Save Our Children’s Lives

Save Our Children’s Lives

This week we have experienced two more school shootings. The students who attend these schools lives have been changed for ever so have their parents. However, these shootings have resulted in an increase in teenagers who are complaining of anxiety and depression. Many of these teenagers are also afraid to go to school too. I have also been seeing more teenagers being placed on home/hospital for school. This means a teacher comes to the house once a week instead of the teenager going to school. This is an alarming trend.

I have also been hearing more teenagers talking about needing to carry a knife with them for their own safety. They tell me you never know when someone might try to attack you. These are not juvenile delinquents or gang members, these are average teenagers. They come from healthy families and are doing well in school and not involved in drugs. This need they feel to protect themselves is an alarming trend.

However, if you take a step back and look at what these children have seen over their lives it makes sense. Most of these teenagers were very young on 9/11 when the United States was attacked. Since 9/11 they have also seen two wars and heard on the nightly news about terrorist alerts or attacks around the world.

In addition to terrorism, this is the first generation growing up with mass shootings. According to ABC News from 2000 to 2015 there have been 140 mass shootings and since January 1, 2016, there have been more mass shootings than the previous 15 years. According to the CDC statistics on mass shootings every day 36 people are killed in the United States by a gun. This does not include suicides. For teenagers, suicide has risen to the second from the third leading cause of death for children between 10 and 18 years old and using a gun is one of the most popular methods of suicide.

Going back to the mass school shootings, ABC News statistics reported there were more school shootings in 2016 than all the school shootings combined from 2000 to 2015. This is a terrifying fact. CNN News has estimated that since the Parkland shooting in 2018, there has been a school shooting every 11.8 days. Also since January 1, 2019 there have been over 28 school shootings (CDC, NBC News, CNN).

In addition to these facts, children now have to undergo shooter drills at school. When we grew up we had fire drills to practice what to do if there was a fire at school. Now elementary children have active shooter drills. A code is sent to the teachers and students are told to shelter in place and be very quiet. They do not know if it is real or a drill. During one shooter drill a second grader was so afraid she wrote on her arms “I love you mommy and daddy,” in case it was real and she was killed.

No wonder we are seeing a significant increase in anxiety and depression in elementary school students. Imagine the stress kids live with going to school not knowing if they might be killed that day. How is a child supposed to learn under those conditions?

After the Parkland shootings, students and parents were saying never again. These very brave, mature high school students have been speaking out regarding the need for safe and sane gun laws. They were able to get laws changed in Florida, but they have not been able to get the United States Congress to act. I think these brave students may need some help. Parents you are in a position to help. You can also help save future lives maybe even the life of your own child.

Many school districts are provided State and Federal funds based on how many students attend school on a daily basis. This may sound extreme, but look at the statistics. Every year more children are dying due to school shootings and guns. Our government has done nothing to protect our children. Therefore, we may need to use extreme means to get the President’s attention.

I suggest on the Tuesday after Memorial Day that every parent keep their child and Teenager home in memory of all the students and school staff members that have been killed. Also call the office of your US Senator and demand they enact safe and sane gun reform. Also leave a message at the office of the Governor for your state. If they fail to pay attention over the summer, on the first day of school again keep your children home and make the same calls. If the school districts start to show a reduction in attendance they will be in danger of losing State and Federal funding. Therefore, they will place pressure on the U.S Congress too. Unfortunately, it seems like the U.S. Government only acts when money is involved. Therefore, if we want to protect our children we need to play by their rules.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers and dealing with victims of trauma. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com, Facebook http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy

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Tobacco Companies Target Teens by Advertising to Parents

Tobacco Companies Target Teens by Advertising to Parents

Cigarette Companies have been banned from advertising cigarettes on television for a while. However, cigarette companies have found a way around the law and are targeting teens again.

Instead of advertising cigarettes they are advertising juuls for adults. Since more places are banning smoking, cigarette companies are advertising the juul as a way adults can use nicotine. However, the nicotine for juuls comes in a variety of flavors such as bubble gum and cotton candy. These ads on television may appear to be targeted at adults but the real targets are teenagers because teens use juuls on a regular basis. Therefore, I have also included part of an article I wrote about juuls so parents are aware what is happening when the television ads run for the juul.

Vaporizing and E cigarettes have been popular with teenagers for a while. Teenagers have used them as a way to use nicotine and marijuana. Parents and schools have started to become aware of vaporizing Pens. However, teenagers have found away to vaporize without it being obvious. Teenagers are now using an object called “Jewel.” This is a very slim, sleek object which looks more like an object for a computer. In fact, it resembles a flash drive which teenagers use on a regular basis.

The reason this is important for parents to be aware of is because vaporizing is very common with a majority of teenagers. They do not feel that it imposes any health risks and many teens say it helps them relax. Many teenagers have been using vaporizing pens since they were 13 years old. Many people assume only teenagers who typically use drugs are vaporizing. However, this assumption is wrong. Students who are considered very good students are vaporizing. According to teenagers, they feel it is healthier than cigarettes and it helps them deal with the pressure of everyday life. Teenagers today do face a great deal of pressure to do it all. To play a sport, be involved with after school activities, take AP classes and maintain at least a 4.0 grade average so they can be accepted to the best colleges. Many teenagers are trying to maintain a 4.5 grade point average. So teenagers today in high school are under a great deal of pressure.

Again many parents may feel this trend doesn’t apply to their teenager. In order to get the point across that this applies to a majority of teenagers, even those with a 4.5 grade point average, I have included a link to a video https://youtu.be/gjYT4YG7jOk. This video contains all types of teenagers who explain how common vaporizing is for teenagers these days. Many say they started vaporizing as young as 13 years old. I know it is very common because as a psychotherapist who treats teenagers, I have had many teens bring their vaporizing pens into their psychotherapy sessions and try to use them.

However, the juul which looks like a flash drive is an easier way for teens to vaporize. While legally you need to be 18 to purchase one, teenagers are able to buy these on line with no problem. Also the juul provides 4 to 5 times the amount of nicotine or marijuana that a vaporizing pen provides. Therefore, the juul puts the teenager’s health at a greater risk and they are more addictive. These devices have been out for about two years. In that time, some schools have become aware of the trend that teenagers are using juuls instead of vaporizing. Because of this fact, another device referred to as a phix is now becoming popular. It also looks like something a teenager needs for a computer. The point is that parents have to be aware all the time regarding issues related to drugs. The illegal drugs and tobacco companies are always developing new ways for teenagers to use. Also age requirements are not a problem since teens can purchase items on line.

So parents are more aware about the juul situation and what they look like, I have included a link to a news report regarding juul use from a schools point of view and a seller of the devices who has concerns about teenagers. Parents please watch this video https://youtu.be/W73NFZy_38o.

Parents may be wondering what do I do? What you need to do is talk to your teenager about these devices explain the risks and ask if they are using them. Also listen to what your teenagers are talking about with their friends and if you hear a term you are not familiar with then research it. Also continue to talk with your teenager about things going on in their lives and decisions they are facing. Many teens are using these devices to decrease the stress the feel to be perfect. Let your teenager know you don’t want them to be perfect. Let them know you are more concerned about them being happy. So if they can’t keep at 4.5 grade point, just do their best. This can help teens a great deal. Many of the teens I work with put the pressure to be perfect on themselves. They assume their parents expect them to be super teenagers. They are shocked and relieved to find out their parents don’t have these expectations. The key is communication. Talk to your teen let them know your expectations and that you will except them no matter what.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

A Common Horror Story Families Endure for An IEP

A Common Horror Story Families Endure for An IEP

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.

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. Parents believe school districts have the students best interest at heart. 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 drop out and struggling the rest of their life.  The school district is actually helping create children who are unable to get jobs and will be homelessness in our youth, when they become adults.  And that is a very very scary reality, no one wants to talk about because it’s not their child who is at risk, it’s ours!”

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.

Teens Becoming Dependent on Screens

Teens Becoming Dependent on Screens

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, the truth is teenagers can become addicted to their computer devices. 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.

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. During the Winter Olympics this year, NBC showed centers in Tokyo, Japan and Seoul, South Korea, where people were going 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 I 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.

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.

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.

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.

A Self-Absorbed Teenager is Normal

A Self-Absorbed Teenager is Normal

Many times I hear parents ask for help because there teenagers are too self-absorbed. All they do is think about what they want and what they need. Well, teenagers are supposed to be self-absorbed. Okay yes some teenagers can go overboard, but in general being self-absorbed is part of being a teenager.

Developmentally, teenagers are in the process of defining their own identities and discovering their own value systems. They are trying to define themselves as young adults and how they are going to relate to people in their lives and what they do and don’t believe in. In order to accomplish this goal, it does require a fair amount of self-reflection and exploring the world. It also requires a great deal of focus on their feeling so they can form their identities and value systems. At times, it may seem like a teenager is self-absorbed and only thinking about themselves. Externally this is how it may look to parents, but internally it feels very different to the teenager.

Remember when you were a teenager or some of the things your teenager may have said to you. Teens often talk about feeling very confused about their emotions or overwhelmed by their emotions. They often state they are not sure what to feel or think about their emotions. Also many teens often express feeling overwhelmed by what is happening in the world and are not sure what they should do as an adult or what people expect from them. It is a very confusing time and requires a fair amount of introspection from the teenager.

Very often in therapy, I serve as a sounding board for teens to sort out the feelings they are having about themselves and the expectations they feel from people in their lives. Also they often are trying to sort out how they want to act as an adult and they are trying to understand what is expected of them as an adult.

This is a very confusing time and requires a great deal of introspection because no one teaches teenagers about what it takes to be an adult and often no one discusses these issues with them. Some parents do try to discuss feeling and expectations with teenagers, but often these conversations result in an argument. Remember a teenager’s brain is still not fully developed. The prefrontal cortex which handles most of what we are discussing is still developing in a teenager. Because of this many teens may feel like they are being talked down to and they get angry. Parents often forget how teenagers think and don’t know how to approach their teenager which can result in an argument. Even though the parent and teen may have the best intention of trying to discuss this turmoil it still can result in an argument.

As I said in the beginning some teenagers are too self-absorbed. They are not trying to resolve emotional turmoil they are just selfish or spoiled. If your teenager appears more self-absorbed than they average teenager or if people are commenting on how selfish your teenager is then you need help. At this point I recommend therapy. The teenager won’t listen to you because parents know nothing in their opinion. Often in therapy I say the same things as parents and the teen will listen because I am not Dad or Mom and they don’t feel like they are admitting they are inadequate accepting my suggestion. The main point is they understand they are too self-absorbed and how to change it.

So if your teen is somewhat self-absorbed, relax it is part of being a teenager. They will out grow it around 17 or 18 years old. In the meantime, work with your teen doing your best to help them sort out the emotional turmoil they are experiencing internally. If you feel lost as a parent or if you see your teenager struggling very hard then you may want to consider having your teenager attend therapy to cope with this emotional turmoil.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with teens and parents and is recognized as an expert in this area. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com

Toys Can Result in A Child’s Death

Toys Can Result in A Child’s Death

Parents it’s sad to say but in today’s world toys can result in a child being killed. We would like to assume we still live in a world that is safe for our kids, where they can go outside to play and we know they will be safe. However, this is no longer the truth. The world has changed and kids are no longer just safe to go out and play.

One major change is the increase in violence in our society. Since the year 2000 there have been 160 mass shootings and they are increasing every year (ABC News). There were two school shootings this past week. As a result, law enforcement and people in general are more sensitive to guns and violence.

The problem for our children is a number of toy manufactures are making toy guns that look real. There is a man selling toy assault weapons on the Internet and he has a waiting list for people wanting to buy these “toys” for their kids. We need to think about the toys kids are playing with before they go out to play. If they are outside or at school playing with a “toy gun” that looks real they may end up getting killed. Kids video games have become violent and many involve shooting and killing. If a police officer tells a child to drop their gun, they may think it is a game or that the officer knows it is a toy and ignore the officer and the officer may shoot because of the risk to him and others that may be around. What happens, the child gets killed because they thought they were playing a game. In fact, one child is killed by a gun every 30 minutes in the US (CDC). This rate is higher than the Middle East.

Video games and movies have become also become very violent. In the 1990’s a movie received an R rating for swearing. Now those movies are PG. Movies that receive R ratings today are very graphic violently and sexually. Many kids believe these movies represent daily normal life. The children I work with are now only interested in watching movies and playing video games that are graphically violent with people getting killed. Remember children don’t reason like adults. They can hit the reset button on a game and start over and everyone is a live. Therefore, many children and teens do not think they will be killed because the typical belief most children have about life are that children are not killed, adults are killed.

In addition to movies and games becoming violent children today are being exposed to mass shootings all most daily. As a result, children are accepting violence as an everyday fact of life. I do an anger management group for teens and when the topic of caring knifes or guns came up, most of the teens thought it was a good idea. When I asked about being killed accidentally, they didn’t care. Many of them felt there already was a chance they could be shot or stabbed by someone, therefore, they should at least be able to defend themselves. This is a sad way for children to be growing up.

Teens are also seeing that guns can be an answer to some of their problems. We have seen news stories where teens have planned and murdered another kid because they did not like the other child. The recent shooting at the game arcade in Florida occurred because a teen was mad that someone beat him at a video game. For teens 10 to 24 suicide is the third leading cause of death and using a gun to commit suicide is one of the top three choices (CDC). Therefore, guns pose a major health hazard to children and teenagers.

What does this mean to parents? It means when you are buying games, Holiday gifts or birthday gifts that parents need to think. It is important to pay attention to the rating and the age of your child. If you buy the video games rated mature which can deal with killing or raping, do you want your child exposed to these issues? Do not allow them to play with realistic toy guns without appropriate education especially teaching them never to point it at someone. A police officer may not have the time to determine if your teen has a toy gun or real gun. Furthermore, monitor the movies they watch. Do not allow them to watch movies or television shows that glorify violence. Remember their brains are not totally mature yet, so they need their parents to think for them when it comes to violence.

When the US in ranked number one in kids being killed by guns and are children assume they have a good chance of being killed by a gun, and kids think a video game or movie is good only if there is killing, parents must act. Parents must try to re-educate our children. It’s not too late.

Dr Michael Rubino specializes in treating children and adolescents. He has 20 years experience working with teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Mental Health Issues Are Not A Punishment

Mental Health Issues Are Not A Punishment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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