Celebrating Halloween during the Pandemic

Celebrating Halloween during the Pandemic

In about a month it will be Halloween. This is a holiday that many children look forward to every year. However, this year most children will be missing Halloween due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Many states are reporting an increase in Coronavirus cases and the flu season is beginning too. Therefore, it is not medically safe for children to be trick or treating this year. The major problem is most of these children have missed their birthdays, playing with their friends, summer vacation and now they are having to go to school remotely. As a result, main children are feeling depressed and do not want to participate in school.

With everything these children have been through, hopefully we can find some safe, fun ways for them to celebrate Halloween. One possible option is, as a family, you can let your children pick out their costumes and since Halloween is on a Saturday this year, let them wear these costumes all day. Additionally as a family you can pick out scary movies to watch all day and night and treats they can have for the day. You can also carve pumpkins and prepare a special Halloween dinner. If you google Halloween recipes, you will find a number of dishes that have a Halloween theme. This may not be the same as trick or treating but it can be a fun time for the entire family.

Another possibility is to arrange trick or treating with your family and family friends. You can arrange that with family members and friends that are taking appropriate precautions such as wearing masks and social distancing so they are not likely to have the Coronavirus that you can stop by their homes and trick or treat. This way your children do get to trick or treat but at least you are trying to do it in the safest manner possible. Obviously, your children would need to wear masks and being feeling well. If they had a runny nose or a slight fever, you would need to keep them home. However, this occurs every year, if at the last minute a child is looking or acting ill, you need to keep them home. Obviously, your family and friends would be wearing masks when you went to their houses and if they were feeling sick they would let you know before you left your house so you would know to skip their house.

Another option would be if your city or church has a community center. You can have people who volunteer to pass out candy on Halloween at the hall. All the volunteers would wear masks and their temperatures would have been taken to keep it as safe as possible. You could schedule 10 children at a time to go through the hall and trick or treat. Again, the children will need to be wearing masks and have had their temperatures taken. This way you are making it safe for the children and volunteers. You would need a schedule so you would not have too many children in the same space at the same time. Yes this will take a fair amount of work. However, it will allow children to celebrate a holiday specifically for children and they have a chance to act like children and forget the pandemic for a night. This would be a tremendous gift to children who have missed a lot of their childhood due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Some people may be tempted to say just forget the pandemic and let the children celebrate Halloween like they usually do. However, the research does document that children can and do contract the Coronavirus. The research also shows that children do need to be hospitalized due to the Coronavirus. The research shows that 1out of 3 children who are hospitalized will end up in the ICU. Finally the research numbers show children will and have died due to the Coronavirus. However, an additional complication during this time of the year is it is flu season too. It is possible for a child to have the flu and Coronavirus at the same time. Therefore, we cannot treat this like any other year and we need to brainstorm how children can celebrate Halloween safety.

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

Mental Health Crisis Created by the Coronavirus

Mental Health Crisis Created by the Coronavirus

We have a major mental health crisis coming our way and we are not prepared. Before the Coronavirus pandemic one out of five teenagers met the criteria for a mental health diagnosis and needed psychotherapy (CDC). In addition depression, anxiety and cutting were at epidemic rates for teenagers (CDC). To make matters worse, suicide had been the third leading cause of death for teenagers prior to the pandemic and has been moved from the third to the second leading cause of death for teenagers (CDC). Additionally, African-American teenagers were committing suicide at five times the rate of Caucasian teenagers (CDC). This means prior to the pandemic, we had many teenagers dying due to suicide and the rate has been increasing every year for the past ten years (CDC). In 2018 over 6200 teenagers between 10-18 committed suicide (CDC). If the number of teenagers committing suicide is increasing every year significantly, then how many teenagers committed suicide last year? How many teenagers will attempt or commit suicide this year?

Here are the statistics for teenage mental health prior to the pandemic. We know since the pandemic the number of teenagers reporting depression and anxiety have significantly increased and so have the number of teenage suicides and death due to drug overdoses have increased since the pandemic. I have seen a significant increase in patients calling my office for psychotherapy for their teenagers and children. How are we going to provide all these children and teenagers with psychotherapy? Additionally, many parents are having to stop their child’s psychotherapy because they can no longer afford the copayments. Many parents have lost their jobs or have had their hours cut which reduces their monthly income. Therefore, many parents are having to choose between paying rent and buying food or their child’s therapy. I am willing to make accommodations so the children and teenagers I treat can stay in therapy, however many therapists will not make accommodations. So what happens to all these children who need therapy because the pandemic has exacerbated their mental health issues? Why should parents have to decide between food on the table or therapy for their depressed teenager?

Another fact we cannot overlook is that this week we reached the point where 200,000 Americans have died due to the Coronavirus. This means there are 200,000 families who are grieving. Many children have lost parents and grandparents. Many parents have lost their parents and have lost their child too. The Coronavirus does and has killed children. How do we provide grief counseling to all of the grieving families and friends? With a record number of people out of work order besides finding therapists to help all these family members, how do you provide therapy at an affordable price? If you have a family of four that needs therapy, the monthly cost for therapy will be very expensive. Again people are having to choose between food for the family or therapy for the family.

Another factor impacting the mental health of children and parents is school. Because the President refuses to issue a national mandate regarding masks, children and teenagers are having to attend school remotely. Fourth percent of the parents in our Country have had to adjust their work schedules so there is someone at home to help the children. This has resulted in many parents having to reduce their pay. Again making it difficult to pay the rent and afford food. Additionally, many children and teenagers are becoming very frustrated because the remote learning is not well coordinated and they want to give up on school. This is adding more stress to families who are already over stressed. They are needing psychotherapy to help them, but they cannot afford therapy. Again what are we going to do to help these families?

One final point for this article, we hear that people have and do recover after being diagnosed with the Coronavirus. This is true, however, we have now learned something new about this new virus. A number of people who recover go on to develop what is being to referred to as “long haul syndrome.” People who develop this syndrome have heart palpitations, neurological problems, losing their hair and a condition referred to a brain fog. At this point no one knows how long it will last and who will develop it. It also is creating mental health issues such as depression. These people and their families will require therapy too. Again, how do we provide affordable therapy to these people? Since there is a negative stigma about mental health, we do not have enough therapists in the United States to treat all these people. Right now of course we are looking for a cure to the virus but we have not been paying attention to the collateral damage this virus has caused and how are we going to cope with it. Mental health is a major area, but we have not been paying attention to the mental health issues created by this virus and how are we going to address the mental health needs of the United States.

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

Teenagers Encourages Us to Accept Our Differences

Teenagers Encourages Us to Accept Our Differences

We have many stereotypes about groups, such as people who enjoy sports, and about people from different ethnicities, financial status and education status, such as did they go to college or not. Most teenagers have been taught these stereotypes and feel that they need to conform to the stereotypes even if they disagree with the stereotypes. However, many teenagers also feel and believe that these stereotypes are wrong. As a result, they ignore the stereotypes they were taught and treat everyone with dignity and respect regardless of the person’s ethnicity or financial class. I have many teenagers asking me during their sessions how they can ignore the stereotypes without getting into trouble. They can clearly articulate why the stereotypes are wrong, but they know many adults strongly believe in the stereotypes and if they ignore the stereotypes, they could get into trouble with the adults who believe the stereotypes. They know taking a stand could create problems with parents, extended family and teachers just to name a few. However, they feel if they are going to be true to themselves, they must take the stand regardless of the cost.

We are seeing that the teenagers born after the year 2000, tend to have these beliefs and tend to act on them. As I have said before, the teenagers born after the year 2000 are a unique group and have different ideas and beliefs based on the many things they have experienced that no other group have kids have ever experienced. Remember these kids were born primarily after the 9/11 terrorist attack and have grown up with warnings about terrorist attacks and increased terrorist attacks around the world. Additionally our Country has been at war since they were born too. They also lived through the great recession and many where impacted by it. Finally, they have grown up with mass school shootings which around 2018 were occurring daily. Also because of this fact, they had mass shooter drills not fire alarms. All of this will impact how they see and react to the world.

Another thing these teenagers were exposed to were messages via movies and non-profit groups who work with teenagers and children that there was hope for the world and they were the hope. The children and teenagers were hearing they had the ability to change the world through their actions and by voting. Many children and teenagers have paid attention to these messages and believe them. As a result, they are trying to change the world.

Disney provided many movies with positive messages for children and teenagers. Beauty and the Beast taught children not to judge by appearance. You need to look inside the person to get an accurate view of their heart and beliefs. The movie, Frozen, taught children that it was alright to disregard the typical male stereotype. The movie said boys do cry and it’s normal. Finally, the movie showed that love is more powerful than hate. You can get more done and live a happier life by loving those around you instead of hating people. Finally in the High School Musical movies, children were taught that it’s normal for people to have different interests and the stereotypes could be wrong. In these movies you had a hispanic teenage girl as the lead and in the movie she was the smartest person and should how you could expect others without judging. You also had a white, overweight cheerleader, a black girl who was extremely intelligent and you had a black basketball player who also liked to cook. All the characters violated the ethnic stereotypes and all the characters were very good friends. In fact, the final song discusses how we are all in this together and need to work together and accept each other just the way we are. There was no need to judge and it was alright for people to have differences. A very powerful message. This message was also highlighted in the movie The Greatest Showman, a movie about P.T. Barnum. The newspaper critic provides the message of the movie, “putting people together of all different sizes and colors could be considered a celebration of humanity.” Again another message to accept people as they are and it’s alright for people to have differences. In fact, we should accept and celebrate our differences.

Children and teenagers watched these movies and paid attention to the message these movies were delivering. In addition to these movies you also have groups, such as Challenge Day, working with teenagers. These groups educate teenagers it’s alright to be different and the stereotypes regarding men and women are outdated. They are educating teenagers that everyone has the right to be accepted and loved just the way they were born. Additionally, teenagers are receiving the message they are the future and they can change the world. Teenagers are listening to this message and also starting to act.

A great example of how teenagers have listened to these messages are the teenagers from the high school in Parkland, Florida. These teenagers had to endure a horrific experience with a mass shooter at their high school. Typically after a shooting everyone discussed how changes need to be made. However, changes never seem to occur. However, these teenagers decided to take action. They formed a group to meet with politicians and demanded changes. These teenagers formed the group March for Our Lives and have established satellite groups in most states of the United States. They are still meeting with politicians but now all over the Country. They are also protesting and educating the public using social media.

Black Lives Matter is another great example. Teenagers are tired of seeing people being discriminated against because of their ethnicity. They feel everyone is equal it doesn’t matter if you are white, black, brown or asian. We are all equal and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. The teenagers are willing to put their beliefs into actions. They are willing to hold peaceful protests and to educate others about how society needs to change and accept everyone. They are determined to give meaning what is in scribed on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” This statement implies that we all need to be treated equally. It also indicates our Country world eliminate systemic racism and discrimination.

Our Country is facing numerous issues regarding race and ethnicity. I think we need to remember what is on the Statue of Liberty and we need to pay attention to what the teenagers are pointing out and requesting our Country to do. The time has come to address systemic racism and discrimination in this United States. If we do, we will make life better for everyone in the Country. A very common mistake is this systemic discrimination only impacts people of color, however as the Disney movies point out is the systemic discrimination impacts people who are white too. Think about it because it does have an impact on our lives. A negative impact. The movies, novels and history have shown us that hate is toxic and love sets you free and improves your life. Listen to the teenagers and choose love.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating 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 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.”

How Many People Need to Die?

How Many People Need to Die?

Schools and colleges are back in session and in college towns we are seeing an increase in the number of college students and people with the Coronavirus. As of today we also have over 500,000 children diagnosed with the Coronavirus. A 16% increase since schools have resumed (CDC). The White House said children could return to school and colleges could open safely. Obviously this is not the truth. The White House also say we are turning a corner with the Coronavirus and we are getting it under control. However, over 6 million Americans have the Coronavirus and over 190,000 have died and we have a thousand people dying daily (CDC). According to the University of Washington if we continue on our current course over 400,000 Americans by the end of the year will die. Also the White House states we will have a vaccine by the end of the year or even maybe by November 3, 2020. Neither one is realistic. Even if by magic we have a vaccine by the end of the year, we need to find a way of storing a vaccine that requires sub zero temperatures and who gets the vaccine? In addition to these facts, what about the long haul syndrome many people are developing after they had the Coronavirus? We are just learning about it so we still don’t totally understand the Coronavirus.

Let’s turn back to the College students. When an 18 year old goes away to College they are finally on their own and can make their own decisions. They want to have fun with their friends. Let’s examine what College students experience. They are away from home and friends. Therefore, their lives consist of going to class and doing their homework. Besides that they have nothing els to do. They are feeling lonely and craving interaction with other people. Therefore, they develop friends and they want to and need to spend time with their friends and roommates. They need the social activity. Without the social interaction, they feel lonely, isolated and depressed. Therefore, sending 18 year old students to college and expecting them not to socialize is crazy. Also remember their brains are not fully developed and able to make mature, rational decisions until they are 25 years old. These students are already feeling lonely and bored and many college towns are allowing bars to stay open. We are encouraging these students to party and spread the Coronavirus. With all the temptations in college towns, why are we surprised that they are not following guidelines and not socializing?

Another option for College students would be for them to stay at home and go to school remotely. Many colleges are having students live in the dorms and going to class remotely. Therefore, why can’t they stay at home and attend remotely? They would have the support system of their families and close friends. Their parents could help encourage them to not go to parties and wear masks when they leave the house. Yes the college losing the money they earn on the dorms and the White House feels it looks bad for them. However, are we more concerned about saving lives or making money for colleges and making the White House look good?

Another factor we need to consider is that we are entering the flu season. We already have 500,000 elementary students with the Coronavirus and we have an increase in the rates in the Coronavirus in College towns. How are physicians supposed to determine the difference between the flu and the Coronavirus? We don’t have a rapid Coronavirus test. People who take the current Coronavirus tests often don’t get their results for 10 days which is too late. This generation of children and teenagers are aware of the news and what is occurring in the world. Due to their smartphones and instant access to the internet, they know they virus is not under control. They are afraid of dying from the virus. I have very few children and teenagers that I provide psychotherapy for who like remote learning. However, they prefer remote learning than being exposed to the virus. They see how many people are dying and they are afraid that they will catch the virus. They ask me over and over, why won’t people wear masks? School children are looking at adults and the White House pretend that the virus is under control and refuse to address it. So they ask, why? It is a valid question, why won’t the White House admit how serious the Coronavirus is and why do some adults ignore the fact that we are living in the middle of a pandemic?

Therefore, I am asking the question for all the children, teenagers and college students that I treat? How many people have to die before the President starts to seriously address the Coronavirus? Why do we have to wear a mask and miss parties, when the President doesn’t? Remember the party he had on the lawn of the White House when he accepted the Republican Nomination. The President didn’t miss his party, but children have had to miss their birthday parties this year and many have seen grandparents die. So how do we answer the children? How many people have to die before our President provides a national prevention program for the Coronavirus?

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

Seeing No End to the Pandemic more Teenagers are Thinking about Suicide

Seeing No End to the Pandemic more Teenagers are Thinking about Suicide

Many parents ask me, if their child could be suicidal and what to do if their child is suicidal? I have been getting this question even more now that the pandemic has lasted so long. As a result of teenagers and children having to stay in the house for so long and not being able to return to school, many teenagers are feeling isolated and lonely. Suicidal feeling have been increasing for teenagers for several years. As a result, the CDC has moved suicide from the the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. Furthermore, since the quarantine and pandemic have occurred, there has been an increase in suicides and deaths from drug overdoses in teenagers. A recent study by the CDC has found that during the pandemic, the idea of suicide for teenagers has increased. Currently, 1 out of 4 teenagers have been having suicidal thoughts (CDC). Also for adults, the suicidal ideation has increased by 11%. As a result, parents are worrying more about if their teenager may be feeling suicidal. Additionally, before the quarantine and pandemic, parents were worrying more about their teenager being suicidal because a study by the CDC indicated that survivors of mass shootings were more likely to attempt suicide. 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 think their teen is suicidal. This creates a great deal of anxiety for parents because we were discussing the teenage suicide epidemic, but since the pandemic has lasted so long, the number of teenagers thinking about suicide has increased suicide significantly (CDC). Parents have been isolated to due to the pandemic so besides the fact they are dealing with their own feelings of isolation and fatigue, they are faced with trying to decide what is the best thing to do for their teenager.

A successful suicide attempt is definitely a tragedy for the entire family. However, an unsuccessful attempt can be a major tragedy for the teen 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. Some teenagers may need a face transplant which is a new technique surgeons have as an option.

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 looked at the study and questions and I highly recommend the Lighthouse Project.

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. It provides you with symptoms and signs to watch for in teenagers. It also helps you talk to your teen about their feelings and opinions you can use for help. The bottom line, if you feel your teenager is suicidal do not be embarrassed. Remember today’s teenagers have had to deal with a lot over the past couple of years. They had to worry about being shot at school by a mass shooter, bullying has significantly increased so has the pressure to succeed and now they have had to cope with 4 months of being quarantined, their school was abruptly closed and now many are having to return to school remotely. They are all saying the same thing to me, when do I get to see me friends and when will life return to normal. Since many are now feeling life will never be normal, they are feeling suicidal. We need to be there for them and help them through these very confusing times. These times are confusing for adults imagine how they are for teenagers and children. So if you teen or child seem depressed or are talking an suicide make an appointment to have your teen evaluated by a psychotherapist who specializes in suicidal teenagers. If you walk in on a teenager attempting suicide, 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 www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page www.facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcast Understanding Today’s Teenagers on Spotify or Apple.

Special Ed & IEPs Still Exist During COVID 19

Special Ed & IEPs Still Exist During COVID 19

While most of the schools in California are starting the year with remote learning, it does not mean that Individual Educational Plans (IEP) are obsolete. In fact in some ways the pandemic has created more problems with IEPS. I have already been contacted by several families who were in the process of having their IEP meetings when the schools shut down suddenly due to the Coronavirus. These families have been contacting the school to finish their child’s IEP, but the district continues to postpone. Even with remote learning children are going to need their accommodations listed in their IEPs, but the IEPs need to be completed. Therefore, parents you are correct when you are asking to have your child’s IEP completed.

This is one family’s experience trying to get their child an IEP and how the school district abused the family. The names have been changed for the family’s privacy. However, this same story happens daily to many families and children. In fact, I have three other families I am currently working with where the school district is doing similar things. Instead of decreasing, it appears the abusive behavior by the school districts is increasing every year. Therefore, parents please read carefully because you never know when you may be facing the same issues.

The story of Tara and her daughter Payton is a common story I have heard many times from families who have children who need an IEP. Prior to the age of 4 years old Payton was diagnosed with a speech and auditory processing difficulties. Payton was behind in her speech developmental milestones and attending preschool to address these issues. However, no one explained to Tara, Payton’s mother, what this diagnosis meant or the prognosis. Neither did anyone explain to Tara about the special education services she was entitled to.

Payton started kindergarten and do to her difficulties she needed to repeat kindergarten. Again, no one explained to Tara, Payton’s mother, how this may impact Payton and they also did not explain any other options, Tara agreed. She was not alarmed because Tara had to repeat kindergarten herself.

However, this started a never ending cycle, where Payton was not meeting the standards for her grade level even when she was receiving Resource Assistance. Tara stated some Resource Teachers were great and others knew very little about auditory processing issues so her daughter received no help.

Tara, watching her daughter struggle, decided to do her own research. She found out more about her daughter’s learning disability and that there was a private school which specialized in this learning disability. Mount Diablo School District continued to lie to Tara as she asked more questions. Also the District went to Payton’s father and lied to him. They told him if Payton’s mother was successfully in getting Payton into the private school, he would have to pay upfront. The District said they would reimburse him later. This is a lie. Also it is not uncommon for the school district to take advantage of a divorce situation and play the parents against each other.

This resulted in a long fight with the school district and in the family court. Payton is in 6th grade and after many years and a great deal of time and money, the fight continues. Mount Diablo School District never looked at the price Payton was paying not receiving the education she is entitled to and having to endure her parents fighting each other in the courts.

This could have been handled very easily if someone was honest with Tara and told her what her daughter was entitled to and if the District followed the legal guidelines. However, they lie to parents all the time hoping parents will give up. If they do, then the District doesn’t need to pay anything and can use the money how they want. Tara was a prime target. A single parent who does not have a lot of time or money. Mount Diablo misjudged Tara, she would not give up on her daughter.

Tara also found out something else parents need to be aware of when dealing with the IEP process. The parent liaisons provided by the district are not there to help the parent or the student. They serve as another way to confuse parents by providing incorrect information to parents. Most parents trust these people believing they are on the student’s side, but they really are there to support the District.

As I said, Tara and Payton’s story is not uncommon. I have worked with many other families who have very similar stories. Also as I stated above, the number of families in these situations are increasing not decreasing. Parents tend to believe school districts have the students best interest at heart. This is how it is suppose to be. However, I have worked with families across the United States and what I have seen is that school districts have their best interest at heart not the students. Tara had a very good way of stating the problem, “the child is the one who struggles for not having their needs met academically”.  How many more parents are out there with struggling students who have been given the same bad information?  I don’t know.  But we need to help them help their child, or these children will be at risk of dropping out and struggling the rest of their lives.  The school district is actually helping create children who are unable to get jobs and will be unable to afford decent housing when they become adults.  And that is a very very scary reality, no one wants to talk about it because it’s not their child who is at risk. However, it could very easily be your child. What do you do then?

Parents need to come together and demand that their children be provided the accommodations they are entitled to. Look up the educational law so you are aware of the appropriate procedure and accommodations. Also do not be embarrassed for standing up for your child’s rights. You are just being a good parent. The school districts need to look at how they are treating children. Also when it comes time to elect the school board, research the candidates and elect those who have a history which demonstrates they truly care about children.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. In addition he has over 20 years experience serving as an IEP advocate for families. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his websites http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or http://www.LucasCenter.org or listen to my podcast Understanding Today’s Teenagers on Spotify and Apple.

Helping Kids Return to School During A Pandemic

Helping Kids Return to School During A Pandemic

Well it has taken some time, but finally most school districts have decided when school will be starting and how students will be resuming school. This decision has been made fairly late for most students. Many schools will be resuming school in two weeks and several schools that have tried returning to the classrooms have already started, but several are already having to interrupt classes because students and teachers have already tested positive for the Coronavirus, such as in Georgia. The children and teenagers I have spoken with are angry and upset about school resuming. However, most of them are also happy too, but don’t like to admit it. This article will explore how parents can help their children and teenagers resume school in the middle of a global pandemic.

Starting back to school in the middle of a pandemic can create anxiety and fear for some students, since they still are hearing about people contracting and dying from the Coronavirus. Also since most students have been through a great deal of stress prior to the pandemic such as dealing with daily mass shootings last year, schools closing suddenly due to the quarantine and now they are resuming school but have no idea what to expect. Many students are tired of dealing with the unknown and many kids are losing interest in school too. They want their lives to be somewhat normal again. Since most the children and teenagers that I deal with will be returning to school remotely, I will be looking at the issue from that perspective, however you can use many of the same suggestions for children returning to their classrooms for school. In my opinion, remote learning is the best option for this semester, but there are various opinions and parents need to do what they feel is best for their family.

The first thing parents can do before their child or teenager returns to school is explain what to expect at school. Children’s imagination can be very active and often their imagination is worse than reality. By explaining how remote schooling will work you are preparing your child what to expect and they don’t have to imagine what remote school will be like. Also because you are explaining all the details you are telling your child and teenager that you have inspected the plan for school and you are feeling safe enough to allow them to participate. Children know that if their parents felt the situation was not appropriate for them that you would not allow them to be involved in the situation.

The next step for parents is to listen to your child and teenager. Allow them to vent their frustration, their fears and their disappointment and any other feelings they may have about the plan for school. It’s important for them to express all their feelings and concerns so you can address them. Also if they are not allowed to express how they are feeling most likely they will start to feel resentful because they feel like no one cares about their feelings. If this occurs, they could resist participating in the remote schooling. The most common feeling you will probably hear is anger and frustration about not being able to see their friends daily at school and hang out with their friends. Remember, due to schools closing early and quarantine restrictions many children and teenagers have not been able to see their friends for several months now. Yes they understand the need to be careful due to the Coronavirus, but they are also tired of it especially when they see adults not wearing masks and disobeying the guidelines. A good example is the motorcycle rally they are having in South Dakota.

In addition to listening to their feelings, validate their feelings. Let them know they are entitled to whatever feelings they are having and this is not an easy situation for anybody. Empathize with their feelings too. Explain while it’s not easy for anyone it is more difficult for them because they are young and they want to enjoy life. You can understand how frustrating it is with no one being able to give them definite answers about when their lives may return to normal. Reassure them that you have heard all their feelings and concerns and you are going to do your best to help them through this situation.

Another important thing parents can do with their children is to brainstorm. Now that you know their feelings and concerns, you and your child or teenager can brainstorm about how you can address the various issues and concerns they have about the remote schooling. If at the end of last school year the remote schooling was slightly chaotic you can agree to work with them until you figure out the system for this year. If they are missing friends, maybe there is away they can see friends in person but still adhere to the guidelines of wearing masks and keeping appropriate distance from each other. If they are missing working out at the gym or practicing with their team, there maybe a way they can do workouts at home or there maybe coaches offering private lessons. You can also see if the school has developed an answers to these situations. Most importantly let them know you will look at all the options and you may have to consider options outside of the box because of the unique situation with the pandemic. The main point is you will work with them as hard as you can to address their concerns and make their lives feel as normal as you can given the pandemic.

Finally schedule regular check-ins with your children and teenagers. The above steps are a good beginning, however things can change. Therefore, what was working at the beginning of the school year may not be working two months later. If you have regular check-ins and something changes you can catch it before it becomes a big issue. In addition to checking-in with your child, remember to check-in with your child’s school. Ask about how your child is doing and also ask if there are any proposed changes scheduled for the remote learning. Again if there are changes being proposed, you can prepare your child so you can hopefully make the transition any easy one rather than a stressful one.

Finally, remember the children and teenagers of today have been under a great deal of stress due to the mass school shootings which were occurring daily before the pandemic and quarantine. The pandemic has only added to their stress levels. Since the beginning of the pandemic depression and anxiety disorders have increased significantly for children and teenagers (CDC). Anxiety and depression were already at epidemic levels for children and teenagers before the pandemic. Therefore, anything we can do to help reduce anxiety and depression for children and teenagers will help them adjust to the remote schooling. Remember we are all in this together and need to all work together and we will survive the pandemic. If you do notice that your child or teenager is acting more anxious than normal or appear several depressed, make an appointment for them to see a psychotherapist experienced with treating children and teenagers. There is nothing to be embarrassed about if your child needs therapy during this time.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. 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 or his podcast Understanding Today’s Teenagers on Apple or Spotify.

Teenagers May Need more Access to Electronics during the Pandemic

Teenagers May Need more Access to Electronics during the Pandemic

Most middle school and high school students have grown up with smart phones and computers for gaming and texting their friends. This brings up the common argument about how much time teens are spending on line. Many parents have concerns that their teenager is addicted to their smart phones and gaming. Teenagers feel that their parents are over reacting and they can’t become addicted to their devices.

However, due to the pandemic gaming is now one of the few safe activities teenagers can do. Most places such as movie theaters and malls are closed so gamine provides a safe way to hang out with friends. This is very important to their social development at their age. Additionally, research is showing that teenagers who have little access to normal social activities are becoming depressed during the pandemic (CDC). Therefore, we need to re-evaluate the issue of gaming during the pandemic.

While the truth is teenagers can become addicted to their computer devices and gaming. The World Health Organization (WHO) took a step this year and classified “Gaming Disorder” as a formal diagnosis. As I stated, many parents have been concerned about this for years. Also it does not just impact teenagers, as many may think. I have had couples come in for marriage counseling because Gaming was destroying a marriage. For several years the American Psychological Association has said it would be adding Gaming addiction as a formal diagnosis to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, however, so far the APA has not been able to decide on the specific criteria for this diagnosis. What the WHO has done is they have acknowledged what many parents have been reporting for years and helping us to take a step so it is acknowledged as a diagnosis. While it is a diagnosis according to the WHO, gaming again is one of the safe activities teenagers can engage in during the pandemic. This does create a difficult situation.

The United States appears to be behind other countries in identifying that video game addiction does exist and does create problems for individuals and families. Seoul, South Korea and Tokyo, Japan have inpatient treatment centers for gaming addiction. These rehabilitation centers have been open for years and have treated thousands of people over the years. Therefore, other countries have acknowledged Gaming addiction that United States parents have been reporting for years.

As a psychotherapist who treats teenagers, I would have to agree with the parents and I say Gaming addiction is real. I have seen teenagers become violent, punching holes in walls or physically threatening their parents, if there video games or cellphones are taken away as a punishment. Teenagers have told me they cannot function without their video games or cellphones and will do anything to get them back. This sounds like and look like a problem to me. A cellphone or PlayStation should not be a teenager’s life line.

However, as I stated above, the pandemic does create a different situation regarding teenagers gaming online with friends. Since this is a safe way for teenagers to maintain social contacts, I think we need to create new guidelines for the pandemic. Parents are aware that teenagers can become addicted, but they can monitor how their teenagers are acting before and after using electronics. Also maybe have a day without electronics, while allowing some extra time on other days. So try to balance out how much time they are on electronics along with doing other things such as going outside for walks to get exercise.

The statement from the WHO states that the Gaming must be interfering with activities of daily life, such as homework, and be present for at least a year. These guidelines seem sensible to me. Also the WHO cautions that issues such as depression and anxiety need to be ruled out before assigning the diagnosis of Gaming Addiction. Many teenagers who are depressed or dealing with severe anxiety do self-medicate with video games. Finally, the WHO states your child needs to be evaluated by a mental health clinician who specializes in treating and assessing children and teenagers. This is very important because typically children and teenagers do not always have the typical symptoms we associate with depression or anxiety. A clinician experienced in assessing children and teenagers can make the appropriate diagnosis. Given these guidelines it appears to me that parents can allow teenagers to use their electronics more during this time of the pandemic. Parents can make sure to balance electronic time with other activities such as exercise. Furthermore, parents need to be observing their teenagers mood on a daily basis. If the teen is looking depressed or acting anxious then the parents need to schedule a time to have their teenager evaluated by a mental health professional who specializes in treating children and teenagers.

I have included a link to a segment on Good Morning America which discusses the diagnosis and other issues I have discussed to assist you in understanding what the WHO is referring to with Gaming Addiction, https://youtu.be/axG1tLdutmY.

The World Health Organization has taken an important step in helping us understand and define a problem many parents have been reporting for years. This is not a bad thing. I view it as a positive step. Technology is moving very fast. In fact, it is moving so fast we cannot keep up with all the new issues we need to deal with as a result of new technology. The more we understand this technology the more we all can benefit and avoid potential serious problems.

With that be stated, the Coronavirus pandemic does present parents and teenagers with a entirely new set of issues. If we stay calm and flexible, we should be able to address these new issues without a great deal of stress for parents or teenagers. Remember this is a new situation for everyone and no one has experienced this type of health situation before. Therefore, if we all work together, we should be able to find solutions to the new issues we continue to face on a daily basis.

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

Should Schools Reopen in the Middle of a Pandemic?

Should Schools Reopen in the Middle of a Pandemic?

Are we thinking about the safety of our children, school personnel and family members, when we are debating should we or should we not reopen schools in two to four weeks? Currently, the Coronavirus is out of control in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Arizona and California. Florida has used all of their ICU beds, in Georgia surgeons don’t have enough masks for surgeons and State officials in Texas, Arizona and California are requesting that their states be shut down and return to shelter in place (CDC, CNN, ABC News). Furthermore, the latest results indicate that people under 40 are the ones who are currently being infected (CDC). In addition to this fact, research does indicate that children can contract the Coronavirus and can die from the Coronavirus. A couple of weeks ago an 11 year old boy, in Florida, died due to the Coronavirus (CDC, CNN).

If the virus is out of control and children can contradict it and die, why are we pushing them to go to the school site, where social distancing is impossible? Additionally, many of these children have parents and grandparents living with them who are at high risks. Therefore, by going to school, they are exposing their families to the Coronavirus. How would a 10 year old boy feel if he brought the virus home and his grandparents caught it and died? It would be devastating to the child. The child could also transmit the virus to his teacher or his teacher’s parents who live with her. Again, if any of them died the little boy would be devastated and emotionally scared for life.

Chris Cuomo interviewed a wife, on his show Prime Time, whose husband was on a ventilator due to the Coronavirus. She had the virus too. They were not sure if her husband would survive. The family contracted the virus because their 21 year old son went to a party. The mother reported that emotionally her son was devastated. He was worrying that by going to his friend’s party, his father might die and he was blaming himself. If a 21 year old young man is having severe emotional difficulties dealing with this situation, how would an eight or 10 year old child handle it?

As a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers, I have been asking my patients about how they feel about returning to their classrooms this semester or doing remote learning like they were doing at the end of last year? All the children and teenagers have discussed how it would be nice to return to school so they can see their friends. However, they all are also worried about contracting the Coronavirus and they are concerned about pacing the Coronavirus on to someone in their family. As a result of this fear, all the kids want to do remote learning. Additionally, all the children and teenagers that I work with do not trust the White House to protect them. We forget this is the generation that has grown up with Smartphones. As a result, they have access to news reports and are aware of what is happening in our Country. They also have opinions about the Coronavirus and how it has been handled. They also have opinions about the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent protests that have occurred across the Country.

When the physicians who are experts regarding this virus and public health experts all agree that returning to the classrooms at this time is not safe for the students, their families or for teachers or other school personnel, I think we should listen to them. They said we were reopening the government too fast and look at the mess we are in at this time. As of July 25, 2020, over 145,000 Americans have died and the state of California reported the highest number of people dying in the state today and Florida now has more reported cases than New York at its peak (CDC). This is for today. The numbers in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California continue to rise which means more people will be dying.

Besides medical professionals and educational professionals recommending that we have children do school by remote learning, children and teenagers are requesting remote learning. They are afraid of catching the Coronavirus. Again, the research indicates that children and teenagers do contradict the Coronavirus. When they do they are more at risk to develop a unique complication which is similar to Kawasaki‘s disease. As a result of this fact and other things we do not know about the Coronavirus, children and teenagers can and do die from the Coronavirus (CDC).

The only reason I can see to rush children and teenagers back into classrooms is so President Trump looks like he is doing something about the Coronavirus and being President. If he was serious about protecting our children, he could have started developing a plan to return children to school back in April instead of waiting until two weeks before schools start and then just ordering the children back to school with no safety plans. He also could have urged the public to wear face masks in April and May when that was the recommendation of the medical professionals. Instead, he waited until his poll numbers were so low, he had to do something. Having children return to classrooms is a very serious issue considering how this virus acts and the lack of information we have about the Coronavirus. We would need safety plans for teachers, school staff members, students and families of the students and teachers, if we were serious about children and teenagers returning to the school site safely. With all this happening, what is President Trump doing today? He is playing golf. He is not addressing this serious issue about the schools or any issues associated with the pandemic. Additionally, when the press asked KellyAnn Conway what the President was gong to do about his son Barron, Ms. Conway said it was a private matter between the First Lady and the President and they would be making the decision they felt was in their son’s best interest (ABC, CBS, Fox News, CNN). She never said Barron would be returning to the classroom. Therefore, if the President is not rushing his son back to school, why should your child go back with no firmly established safety procedures.

Given the fact that the White House has failed to take the pandemic seriously and the medical experts are recommending that remote learning is the safest option at this time, I would recommend listening to the medical experts. Additionally, many teachers are stating that it is not safe to return to the classrooms under the current conditions. Finally, the students are saying that they do not feel safe returning to the classrooms and instead they prefer remote learning because it’s safer. I think we owe it to the children and teenagers to listen their concerns and resume this semester via remote learning. In the meantime we need the government to seriously address the pandemic so we can return to normal lives like other countries.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com, his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts, Understanding Today’s Teenagers.

Outside Family Activities during the Pandemic

Outside Family Activities during the Pandemic

Since the Coronavirus has hit, we have had to change our work lives and family lives. Change the family life has been a challenge for many parents. It has become more of a challenge since summer has started and the kids want to go outside. They are tired of being inside. I found some good recommendations on Lori Lite’s blog regarding reducing stress for children. All of these activities can be done wearing a mask and keeping the social distancing requirements. These are perfect activities during the pandemic and with the State being closed down. Also getting outside in the fresh air and sunshine is great for the whole family since we have been locked down for several months. It’s a great family bonding experience and a great way to reduce everyone’s stress. Here are some fun outdoor activities to do as a family:

Go For a Walk:
Not only is this a completely free activity, but it is also an excellent opportunity to talk more with your family. However, remember you need to wear your masks, keep appropriate social distance from others and use your sunscreen. Take the time to ask them about they are feeling about the situation with school, friends, or anything else that interests them. You can take a walk around the block or head to a trail nearby. This is also a great way to get in more exercise as a family and can encourage a healthier lifestyle. You can easily take a walk after dinner or make a day out of it as well. It’s amazing the topics of conversation that come up with kids when there aren’t the distractions of being inside, screens, phones, or chores.

Go For a Ride:
Riding with family, like walking, is great bonding activity. Again, remember your helmets, masks, sunscreen and to social distance from others. At first, it’s good to do it on footpaths and then get to cycle-paths to build up each of your skills and also to bit by bit learn how you ride together and communicate with each other. Like walking, it’s amazing the conversations that will arise with your family. The beauty of cycling with your family is the different places you can see. You can do an off-road trail and explore the bush. You can ride around a harbor, lake, river or parkland – chatting about the wildlife, views, houses and architecture. As long as you remember to social distance from others and to wear your masks. Of course, you don’t have to ride all the time, there will be plenty of playgrounds to stop at and explore and many times there are great trees which are just beckoning your kids to stop, get off their bikes and climb. Consider making cycling a regular family adventure and build lifetime memories with your kids!

Have a Picnic
Enjoy the next sunny day with your family by having a picnic. You and your kids can prepare the food together in the morning. Choose foods you all love and have them help pack everything you need for the picnic. Then you all can spend the day in the park or even your backyard enjoying each other’s company. If you are at a park, remember your masks and to keep appropriate social distance from others. Picnics can also be an opportunity to play games, try out new recipes, and find new parks around your neighborhood. 

Water Balloon Fight:
You and your kids can do this in the backyard or even at the nearby park. Grab a large bucket and a bunch of balloons to fill with water. You can make your own rules with this kind of activity or even make it into a hide-and-seek game. This will also get your family moving and exercising without even realizing it. Again, remember you still need your masks and to social distance from others at a park. You can change it up by using raw eggs at times. This may be a good idea if it’s a little too cold for water balloons.

These are a few ideas. Now that we have started the ball rolling, you can also ask your kids about activities or games they may want to play. You may be amazed at their creativity and again it’s a great way to keep the communication flowing between you and your kids.

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