It Appears Mass Shootings are being Treated as Normal Events

It Appears Mass Shootings are being Treated as Normal Events

I initially wrote part of this article in August 2019, but unfortunately it needs to be updated. 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. As of July 31, 2019, there had been 248 mass shootings, 246 people killed and 979 injured. Given the number of shootings this year, it averages out to a mass shooting every 1.2. days. These statistics were valid as of July 31st. Since then there were three more shootings in California, Texas and Ohio. Therefore, there have been 250 mass shootings this year (it’s only August) and we are still waiting on the total number of people who have been killed or injured.

The statistics from the Gun Violence Archive reported above are no longer accurate. As of September 24, 2019, there have been 334 mass shootings, 1347 killed this year in mass shooting and 1,684 people injured. The really sad fact is these statistic are no longer valid. Yesterday there was a mass shooting in Long Beach. People were at a Halloween party and someone started shooting at them and killing people. The statistics on this incident have not been released yet. The really sad thing is this barely mad the news. Most people have not heard about the shooting and the was very little news coverage about the event. Why? Because these shooting are becoming normal to us. No one is shocked to hear about another shooting, they have learned to expect it. The GVA has reported that 2019 will be the year with the most mass shooting events, deaths and injuries based on the statistics to date. What are we doing to change the problem? It is getting worse not better and the President and Congress take no action.

Initially after the recent shootings, the President said we would definitely be taking action and there would be universal background checks. He then made a public statement from the Oval Office that there would be no universal background checks. The President stated the background checks we currently have are enough to keep us safe. He also publicly stated that the people who helped him win the election would not be happy with universal background checks. He had been speaking to the chairman of the NRA that day. Therefore it appears, the money the NRA donates to his campaign is more important than the children of the United States.

The President has tried to say it is 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 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. Children hear things and they will know that I am lying. Most would have heard some where that the President refused universal background checks. For therapy to work, the children need to trust me. If I lie, they will not trust me. Also 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. The President has been on national television stating all mass shooting is due to mental illness. He refers 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 President 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. Next, contact Mitch McConnell and demand that he bring the sane gun laws to the Senate floor for a vote. If he received numerous phone calls demanding action or people with be supporting who ever runs against him, he will bring the bills to a vote. He only cares about keeping his senate seat. If he cared about the families devastated by these shootings, he would have been there trying to help instead of staying on vacation. His contact information is below:

Senator Mitch McConnell : U.S. Senate, 317 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 205100001

ph: (202) 224-2541

fax: (202) 224-2499

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 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 http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3

How To Talk with Your Teenager About Holiday Curfews and Issues without Arguing

How To Talk with Your Teenager About Holiday Curfews and Issues without Arguing

Many parents, who have teenagers, often encounter power struggles with their teenager. Typically the power struggle occurs because the teenager disagrees with the limits their parents are setting. Many parents get frustrated by the power struggles, but teenagers at times enjoy the power struggle. If they get their parents into an argument most parents forget the main point of the discussion and the teenager wins. Tonight is Halloween and the beginning of the Holiday season. There is Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving break, Christmas, Hanukkah (other holidays too) and Winter break. Teenagers are going to want to spend time with friends and with friends who are coming home for the Holidays. This brings up the issues regarding how many parties you feel your teen should attend, time they need to be home and time you expect them to spend with the family and participating in Holiday events. Typically, this brings up a great number of debates. Every year I have teens telling me their parents are too strict and they need more time with their friends over the Holidays.

It is important to remember that a teenager’s brain is not fully developed. The prefrontal cortex is still developing in teenagers. This part of the brain is responsible for reasoning and other executive functions such as making decisions. Therefore, while teenagers look mature enough to have a reasonable conversation, their brains may not be mature enough. To put it another way, you are not debating Holiday curfews with a 16 year old, you are debating the curfew issue with a fifth grader in terms of their emotional development. Therefore, they are more likely to argue or be disrespectful. However, an argument is not always bad. There are ways to have a healthy argument and ways to have destructive, hurtful arguments. Most of us never learned how the have a healthy, reasonable disagreement.

Many people feel that a disagreement or fight is always a bad thing for a relationship. However, this is not true. If you handle a disagreement or argument fairly, it can be a very healthy thing for a relationship. It can help you overcome past miscommunications or help you to resolve a problem. Furthermore, you can model for your teenager how to have a reasonable discussion about differences of opinions.

As I stated above, parents who are dealing with teenagers and they need to remember that for teenagers their Frontal Lobes in their brains are still developing. Therefore, they cannot always reason like adults and often have difficulties having fair disagreements. I have included a list by TherapyAid.com which explains fair fighting rules.

Yes this might sound odd, but you can have a disagreement that is fair. You do not always need to use insults or not listen to each other. By using these rules, you and your teenager may be able to resolve an issue or at least come to an understanding without saying things that will hurt one another.

Parents what I suggest is that you sit down with these rules with your teenager and discuss that you would like to start to using these rules in your family. Take the time and go over each rule so you both understand the rules. Also make a copy for yourself to keep, your teen to keep and a copy to put on the refrigerator to remind everyone. Remember, these rules will be a change for both of you so don’t be surprised if it takes you some time to get use to these rules and use them on a regular basis. Change usually never occurs over night and some people have difficulty with change.

While these rules are beneficial for parents and teenagers, these rules are also useful for couples too. Very few people in our society were brought up learning how to clearly communicate. Just look at how many arguments occur due to miscommunication if you need proof. For couples I would recommend the same steps as parents and teens. First sit down and go over the rules so you both have the same understanding of the rules and keep a copy for yourselves. The next time you have a disagreement practice using these rules. Keep practicing until you become comfortable using these rules. This way the entire family can start using these rules and hopefully improve communication within the family.

Fair Fighting Rules

1. Before you begin, ask yourself why you feel upset.

Are you truly angry because your partner left the mustard on the counter? Or are you upset because you feel like you’re doing an uneven share of the housework, and this is just one more piece of evidence? Take time to think about your own feelings before starting an argument.

2. Discuss one issue at a time.

“You shouldn’t be spending so much money without talking to me” can quickly turn into “You don’t care about our family”. Now you need to resolve two problems instead of one. Plus, when an argument starts to get off topic, it can easily become about everything a person has ever done wrong. We’ve all done a lot wrong, so this can be especially cumbersome.

3. No degrading language.

Discuss the issue, not the person. No put-downs, swearing, or name-calling. Degrading language is an attempt to express negative feelings while making sure your partner feels just as bad. This will just lead to more character attacks while the original issue is forgotten.

4. Express your feelings with words and take responsibility for them.

“I feel angry.” “I feel hurt when you ignore my phone calls.” “I feel scared when you yell.” These are good ways to express how you feel. Starting with “I” is a good technique to help you take responsibility for your feelings (no, you can’t say whatever you want as long as it starts with “I”).

5. Take turns talking.

This can be tough, but be careful not to interrupt. If this rule is difficult to follow, try setting a timer allowing 1 minute for each person to speak without interruption. Don’t spend your partner’s minute thinking about what you want to say. Listen!

6. No stonewalling.

Sometimes, the easiest way to respond to an argument is to retreat into your shell and refuse to speak. This refusal to communicate is called stonewalling. You might feel better temporarily, but the original issue will remain unresolved and your partner will feel more upset. If you absolutely cannot go on, tell your partner you need to take a time-out. Agree to resume the discussion later.

7. No yelling.

Sometimes arguments are “won” by being the loudest, but the problem only gets worse.

8. Take a time-out if things get too heated.

In a perfect world we would all follow these rules 100% of the time, but it just doesn’t work like that. If an argument starts to become personal or heated, take a time-out. Agree on a time to come back and discuss the problem after everyone has cooled down.

Coping with Grief during the Holidays

Coping with Grief during the Holidays

The Holidays are typically a happy time for many people. However, for others it can be a very difficult time. If you lost someone close during the year, the first Holiday season can be very difficult. Also maybe the death occurred last year, you can still be grieving the loss of your loved one. Our society doesn’t really talk about grief. In our society grief is a topic we avoid. We all know it exists but we try our best to ignore it. This makes it very difficult for people who are grieving. Since we do not openly discuss it, people are.not sure what is appropriate in terms of expressing grief or how to respond to someone grieving especially during the Holidays.

A major part of the grieving process is learning how to continue your life without your loved one. This can be a difficult process especially depending on how the death occurred and if you had a chance to say good bye. Regardless of if it was sudden or expected there is a grieving process people undergo. There are stage theories about grief, but I encourage people not to worry about those theories, grief is an individual process and you need to allow yourself to experience it the way you need to. In other words, there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

In terms of the feeling of grief, the best way I have heard it explained is think about it as an ocean wave. You never know when the wave will come in or when it will go out so you just have to experience as it happens. However, you know the wave will eventually go out so you do your best to deal with it until it goes back out. However, it’s important to remember it will be back again until you are finished grieving.

During the Holidays you need to take care of yourself and ask others to understand that you are grieving and ask for their support. Maybe you cannot do what you have always done during the Holidays. Maybe this year you need to do something totally different such as go on a trip. Maybe you need to allow yourself some quiet time so you can remember your loved one in the way which feels appropriate to you. The important thing is to do what you feel is appropriate for you. There is no right or wrong way to express grief at anytime especially during the Holiday Season.

It is a good idea to try to develop a general idea for how you plan to cope with the Holidays. However, it’s also important to remember that you need to be flexible. You may have a plan for the Holidays which sounds like it will help you cope with your grief during the Holidays. However, at the last minute you discover it won’t work and you need to change it. If that is the situation, then change your plans at the last minute. You need to do what you need to in order to cope with your grief during the Holidays.

When developing a plan include the immediate family because everyone is grieving and you can support each other. In other words, it is a good idea to try to openly discuss with the family how you each feel you can cope with your grief and the Holidays. If there are children involved, pay close attention to the children. They may have difficulty expressing their thoughts and feelings and may be very confused.

Also remember there is no timeline on grief. So it may take you a year to process your grief, while it may take someone else two or three years. The main point is do not impose a time frame on yourself or anyone else. If you notice grief is paralyzing you or a family member, you may want to suggest therapy so they can get the additional support they need. Again grief is a very individual process so some people may need psychotherapy and others may not.

The main point is to remember this Holiday will be very different and not to put a lot of expectations on yourself. Do what you can and if you cannot do something do not force yourself. Do not be embarrassed to ask others for emotional support or to cry. Cry as much as you need to. The bottom line is this Holiday is going to be different and you may not be happy and filled with joy. If that is the case, you are not doing anything wrong. You are simply experiencing your grief and it is important to allow yourself to grieve.

On last point, some people find volunteering at a homeless shelter or food bank to be helpful. Helping others and helping others to live without having to struggle can help with some of the helplessness you may be experiencing. Again, do what you and your family need to in order to make it through the Holiday. Do not worry how others may possibly be judging if they are judging you. They are not dealing with the grief, you and your family are dealing with the grief.

I have also included a link to a website that provides additional information about grieving during the Holidays. Having a list to refer back to can be helpful. Please take care of yourself and family during this emotional time. Coping with grief and loss during the holidays – https://go.shr.lc/2AoQ1yR via @Shareaholic.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers and working with people who are grieving. 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.

The Bullying Epidemic and How to Stop it

The Bullying Epidemic and How to Stop it

Bullying is a big problem in our society. It is considered an epidemic by many people. Also bullying often results in the victim committing suicide. Children and teens don’t have the cognitive ability to cope with bullying and now with cyber bullying it is even more difficult. Cyber bullying is when kids are bullied via email, text, posts on social media and it can occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As a result, the victim feels suicide is the only way to stop the bullying.

Statistics by the CDC indicate that between 1 out of every 3 or 4 kids are bullied during their lives. The majority of bullying occurs during middle school. The kids most likely to be bullied are those that are considered different in some way. A boy may be emotional or a girl may not wear the right brand of clothes. These are common reasons many kids are bullied. If you think about it, these are no reasons to bully someone. In fact, there is no reason that justifies bullying.

Bullying has life long effects on those who are bullied, those who bully and those who stand by and watch the bullying happen. Let’s examine the impact of bullying on these different groups:

Kids who are bullied can experience negative physical, school, and mental health issues. Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience:

• Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.

• Health complaints

• Decreased academic achievement—GPA and standardized test scores—and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.

Kids who bully others can also engage in violent and other risky behaviors into adulthood. Kids who bully are more likely to:

• Abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults

• Get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school

• Engage in early sexual activity

• Have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults 

• Be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children as adults

Kids who witness bullying are more likely to:

• Have increased use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs

• Have increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety

• Miss or skip school

The Harlem Globtrotters have developed a program to help address and stop bullying. They call it the ABC program. It is not very difficult and makes a lot of sense. Here is the program:

Action – when you see bullying or are being bullied tell your parents or a teacher.

Bravery – don’t be afraid to walk away from someone who is bullying you. If you see someone bullying someone tell them to stop.

Compassion – if you know someone is being bullied or looks down go over and be nice to the person. Compliment them or encourage them to ignore the bully.

Here is a link to the ABC program so you can watch it and discuss it with your children https://youtu.be/O-TF7x3Q_sk.

If we don’t become active when bullying is occurring, it will never stop. This means teaching our children to speak out against it too. Look at the list above, bullying impacts everyone. It has life long effects on the bullied, the bullies and those who see it. Therefore, we must all act.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has over 20 yrs experience treating children and teenagers. He is a founding member of the National Street Soldier Advisory Board, an anti bullying program. For more information about his work and private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

What Do I Do, I think My Child is being Bullied?

What Do I Do, I think My Child is being Bullied?

Many kids, despite what they say, really enjoy school. They like seeing their friends, their teachers and learning. However, some kids are not as excited and even worried about going to school. Many of these kids have been bullied and they are afraid of being bullied again. The month of October is dedicated to bully awareness. Hopefully, this article will provide you with information you need to protect your child from being bullied. Hopefully, we may even be able to stop bullying.

Often when a child is being bullied they do not say anything to their parents until the bullying is really bad. They are afraid, especially boys, that you will see them as weak. They are also afraid that you will be disappointed in them for not defending themselves. Parents it’s important that you understand that you have not said anything or done anything to create this feeling in your child. Our society teaches children these messages, especially boys. Children receive these messages about being strong and solving their own problems from television, music, and video games. This is what the documentary “The Mask You Live In”, is trying to address. It is on Netflix and it might be helpful if you watch it.

It is very important to take bullying very seriously these days. It is no longer just one kid calling another kid names. The bullying today occurs at school and may include threats of being killed and it goes beyond school. Now bullies can continue their bullying via text messages, emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. So the bullying becomes non-stop. It can really make someone feel worthless and that they would be better off dead. One example of a child being overwhelmed by bullying is a 13 year old boy, on the east coast, who committed suicide because he could not tolerate the bullying any longer. The boy committed suicide to escape the bullying. He is not the first child to commit suicide due to bullying. One 15 year old girl committed suicide due to bullying and she left a note to be placed in her obituary. In the note she asked kids to be kind to each other. Some kids are turning to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain and we are seeing a significant number of accidental overdosages resulting in teenagers’ deaths. We assume they were accidents, they could also be suicides staged to look like accidents. Also suicide has recently been moved from the third leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old to the second leading cause of death for kids. Therefore, if kids have been commuting suicide to escape bullying, the rate of bullying has most likely increased significantly.

Bullying is not just an elementary school issue. It occurs in High School and College too. A few years back a college student committed suicide because his roommate secretly filmed him in his dorm room with another guy having sex. When the tape was posted on the college’s email for others to see, the boy was so ashamed because he had not made it publicly known that he was gay. He was so upset and humiliated that he ended up committing suicide.

As the rates for bullying in middle schools increase so do the number of suicides and drug use increase. However, this issue also occurs in elementary school and elementary students are committing suicide or starting to use alcohol and marijuana. We know it is a very serious problem in Elementary schools because suicide it is no longer the third leading cause of death for 10 year old children. Suicide is now the second leading cause according to the CDC statistics. Also fifth graders are beginning to use alcohol and marijuana.

Additionally, I am seeing more and more elementary students in therapy because they are being bullied at school. Many of these children are embarrassed because they feel they should be able to stop the bullying. They are also embarrassed and often don’t want me to tell their parents because they believe they must of done something to deserve being bullied. I explain to them they do not deserve it and they should not have to stop it on their own. I also explain that their parents would want to know so they can help them. I need to emphasize that Mom and Dad won’t blame you or be ashamed of you. It is amazing to see how relaxed these children become when I tell them this about their parents.

What should a parent do? One thing is parents should watch for the following warning signs that your child is a victim of a bully:

Avoiding activities they used to enjoy

Loss of friends or avoiding social situations

Problems sleeping

Complaining of stomachaches or headaches

Loss of appetite

Declining grades

Missing or damaged clothing or belongings

Self-destructive behaviors like running away from home

If you notice any of these or just have a sense something is wrong then talk to your child. However, when you talk to your child reassure them they did nothing wrong, there is nothing wrong with them and you are not upset or disappointed with them. Try to develop a game plan of how you are going to deal with it together and ask how you can be supportive. Also ask your child to promise you if they feel really sad like they want to hurt themselves that they will talk to you before they do anything. You may think this is ridiculous, but I use a no suicide contract with many children that I work with and they honor it. The contract lets them you know that you care about them and it is okay to talk about their feelings.

The other thing you can do as a parent is go to your child’s school and ask what is the school’s policy on bullying. You can also ask how the school watches for bullying, how is the policy enforced and what is being done to prevent bullying. You may ask the school to contact or you can volunteer to contact a group such as Challenge Day. This is an international organization that addresses bullying and they are located in Concord, California. I have seen their work and it is fantastic and kids love it.

Another thing you can do as a parent is start talking to your child about bullying on an occasional basis. This gives you a chance to let them know it’s not their fault and to develop a plan of action if it does occur. You should also discuss drugs and alcohol at the same time. I work with kids all day long and at times I am still shocked at how young kids are when they are starting to get involved with drugs and alcohol.

Keeping an open line of communication with your child is very important if you want them to come to you. Research still indicates that children are more likely to turn to their friends when they have a problem. This is good that they have this emotional support, but their friends don’t have the answers or solutions that they need. Remember it is best to speak to your child when you are in a calm environment and no one else, such as brothers or sisters, are around. Also remember the word HALT. It stands for:

Hungry

Angry

Lonely

Tired

If you sense your child is experiencing any of these feelings it is not a good time to talk. When you talk with your child you want it to be productive and for your child to feel like they are not being judged. Therefore, sometimes it is better to put off a conversation so you don’t end up in an argument. This is more likely to close the line of communication with your child.

I have mentioned several times that being bullied is not their fault. What I have seen from working with children who are bullies, abusive men and reviewing the research is that bullies really have very low self-esteem. In fact many times they lack a sense of themselves. The only way the feel important or alive is by putting someone else down. They do this because they are afraid the other kids might be able to figure out how lousy they feel about themselves. It is often said the best defense is a good offense. They hope that by acting like the big guy on campus that other people will see them as the big guy and they are able to keep their secret. Kids usually do this because it was done to them too.

Therefore, we need to remember the bully is usually a kid who has been abused too and is crying out for help. If we are going to stop the problem of bullying we need programs to help the bullies too. They are only repeating what they have been taught.

One last comment, I saw a school install a “buddy bench.” If anyone had been bullied, having a bad day, feeling lonely, all they had to do was sit on the buddy bench. Another student or teacher would then go over and ask how they could help. There was no shame associated if you sat on the buddy bench. It was presented as a brave choice. The school was using it as part of their program to stop bullying at school. This fantastic idea came from a 10 year old student. Children often have fantastic answers and we need to listen.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience working with children and teens especially those who are victims of trauma. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page at Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Coping with Extended Family during A Divorce

Coping with Extended Family during A Divorce

A divorce is always a stressful event for the entire family. When it is a hostile divorce, meaning the parents will not talk to each other at all and fight over every little decision, it is especially stressful on the children. As a psychotherapist, who specializes in working with children caught in hostile divorces, I hear the children complain about their parents fighting and wishing it would stop. The children and teenagers tell me how confused they are by the arguing. They also talk about feeling helpless.

These children often state that they feel like they are in the middle of a civil war. Often they feel they need to choose Mom’s side or Dad’s side. This is how their parents’ fighting makes them feel and sometimes parents do push their children to choose a side. What children and teenagers really want is for their lives to be like they were before the divorce.

At times, parents involve the children in the divorce and they don’t realize what they are doing. Often parents say things about Dad or Mom in front of the children. When kids or teens hear about Mom or Dad, they sometimes feel they are expected to choose between the two. What parents often forget is this is a choice a child cannot make. They love both their parents and want a relationship with both, therefore they cannot pick between the two. This type of pressure on children creates depression, anxiety and children who act out at school as a way to cope with their stress and also some teens get involved with alcohol or drugs due to the stress.

Unfortunately, this pressure does not always end with the parents. Often grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins get involved. They talk negatively about the other parent so the kids feel like they should take aside. This creates even more stress for the children. When their grandparents are talking negatively about the other parent, sometimes the kids start to doubt themselves. They start to feel like they are doing something wrong by not choosing a side.

This pressured is intensified because usually both parents’ families are pressuring the children. The children become overwhelmed, confused and angry very quickly. First, there is no where for them to escape the pressures of the divorce. Also every time they think they have a handle on the situation someone in the family is giving them new information or pressuring them to take a side.

When this occurs, I see children become less involved in the family and more involved with friends. Also their grades tend to go down and they start to get into trouble at school. Some teens will start to get involved with alcohol and drugs. This usually occurs because the child or the teenager has come to the point where they do not care anymore. They are tired of hearing their parents fight and they are tired of getting pressured by their grandparents. They wish that someone would start to look at things from their point of view.

This is a very important point. When a family is going through a divorce the parents and extended family need to consider how the kids are feeling. Also they need to stop doing anything that makes the child feel like they have to take a side.

This means that parents do not discuss the divorce in front of the children. Also neither parent says anything negative about the other parent when their children are around. Finally, both parents tell their families not to discuss anything pertaining to the divorce when the children are around and they are not to say anything negative about the other parent. If the families cannot abide by these guidelines, then parents need to restrict visits to the grandparents. Furthermore, they can only see the grandparents when the parent is present so they can intervene, if the grandparents start saying negative things about Mom or Dad. You are not punishing the grandparents, you are protecting your children. Remember you can divorce your spouse, but you cannot change who your child’s mother is or father. You can also not change that they are related to both families.

In summary, a divorce is a difficult, sad experience for everyone. However, your children did not choose the divorce and are not getting divorced. So as their parent, you need to do whatever you can to minimize the stress and to ensure they are able to maintain a relationship with both parents and their parent’s families.

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

Facts about Teenage Domestic Violence

Facts about Teenage Domestic Violence

We often think about adults when we think about or hear about domestic violence. However, physically, emotionally and verbally abusive relationships occur in teenage relationships too. While reviewing this subject I came upon a video discussing the Stockholm Syndrome or trauma bonding. This typically involves a relationship with someone who is narcissistic. However, while listening to it, the video describes my experience treating adults and teens who are in abusive relationships. I think the video makes it very clear what occurs in an abusive relationship and why they can be difficult to get out of an abusive relationship. Here is the link for the video https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pUKgIXHD278.

The video mentions four major warning signs. The warning signs to watch for are:

1. The person being abused feels threatened by their partner.

2. The partner does nice things to entice the person to be in the relationship.

3. The partner isolates the person from friends and family. They want you do only listen to them to depend on them. If you have plans to do something without your partner, they will sabotage your plans. They don’t want you anywhere without them.

4. The person is afraid of ending the relationship because the partner may become upset and this is scary to the person trying to leave. The partner will usually do something nice at this point to confuse you and keep you in the relationship

These are the major warning signs. Typically at the beginning of the relationship everyone thinks the abuser is a very nice person. This only further confuses the victim when they try to leave the relationship.

Over time people start to notice some of the isolation and people very close to the victim notice something is not right. However, the abuser will then do something nice and this confuses the victim, especially a teenager. They are not sure what to do. Also the video mentions male victims too. Yes men and young men can become in abusive relationships too. A girl can be physically, verbally and emotionally abusive. If a teenage boy is involved in an abusive relationship, they can find it very difficult to admit. They feel very embarrassed because they were abused by a girl. They are young men and according to the outdated male stereotype, they should be strong enough to handle a girl. Also maybe the partner is a guy. So besides admitting they are in an abusive relationship, they may need to admit to family and friends that they are homosexual before they are ready. Think about it, this is a lot for a teenage boy to deal with at one time.

How common is the issue? According to the CDC, 1 in 11 high school girls report being in an abusive relationship. Also according to the CDC, 1 in 15 high school boys report being in an abusive relationship. These numbers are probably higher in reality. The are most likely higher because many teenagers think you can’t be in an abusive relationship in high school or they are not aware what an abusive relationship is. Another reason the numbers are probably higher is that many teenagers don’t want to admit they are in an abusive relationship. Regardless of the numbers, abusive relationships do exist in high school. Besides physical, emotional and verbal abuse, there is sexual abuse in high school. A person is physically forced to do or made to feel guilty into performing a sexual act they do not want to. If physical force is used, we are looking at rape. However, many teens use verbal and emotional abuse to get their girlfriend or boyfriend to engage in a sexual act they do not want to do. This is another reason teens may not report an abusive relationship because they feel ashamed about what they did. They brains have not developed enough so they can understand it was not their fault.

So we know abusive relationships occur in high school, what do we do? First, parents talk to your teens and explain they are normal if they do not have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Teenagers are desperate to fit in and most believe they must be dating and have a boyfriend or girlfriend to be normal. They also believe being sexually active is normal in high school. Explain everyone is different and what they see on television is not reality. It is also normal not to date in high school and it is also normal not to be sexually active. It is also important to discuss and explain verbal and emotional abuse. You may want to look online for some examples. Explain no one ever has the right to disrespect them and treat them that way. Also explain if someone is being abusive it is alright to ask for help and there is nothing to be ashamed about. You will need to repeat these facts to your teen once in a while so they remember and believe it. Also watch how members of your family are treated. At times it is easy when you are angry and you may say something inappropriate to your child making them feel like they are worthless. If it happens, acknowledge it and apologize. By modeling you made a mistake, and everyone makes mistakes, you help your teen understand what is appropriate and inappropriate treatment.

Finally, if you notice changes such as a decrease in your teen’s self-esteem or they seem overly concerned about upsetting their boyfriend, a decrease in grades and they won’t speak to you, schedule an appointment with a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers and abusive relationships. There is nothing to be ashamed about. However, if they are involved in an abusive relationship get them the help they need now. Research shows that if someone is in an abusive relationship and they do not receive psychological help, their following relationships will also be abusive. They abuse begins to feel like love and they will seek it out.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over twenty years treating teenagers and he is certified in domestic violence issues. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.