A Dangerous New Teenage Activity

A Dangerous New Teenage Activity

There is a disturbing new dangerous trend occurring in teenagers that parents need to know about so they can talk to their teenager. We know that many teenagers feel a sense of being invulnerable and nothing bad will happen to them and their friends. It appears that teenagers in Alabama are putting this belief to the ultimate test (CDC, CNN). As a result, they are risking their lives, their friends lives and the lives of their families for a few hundred dollars.

The starting point of this risky behavior is in Alabama and city mayors and paramedics have heard about the risky behavior and they are very concerned. Teenagers are having Coronavirus parties. They invite people who are infected with the virus to a party and then they sell tickets to the party to their friends and other teenagers. The first person who can provide proof from a physician that they have contracted the virus after attending the party wins all the money that was collected. Teens are using social media and word of mouth to advertise these Coronavirus parties. They do not consider how dangerous these parties are and that they are playing Russian Roulette with their lives and with the lives of any one they come in contact with after the party.

We know that teenagers brains are not fully developed until they are 25 years old and the last part of the brain developing is the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for more advanced functions such as reasoning and dealing with abstract concepts. Therefore, when the White House and President Trump are saying 99% of Coronavirus infections are not serious, some teenagers will listen to President Trump. Also when President Trump states we have the virus under control, again some teenagers will listen. They have difficulties reconciling statements from Dr. Fauci and the University of Washington which indicate the virus is not under control and reaching very dangerous levels in our Country. They are not sure who to believe. Also most teenagers don’t listen to a lot of news so they are not aware that United State citizens cannot fly to Europe because the virus is so much out of control in the United States that other countries don’t want to expose their citizens to the virus again. Even if you want to go to New York, the state of New York is requiring people to go into a 14 day quarantine. New York finally has the virus under control in their state and Governor Cuomo is doing what he needs to so New York keeps the virus under control. Therefore, since teenagers are hearing the virus is not a big threat and the President refuses to wear a mask, they are not aware how the virus is really impacting people or how dangerous it can be.

As a result, these Coronavirus parties don’t seem very dangerous to them and they could win $200. They are unaware that they can die from the Coronavirus. An 11 year old boy died in Florida from the Coronavirus so children do die from the Coronavirus (CDC). They also are unaware of the risk they are taking with their families lives. These parties seem like fun to them. It is summer and they are looking for ways to have fun especially having been in quarantine for the past 2 months. Additionally, no one can give them definite answers about school yet. Maybe they will be going to school on line or maybe they are going back to school part time. How they resume school also has an impact on their ability to see their friends and have fun hanging out with their friends. Therefore, they are dealing with a lot of uncertainty that no one can answer right now. However, these parties mean fun with their friends now, they can win some money and the President is saying they don’t need to worry about the virus. As a result, it is easy for their brains to decide to go to the party and have fun with their friends. Currently, it’s the only answer that makes sense to them when they look at how the President and the government are responding to the pandemic.

We are in the middle of a global pandemic. As of today, 136,000 people in the United States have died from the Coronavirus (CDC). Today another 792 people in the United States died (CDC). When we have hundreds of people dying everyday from the Coronavirus, we should not be making this a political issue. All this accomplishes are more people getting infected and more people dying. It also increases the amount of stress and anxiety that our children and teenagers are experiencing. This anxiety results in more teenagers needing psychotherapy for anxiety disorders and more teenagers turning to alcohol, drugs (CDC) and now Coronavirus parties as a way to cope.

Parents what your teenagers need from you is for you to discuss the current situation with them and what are the current recommendations from the CDC. For example, when they go outside they need to wear a face mask and to keep 6 feet in between them and other people. Also to wash their hands regularly and to avoid touching their faces when they are out. Also have an age appropriate conversation about how dangerous the virus can be. Therefore, explain to teenagers how these Coronavirus parties are very dangerous. They can also transmit the virus to other family members or friends who have other health conditions resulting in that person’s death. Furthermore, if they do catch the virus some studies are showing people can have life long after effects such as depression or neurological issues. Overall the message should be since we do not know what this virus can do, it’s not something to ignore and needs to be taken seriously.

Discuss that you understand there are conflicting reports at times and this can be confusing. Therefore, if they hear things that are confusing or friends saying things that do not make sense, they should ask you. Together you can discuss the confusing information and look up the latest information on the CDC website or your county’s Coronavirus website. Bottom line explain that yes this is a very confusing time but if you work together as a family you can help each other to understand what is happening and to stay safe. Let the politicians play games with their careers and lives, but not your children’s or family’s lives.

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

Is my Teenager Depressed due to the Coronavirus?

Is my Teenager Depressed due to the Coronavirus?

Because we do not deal well with mental health issues in our society, there are a lot of myths about mental health. There are a lot of misconceptions about depression in particular. Over the last two years depression and anxiety have reached epidemic rates in teenagers (CDC). In fact, suicide in now the second leading cause of death for children 10 years old to 18 years old (CDC). The increase has been attributed to the numerous mass shootings and the mass shooter drills give have had to do in school. Now teenagers are having to deal with the Coronavirus and having to shelter in place for over thee months. Research has shown that having to shelter in place has exacerbated depression for some teenagers and has caused some teenagers to become depressed and anxious (CDC). Since many parents have been consulting me about how to tell if their teenager is depressed, I was reading an article by Dr. Jerome Yelder, Sr., which outlines many symptoms of depression. He explained them so they are easy to understand and covered all symptoms parents need to be aware of regarding depression. This is important because typically children and teenagers do not act like adults do when they feel depressed. I have outlined his list below for you to review and decide if you feel your teenager needs to see a mental health clinician for depression.

Sleep Problems
Depression can affect your body as well as your mind. Trouble falling or staying asleep is common in people who are depressed. But some may find that they get too much shut-eye.

Chest Pain
It can be a sign of heart, lung, or stomach problems, so see your doctor to rule out those causes. Sometimes, though, it’s a symptom of depression.
Depression can also raise your risk of heart disease. Plus, people who’ve had heart attacks are more likely to be depressed.

Fatigue and Exhaustion
If you feel so tired that you don’t have energy for everyday tasks — even when you sleep or rest a lot — it may be a sign that you’re depressed. Depression and fatigue together tend to make both conditions seem worse.

Aching Muscles and Joints
When you live with ongoing pain it can raise your risk of depression.

Depression may also lead to pain because the two conditions share chemical messengers in the brain. People who are depressed are three times as likely to get regular pain.

Digestive Problems
Our brains and digestive systems are strongly connected, which is why many of us get stomachaches or nausea when we’re stressed or worried. Depression can get you in your gut too — causing nausea, indigestion, diarrhea, or constipation.

Headaches
One study shows that people with major depression are three times more likely to have migraines, and people with migraines are five times more likely to get depressed.

Changes in Appetite or Weight
Some people feel less hungry when they get depressed. Others can’t stop eating. The result can be weight gain or loss, along with lack of energy. Depression has been linked to eating disorders like bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating.

Back Pain
When it hurts you there on a regular basis, it may contribute to depression. And people who are depressed may be four times more likely to get intense, disabling neck or back pain.

Agitated and Restless
Sleep problems or other depression symptoms can make you feel this way. Men are more likely than women to be irritable when they’re depressed.

Sexual Problems
Hopefully your teenager is not sexually active. While they may not have the sexual problems adults do, when they are depressed, they may show a lack of interest in dating or relationships and tend to isolate. They also may feel they are sexually unattractive.

If you’re depressed, you might lose your interest in sex. Some prescription drugs that treat depression can also take away your drive and affect performance. Talk to your doctor about your medicine options.

Exercise
Research suggests that if you do it regularly, it releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good, improve your mood, and reduce your sensitivity to pain. Although physical activity alone won’t cure depression, it can help ease it over the long term. If you’re depressed, it can sometimes be hard to get the energy to exercise. But try to remember that it can ease fatigue and help you sleep better.

If you feel you child or teenager are experiencing the above symptoms and may be depressed, have them evaluated by a mental health clinician who specializes in treating children and teenagers. Remember, children and teenagers often display different symptoms when they are depressed so it is often misdiagnosed. Also do not be embarrassed or ashamed. The pressure children and teenagers are facing in the world today can be very overwhelming and can easily cause a depressive episode. The Coronavirus was the straw that broke the camels back for many teenagers. The most important thing is if your child or teenager is experiencing depression, get then the treatment they need.

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

Dealing with Anxiety When the Coronavirus is Out of Control

Dealing with Anxiety When the Coronavirus is Out of Control

Anxiety is a common issue for children especially when we were all on quarantine and kids having to attend school from home. Remember children’s imaginations are very active. During the last few months we have had conflicting information from the White House and the medical doctors, such as Dr. Fauci who is the expert, about the Coronavirus and what we need to do. Therefore, there has not been a lot to explain to children and they have heard a lot on the news. Many parents tell me they have limited the access to news but with their IPads, phones and friends, they hear more than we are aware of. Also don’t forget, prior to the pandemic the children were dealing with mass shootings on a daily basis. Therefore, children and teenagers already were dealing with a lot of anxiety before the beginning of the pandemic.

The White House had told us they had the virus under control and it was time to start reopening the economy. However, we now find out that this was not the truth. In fact, today our Country had its highest numbers for new cases, hospitalizations and deaths, since the beginning of the pandemic. Many states such as Florida, Texas and Arizona are reporting numbers indicating the virus is out of control in their states. The doctors are clearly stating we opened too soon and we will need to at least pause reopening and in many cases possible go back to shelter in place. California is re-evaluating their numbers and most countries will be issuing new health orders that will take effect immediately. This will definitely increase anxiety for children, teenagers and parents. In other words, it will increase anxiety for everyone.

According to the CDC and what I have seen in my patients, anxiety has been at epidemic levels for children for awhile. The most common reason children are coming into therapy right now is anxiety or depression associated with the state of our Country (mass shooting, riots and the pandemic). Many parents want to know what they can do in between therapy sessions to help their child with their anxiety, especially now since, many people are experiencing an increase in anxiety as the pandemic spins out of control. I ran across an acronym by Lori Lite that is designed to help children who are anxious. The acronym is ASSURE. I will explain what is stand for and how to use it below.

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

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

Teenagers are Trying to be Their Friend’s Therapist during the Pandemic

Teenagers are Trying to be Their Friend’s Therapist during the Pandemic

There is an issue I have encountered many times working with teenagers in psychotherapy that is seldom talked about. The issue is teenager’s trying to act as a therapist to the friends or girl/boy friend. This issue is increasing due to the pandemic and quarantine. Many teenagers are experiencing more anxiety (CDC) and boredom due to being at home more and no school. There have been many times that a teen will tell me their girlfriend is suicidal and ask me what they should do to help her? Often a teen will ask could they just bring their girlfriend into one of their sessions. They argue since I am helping them, I can help their girlfriend. At this point we need to have a conversation about how therapy works and the situation that they are in at that point.

In terms of me just seeing the girlfriend, I explain I need parental consent because she is under 18 years old. I also explain if she is suicidal the parents should be involved. Sometimes the teen explains their girlfriend is living in an abusive household and the parents would never agree to psychotherapy. In these situations, I provide the suicide crises number and tell the teen to have the girlfriend call the crises line and they will get her help. Some teens will exaggerate a situation just so I will see the girlfriend. Therefore, it may be a normal argument between a teenager and parent that I may be entering. Therefore, I provide the crises line and 911 so the situation can be assessed. If the girl does need help, I don’t want to ruin the chances of her getting psychotherapy by acting too fast. I also need to be careful how I handle the situation with my patient. If he is wanting me to see his girlfriend, I have established a therapeutic relationship and trust with him and I do not want to spoil that bond.

The other part of this situation and the more important part is the teen trying to act like their friend’s psychotherapist. Many teens feel since they have been coming to therapy and making progress, if I give them some advice they can help their friend. I explain that they do not having the training needed to be a therapist. I also point out they are not emotionally ready to be a psychotherapist. Many teens feel a very close bond to their friends and girlfriends because they have shared a lot of very personal information and have been open emotionally. While this may be true, it is not the same as psychotherapy.

Why is it important to discuss this issue? What if a teen tries to be their friend’s therapist and the friend commits suicide. They teen will be emotionally devastated and blame themselves. The parent of the teen who committed suicide may blame the teen too. Maybe they were not handling the situation correctly and the teen might have been saved if they had been hospitalized. However, the teen was never hospitalized because their friend was acting as the therapist. The teen could be in a lot of trouble. I have seen this happen. I have had parents come in for grief therapy because their child committed suicide and their child’s friend was acting as therapist and keeping everything a secret. This is a very sad and tragic situation for all involved.

Any time I have a teen asking me about a friend I explore the situation to determine if they are acting as therapist. If they are I explain to the teen why this is inappropriate. I acknowledge how close they are to their friend and how much they care about their friend. I then point out because they care so much they want to do what is best for their friend. I ask them how they would feel if their friend committed suicide? I point out that they are in a very difficult situation that they are not emotionally prepared for or professionally trained for. We discuss that this doesn’t mean anything negative about them. We discuss how they are expecting too much of themselves. I explain if they really want to help their friend, they will encourage their friend to seek help or they may need to tell someone such as the school counselor or their friend’s parents. Sometimes they say, “but I promised to keep it a secret.” I explain sometimes you may need to break a promise to help someone. I also point out their friend may initially be mad but if they truly care they need to do what is best for their friend.

Teenage suicide is an epidemic. The CDC just moved suicide from the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death for teenagers. Also the CDC has noted there has been an increase in anxiety, depression and suicides since the beginning of the pandemic. Additionally, teenagers are turning to cutting more often to deal with their feelings about life and the pandemic. Therefore, at this time in our history, this issue has become a bigger issue and needs to be addressed. The situation where friends try to act like the therapist happens more often than people realize. I had a situation occur this week. After explaining the situation to the teen, they spoke to their friend and their friend is now in therapy. This was a good ending. I would estimate 1 out of 3 teens ask me about their friends and are trying to be the therapist to their friend. Besides teens feeling they can handle this situation because they feel so close to their friend, I believe this occurs due to our views on mental health.

Because of the mental health stigma many teens are reluctant to go to therapy. They don’t want to be labeled as “crazy” or “weird.” Furthermore, it is not easy for teens to get therapy. Many psychotherapist prefer not to work with this age group for various reasons. Also many families cannot afford psychotherapy and many insurance companies do not cover psychotherapy. As a result, teenagers tend to turn to each other when they are encountering emotional issues. Research indicates that teens turn to their friend first when they encounter emotional issues. If we want to stop teenagers from acting like psychotherapist and if we want teenagers to get appropriate mental health care, we need to talk to teenagers about why they can’t act as a friend’s therapist and we need to increase access for teenagers to mental health care and remove the mental health stigma.

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

How To Improve Your Relationship with Your Teenager During the Pandemic

How To Improve Your Relationship with Your Teenager During the Pandemic

Many parents worry because their teenager talks more to their friends than to them. Often many parents feel like a failure because their teenager is spending more time with friends than them. However, with the quarantine many teenagers have not been able to hang out with friends. They have maintained contact by texting, FaceTime, Zoom and gaming. Some parents have seen this as an opportunity to increase the amount of time they spend with their teenagers and as an opportunity to improve their relationship with their teenagers. This is an excellent idea. Unfortunately some parents who are concerned that their teen spending too much time with friends may result in their teen becoming involved with drugs or other issues. They feel they can use this extra time to pry into their lives and find out what their teenager is really doing. Unfortunately, this idea eliminates the opportunity of improving your relationship with your teenager. By improving your relationship with your teenager, you increase the probability that your teenager will open up to you if they are in trouble. Unfortunately many parents tell me they have decided they way to resolve this issue is that, “”I am going to be my teenager’s best friend” as a way prevent these problems or finding out about them. Unfortunately, many of these parents do not understand that it is normal developmentally for teens to spend more time with their friends.

The solution that you are going to be your teen’s best friend is wrong!! You do not want to be your teen’s friend. You need to be your teen’s parent. Your teen has enough friends. Your teen doesn’t need another friend, they need a parent. They need someone to educate them about life and how to make decisions.

Remember, as a parent it is your responsibility to help guide your teen to be successful as an adult and in life as a productive member of society. This means at times you will have to set firm boundaries, educate them about life and sometimes tell your teen no. It is important to remember being a parent is not a popularity contest. You must set appropriate limits for your teen which means at times they will be mad at you. It is okay if they are mad at you. This is part of the process a teenager experiences as they are maturing into an adult.

Despite what they say, most teens want and like boundaries. At times they can be very helpful to your teen. They may be faced with a great deal of peer pressure to do something that they do not want to do and they can use you as the excuse why they cannot do it. Some may say this is immature because the teen is using their parent as an excuse, but we put our teens in a very, very difficult world so I think they are allowed some extra help now and then.

Another reason why should you not be your teen’s friend because your word and rules will mean nothing to your teen, if you are their friend. A friend is defined as a close associate. In other words, teenagers see their friends as equals. Now think about what this implies, if you are equals, you are on the same level as your teen. Therefore, they think they know as much as you do and since you are equals they can choose to follow your rules or ignore them as they see fit.

I run into this problem daily in my office. A parent will say “we have always been best friends, I talk to my teen and their friends about everything and we have good times together hanging out. I don’t understand why they disregard my authority as their parent.”

The answer is simple: you eliminated your authority as the parent and made yourself an equal as a friend. If you want your teen to respect your authority as the parent, you must remain the parent and not be the friend.

Consider the decisions these teens have to make every day. They are faced with issues regarding alcohol, drugs, sex, gangs and decisions about careers in their future. Teens live in a very difficult and complex world today. They need parents to help set appropriate boundaries and guide them so they make the best choices for themselves and avoid a great deal of trouble. You can only do this as a parent. Remember, as a parent you are not in a popularity contest. You have a responsibility to help guide your teen. If you want to help them survive high school then be the parent and make the tough, unpopular decisions that are in your child’s best interest. This will help your teen to respect you and the rules you made earlier you can enforce. If you set yourself as friend and equal, your teen loses respect for you, your advice and your rules. You find yourself powerless and you leave your teen on their own to decide what is appropriate behavior.

This is a difficult time for you and your teenager, but if you maintain your role as parent and your teen maintains their role as child you both will survive high school easier. Of course there will be difficult moments, but nowhere near as difficult if you blur the relationship boundaries.

Dr Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their parents. He is well respected in the community. To learn more about his work or private practice, visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or http://www.RubinoCounseling.com. You can also visit his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3. You can also email him from this website, if you have questions.

Teenagers Growing up with Racism

Teenagers Growing up with Racism

This week our nation witnessed another senseless tragedy the murder of George Floyd by the police. Is this the first time that a Blackman or another minority has been mistreated by the police or society no! However, what are we teaching our children with the violent protest that have been occurring all over the Country.

Our children have grown up with chaos. They were first exposed to 9/11, then terrorist attacks, a war which has gone on for 17 years, mass shootings at their schools and finally being in quarantine for 2 1/2 months due to the Coronavirus virus. This is a lot for a child to comprehend. They already believe they won’t live past 30 because of the violence in the world. What will these violent protests do to this belief?

Is there a reason for the protest? Yes. We all saw a man brutally murdered for no reason by the police again. Are minorities treated fairly in our Country, No. I am a psychotherapist who has over 20 years experience working with teenagers. Many of the teenagers I have worked with have been on probation, expelled from school or picked up by the police for walking around our city treats. I have also went to Juvenile Hall many times to continue a teenager’s therapy or to complete a Court Ordered assessment. What I have seen over and over is that minority teenagers are not treated the same as Caucasian teenagers. Minority teenagers always receive the tougher punishments while Caucasian teenagers walk away with a warning. However, financial class makes a difference too. If you are a poor Caucasian teenager you are treated like a minority. One judge even referred to one poor white teenager’s family as “trailer trash.” The teen was devastated but no one in authority gave it a second thought.

What we need to do for our children is elect leaders who will demand a change in the system. The President encourages this discrimination. He called the people “thugs” in his tweet and uses other racial statements. Anytime there has been a racial issue he tends to ignore it choosing to focus on how he is mistreated. Also look at his history of how he has referred to people of color, women, people with disabilities and people who live below the poverty level. He makes fun of them and blames them for the problems in our Country. We can change this with our votes.

However, if we are going to really address the issue we must all look at ourselves. Listen to Michael Jackson’s song “Man in the Miroor.” He states, “I’m going to make a change and I’m starting with the man in the mirror.” We have all been brought up in this society where minorities or anyone who is slightly different is not treated equally. Every person wether you are white, black or brown has some racist attitudes. Therefore, to eliminate the inequality in our Country, we must address our issues first and then teach our children about these issues. Burning a building or breaking car windows will change nothing. The Mayor of Atlanta said it best last night. I have included a link to her speech. I encourage each and every one of you to listen to it and apply to your own lives. Give our children a chance at a better life by having the courage to face your racism https://youtu.be/BVs8JXqLPs8.

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 http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Returning to School during A Pandemic

Returning to School during A Pandemic

We hear the government talking about reopening the economy and also reopening schools. However, since there is still a lot we have to learn about the Coronavirus, we do not know exactly how school should reopen and when. There has been discussions about options, but no one can make a firm decision yet. Therefore, we have to wait to find out how and when schools will reopen. Since there is no definite plan yet, this creates anxiety in children and parents.

Many of the children and teenagers, I treat, are asking about returning to school and what changes are going to be made at school. When I tell them that there is no definite plan yet, they are not surprised but you can also hear the anxiety it their voices. We have to remember that these kids have been living under quarantine orders for over 2 months now. Also during that time there have been few concrete answers for these children about the virus or returning to school. Furthermore, before the quarantine, these children were dealing with mass shootings on a daily basis and mass shooting drills. This was another situation they had to endure with no reasons as to why the shootings were occurring or when they would stop. Therefore, we have an entire generation of children and teenagers who have had to adjust to living with uncertainty about their safety.

Many parents are wondering how to handle this uncertainty about returning to school. Well one thing we can do to help children and teenagers is to validate their feelings. Instead of just telling them everything will be alright. We need to acknowledge that it makes sense that they are feeling anxious and uncertain about the future and going back to school. We have no answers and it’s natural to be anxious under the present situation. Therefore, instead of telling them their feelings are wrong or they are over reacting, validate their feelings. This will help them cope with their feelings and help them not to feel like they are crazy for feeling the way they do.

Also explain to children and teenagers that we are living in historic times. Inform them that the last time there was a pandemic was 100 years ago. We did survive that pandemic and we will find away to survive this one. It may take sometime but we will find a solution. However, while we are looking for answers, they are living history. When they are older and their grandchildren ask about the Coronavirus pandemic, they will be able to provide first hand answers because they lived through the pandemic. This may help with the uncertainty and provide your child with a different perspective they can use as they view the current situation.

Also reassure them that you know while we search for answers that this can be scary and confusing, but as their parent you are going to watch out for them. As soon as you hear news about what the plans are for school, you will share the information with them. Also reassure them you will not place them in a dangerous or uncomfortable situation. If you do not feel comfortable with the plans for returning to school, you will look at alternatives such as home schooling. Remind them that as their parents you can make different plans for them if needed.

However, while we wait for the plans assure them it’s okay to feel anxious or nervous. Also let them know you want them to share their feelings with you so you can help. There is no reason to be embarrassed about the feelings they are having or needing to talk about the feelings. Also explain you understand that sometimes it’s hard to talk to your parents about certain feelings. Reassure them that if they don’t feel comfortable talking to you that you will understand and make arrangements for them to talk to someone where they will feel safe.

The most important thing to remind children is they have been living with a great deal of anxiety and fear for a long time. Therefore, it’s only natural that they may need to talk about their feelings. It’s normal and a healthy thing to do and you are there as their parent to help them in any way they need.

Another thing that can help is to encourage your child to talk to their friends and their feelings too. They can use FaceTime or Zoom. By sharing their thoughts and feelings with their friends about returning to school, they will see they are not alone. Hearing that their friends have similar feelings can help them relax and not feel so strange about their feelings. It is also an excellent support group for them. If they start talking now about their feelings, it will make it easier to talk about their feelings as they get older and life gets more complicated. Also by talking about their feelings, it also hopefully keep the door open so they continue to talk to you too.

The idea of returning to school will create anxiety when they think about having to wear a mask and other possible changes. However, if we acknowledge the anxiety is legitimate and if we attempt to work with the children and their feelings, they should have less anxiety and an easier transition back to the new normal for schools.

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

Helping Children Cope with Anxiety during the Pandemic

Helping Children Cope with Anxiety during the Pandemic

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

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

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

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

Teenage Suicide During the Quarantine

Teenage Suicide During the Quarantine

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Next?

What’s Next?

The quarantine has caused financial and emotional problems for many people. It has disrupted what we consider normal life and many people do not see an end in site. As a result, many people have been demanding and demonstrating that the quarantines in all the states end so they can resume their lives. The President has been leading people to believe that this is a very easy task. However, reopening the economy is not as easy as the President or as many people may think it will be. The medical professionals have stated we are moving too fast and we need to listen to the medical experts who study viruses not the President.

We still have people contracting the virus and dying from the virus at an alarming rate. Los Angeles County reported a significant increase in deaths due to the virus over the weekend. New models just released expect that towards the end of May and the beginning of June we will see another significant increase in the number of people dying from the virus and contracting it.

Yes having to shelter in place is boring and it is costing people their jobs. Therefore, we have people worrying about how they will pay their bills and we have people who are becoming depressed and anxious due to not being able to leave the house. They feel that once the quarantine is lifted everything will be alright, but will it?

After the quarantine, what’s next? We cannot resume life as normal because we are still dealing with the virus. Therefore, we will need to wear masks and maintain social distancing requirements. As a result, we will not be able to attend movies or concerts. Restaurants will not be the same either due to social distancing requirements. Children and teenagers will not be able to attend school in the same manner and our work environments will change significantly too.

Now the quarantine and worry about contracting the virus has already placed a great deal of stress on many people. There now will be people who will be afraid of leaving the house because they are afraid of catching the virus. Besides these people, other people will be feeling stressed and depressed due to all the changes needed to open the economy. They were hoping to return to their lives and they will find out that they have to adjust to an entirely new lifestyle.

In addition to these changes, we will still be facing the issue of needing to take precautions so we do not catch the virus and we will still be worrying about family members who are at high risk due to age or other health underlying health conditions getting the virus. Additionally, we will continue to have family members who contract the virus and die. Just because we open the economy doesn’t mean people won’t be catching the virus and dying. Also it does not mean the economy will return to normal and people will be able to find new jobs. If restaurants are only allowed to operate at 25% capacity and tables need to be six feet apart in addition to having to use disposable menus, would you want to go to a restaurant under those conditions? The answer is most likely no. Therefore, since business will be down in numerous industries, no one will be hiring and people still will be worrying about paying the bills.

As a result of working with trauma victims for over 20 years, I understand the first impulse is to try to resume living your daily life as soon as possible so you feel a sense of control over your life that was taken from you. We have all been traumatized by the Coronavirus. We are the United States and we can handle anything. However, the Coronavirus has turned the tables on us. We are not in control, the virus is in control.

So what’s next? We listen to the medical professionals and we follow their advice. We have made some progress getting a handle on the virus. However, if we move to fast, the virus will come back and many more people will become sick and die. The President is not allowing the professionals to speak out because it is not good for his image. For those of you who say this is wrong, when there was a cruise ship in the San Francisco Bay waiting to dock, the President stood outside the CDC and said, “I don’t want it to dock because the increased numbers don’t look good for me”. We need to consider what is best for the entire country not just the President.

Therefore, as difficult as it maybe, we need to listen to the medical and mental health experts and develop a safe plan to reopen the country. A plan which will minimize the number of people who will become ill and a plan that addresses the mental health issues that will be triggered and exacerbated by reopening the economy.

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