Don’t Forget Your IEP When You Leave for College

Don’t Forget Your IEP When You Leave for College

Working with children and adolescents I have had many parents ask about 504 plans and Individual Educational Plans (IEP). Parents tend to focus on the assistance their child may need in elementary or high school due to a learning disability or mental health issues. Working over 25 years as a psychotherapist, what I have observed is that children who need assistance in elementary and high school typically need assistance in college. However, many students are not aware that they are entitled to assistance in College too. Now that schools and colleges are reopening many college students are planning on returning to campus and high school seniors who are graduating are preparing to leave for college. Parents are trying to anticipate what their child will need at college, such as laptops etc. However, do not forget their Individual Educational Plan (IEP) so they can arrange for accommodations at their college. Besides their IEP entitling them to additional assistance so does the American Disability Act of 1991. The reason they qualified for the IEP is also covered by the ADA.

From my experience, most families assume there is no assistance in college. However, typically if a child has an IEP, they are also entitled to assistance in college. Most colleges in their Counseling departments have people and programs designated to help disabled students. A student with a physical or learning disability or mental health issue such as ADHD or depression would qualify for assistance by the Disabled Students Program at a college. I have recently been receiving many questions from Parents about what happens to their child’s IEP when the go to college and questions from parents who have college freshmen asking about their child’s IEP. Therefore, I thought it would be beneficial to provide information about how IEPs are handled by colleges. In addition to an IEP, any student with a learning disability or mental health issue is entitled to accommodations by their college because they are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991.

Additionally, if you live in California and you have a physical or learning disability or a mental health issue and if you had or did not have an IEP while in school, you may qualify to be a client of the California Department of Rehabilitation. This Department is responsible for assisting people in California, with a disability, find a job and get the education they may need to find a job. The Department may assist their clients by providing tuition assistance for community or state colleges and provide financial assistance to buy text books and school supplies. What they are able to do depends on the State budget.

This is another reason for parents to insist when their child does need an IEP that the school district places the child on an IEP. The lies schools tell parents that an IEP will prevent their child from getting into a college, the military or getting a job are not true. Another reason to insist on the IEP, if your child qualifies for an IEP, as a result of having an IEP, your child can be granted accommodations on the SAT or ACT. These are tests seniors typically need to take when they are applying to four year universities. The common accommodation most students require is additional time to complete the tests. I have had many teens with ADHD come to me seeking accommodations on the SAT or ACT. A common requirement that the testing boards require is that a student needs to have had an IEP if they are seeking accommodations on these tests.

Therefore, many students who have disabilities or mental health issues can receive assistance in college. While many people may be surprised, it is true. However, for many college students finding the assistance can be confusing and overwhelming. For a Freshman in college, dealing with heath or mental health issues, the confusion and embarrassment the feel at times because of society’s stereotypes can cause students to give up. The best place for a college freshman to start is the student counseling center. They can then direct them to the correct department and they can avoid some of the embarrassment and confusion.

Also I was contacted by bettercollege.com with a resource guide they developed for college students with mental health issues. While their guide was created for students with mental health issues, it can also be used as a guide for students with physical or learning disabilities. This guide can help a student not feel so overwhelmed or embarrassed too.

Since I feel this is a valuable guide to Freshman students and their families, I am including a link to this resource guide below:

Guide to College Planning for Psychiatrically Impaired Students – https://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/college-planning-with-psychiatric-disabilities/

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience working with children, teenagers and college students. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit one of his web sites www.RubinoCounseling.com or www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Graduation Parties & Summer Fun can be Risky

Graduation Parties & Summer Fun can be Risky

Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, is around the corner and many teenagers will be involved in various activities. First, it’s a big weekend for High School and College graduation. Of course after working that hard to earn a diploma, there will be a lot of graduation parties. Many high schools do have Grad Nights as a safe way for seniors to celebrate, but many seniors want to have their own parties in addition to the Grad Night. In addition to graduation parties, many teenagers will have end of the school year parties. It’s also popular weekend for teenagers to be out drinking and also swimming with friends celebrating the end of the school year. At the graduation parties there is also usually drinking, dancing and swimming. Teenagers have been working hard all school year and dealing with the uncertainties of the pandemic so they are looking forward to celebrating life.

As I stated, with teenagers dealing with quarantines due to the pandemic and many places they would usually go to, such as the movies, many teenagers cannot wait to be with friends and feel free after being locked in due to the Coronavirus. As a result there will be a lot of teenagers going out and celebrating life, especially since there is a warning that we may experience another wave of Covid during the summer or fall. Since teenagers don’t know how this may impact their freedom, most are going to take advantage of the freedom while it exists.

However, this weekend is not just a weekend of celebration. It can also be a weekend of sadness and grief for many families. Every year at least 5,000 teenagers are killed in motor vehicle accidents and 400,000 are injured (CDC statistics). These injures may range from cuts and bruises to someone being paralyzed. In other words, some of these injuries are for life and may dramatically change a teenager’s life. They may have left the house walking and return home having to live life in a wheelchair. There are also the numerous teenagers who will never be returning to their homes because they died.

Also regarding swimming, there are 3,500 accidental drowning every year. And out of these drownings 1 out of 5 are teenagers (CDC statistics). This is the number who die. It doesn’t include brain injuries due to lack of oxygen to the brain or breaking a neck by diving. A broken neck can result in death, paralysis or being in a Halo Brace for 6 months. Again this is an activity we assume is safe and nothing would happen swimming in a friend’s pool.

With Memorial Day weekend coming up, there are going to be a lot of parties and drinking. There are also going to be a lot of drunk driving accidents, drownings and accidental overdosing. You have no way to know if you or your family might be one of the unlucky families this weekend. It could be your teen who is killed or it could be you. Therefore, talk to your teens about their plans and about safety.

You never know what is going to happen in life. Especially given everything that is happening all over the world. The recent mass shooting in Buffalo, New York is an excellent example. A father went to the story to pick up the birthday cake for his son’s third birthday. He was shot and killed. These mass shootings are out of control and every weekend we hear about more mass shootings. The week of the Buffalo shooting was the 19th week of the year and there had already been 198 mass shooting in the United States (CDC). If you look at the above statistics, you never know when or if something is going to happen to someone in your family.

A mother experienced this fact when her teenage son committed suicide. Suicide is currently at epidemic among teenagers and the second leading cause of death for teenagers (CDC). After her son’s suicide, she wrote the following poem to her son. She also encouraged all parents of teenagers to remember to say “I love you,” to your teenager. You may not get another chance. You never know when they leave the house will they return safely. You also don’t know when you leave the house, will you return safely and see your children again. Therefore, given the current situation in our Country, I think her advice is very good advice. Remember to tell your teenagers that you love them and if you have an argument ask yourself is the argument worth it and is this the last memory you want to have about your teen. Also is it the last memory you want your teen to have about you?

I Love You

How could you?

They asked you,

How could you?

But you could not answer

As you were not here.

Why would you?

They asked you,

Why would you?

But their questions fell onto

The world’s deafest ears.

I loved you!

They told you,

I loved you.

But they told you too late,

Through their tears.

I’ll miss you,

They told you,

I’ll miss you.

And in death now

They hold you more dear.

Again the point is don’t take the risk. Since you never know what may happen and many teens feel that their parents don’t care, take the opportunity while you have it to express your feelings. Don’t spend the rest of your life regretting I never told him I loved him or wondering if that would have made the difference.

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 25 years experience working with trauma victims. To find out more about his work or to contact him visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

When Will We Help Kids?

When Will We Help Kids?

I initially wrote part of this article in August 2019, and October, 2019, but unfortunately it needs to be updated again. We have many children who are suffering with severe anxiety and refusing to go to school. They are terrified of going to school. Why would a child be terrified of going to school? Because of all the mass shootings in the United States and our government has failed to pass any sane gun laws protecting children.

These mass shootings are not stopping or slowing down either. This weekend there was a shooting in Buffalo, New York, in Orange County, California and over 30 people were shot in Chicago. Additionally, these shootings are also beginning to target populations of people. Crimes against African Americans, Asian Americans, Jewish Americans and Transgender people have significantly increased (CDC, Gun archives). However, our society does little about this change.

The former President and many republicans appear to give their approval by not acting and comments they make about these incidents. Fox News makes negative comments about these populations and also appear to support this violence. Additionally, there are numerous groups online which are targeting young Caucasian men and are promoting false statements that Caucasian people are in danger of losing their rights.

Since the pandemic, many teenagers and young adults have been spending a great deal of time on the internet. Before we were worried about sexual predators that were on the internet and we still need to worry about them. However, now we need to worry about trolls who are looking for young men that they can convince to believe their conspiracy theories about minorities and the pandemic. They are succeeding at what they are trying to do. The 18 year old Caucasian young man who drove three hours to Buffalo, New York because it had a large population of African Americans wrote a manifesto how Caucasian people were losing their rights and he was blaming African Americans. This is not true but 10 people died today because he believed this fact. He also lived streamed the shooting on social media. Therefore, who knows how many people he terrorized with his insane act.

When Hate crimes are significantly rising in our society and because of smartphone’s and the internet is it surprising that kids and teenagers would be anxious about school or going outside? Many of these teens and kids are African Americans, Asian Americans, Jewish Americans and are Transsexual. They can see that very little is being done to protect them so of course they are going to be anxious. Additionally, when you have most of the republicans saying things that sound like they support the idea that Caucasian people are losing their rights, it makes teenagers more anxious. I have had them comment to me about the comments people such as Representative Majorie Green and the former President make about minorities or the LGBTQ+ community, it is no surprise that they worry about their safety.

The former President said he would support sane gun laws, but then he started to say it was simply a mental health issue. By doing so he doesn’t help the issue and he reinforces the negative stigma about mental health in our country. When he refers to a mental health issue, he calls the people “sick” and states they need to be locked up. The research clears shows that people with mental health issues pose a danger to themselves by cutting or committing suicide. The research clearly shows that people with mental health issues are rarely dangerous to society. The Director of the American Psychiatric Association issued a statement stating the same information.

Mental health is not an issue with mass shootings, hate is the issue. In fact the FBI was able to arrest three men planing mass shootings. One of the men arrested issued a statement that he was planing the shooting because he hated anyone who was not white. He was also at the Charlottesville protest and stated to a reported he believed in only a nation for white people and was advocating killing anyone who was Jewish. This man is not being labeled as mental ill. He is being charged with charges related to a Hate crime. Again in order to be charged with a Hate crime you must be attacking someone because you hate them due to their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation etc. The Klu Klux Klan has held rallies and have been accused of killing people for years, but no one in the group is labeled mentally ill. The KKK is labeled as a hate group.

So when I have children coming into my office saying they are afraid of being killed at school and the mass shooter drills scare them, what do I say to them? How can I say we are doing everything we can to protect them, when our government is not doing anything. How can I say don’t worry when every day there is a mass shooting and more students are killed at a school?Children also hear things and they will know that I am lying. Most would have heard about the most recent school shooting or shooting and some may have heard that the former President refused universal background checks. For therapy to work, the children need to trust me. If I lie, they will not trust me. Again, with the statistics I cited for this year alone, how can I tell a child there is nothing to worry about.

The other issue is how do parents get children and teenagers to come to a psychotherapist’s office. Since the former President and Fox News have been stating most mass shooting are due to mental illness, teenagers don’t want to be labeled “mentally ill” because they go to therapy. Additionally, Trump has referred to the people as “sick puppies” and that they need to be “locked up in asylums.” Teenagers and children will be worried that their parents are taking them to my office to be locked up. Many teenagers need psychotherapy for mental health issues such as depression. According to the CDC, one out of five children need psychotherapy. Anxiety disorders and depression have increased significantly. Cutting is an epidemic in teenagers and children. I have children as young as 10 who self- mutilate. Also suicide was the third leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. In the last few months, the CDC changed suicide from the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death. There are many children who need psychotherapy, but will be afraid of being locked up and will fight their parents about going to therapy.

Also what about the people who experienced a mass shooting, their family and friends and the first responders, their lives have been changed for ever. They are going to need years of psychotherapy to cope with their PTSD. However, besides be labeled as a victim, they are not going to want to be looked at as a “sick puppy” because they need therapy. This is what they will think and feel because of how the President and Senate have responded to mass shootings. We already have survivors of mass shootings and family members committing suicide because they cannot stand the pain. We have seen the same thing from veterans committing suicide because they did not have access or were embarrassed to seek psychotherapy. When will we learn? When will we stop demonizing mental health?

Since it appears the Republicans will not act, we need to learn from the high school students from the Parkland, Florida shooting and take action ourselves. Remember by acting you may be saving the life of your child or a loved one. Call the Senators for your state and demand sane gun laws and if they are too afraid of the NRA, you will vote against them in the next election.

Some people will say I have no right to be writing this article. However, I see and hear the kids crying daily because they are afraid of being killed or their parents being killed. I also am trained in Critical Indent Debriefing and trauma therapy. I am tired of hearing how the first responders lives are being changed and the night terrors they experience. I am not afraid of the NRA. We have a huge problem with hate and race in our Nation that must be addressed. Also we also do not have adequate mental health services in our Nation. This is why the suicide rate went from the 3rd leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death for kids. Mental health issues is not causing the mass shootings! If it was we would have had the problem in the 1970s and 1980s, but we didn’t.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over twenty five years experience treating children and teenagers. He is also trained to treat victims of trauma and to do Critical Incident Debriefing. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3

My Teen is Extremely Anxious, What do I do?

My Teen is Extremely Anxious, What do I do?

Over the years children and teenagers have been exposed to stressful life events especially the last two years. The teens today have grown up with daily school shootings and mass shooting drills. Imagine being a second grader having to rehearse a man with a gun is on campus and you don’t know if you are going to live or die. Teenagers today have also grown up with terrorist alerts and having to be searched anytime they went to a concert or places such as Disneyland. Finally they have had to cope with COVID. Over 1,000,000 Americans have died from this virus (CDC). Many children and teenagers have lost grandparents, siblings and parents to this virus. We thought we had turned a corner regarding the Coronavirus and we find out we are back at the beginning. There are still people being diagnosed daily with the Coronavirus and a number of these people have been vaccinated. However, most are not fully vaccinated. Additionally, this time the virus is effecting teenagers and children. Since schools have resumed on site classes at least 1,000 children have died due to the Coronavirus virus (CDC).

This is a lot for a child or teenager to have to adjust to. Remember, their brains are not fully developed yet. Therefore they cannot understand things like adults do. Furthermore, they have very active imaginations which are fueled by misinformation on social media or from people such as Tucker Carlson on Fox. Having to cope with all of this together has resulted in a significant increase in depression, suicide, drug overdose and anxiety disorders. At my office we get at least 20 requests daily for teenagers seeking psychotherapy due to anxiety disorders.

The fact that we thought we were on the right track with the Coronavirus and now we have another spike which is similar to the numbers a year ago is confusing and irritating to teenagers. Just as somethings were opening up and returning somewhat to normal, we had another spike and needed to adjust our lives again. As a result, many things had to be closed down again, there were definite rules regarding wearing masks and teens were not able to freely socialize with their friends. Again we are not able to give children and teenagers any definite answers regarding when life will return to something normal. Now we have changed the rules again and masks are not required but recommended for events inside.

With everything teenagers have had to cope with growing up, terrorist attacks, war, the economy collapsing, mass shooting and now the Coronavirus, we failed to make plans for their mental health care. Yes hospitals were running out of beds and physicians have become exhausted, but we are also running out of psychotherapists. Also psychotherapists are exhausted because they are dealing with adults and teenagers daily who dealing with depression, suicide and anxiety. However, psychotherapist do need some breaks so they can keep going. Finally, more and more insurance companies are declining claims or raising copayments so high that families cannot afford their copayments.

This lack of mental health care is unacceptable in the United States. Parents call the Human Resource Department at your work. They negotiate your benefits with the insurance companies. Therefore, they can renegotiate your coverage so you receive the benefits your family needs. Also call your Senators and demand that insurance companies need to provide mental health care.

As a result, many parents have asked me how to determine if their child is coping with anxiety and what to do if they are coping with anxiety. I can understand why parents are concerned especially because many children tend to try to hide their anxiety because they don’t want to worry their parents. Additionally, parents are trying to find psychotherapist who can treat children and teenagers are parents are trying to figure out how they can afford therapy with the cost of living increasing and insurance companies restricting coverage.

Therefore, the APA (American Psychological Association) developed guidelines that parents can use to determine if their child is dealing with anxiety and what to do if they are dealing with anxiety. You can also use the guidelines for depression too. I have provided an outline to the APA guidelines below:

The American Psychological Association (APA) offers the following tips to recognize if children may be experiencing stress or anxiety:

• Withdrawal from things the child usually enjoys

• Trouble falling or staying asleep

• Unexpected abdominal pain or headaches

• Extreme mood swings

• Development of a nervous habit, such as nail-biting

Parents can actively help kids and adolescents manage stress by:

Being available

• Start the conversation to let kids know you care about what’s happening in their lives.

• Notice times when kids are most likely to talk – for example, in the car or before bed.

Listening actively

• Stop what you’re doing and listen carefully when a child begins to open up about their feelings or thoughts.

• Let kids complete their point before you respond.

• Listen to their point of view even if it’s difficult to hear.

Responding thoughtfully

• Resist arguing about who is right. Instead say “I know you disagree with me, but this is what I think.”

• Express your opinion without minimizing theirs – acknowledge that it’s healthy to disagree sometimes.

• Focus on kids’ feelings rather than your own during conversation.

• Soften strong reactions, as kids will tune you out if you appear angry, defensive or judgmental.

• Word swap.

o   Say ‘and’ instead of ‘but’

o   Say ‘could’ instead of ‘should’

o   Say ‘aren’t going to’ instead of ‘can’t’

o   Say ‘sometimes’ instead of ‘never’ or ‘always’

Consider

• Model the behavior you want children to follow in how they manage anger, solve problems and work through difficult feelings. Kids learn by watching their parents.

• Don’t feel you have to step in each time kids make what you may consider a bad decision, unless the consequences may be dangerous. Kids learn from making their own choices.

• Pay attention to how children play, the words they use or the activities they engage in. Young children may express their feelings of stress during play time when they feel free to be themselves.

• It is important to explain difficult topics in sentences and even individual words kids will understand. For little kids it might mean saying simple things like, “We love you and we are here to keep you safe.” For adolescents, it’s important to be honest and up front about difficult topics and then give them a little space to process the information and ask questions when they’re ready.

Call your child’s or adolescent’s health care provider or a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers, if stress begins to interfere with his or her daily activities for several days in a row.

You can find additional helpful information about kids and stress by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Helping Children Cope webpage at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/for-parents.html.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple or on Audible.

Allowing Teenagers to be Themselves not Stereotypes

Allowing Teenagers to be Themselves not Stereotypes

Being a teenager in today’s world is very difficult. Besides dealing with mass school shootings and now the uncertainty of life due to the Coronavirus, they face other daily challenges. Many teenagers believe they must grow up and have jobs with fancy titles, make a lot of money and drive fancy cars to be a success as an adult. They face stereotypes about how boys must act if they want to be men and girls face stereotypes about how they must act to be considered women. I hear teens tell me everyday how overwhelmed and confused they are trying to fit into all the necessary stereotypes. They feel overwhelmed because at times they are not sure how to act and confused because at times they don’t agree with the stereotype. If they don’t, they are not sure what to do. This is a lot of pressure for a 13 year old child to be trying to cope with on a daily basis. It’s no surprise that many teens turn to drugs as a way to cope. It is also not a surprise that Cutting is at epidemic rates for teens and suicide is now the second leading cause of death for teens (CDC)

Now what if you don’t fit into the stereotypes? What if you suffer from depression? If you have a learning disability? Or if you are homosexual or bisexual? What do these teenagers do? This is how they were born and they cannot change that fact. Many of these teens will struggle trying to fit the stereotypes and also try desperately to hide from friends and family that they do not fit the teenage stereotypes. Some are lucky and parents or a teacher intervene helping them to get the help they need. Many are not so lucky and often choose suicide. Teenagers who are homosexual or questioning their sexuality are five times more likely than the average teen to think about and attempt suicide (CDC). These are very scary and sad facts.

The CDC found one in five teenagers are dealing with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or stress. Many may think about psychotherapy but quickly block that option. Only “crazy people” need psychotherapy. If they had to go to therapy they are really a “loser.” For teenagers who are willing to try therapy, they often cannot find a therapist who treats teenagers or their family cannot afford it. Also for many cultures such as Latin or Asian, they believe that personal issues need to be resolved within the family and you would never share intimate family issues with strangers. Therefore, for these teens psychotherapy is not an option.

However, as a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers, I hear daily from teens that all they want is to be accepted for who they are and they don’t want to have to always hide. The teen with depression or the learning disabilities wants to be considered just as important as the star quarterback on the football team. They want this from their school, their friends, society and finally from their families. Is this too much to ask for?

These teenagers are not stealing or doing anything to be ashamed of, they are being themselves just the way they were born. Why can’t they be accepted and celebrated? The answer is they can! It is something I teach them in every session we have together. There are organizations such as Alive and Free in San Francisco and Challenge Day in the San Francisco Bay Area who work with teens and society so these teens can feel accepted being themselves.

Another organization addressing this issue is called Born This Way. It was started by Lady Gaga and her organization works with teens and society so all teens feel accepted for who they are just the way they were born. Lady Gaga explains the mission of her foundation this way, “Safety, skills, and opportunity. Number one, I want everyone to feel safe in their community: school, home, whatever city you live in. Two: developing the skills that are needed to be a loving, accepting, and tolerant person, and to also inject that sentiment into all the people around you, being a supportive human being. And the third is opportunity. I believe once you feel safe in your environment and you acquire the skills to be a loving and accepting person, the opportunities for you are endless to become a great functioning human in society.”

For people who do better by hearing something or seeing it, I have included a link to a YouTube video where Lady Gaga explains Born This Way, https://youtu.be/

The concept really is very simple. Why can’t we accept children and teenagers just the way they were born. Every person is unique and everyone has talents to contribute to the world. So why do we pressure boys into the stereotype the must have big muscles and play sports to be a man? Why do we tell girls that boys are smarter and if someone touches them in a way they do not like it is their fault because of the clothes they are wearing. This is insane!

If we do away with the stereotypes and focus on teenagers liking their own personalities and bodies, we would have less cutting, suicide and drug use. We would also have many more teenagers who are happy and successful at life. Being happy is a successful life not a big bank account. Therefore, let’s get started on helping teens. We need people to support more organizations like the ones I named above. If we do we can eliminate the stereotypes and stigma of not fitting a stereotype. We also need to make psychotherapy more accessible to all teenagers and remove the negative stigma associated with mental health care. Now some people may think what I am proposing is impossible and just a dream. However, you are seeing more groups like the ones I mentioned open every year. We are seeing teenagers and parents being attracted to them. It is possible to improve the lives of children and teenagers. It may need to start with a dream. Dreams do come true look at what Walt Disney created with his dream.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience working with children and teenagers. He is on the nations advisory board for Alive and Free. For more information about his work and private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

The Toll COVID-19 is Taking on Teenagers’ Mental Health

The Toll COVID-19 is Taking on Teenagers’ Mental Health

The pandemic has reached a frightening point and a point where many teenagers feel the Coronavirus will never end. Over 475,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus and daily there are approximately 3,000 Americans dying from the Coronavirus. In addition we are discovering new stains of the Coronavirus and we race to get everyone vaccinated. We are starting to see a drop in the number of people being hospitalized, but all of this may be temporary according to the CDC. The CDC is warning if we do not wear masks on a regular basis and continue to social distance, the numbers will start to increase again.

Today’s teenagers have access to all this information via their smartphones. News updates pop up on their phones and once again their see that nothing in their lives is stable yet. It will be a while before we return to anything looking like normal life.

As a result, teenagers are losing hope and wondering what type of life they will be living. Teenagers have had their lives turned upside down and they are feeling overwhelmed and very stressed about how their lives have changed. Many college students and high school students are continuing to have to attend school remotely. Additionally, events such as sports, the prom and graduation ceremonies have already been cancelled for this school year. The high school experience they have heard about and have been waiting for no longer exists. Many teenagers are feeling depressed and angry about how their lives have changed. Furthermore, they have no control over the situation and have no idea what to expect from life.

Prior to the pandemic depression and anxiety rates were increasing for teenagers (CDC). Additionally, the suicide rate for teenagers had gone from the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death for teenagers. Since the Pandemic has started teenagers have had to shelter in place for months, attend school remotely and have not been able to hang out with their friends. This has caused depression and anxiety to reach epidemic levels for teenagers (CDC). The number of teenagers cutting (self-mutilating behavior) have increased significantly because they feel out of control and are having significant difficulties processing all the feelings they are experiencing. Also suicide rates and drug overdoses have increased in teenagers. Again because they feel helpless and are having significant difficulties processing their emotions. Suicide and drug overdoses have increased so much that there are now numbers in communities that teenagers can text for help if they are feeling suicidal or severely depressed.

Furthermore, besides their school experience changing significantly and not being able to hang out with friends, many are living in families who are worrying about paying the rent or having enough money for food. Unemployment is at a record high so many teenagers are living in a family where both parents have lost their jobs. This is a huge amount of stress for a child or teen to experience and have to cope with daily.

Additionally, many of these teenagers are coming from families who never had to worry about money before. Having to stand in a line for food daily is something they thought only occurred in third world countries, they never thought it occurred in the United States or could ever happen to their family.

As a result, many teenagers are struggling with severe mental health issues due to the Coronavirus. As a result, the Mayo Clinic has been studying the impact that the virus and quarantine have on us and our mental health. Here is what they found and their recommendations:

Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. Everyone reacts differently to difficult situations, and it’s normal to feel stress and worry during a crisis. But multiple challenges daily, such as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, can push you beyond your ability to cope.

Many people may have mental health concerns, such as symptoms of anxiety and depression during this time. And feelings may change over time.

Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling helpless, sad, angry, irritable, hopeless, anxious or afraid. You may have trouble concentrating on typical tasks, changes in appetite, body aches and pains, or difficulty sleeping or you may struggle to face routine chores.

When these signs and symptoms last for several days in a row, make you miserable and cause problems in your daily life so that you find it hard to carry out normal responsibilities, it’s time to ask for help.

Get help when you need it

Hoping mental health problems such as anxiety or depression will go away on their own can lead to worsening symptoms. If you have concerns or if you experience worsening of mental health symptoms, ask for help when you need it, and be upfront about how you’re doing. To get help you may want to:

• Call or use social media to contact a close friend or loved one — even though it may be hard to talk about your feelings.

• Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.

• Contact your employee assistance program, if your employer has one, and get counseling or ask for a referral to a mental health professional.

• Call your primary care provider or mental health professional to ask about appointment options to talk about your anxiety or depression and get advice and guidance. Some may provide the option of phone, video or online appointments.

• Contact organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for help and guidance.

If you’re feeling suicidal or thinking of hurting yourself, seek help. Contact your primary care provider or a mental health professional. Or call a suicide hotline. In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use its webchat at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.

Continue your self-care strategies

You can expect your current strong feelings to fade when the pandemic is over, but stress won’t disappear from your life when the health crisis of COVID-19 ends. Continue these self-care practices to take care of your mental health and increase your ability to cope with life’s ongoing challenges.

In addition to the facts above, people who have had the virus have been reporting feeling anxious and depressed. They have also reported the virus has impaired their ability to make decisions. This is being referred to as “the long haul syndrome.”The bottom line is the virus is creating mental health issues for those dealing with the quarantine, first responders, medical personnel and people with the virus. We are focusing on getting the virus under control which we must do. However, as we struggle to get control of the virus, we also need to address the mental health issues created by this pandemic. At this point, we have no idea how many will need mental health care and for how long. Therefore, as we focus on finding a cure, we may want to start to prepare for the mental health issues which are occurring and will after the quarantine.

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

High School Graduation A Beginning and Ending

High School Graduation A Beginning and Ending

This year most high schools will be having graduation ceremonies. Due to the success of the Coronavirus vaccines, the CDC has acknowledged that it would be safe to hold graduation ceremonies again. Last year many high schools had traditional ceremonies and this year most high schools will be having graduation ceremonies. This is different from the few years when graduation ceremonies were canceled due to the Coronavirus. While schools are having graduation ceremonies, they will most likely be different for the graduates. It will be different because for most of the graduates their high school experiences have been different from the “traditional” high school experience. Many of these students had to attend high school part-time remotely and had typical high school events such as sports and the prom cancelled due to the Coronavirus.

As I stated above for many high school graduates, this year graduation ceremonies will be somewhat differently emotionally. However, High School graduation still marks a big accomplishment for teenagers. They have finished their basic education and they are ready to move on to their life plans as a young adult. For many students this means going to a four year college and earning a Bachelors degree. In addition, many graduates will be celebrating scholarships they received and awards they received for their academic or other accomplishments in high school. They also have friends and family there to join them in celebrating their accomplishments. Of course this is a happy day and it deserves to be celebrated.

While this is the stereotype we think about regarding graduation, it’s not the reality for every student. Some students have worked very hard and maintained very good grades, but they did not get accepted into a college they can afford and they did not receive any awards or scholarships. Instead of going to a four year university, they will need to attend the local two year junior college and try to transfer into a four year university. Other students who have learning disabilities are just barely graduating and had to wait to the last minute to see if the past all of their classes. Some did not pass and they have to go to summer school so they may be allowed to participate in the ceremony but they are not finished yet. These students do not get to live the stereotype and often feel embarrassed and ashamed when they compare themselves to the other students in their graduating class.

I had also mentioned celebrating with family and friends. For some students this can be very difficult. If their parents had a hostile divorce, the divorce may be being dragged into the graduation. Instead of a celebration, the parents may be making the graduation a civil war. The graduate may be forced to take sides in regards to who they can invite to the ceremony. Do they invite mom’s side or dad’s side? This can change a happy event into a very stressful event the graduate does not want to be involved in. For some graduates a mother or father has passed away and graduation day is another reminder that this very special person is no longer physically present. Therefore, graduation may be a stressful or sad day.

Another aspect that is overlooked is graduation is an ending. It marks the end of a teenager’s high school experience. Many teens have been very involved with their school and have developed close relationships with teachers and school staff and they have developed very close friendships with their classmates. Graduation marks an end to their high school life. They need to say goodbye to these people and move on to a school they do not know and may not know anyone else who is attending their college. I remember one high school secretary’s comment when she looked at the senior class, “I have never seen so many kids look so happy and sad at the same time”.

In addition to saying goodbye to their high school family, graduates need to say goodbye to their families. If they are going away to school, they will no longer living with their parents or siblings. While they may complain about their families, they will miss them too. Mom and Dad will miss their graduated too. So while traditional we tend to only focus on the positive, which is not uncommon for our society, we also need to acknowledge that graduation marks an ending too. An ending to their high school family, friends they have created and to their high school activities along with a change in the graduates life. They no longer are a high school kid. They are a college student and a young adult and need to start their lives all over. This will have happy moments and sad one too. It’s important to acknowledge both.

While high school students will be starting their lives over, I have included a small segment of a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. It empathizes that you need to define yourself, don’t let others try to decide who are going to be in life https://www.facebook.com/goalcast/videos/1294330473977473?s=1391497228&v=e&sfns=mo.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children and adolescents. He has appeared on television and radio shows and is considered an expert in adolescent psychology. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com, www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Mother’s Day when Mom is not Here

Mother’s Day when Mom is not Here

Many people assume Mother’s Day is a happy day for people because they can honor their mother. However, due to the pandemic and deaths due to the pandemic, Mothers Day this year maybe a very difficult day. We have many adults and children who are grieving the death of their mother or grandmother due to the coronavirus. Therefore, making it a sad day for them. Remember over 1,000,000 Americans have died due to the Coronavirus. Many people who died were mothers and grandmothers so there will be a lot of grieving families this Mother’s Day.

In addition to the Coronavirus, there are other reasons that Mothers Day maybe difficult for people and children. 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. Finally, many people have lost their mothers, grandmothers and aunts over the year due to cancer, heart attacks and other diseases. 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 recent death of their mother. As I stated above, some children may have a mother who died from the Coronavirus or cancer. Other mothers may have left the family due to a drug problem and are not involved with the family any longer. Seeing television commercials or having other family members tell them that it still can be a good day can be difficult for them. Also if their school is making Mother’s Day gifts it can be difficult for children whose mothers have died or left the family.

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 on Mother’s Day as away to express their feelings. Other children may isolate themselves and not want to be involved with anyone or 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. It is important that you understand that Mother’s Day is difficult for them and you understand if they are upset or don’t want to do anything. 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 to remember their mother. 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 too. 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 25 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Helping Teenagers Get Enough Sleep

Helping Teenagers Get Enough Sleep

As a result of the pandemic many students have experienced remote schooling and periods of time when they were quarantined to stay home. These changes resulted in a change in their schedules. Many teenagers were able to start school later and some were able to set their own daily schedules. As a result, many teenagers sleep patterns were changed. Many teens became use to sleeping in later, staying up later and taking naps during the day because they were bored. Most teenagers thought this was fantastic!

Now that teenagers are having to attend school again on a regular basis and many restrictions due to the pandemic are being relaxed, parents are having difficulties with their teenagers sleep schedules. They report their teenagers are having a tendency now to want to sleep in later and are sleeping more hours on average. Many parents are stating that their teenagers are taking naps on a regular basis. Parents are telling me that they are trying everything they can think of, but they are not being too successful at changing their teenagers sleeping schedules.

A very interesting fact is that teenagers are telling me the same thing during their sessions. Many teenagers are reporting since remote schooling started and most people were confined to their homes, they are sleeping more than they did before the pandemic. Many teenagers are also saying they don’t want to be sleeping as much as they are but they can’t seem to change their pattern of sleeping more since the pandemic.

This is an unique situation when parents and teenagers are agreeing on a problem behavior. Additionally, both acknowledge that they are trying to reduce the number of hours they are sleeping but nothing seems to be working. For many teenagers, not being able to return to their pre-pandemic sleep habits is very annoying. They are reporting having difficulties doing everything they need to do in their lives because they can’t change their current sleep schedule and they are sleeping too much.

I have had many parents asking me and emailing me regarding getting children and teenagers back on a healthy sleep pattern for school. Many parents are looking at this as an opportunity to get their children and teenagers on a healthy sleep pattern because their teenagers were never on a healthy sleep pattern to begin with. As a result I researched teenage sleep patterns and found some very good information from James Maas, PhD., who specializes in sleep patterns, and he wrote the book, Power Sleep for Success. According to Dr. Maas many teenagers are sleep deprived because beginning at puberty up until the age of 25 around midnight teenagers brains begin producing human growth hormones and reduces the amount of melatonin the brain produces. As a result, teenagers are not ready to sleep until 2am and their brains are ready to wake up at 11am. Dr. Maas refers to this as Chronic Delayed Phase Syndrome and states that every teenager suffers from it.

Since the amount of natural melatonin being produced in teenagers brains is reduced, many parents try providing their teenagers with melatonin supplements. The parents hope that by increasing the amount of melatonin in their teenagers brains with melatonin supplements that teenagers will be able to sleep easier. However, this may not be the case.

Dr. Maas has this to say about melatonin supplements. He states they are not the best way to get your sleep. First, 3 mg of melatonin is the maximum amount that an adult needs, and many over-the-counter formulations start at 5 mg. Some even go to as high as 10 or 12 mg. You are peeing away a lot of melatonin that your body doesn’t need and can’t process. It does work, but there are other options on the market that work just as well as melatonin or better: (1) lavender, either in tea or in a spray; and (2) valerian root. These two over-the-counter supplements actually have been clinically proven to have a sleep-inducing effect.

Dr. Maas has outlined several steps that teenagers can go through before trying to go to sleep. He believes that if children and teenagers follow these steps on a regular basis that it will help a teenager fall asleep. He also believes these steps will help teenagers get enough sleep so they are not sleep deprived and are ready for school the following day. Here are the steps Dr. Maas recommends that children and teenagers follow before their bedtime:

1. Take a warm bath or shower an hour before bed to relax and to signal to the brain that it’s time to begin to unwind.

2. Avoid eating food late at night that is likely to disturb your sleep: heavy, greasy, spicy, or difficult-to-digest foods like pizza, garlic, or anything really fatty. Instead try fruit (bananas or grapes) or lean protein such as tuna.

3. Get your homework done earlier in the afternoon or evening while you are still awake and alert. This will also reduce your stress if you don’t have so much homework to do in the evening close to bedtime.

4. Watch how you are spending your waking hours. Teenagers don’t typically have great time management skills. They can get caught up on social media or on their phones, which are a huge distraction and eat up that part of the day when you should be in study mode. Catch up on your social things after your homework is over.

We know that the amount of sleep that a child or teenager gets is related to how well they do in school, but it is associated with many more aspects of a teenager’s life. Dr. Maas noted that sleep is really the one thing that underlies all of good health. Good health refers to both physical and mental health. When you are getting enough sleep, stress goes down and immunity goes up. It’s linked to greater longevity and reduced risk of car accidents, cancers, and heart attacks. If teenagers could add just one more hour of sleep to their daily routine, they would find that they have a higher GPA, that their athletic skills are better, and that their social life and ability to manage stress and anxiety improve. Anxiety symptoms are being reported at epidemic rates by teenagers since the pandemic. Everything hinges on getting enough sleep. If I could tell teenagers one thing, it’s this: If you want to do well in school and on the athletic field, getting more sleep is the single best thing you can do. I have seen this in many teenagers that I see for psychotherapy. Additionally, most teenagers who are having difficulties with anxiety or suicidal thoughts are sleep deprived.

Therefore, parents it is important to make sleep an important issue with your children and and teenagers. If you explain to your children and teenagers why it should be a priority, you increase the probability that your children and teenagers will understand why sleep is important and will work with you to help them increase their amount of sleep especially as they try to adjust their schedules and lives to a post pandemic world.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims and first responders. For more information about his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

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