his younger siblings all the time. Obviously you want him to stop swearing and use more appropriate language. Therefore, an effective consequence would be that he would lose his cellphone for 2 days. This gives him time to think about other ways he can handle his behavior. You may even try talking with him about other ways to handle himself instead of swearing.

2. Don’t Try to Appeal to Charge A Teenager’s Behavior with Speeches

Yes as a parent you are trying to teach and educate your teenager about how to act and treat others as adults so they can function in the world. However, remember your teenager thinks they know everything about today’s world and you are out of touch with today’s world. Therefore, if you try lecturing or speeches, they automatically tune you out and don’t listen to what you are saying. When everything is calm, you might try mentioning to them that you would like to talk with them. An informal conversation, especially with boys, tends to be more effective than a lecture.

3. Make Consequences Black and White

When you give a consequence, the simpler you keep things, the better. Again, you don’t want to get into legalese or long speeches. What you want to do is lay out your consequences for your teenager’s inappropriate behavior very clearly. It’s often helpful if he knows ahead of time what will happen when he acts out. Just like there are speeding signs on the highway, the consequences for your teenager’s behavior should be clear to him. Therefore, using a contract allows you to make it clear to your teenager if they make this choice then here is the consequence. Also by having them sign the contract, they cannot say they were not aware of the rules. Also it removes you as the bad guy. You are not imposing a punishment, you are simply complying with the contact that you made with your teenager. I often point out to teenagers that the contract is an insurance policy for them. If they make a mistake, their parents have to stick with the contract. Therefore, if their parents were really upset at the moment and wanted to remove their cellphone for ever, but the contract only states a week, their parents have to go with the week. This often helps with getting teenagers to accept the contract.

4. Have Problem-Solving Conversations

I think it’s vitally important to have problem-solving conversations with your teenager after an incident has occurred. Obviously, you want to wait until everyone is calm. When everyone has settled down then try a conversation about what they can do differently or help they can ask for if a similar situation occurs and this may help them avoid making a mistake and getting into trouble again in the future.

Conversations like these are how you get your teenager to think about alternative solutions to problems which can help them make better choices. Also reminding them that they can ask for help can be a tremendous help. Often teenagers think that they must solve all their problems on their own. Teenagers, especially boys, look at asking for help as a sign of weakness. It is helpful to remind them that no one has all the answers and at times the mature thing to do is to ask for help. Therefore, asking for help is not always a sign of weakness.

5. Don’t Get Sucked into an Argument over Consequences

Don’t take the bait every time your teenager is trying to argue with you. Most teenagers verbal skills are not fully developed. However, most teenagers know if they can get you into an argument that the original topic will get lost and you end up arguing about something else. It’s not that teenagers have this planned out in their heads, but as I said their verbal skills are not fully developed. Therefore, they feel more comfortable in an argument because those skills are developed and they have some idea how to handle the situation. Therefore, if you are getting pulled into an argument call a time out and say you prefer to discuss the issue when you are both calm. This will surprise them and hopefully cause them to think about the situation.

6. Don’t Teach Your Child How to “Do Time”

Many parents get frustrated and ground their kids for long periods of time in order to make the punishment stick. Personally, I think that’s a mistake. If you simply ground your child, you’re teaching him nothing. But if you ground him until he accomplishes certain things, you can increase the effectiveness of the consequence. So if your teenager loses his video game privileges for 24 hours, he should be doing something within that time frame that helps him improve his behavior. Simply grounding him from his video games for a week will just teach him how to wait until he can get them back. He is not learning anything about the mistake he made and he is also learning nothing about how he could have handled the situation differently. Again, we want consequences to be learning experiences. A consequence that doesn’t fit the crime will just seem meaningless to your child, and won’t get you the desired result. Remember, you don’t want to be so punitive that your child simply gives up. That will never translate to better behavior.

7. Engage Your Child’s Self-interest

Learn to ask questions in ways that appeal to your child’s self-interest. So for example, you might say, “What are you going to do the next time you think Dad is being unfair so you won’t get into trouble?” In other words, you’re trying to engage his self-interest. If your child is a teenager, he won’t care about how Dad feels. Adolescents are frequently very detached from that set of feelings. They might feel guilty and say they’re sorry later, but you’ll see the behavior happen again. So learn to appeal to their self- interest, and ask the question, “What can you do so you don’t get in trouble next time?”

8. How Will I Know If a Consequence Is Working?

Parents often say to me, “My child acts like he doesn’t care. So how do I know if the consequence I’m giving him is actually working?” I always tell them, “It’s simple—you’ll know it’s working because he’s being held accountable.” Accountability gives you the best chance for change.

9. Some Things Should Never Be Used as Consequences

In my opinion, there are certain things that should never be taken away from kids. For instance, you should never prohibit your child from going to the prom. Not ever. That’s a milestone in your child’s life; personally, I think that milestones should not be taken away. Your child is not going to learn anything from that experience. Unless the mistake was so big such as robbing someone then you may need to go that far. I recommend using your own judgment regarding how your teenager acts before making this a consequence.

The same approach should be taken for sport. Teenagers can learn a great deal from sports. However, if they make a severe mistake missing a practice or a game maybe an appropriate consequence. However, removing them from the team all together maybe a mistake. However, remember the coach has the ultimate power over his players. Many teams have a code of conduct that players must follow. Therefore, if they violate the coaches rules, they maybe removed from the team. This will impact them more than if you did it.

10. Don’t Show Disgust or Disdain

When giving consequences to your teenager, you need to be consistent and firm, but don’t show disgust or disdain. If you are attacking them as a person, their sense of self is not fully developed yet. As a result, you may inflict a wound to their self-esteem that may cause more problems than you intended. You are trying to raise someone who can function as a healthy adult, not somebody who feels they’re a constant disappointment to you. It’s very important to shape your behavior so that your child knows you’re not taking his mistakes personally. Remember, the look on your face and the tone of your voice communicates a lot more to your child than your words do. Positive regard is critical for getting your message across.

It’s important to remember that life is very tough for many teenagers, especially with Nass shootings and the Coronavirus. Going to school is difficult, both academically and socially, and there is tremendous pressure on children and teens to perform today. Personally, We need to remember that and teenagers should be recognized and respected for what they have to deal with in today’s world. Think of it this way: what you’re really trying to do is work on your child’s behavior to get him to try to do different things. So if your child misbehaves and you ground him from everything indefinitely, you’re losing sight of all the other things he did right—and he will, too.

Consequences have shown to be an effective way to help teenagers learn what is appropriate and not appropriate. It is an approach I strongly believe in. Hopefully these tips will help you use consequences effectively with your teenager.

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

How Many Children and Adults have to Die before We Act?

How Many Children and Adults have to Die before We Act?

During the past several months there has been a significant increase in mass shootings and people being killed by guns. We just had another mass shooting today in San Jose, California and 8 people were killed. Additionally, This past weekend over 250 people were killed by guns. The weekend before there were approximately 200 people killed in mass shooting or by a gun. Additionally, 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 of gun violence, I read an article by Cody Fenwick regarding children and gun violence. His article was very alarming. Since there has been a significant increase in mass shootings 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 by guns. 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 in the Journal of Pediatrics 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 anyway. 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.

Finally, we are only in the month of May and the number of Americans killed to date is more than in 2019 (CDC). We are seeing mass shootings increase, violence against Asian Americans and Jewish Americans and police killings. What is happening in the United States? We are the only Country in the world dealing with mass shootings. However, we claim to be the most advanced nation in the world. Maybe Congress needs to look at these numbers and think about their actions. Denying the attack on the US Capital was not violent is crazy. We have videos of people assaulting the Capital Police and demanding to hang the Vice President. The Republicans in the House of Representatives remove Represetative Cheney from her leadership post because she won’t lie and say that Biden did not win the Presidential Election. Finally, you have a Republican representative comparing the requirement to wear masks in the House Chambers because everyone in the House of Representatives is not vaccinated to the Holocaust and the Republican Party does nothing. Someone who speaks the truth is removed and someone who makes racist, homophobic and anti Semitic statements is praised. This may be one part of the issue. We need to support people who are treating other people appropriately and we need to speak out and refuse to allow people who are treating people like garbage to continue to be allowed to treat people like garbage.

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 www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.