Why Are We Ashamed of Mental Health?

Why Are We Ashamed of Mental Health?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Furthermore, at this time in our world, when we are in the middle of a pandemic which besides killing thousands of people daily, it is creating mental health issues for those in quarantine, those with the virus and our first responders. These issues will not disappear quickly just like the virus will not disappear quickly. As a result, we will have even more people needing mental health care. How will they receive it if they feel ashamed for needing treatment or if we continue to treat mental health as a disease? Mental health and physical health go hand in hand, when will we treat them equally?

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

Try Looking at the Quarantine as a Gift

Try Looking at the Quarantine as a Gift

Many people are tired of being quarantined and demanding that the quarantine be ended. However, medical experts argue that it is too soon. They have stated if we are not careful with the virus there will be a worse wave during the winter and eventually 70% of the people in the United States could contract the virus. While the medical facts are being debated, we can look at and take advantage of the opportunities provided by the quarantine.

Yes, I am not crazy, the quarantine does offer us some great opportunities. Typically we most of us live in a very fast past, chaotic lifestyle. Many times when I try to schedule a psychotherapy appointment for a ten year old child, it is very difficult. Between school, homework and after school sports, most kids are on at least two teams, we can barely find time to schedule a psychotherapy appointment. Now with the quarantine in place we can all take a break and slow down. We can also look at what we have been missing.

A major area to evaluate is your family. Prior to the quarantine, an average family of four did not eat dinner together and spent very little time together. Parents typically saw their children either when they were driving them to school or to practice for a sport. Also spouses often saw each other in the morning on the way out to work and in the evening when they were going to bed. It was not uncommon to hear the primary way that a married couple communicated was via text and email. This communication pattern often extended to their teenagers too.

I have heard from many families that because of the quarantine they have time to talk to each other. So take advantage of this time have game nights, movie nights and reconnect to your children and spouse. Amazon sells games which provide the beginning of a sentence and then the person must finish it. Children and teenagers love this game and it’s a great way to reconnect and find out what is going on in their lives. Also if you look at my Facebook site I have posted several handouts that do the same thing. You and your spouse can do this at a separate time so the two of you can reconnect. Hopefully you will see what you have been missing and make it a routine. So when the quarantine is ended, you could dedicate at least one night where the entire family has dinner together and you spend the evening together playing a game or talking.

Besides reconnecting with your family, you can try to reconnect with friends and extended family. Use your phone to call someone and see how they are doing and what has been going on in their lives. You can use FaceTime or Zoom so it feels more personal. Post on your Facebook page that you want to reconnect and encourage people to message you or call. We spend so much time working, many of us find it very difficult to spend time with friends or extended family. The quarantine gives us that time. Therefore, make the most of it. Typically if you were at home for a week it would be because you are sick. If you are sick, you won’t feel like reaching out to others. The quarantine gives you plenty of time to reach out to others. Therefore, take advantage of the time you have been given.

Finally, you can use this time to re-evaluate your life and how you are spending your time. Are you doing what you really want to do? Do you find you enjoy family time and time with friends? Are you satisfied with your job? Is there a hobby you want to start or try? These are all things you now have time to think about. You may find you are very happy with your life prior to the quarantine or you may decide there are some changes you want to make. If you are not content with how you are living your life, this can lead to depression, drinking problems, gambling addictions, anything to take your mind off the fact that you are not happy. The quarantine gives you time to decide if you are happy or not and if not what you want to do about it. Therefore, my recommendation to people is stop complaining about the quarantine and make use of the time you have been given. Yes the quarantine is boring, but it is necessary for our health. This may help us understand our children and teenagers when we say no to them. Therefore, look at this time as a gift and re-evaluate your life. Take advantage of this time. It maybe the best thing you have ever done for yourself and family.

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

Teenage Boys and Porn Addiction

Teenage Boys and Porn Addiction

I have wrote previous articles about the old stereotype regarding what it takes to “be a man” and how this stereotype negatively affects teenage boys. This stereotype typically leads young men to become sexually active in middle school, according to the current research data, and it also leads to a sense of isolation. Teenage boys have been lead to believe they should be prepared to handle life like a grown man. However, they are not fully mature nor are they prepared to handle everything on the own. However, due to the stereotype they feel they cannot ask for help or share their concerns with their friends. Hence they feel isolated, alone and like failures at the age of 16 years old.

This article is going a step further and discussing the epidemic of addiction to porn that many teenage boys and men are dealing with today. In our society sex is a tabooed subject. It is unusual if anyone sits down with a teenage boy and discusses sex. They typically learn by talking to friends, having sex or the most common way pornography. However, no one discusses how to treat a sexual partner, diseases you can catch and the importance of mutual consent.

Many parents may feel this issue doesn’t apply to their son. However, with the internet being available on laptops, game centers and phones most people stumble on to pornography by accident and very easily. Look online for yourself. It is very easy to access pornography in today’s world. Most research studies indicate that most boys have been exposed to pornography between the ages of 8 years old and 10 years old. Their young minds are not prepared to process what they are seeing nor are they prepared for the feeling they experience and how their bodies respond to what they are seeing. They continue to watch and to go back to the sites over and over and many become addicted. Even though pornography addiction is not a formal psychiatric diagnosis yet, most research studies have concluded that the number of teenage boys visiting porn sites at least once a day has reached epidemic rates. Some teenage boys have self reported going to porn sites five to 10 times a day. Therefore, while the DSM V does not list porn addiction as a formal diagnosis, many researchers and clinicians believe that people especially teenage boys can become addicted to pornography.

Lisa Ling did an episode about porn addiction in her series This is Life. I have included the YouTube link here to the episode. YouTube does charge $1.99 to watch the episode but if you have teenage boys it is well worth the cost. She was able to talk to men in their thirties, homosexual men and an 18 year old high school senior who openly discussed their struggles with pornography and masturbation. They all explain how easy it was to become addicted but how difficult it is to stop. Some men had been trying for years to stop using pornography and still can’t succeed. Here is the link https://youtu.be/UqoCg9Srs18.

Additionally, these men and teenager discussed how pornography has negatively impacted their lives. Besides the guilt and shame they felt about their addiction, they reported difficulties with obtaining and maintaining an erection. Many also reported a decreased interest in having sex. They no longer felt interested in women sexually. They stated they were sexually interested in pornography only. One man stated the only way he could have sex with a woman was to fantasy about porn. Many of you may think these issues primarily pertained to the men in their thirties or 40s. Well these issues impacted the entire group even the 18 year old high school senior. The 18 year old high school senior reported he was only able to get an erection if he was watching pornography. He also stated he no longer was finding girls his age sexually attractive. He stated he found he was more attracted to pornography and despite his desire to stop he was not able to stop watching pornography.

Overall most of the men reported feeling isolated and lonely due to pornography. They felt embarrassed to tell their families or to seek help. Even if they wanted help, they did not know where to go to get help. The man who arranged this group that Lisa interviewed started a website NoFab. It is an online support group helping men over come their addiction to pornography and masturbation. When I say men, most guys on the site are between 18 and 24 years old. This site found that teens between the ages of 13 and 16 are at the greatest risk for becoming addicted to pornography. Most likely because at that age a boys hormones are out of control and they have little to no sexual experience. So unfortunately what they learn about sex comes from pornography a fantasy world.

This subject also pertains to teenage boys during the quarantine. How many teenage boys are spending more time in their bedrooms on their laptops and smartphones. How many are bored of being in the house and looking for something new. Well pornography is new and can eliminate being bored. We have no idea how many teenage boys may be starting their pornography addiction during the quarantine.

Father’s if you noticed changes in your teenage son in the past and you think it may be related to pornography or if he is spending a lot more time in his room since the quarantine then talk to him about pornography. However, do so calmly and gently. Remember how you felt at his age and if the subject of sex came up. You don’t want to embarrass him or make him feel his sexual feeling are wrong or perverted. Explain that pornography is a fantasy and not reality. It is adult entertainment not entertainment for teenagers. Also explain how it can give a boy the wrong idea about how to treat a woman or what she really wants. Basically, do not be afraid to have an open, frank discussion about sex and pornography. Also don’t be afraid to ask if they feel they are having problems with pornography. Reassure them if they are, you will not get mad and you will help them find help for the issue. Remember don’t shame them. Be there as their father to eliminate the lonely, isolated feeling and help them on the road to recovery. Also tell them how proud you are that they were brave enough to speak up and ask for help.

If your teenager needs help look for a psychotherapist who specializes in teenagers, addiction issues and sexual issues. Pornography addiction is not like being an alcoholic. A person can stop drinking alcohol, however, they cannot stop having sexual feelings. Sexual feelings are part of being human so they have to learn a new way to relate to their sexual feelings.

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

Coping with Mental Health Issues Created by the Coronavirus

Coping with Mental Health Issues Created by the Coronavirus

The fear of contracting the coronavirus and the fear of the unknown consequences if you do contract the virus is placing many people under a great deal of stress. In addition to the fear of contracting the virus, many worry about transmitting the virus to family members over 65 or family members who have preexisting medical conditions. Adding to this stress is the fact that you may have the virus and not have any symptoms. Therefore, you may have the virus, feel fine and be transmitting the virus to numerous people because you are unaware that you have the virus. Normally, people could be tested to find out if they have a virus or medical condition that is contagious. However, in the situation we are currently in, we do not have the option of getting tested for the virus. Therefore, you have to live with the uncertainty.

Besides the worry and stress about contracting the coronavirus, we also must deal with the quarantine. Our everyday lives have been turned upside down. Many of us are not able to see loved ones and friends like we usually would do. Furthermore, many people cannot work and are worrying about how they are going to pay their bills and buy food. This is another stressor for us and that is food. Many of us are going to grocery stores finding the shelves empty. People are hoarding food even toilet paper because they are afraid stores may close or stores will not be able to get merchandise anymore. Finally, being stuck living with the same people day after day without a break from each other causes stress and arguments.

The Mayo Clinic has been studying the impact that the virus and quarantine have on us and our mental health. Here is what they found:

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

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

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

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

Get help when you need it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue your self-care strategies

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

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

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

Coping with Mental Health Issues Created by the Coronavirus

Coping with Mental Health Issues Created by the Coronavirus

The fear of contracting the coronavirus and the fear of the unknown consequences if you do contract the virus is placing many people under a great deal of stress. In addition to the fear of contracting the virus, many worry about transmitting the virus to family members over 65 or family members who have preexisting medical conditions. Adding to this stress is the fact that you may have the virus and not have any symptoms. Therefore, you may have the virus, feel fine and be transmitting the virus to numerous people because you are unaware that you have the virus. Normally, people could be tested to find out if they have a virus or medical condition that is contagious. However, in the situation we are currently in, we do not have the option of getting tested for the virus. Therefore, you have to live with the uncertainty.

Besides the worry and stress about contracting the coronavirus, we also must deal with the quarantine. Our everyday lives have been turned upside down. Many of us are not able to see loved ones and friends like we usually would do. Furthermore, many people cannot work and are worrying about how they are going to pay their bills and buy food. This is another stressor for us and that is food. Many of us are going to grocery stores finding the shelves empty. People are hoarding food even toilet paper because they are afraid stores may close or stores will not be able to get merchandise anymore. Finally, being stuck living with the same people day after day without a break from each other causes stress and arguments.

The Mayo Clinic has been studying the impact that the virus and quarantine have on us and our mental health. Here is what they found:

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

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

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

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

Get help when you need it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue your self-care strategies

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

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

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

Guns Will Not Cure the Coronavirus

Guns Will Not Cure the Coronavirus

Being under quarantine can be a very stressful and scary situation. It has changed all of our daily routines plus we have no idea how long the quarantine will last and how many people will become sick or die. The last time our country experienced anything similar to this was the Spanish flu in 1918. Therefore, no one has any experience with a pandemic since the last one was in 1918 and most of us were not a live at that time.

As a result, of fear and no one being able to answer how long this will continue, people are hoarding. If you go to the grocery store bleach, Kleenex and toilet paper cannot be kept on the shelves. Stores are having to limit how many bottles of bleach or packages of toilet paper people can buy at one time. This hoarding will not stop you from getting the coronavirus, but it does add to the hysteria. People watch the news and see the empty shelves so when they go to the store they also start hoarding. They are afraid with all the empty shelves that they may not be able to buy what they need in the future. Additional hysteria is not what we need right now.

This hysteria is increasing anxiety in children too. They see the news and hear people talking about not being able to buy toilet paper in addition to hearing this week that all schools are closed for the year and this makes them anxious. I hear about this anxiety in their sessions. Additionally, they tell me they are afraid that people will break into their homes to steal toilet paper. I have been telling them they do not need to worry about such things and the situation is not that bad. However, I can no longer say this to the children.

Today it was reported that since the quarantine has started there has been a significant increase in gun sales. Stores that sell guns are reporting it has been a long time since so many people have been coming in and buying guns. Children hear this and their fears about someone breaking into their homes seem possible.

This is a scary and anxious time for everyone. We do not need to add to the anxiety or hysteria regarding the coronavirus. The virus is a medical condition and will require medicine or medical treatments to cure it. A gun will not cure the virus, but guns will add to the hysteria about the virus and possible other unfortunate situations.

During times such as the quarantine, depression, anxiety and incidents of domestic violence do increase and this increase has been documented by research studies and the CDC. Therefore, guns around the house during quarantine can increase the odds of a suicide attempt, someone being shot accidentally or even someone being killed by a gun shot. Therefore, while being quarantined does provoke anxiety and is scary because we do not know exactly what is happening, we do not want to add to the anxiety. Therefore, before you buy a gun, stop and think. Will it help end the quarantine? No. Is a role of toilet paper worth taking the risk of someone attempting suicide or being killed by accident? No. What will the gun do? It will add to the anxiety and fear people are experiencing especially children. Therefore, its probably better not to buy the gun and look around your community and look at how you can help at this time. Maybe helping an older neighbor who needs help shopping or carrying grocery items into their house. This would be a better use of your time than buying a gun. Finally, we do not need a mass shooting incident while everyone is being quarantined. You never know what will happen when a gun is around.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience and specializes in treating children, teenagers and dealing with trauma incidents. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Quarantine and Family Arguments

Quarantine and Family Arguments

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.

This is the situation which occurs in normal life. However, we are not living during normal times. We are dealing with a pandemic and a majority of our Country is on quarantine. In California the initial quarantine period was three weeks, however now the date has been extended to May 1st. By this time many families are tired of bing house bound and it is easy for siblings to start fighting with each other and for parents to be losing their patience with the kids fighting and complaining they are bored.

At this point, it is important for parents 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 with, their brains may not be mature enough. To put it another way, you are not debating the house rules regarding the quarantine with a 16 year old, you are debating the rules with a fifth grader in terms of their emotional development. Therefore, they are more likely to argue and to be disrespectful. However, an argument is not always bad. There are ways to have a healthy arguments and avoid destructive, hurtful arguments. Most of us never learned how the have a healthy, reasonable disagreement. Many people may think this idea is crazy, but it’s not.

Many people feel that a disagreement or fight is always is a bad thing for a relationship. However, this is not true. Especially now, with everyone being locked up together there are bound to be things that irritate everyone. Instead of ignoring these issues until everyone is screaming and yelling. It is better to address these issues in a healthy manner and lower everyone’s stress level. Besides lowering the stress level in the house, you are modeling for your teenager how to have a reasonable discussion about differences of opinions without having to say hurtful things to each other.

As I stated above, parents who are dealing with teenagers and children need to remember that for teenagers and childrens their Frontal Lobes in their brains are still developing. Therefore, they cannot always reason like adults and often have difficulties having fair disagreements. This is one of the reasons fair fighting was developed. 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. You can also teach your children how to use these rules with each other. This should help reduce fighting between siblings.

Parents what I suggest is that you sit down with these rules with your family and discuss that you would like to start to using these rules in your family. Explain that the quarantine is difficult on everyone and these rules can help make this time a little easier. DTake 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.

9. Attempt to come to a compromise or an understanding.

There isn’t always a perfect answer to an argument. Life is just too messy for that. Do your best to come to a compromise (this will mean some give and take from both sides). If you can’t come to a compromise, merely understanding can help soothe negative feelings.

Again, this might seem simple to some people, but communication problems are one of the biggest problems I encounter as a psychotherapist. We simply don’t educate children about clear communication, which creates problems when these children become adults and try to talk with each other. So don’t be embarrassed or assume you do not need help in this area. Simply read the rules and try them in your life and see what happens.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience and he specializes in treating teenagers, children and families. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website at www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoFamily.