Teenage Cutting Increases due to the Pandemic

Teenage Cutting Increases due to the Pandemic

Last year when I was guest co-hosting the Street Soldier radio show on 106.1 KMEL, the topic was how teenagers are impacted by social media. The topic of depression and cutting came up during the conversation. The adults were shocked to hear about cutting and the teens tended to feel the cutting was more of an issue for the girls. However, as a psychotherapist who works with teenagers, I have observed the increase in teenage cutting over the years. I have also observed that a behavior that once was believed to occur mainly in girls is also occurring in teenage boys too. From what I have seen it appears that just as many boys are cutting as girls. I mentioned when I was co-hosting last year before the Coronavirus. Since the Coronavirus pandemic and quarantine the number of teenagers cutting has significantly increased (CDC).

The first question I often receive when I mention cutting is, what is it? Cutting is any behavior that a person engages in with the goal of self-mutilating. Teenagers cut with razors, knifes, paper clips, staples, using erasers or even scratching themselves. These are just a few ways teenagers have found to self-mutilate themselves. Since this is an activity associated with a great deal of guilt and shame, I am sure there are more ways that we have not learned about yet.

Also because cutting is associated with a great deal of guilt and shame our statistics on how many teenagers cut are not entirely accurate. Most recent studies indicate that approximately a third of all teenagers have tried cutting or actively cutting (CDC). If you noticed the research shows a third of all teenagers, which means boys too. I am seeing cutting become more popular with teenagers especially with boys who say they are cutting, have cut or are thinking about it. Therefore, cutting not only occurs in girls but it is occurring in boys too. We need to be aware of the fact that cutting is becoming more popular with teenagers. It is important because cutting can lead to accidental suicide attempts if an artery is cut or permanent damage if nerves in the arm or legs are severely cut. These are things that teenagers and parents don’t think about.

Why do teenagers cut? The reasons I commonly hear is it is easier to deal with the physical pain than the emotional pain they are feeling. Teens who are severally depressed state that cutting reminds them they are alive. They are so depressed that they feel nothing, but when they cut they feel. Also teenagers cut as a way to punish themselves because they are ashamed about something they did or they feel they have let their parents down. Cutting is a way for teenagers to deal with the guilt and shame they are experiencing. It is also a way that they can feel in control of life when their life feels or the world feels out of control or overwhelming.

Since the Coronavirus pandemic many teenagers are feeling overwhelmed and powerless. They also see very little hope for things to improve. As a result, many more teenagers have started cutting since the beginning of the pandemic. It is a way teenagers can try to cope with feeling overwhelmed and powerless due to the pandemic. I have had more teenagers reporting incidents of cutting and more friends who are cutting since the beginning of the pandemic and as the pandemic continues.

If we look at how boys are raised, cutting is a good fit for boys. Most boys grow up learning that boys can’t cry and if you express feelings of sadness or disappointment you are weak. Teenage boys are always supposed to look like life is perfect and they can handle anything without help. Cutting allows them to express sadness, fear or embarrassment in private. No one knows they are cutting or how they are feeling. Unfortunately, this leads to a vicious circle where emotions can get out of control and a boy may end up doing something he never indented to do. The number of boys cutting has increased due to the pandemic because they feel overwhelmed and out of control. There is nothing they can do about the Coronavirus and how their lives have changed due to the Coronavirus.

At this point, most people working with teenagers consider cutting an epidemic. In fact, the CDC does consider teenage cutting to be an epidemic. Additionally, the little research we have about this behavior supports this idea, but we are unable to determine how severe the epidemic is in teenagers. When I mention cutting to a teenager now, they don’t look shocked. Instead they talk about it like we are talking about the weather. They often tell me about friends who are cutting too. Most teens who cut have friends that cut. Most teenage boys who have girlfriends tend to have girlfriends who cut too. As I stated above, the number of teenagers cutting has increased significantly since the Coronavirus pandemic because many teenagers are feeling helpless and overwhelmed by life. No one alive has ever dealt with a pandemic so teenagers feel helpless and hopeless about life. This has been my experience.

Cutting can be a very dangerous behavior and does need to be treated with psychotherapy. If you feel your teen may be cutting, talk to them in an understanding manner. Do not give them any reason to feel guilty or ashamed if they say yes. As I stated above, the teen already feels a great deal of shame and if they feel they will be looked at in a shameful manner or that you will be shocked they will never open up to you. You need to reassure them you love them and you only care about their safety.

I said it needs to be treated with psychotherapy. Find a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers and in treating self-mutilating behavior. If you have to go to someone who is doing teletherapy due to the pandemic that is fine. This is very important because if the therapist acts negatively or shocked, the teenager will shut down and therapy may not work with any other therapist because the teenager now assumes everyone is judging them. I have had teens test me in various ways because of what a previous therapist said about their behavior or what the therapist said to their parents. They need to feel safe and accepted by their therapist if therapy is going to work.

I have included some risk factors and warning signs for you to be aware of in case you think your teen might be cutting:

Risk Factors

Knowledge that friends or acquaintances are cutting

Difficulty expressing feelings

Extreme emotional reactions to minor occurrences (anger or sorrow)

Stressful family events (divorce, death, conflict)

Loss of a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, or social status

Negative body image

Lack of coping skills

Depression

Warning Signs

Wearing long sleeves during warm weather

Wearing thick wristbands that are never removed

Unexplained marks on body

Secretive or elusive behavior

Spending lengthy periods of time alone

Items that could be used for cutting (knives, scissors, safety pins, razors) are missing.

While this is a scary subject, I have worked with many teens who have overcome this issue. The important thing is as parents you are accepting and non judgmental. Also you need to be aware that this issue does exist. My last point is that boys cut too. Girls are not the only teenagers engaging in this behavior.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. He has treated many teenagers who cut and is considered an expert in this area. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his websites www.rcs-ca.com , www.RubinoCounseling.com , or his Facebook page, http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3

How Many People Need to Die?

How Many People Need to Die?

Schools and colleges are back in session and in college towns we are seeing an increase in the number of college students and people with the Coronavirus. As of today we also have over 500,000 children diagnosed with the Coronavirus. A 16% increase since schools have resumed (CDC). The White House said children could return to school and colleges could open safely. Obviously this is not the truth. The White House also say we are turning a corner with the Coronavirus and we are getting it under control. However, over 6 million Americans have the Coronavirus and over 190,000 have died and we have a thousand people dying daily (CDC). According to the University of Washington if we continue on our current course over 400,000 Americans by the end of the year will die. Also the White House states we will have a vaccine by the end of the year or even maybe by November 3, 2020. Neither one is realistic. Even if by magic we have a vaccine by the end of the year, we need to find a way of storing a vaccine that requires sub zero temperatures and who gets the vaccine? In addition to these facts, what about the long haul syndrome many people are developing after they had the Coronavirus? We are just learning about it so we still don’t totally understand the Coronavirus.

Let’s turn back to the College students. When an 18 year old goes away to College they are finally on their own and can make their own decisions. They want to have fun with their friends. Let’s examine what College students experience. They are away from home and friends. Therefore, their lives consist of going to class and doing their homework. Besides that they have nothing els to do. They are feeling lonely and craving interaction with other people. Therefore, they develop friends and they want to and need to spend time with their friends and roommates. They need the social activity. Without the social interaction, they feel lonely, isolated and depressed. Therefore, sending 18 year old students to college and expecting them not to socialize is crazy. Also remember their brains are not fully developed and able to make mature, rational decisions until they are 25 years old. These students are already feeling lonely and bored and many college towns are allowing bars to stay open. We are encouraging these students to party and spread the Coronavirus. With all the temptations in college towns, why are we surprised that they are not following guidelines and not socializing?

Another option for College students would be for them to stay at home and go to school remotely. Many colleges are having students live in the dorms and going to class remotely. Therefore, why can’t they stay at home and attend remotely? They would have the support system of their families and close friends. Their parents could help encourage them to not go to parties and wear masks when they leave the house. Yes the college losing the money they earn on the dorms and the White House feels it looks bad for them. However, are we more concerned about saving lives or making money for colleges and making the White House look good?

Another factor we need to consider is that we are entering the flu season. We already have 500,000 elementary students with the Coronavirus and we have an increase in the rates in the Coronavirus in College towns. How are physicians supposed to determine the difference between the flu and the Coronavirus? We don’t have a rapid Coronavirus test. People who take the current Coronavirus tests often don’t get their results for 10 days which is too late. This generation of children and teenagers are aware of the news and what is occurring in the world. Due to their smartphones and instant access to the internet, they know they virus is not under control. They are afraid of dying from the virus. I have very few children and teenagers that I provide psychotherapy for who like remote learning. However, they prefer remote learning than being exposed to the virus. They see how many people are dying and they are afraid that they will catch the virus. They ask me over and over, why won’t people wear masks? School children are looking at adults and the White House pretend that the virus is under control and refuse to address it. So they ask, why? It is a valid question, why won’t the White House admit how serious the Coronavirus is and why do some adults ignore the fact that we are living in the middle of a pandemic?

Therefore, I am asking the question for all the children, teenagers and college students that I treat? How many people have to die before the President starts to seriously address the Coronavirus? Why do we have to wear a mask and miss parties, when the President doesn’t? Remember the party he had on the lawn of the White House when he accepted the Republican Nomination. The President didn’t miss his party, but children have had to miss their birthday parties this year and many have seen grandparents die. So how do we answer the children? How many people have to die before our President provides a national prevention program for the Coronavirus?

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

Outside Family Activities during the Pandemic

Outside Family Activities during the Pandemic

Since the Coronavirus has hit, we have had to change our work lives and family lives. Change the family life has been a challenge for many parents. It has become more of a challenge since summer has started and the kids want to go outside. They are tired of being inside. I found some good recommendations on Lori Lite’s blog regarding reducing stress for children. All of these activities can be done wearing a mask and keeping the social distancing requirements. These are perfect activities during the pandemic and with the State being closed down. Also getting outside in the fresh air and sunshine is great for the whole family since we have been locked down for several months. It’s a great family bonding experience and a great way to reduce everyone’s stress. Here are some fun outdoor activities to do as a family:

Go For a Walk:
Not only is this a completely free activity, but it is also an excellent opportunity to talk more with your family. However, remember you need to wear your masks, keep appropriate social distance from others and use your sunscreen. Take the time to ask them about they are feeling about the situation with school, friends, or anything else that interests them. You can take a walk around the block or head to a trail nearby. This is also a great way to get in more exercise as a family and can encourage a healthier lifestyle. You can easily take a walk after dinner or make a day out of it as well. It’s amazing the topics of conversation that come up with kids when there aren’t the distractions of being inside, screens, phones, or chores.

Go For a Ride:
Riding with family, like walking, is great bonding activity. Again, remember your helmets, masks, sunscreen and to social distance from others. At first, it’s good to do it on footpaths and then get to cycle-paths to build up each of your skills and also to bit by bit learn how you ride together and communicate with each other. Like walking, it’s amazing the conversations that will arise with your family. The beauty of cycling with your family is the different places you can see. You can do an off-road trail and explore the bush. You can ride around a harbor, lake, river or parkland – chatting about the wildlife, views, houses and architecture. As long as you remember to social distance from others and to wear your masks. Of course, you don’t have to ride all the time, there will be plenty of playgrounds to stop at and explore and many times there are great trees which are just beckoning your kids to stop, get off their bikes and climb. Consider making cycling a regular family adventure and build lifetime memories with your kids!

Have a Picnic
Enjoy the next sunny day with your family by having a picnic. You and your kids can prepare the food together in the morning. Choose foods you all love and have them help pack everything you need for the picnic. Then you all can spend the day in the park or even your backyard enjoying each other’s company. If you are at a park, remember your masks and to keep appropriate social distance from others. Picnics can also be an opportunity to play games, try out new recipes, and find new parks around your neighborhood. 

Water Balloon Fight:
You and your kids can do this in the backyard or even at the nearby park. Grab a large bucket and a bunch of balloons to fill with water. You can make your own rules with this kind of activity or even make it into a hide-and-seek game. This will also get your family moving and exercising without even realizing it. Again, remember you still need your masks and to social distance from others at a park. You can change it up by using raw eggs at times. This may be a good idea if it’s a little too cold for water balloons.

These are a few ideas. Now that we have started the ball rolling, you can also ask your kids about activities or games they may want to play. You may be amazed at their creativity and again it’s a great way to keep the communication flowing between you and your kids.

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

Dealing with Visitation Issues during A Pandemic

Dealing with Visitation Issues during A Pandemic

After a divorce there are still issues to address. One of the major issues is child custody and visitation, especially exchanges for visitations. The issues usually are addressed in the divorce settlement and the Court Mediation report. However, even though the Mediation Agreement attempts to address these issues, there are usually still issues.

I have parents who are divorced come in very often arguing about issues that occur during visitation exchanges. A majority of times these issues are addressed by the Mediation Agreement. However, many parents are still fighting with each other after their divorce is final. Typically I see this when one or both parents are not ready to let go of each other yet. Arguing over the visitation exchanges is a way to still keep them in contact with each other. However, parents do not pay attention to the price the children are paying. By focusing on visitation exchanges this puts the children in the middle of the divorce.

By focusing on visitation and putting the children in the middle of the divorce, I see children who become depressed and anxious. Often these children start acting out at school and home and their grades start to decline. Also many of these children often start drinking or using marijuana so they can numb themselves out and ignore their parents’ arguments. Most of these children ask me, why can’t they just stop fighting? They are already divorced, what else do they want?

Goldberg Jones is a very good divorce attorney who writes articles regarding issues related to divorce and how these issues impact the children and the family. He wrote a very good article regarding visitation exchange issues. I found the suggestions very good and helpful. I would recommend that divorced parents read these ideas and try them. Therefore, I have included them in this article for you to review and try. You have nothing to lose by trying and you could help reduce the stress your children experience with visitation. You may also reduce your stress and frustration and allow yourself to let go of the marriage and move on with your life.

How often visitation issues occur often depends on the custody agreement, parenting plan, and the visitation schedule. Visitation may be a couple of times a week, once a month, or only around major holidays, but it’s likely going to be a repeating event. Also how well the parents work together as co-parents and allow the divorce issues to be past issues plays a major role in determining if visitation goes easily or is a source of ongoing arguments.

In the best of times, even if both parents can be civil, custody exchanges will probably still be a little awkward. In less amicable scenarios, prepare for outward hostility that resembles the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan. Pack a helmet and prepare to duck.

In more combative circumstances, it helps to have a strategy in place to keep things civil. That’s easier on everyone, especially the kids. There are ways to cut down the amount of face time and limit the friction. It may never be easy or ideal, but it helps with stress level and peace of mind, for both the parents and the children—no kid wants to watch mom and dad fight.

  1. CUSTODY EXCHANGES AT THE BABYSITTER’S
    In contentious situations, the more you see your ex, the more potential there is for friction and conflict. Sometimes it’s simply best not to see each other if you can avoid it. There are practical ways to circumvent this. One common approach is to make custody exchanges at a babysitter’s house or at daycare.

One parent drops the kids off and the other parent picks them up. If you schedule it right, the two of you may almost never come face-to-face. Because there are other people involved, you may encounter scheduling hurdles. Clear communication about who is picking up the kids and when is key. But once you iron out the kinks, this strategy helps limit contact and potential fights.

  1. CUSTODY EXCHANGES AT SCHOOL
    Similar to using daycare to facilitate custody exchanges, you can use your child’s education to the same end. Again, one parent drops the kids off at school in the morning while the other picks them up after. This has the desired effect of not having to see your ex more than is absolutely necessary. It can be useful in situations where parents are prone to fighting.

Like with the child care, you’ll need to arrange this with school administrators. Schools like to know they’re handing kids over to right people. But if there is clear communication between all the involved parties, it’s possible to make these arrangements work.

  1. CUSTODY EXCHANGES IN PUBLIC
    Many people want to avoid causing a scene in public. If you and your ex can’t handle custody exchanges without fighting, consider meeting in a public place. Choose a neutral spot where neither parent is likely to start a ruckus. If such a place exists. In some situations, nowhere is off limits, but being exposed often encourages both parties to be on their best behavior.

Where depends a great deal on the people involved. Pick a centrally located park. The mall, a restaurant, or a coffee shop where you know the regulars are all options. Extreme cases may call for supervised visitation centers or even a police station. Then again, if you just kind of rub each other the wrong way from time to time, a supermarket parking lot may work fine.

  1. INVITE A THIRD PARTY WITNESS
    While people are reluctant to fight in public, they’re also often hesitant to start trouble in front of friends or acquaintances. One strategy that can smooth over problematic custody exchanges is bringing along a third party. A mutual friend or even authority figure can help keep the peace, especially if it’s someone who knows both parents.

If there are individuals both of you maintain a relationship with, that might be the ideal fit. This approach often serves to calm down heated emotions. And if things do escalate, having a witness never hurts.

If you do go this route, it’s important to give some thought to who you bring along. If you have a new spouse or significant other, consider the ramifications of their presence. Is that going to touch on a sore spot and ignite lingering resentment? In some situations, it might be best to ride solo instead of risking a potential fight.

  1. COMMUNICATE VIA ALTERNATE MEANS
    Visitation, overnights, and custody exchanges often become logistical tangles. With football games, school plays, robot camp, and the many other activities children participate in, scheduling gets complicated. Pulling it off requires regular communication. If there are problems in this area, conflict often arises. When it involved kids, some level of contact must exist. Fortunately, there are alternative means of communication.

You may have mutual friends or family members willing to serve as go-betweens. Though it tends to get expensive fast, enlisting a lawyer or mediator is another potential strategy.

Thanks to modern technology, you have more outlets than ever before. If you can’t talk on the phone or in-person, email, texting, instant messaging, and other online options exist. Websites like Our Family Wizard provide shared scheduling services and online tools for co-parenting. There are even numerous smartphone apps for tracking parenting schedules and children’s activities. 6.

  1. PREPARE FOR CUSTODY EXCHANGES AHEAD OF TIME
    Preparation in advance of custody exchanges is key. The more prepared you are, the faster and smoother they’ll go. Before your ex picks up the kids, take the time to gather everything they need for this particular stay. Whether it’s a quick overnight or a two-week vacation, make sure to gather the essentials.

Did you pack all of the regular medications they take? Do they have all the school books they need to get their homework done? That report on the solar system isn’t going to write itself. If your daughter has a baseball game, pack the mitt and cleats. If your son can’t sleep without his special stuffed zebra, it needs to make the trip. Knowing you have everything set reduces the amount of time you have to interact with someone you’d rather not see.

Think about what the kids can’t live without and send it with them. Otherwise, you risk a middle-of-the-night call or visit from your ex. If the goal is to limit the amount of contact, that defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

After a divorce, it may be quite some time before you want to see your ex again, if ever. But when you have kids, that’s not really an option. Custody exchanges can be tough, but it’s something you have to deal with.

For the sake of the kids, for their well-being—as well as your own—it’s important to try to make these encounters as smooth and painless as possible. Have a plan, be efficient, and keep your seething emotions in check for a few minutes. Hopefully, that’s all you’ll need. Taking steps to limit conflict in a custody exchange is healthier for everyone involved.

Also remember children have been through more stress than they can tolerate. Besides the divorce, children have been dealing with mass shootings and mass shooting drills at schools for several years. In 2019, there was a mass shooting everyday (CDC). As a result children and teenagers reporting anxiety and depression disorders have reached epidemic levels (CDC). Furthermore, cutting in teenagers has reached epidemic levels and suicide is now the second leading cause of death for children 10 to 18 years old (CDC).

In addition to dealing with mass shootings, now children are dealing with the Coronavirus. No one has any answers and children have had their worlds shrink. They have had to shelter in place, schools were closed early so they have had little to no contact with their friends. Finally, they have no idea about the upcoming school year and are hearing conflicting reports. Therefore, children and teenagers have had more stress than they can handle. They need you, their parents, to put divorce issues aside and make visitation civil and for the two of you to make decisions about the upcoming school year without arguing and drama. They do not need anymore stress. Finally, if you are noticing symptoms of anxiety or depression in your children and it appears they may need professional help, please do not argue about it. Have your child evaluated by a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers are after the examination, calmly decide what is best for your child. Please do not make it into a contest between the two of you. Put your issues aside and just focus on your child.

If you have questions about child custody or parenting plans, feel free to contact Goldberg Jones at his San Diego office.

I think these are all very valid points and important issues to consider and feeling that often occur during and after a divorce. I often recommend the same approach and encourage parents to consider the same issues in regards to their children and themselves. Divorce is a very painful experience even when it is handled well and with respect for each other. However, the truth is most children I see for divorce issues are because their parents are still hurting so they children sense it and take on the family pain trying to solve it. So please try these ideas especially during this time of uncertainty.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. He is an expert in treating children who are involved in a high conflict divorce. For more information regarding Dr. Michael Rubino or his practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or http://www.rubinocounseling.com or Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

Teenagers Need to Earn Their Parents’ Respect

Teenagers Need to Earn Their Parents’ Respect

This article is slightly different from my other articles. This article is written for teenagers. Since most families have been spending more time together due to the pandemic and shelter in place orders, the issue of respect has been a popular household topic. Many teenagers feel very mature and often feel entitled to more freedom because they feel they are mature for their age, in their opinion. This is a common argument I hear from teens and they say they feel disrespected by their parents. Most parents have a different point of view and feel disrespected by their teenagers.

Parents while the target audience for this article is teenagers, you may find some of the issues I mention helpful when speaking with your teen. You may be able to use this article as a way to start a discussion with your teen about your house rules and respect.

In my office, I hear daily from teenagers how they feel disrespected by their parents. This is common problem between teens and their parents and has increased with the quarantine situation. Teenagers feel disrespected by their parents and that their parents treat them like children. Sometimes this may be true, but overall teens are expecting too much from their parents.
Yes it is true that as teenagers you are becoming young adults and that you should be able to handle more responsibility. The big word in that last sentence is SHOULD. Just because you turn 13 or 16 doesn’t mean you are in charge of your life. You are a YOUNG adult. Noticed I capitalized the word young. There is still a number of life experiences for you to learn and until you do, your parents are responsible for you, especially during the pandemic. There is a lot we do not know about the Coronavirus and the situation is changing daily with new health orders. It’s your parents responsibility to ensure you are safe.

A number of you have heard your parents say when you are 18 you can do as you like and that is the truth. Prior to you turning 18, any trouble you get into, your parents are responsible for it. If you damage property, your parents are legally responsible. If you get arrested and put in Juvenile Hall, your parents receive a bill from the County for the length a time you were in Juvenile Hall. In other words, legally and financially you are responsible for yourself and your actions. However, your parents are still available to help especially during the pandemic when no one is sure about what is happening in the world.

You may think that prior to the age of 18 that you do not need your parents, but you need their permission to drive and basically for anything you want to do. Even if they give you permission for you to drive and you get your license, they have the ability to have your driver’s license suspended at any time they want while you are under the age of 18. Also if your parents are divorced, both parents must sign the consent for your driver’s license. You cannot play your parents against each other to get your driver’s license.

As I started off, now that you are a teenager you SHOULD be able to handle more responsibility. This responsibility is not an automatic gift you receive when you turn 13. This respect you so desperately want is something you have to earn. How do you earn it? You earn it by respecting the rules that your parents have set and by taking care of your responsibilities – for a teen, your primary responsibility is school. This means going to school on a regular basis (or completing your online assignments during the pandemic), doing your homework and turning it in, earning decent grades and not making poor choices such as drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes, marijuana or vaporizing. You may say this is unfair, well welcome to the adult world.

Ask your parents how many times they have to do something at work they feel is unfair, but if they want their job they have to do it. Ask your parents how many days they get up tired or not feeling well and they would prefer to stay home from work, but they still go to work. They go to work because the have a family to support and bills to pay. Your parents want you to succeed in life. If you feel they really are not giving you enough freedom, then ask your parents if you can discuss this issue with them. However, ask in a mature, respectful manner do not demand a conversation. When you discuss the issue with your parents have some things you have been doing, e.g., your homework, respecting curfew, that demonstrate you can handle more responsibility. Do not just demand it because your friends have it.

Remember the respect and maturity that you want, you must earn. You earn it by respecting your parents, other adults and recognizing that you have responsibilities. You do not get it because you turned 13 or because your friends have it. This can be a difficult time of life, but it can be a time when you learn a lot about the world and yourself. If you remember you need to earn your parents trust and you actively try to do so, your parents will work with you and start to trust you. The choice is yours, you can make your teen years difficult or make them easier by working with your parents – you decide.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers. He has over 20 years experience working with teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work with teenagers or his private practice visit his websites http://www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

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

Gay Pride and Teenagers

Gay Pride and Teenagers

This month we celebrate Pride month. We celebrate that people have a right to be homosexual, transsexual and transgender. We also celebrate a recent Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing gay and transgender people are entitled to the same protection on their jobs as everyone else. In a number of ways, this is correct. Homosexual marriage has been legal in our country for a few years and there are many laws now.Therefore, the laws are acknowledging that regardless of sexual orientation, we are all human beings entitled to the same rights.

While there has been progress is it enough? As a psychotherapist who treats adolescents, I would say no. I still have parents who bring their teenager who identifies as homosexual or transgender into therapy. They do not bring the teen in for therapy to help them deal with the social pressures they are encountering at school and other places. No they bring their teen into me so I can fix them. Many parents still consider these feelings to be a teenage phase or that someone convinced their child to think and feel this way. When I explain to parents there is nothing to fix, many parents do not believe me. They tell me they will take their teen to someone who will fix them.

It is true that at times during adolescence or young adulthood, college age, that some people may have doubts about their sexuality and may even experiment. Just because some teens do question doesn’t mean every teenager questions. Think back to when you were a teenager, sexual feelings were very confusing. Therefore, some teens do question. However, I also have seen many teens who are not questioning. I have worked with many teens who know their sexuality for sure. They are not questioning and many of these teens tell me they have known their sexuality since they were little children.

When parents are still brining teens in for me to fix them and they are still being harassed and bullied at school, I do not think we have made a lot of progress. Yes some progress has been made, but we still need to make more progress.

One example that indicates we still need to make progress is suicide. The suicide rate for teenagers in general has increased from the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death. However, the rate is much different for homosexual or transgender teenagers. It is estimated that the suicide rate for teens who identify as homosexual, transgender, transsexual or questioning is five times the rate of the “average” teenager (The Trevor Project)). Think about this, for the general population of teens suicide is the second leading cause of death and those who identify as LGBT are five times more likely than the average teen to commit suicide. This means there are millions of teens killing themselves due to their sexual feelings and stereotypes that are outdated. Also the five times is an estimate. Many teens who attempt or commit suicide may have told no one about their sexual feelings. Also sexuality is not part of an autopsy. Therefore, the number is probably higher.

Another fact which indicates we still have work to do is that teenagers who identify as homosexual or transgender have few places to go to for help. Many are afraid to seek therapy from a private therapist because they are afraid the therapist will tell their parents. Legally a psychotherapist cannot tell parents if their teen is questioning their sexuality, but many teens are not willing to take that chance. There are very few non-profit groups dedicated to the topic because stereotypes still exist. I practice in the East Bay Area of San Francisco and I only know of one non-profit, the Rainbow Center, which provides services to teenagers who are questioning their sexuality.

Fifty years later, after people were killed in a nightclub for being gay, teenagers should not have to be dealing with these stereotypes at home and at school and there should be support services available. We need to eliminate the stigma associated with sexuality and mental health, we need to educate parents and schools about teenagers sexuality and we need more mental health services for teens. As psychotherapist we need to do a better job of educating the public that if a teenager tells us they are homosexual or transsexual or transgender, we cannot break confidentiality. Meaning we can tell no one not even there parents. We also need to educate parents this is not a disease that we cure. Sexuality is a normal part of being a human being and there are various forms of sexuality and they are all normal. Again, think about those suicide rates and how many teens we lose every year because of a stereotype. This is ridiculous!!

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over twenty 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 http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Teenagers Need Appropriate Role Models

Teenagers Need Appropriate Role Models

As a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers, I often hear how they are disrespectful, oppositional and have little to no respect for authority figures and rules. I also hear how many people feel that their teenagers do not feel the rules apply to them and that teenagers feel they can pick and choose the rules they are going to follow. Because I work with teenagers daily, I would agree many teenagers due act like this at times. However, when I watch the news this week, it makes sense why teenagers are acting the way they do. We have a President who is making fun of a pandemic and refuses to comply with the laws. He wants everyone else to comply with the laws, but he doesn’t want to. Therefore, he refuses and we are supposed to say that his behavior is acceptable.

Look at what has occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Phoenix, Arizona. Both states are experiencing a significant increase in the number of people being hospitalized with the Coronavirus virus. Dr. Fauci, the leading expert in the world regarding the virus, has stated that the virus is out of control and we need to practice social distancing and wear masks to try to manage the virus. In fact, other countries such as South Korea and New Zealand have been able to control the Coronavirus by using testing, social distancing and requiring people to wear masks. Everyone in these countries had to follow these guidelines even their leaders. These are also the recommendations of the CDC. They are recommending testing, social distancing and face masks as a way to control the virus.

Now the President is aware of these guidelines and he should be setting the example as the President, however he is doing the opposite. He had a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma ignoring all the guidelines and 10 of his staff people contracted the Coronavirus. Today he is holding a rally in Phoenix, Arizona where wearing face masks is an order by the mayor, but the President is not using a mask. He is blatantly ignoring the rules which everyone else in Phoenix, Arizona must follow. Additionally, his refusal regarding anyone wearing masks has intimidated the mayor and governor of Arizona. They are allowing the rally to take place with no social distancing being used and no one being required to wear a face mask. Arizona has already used 80% of their ICU beds for patients with the Coronavirus and they recorded another recorded breaking number of hospitalizations today (CDC). Is holding the rally today under the conditions the President wanted, responsible behavior for the President? Why is the President allowed to ignore the laws of Phoenix, Arizona? The mayor was afraid to enforce the law on the President’s rally and said so in an interview she gave regarding the rally and the President and face masks (CNN). She did not want to argue with the President or upset him.

Now you have teenagers seeing these events and hearing the requirements for social distancing and wearing face masks. You also have teenagers seeing the President disregarding all the rules and nothing happening to him. Additionally, they hear about the President lying about the virus. At the rally in Tulsa he stated the virus was not a big deal and prior to the rally he said the numbers for the virus were very low and it was just going to disappear. All these statements are lies. The number are going up and the virus is not disappearing. Florida, Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma and California are all reporting record number of new Coronavirus cases and record number of hospitalizations since the pandemic started (CDC). However, nothing happens to the President when he lies and misleads the public about the pandemic which endangers lives. In fact, his staff claims he was just joking so we can ignore his remarks. However, the President proudly contradicted his staff and said he doesn’t joke around. If the President can lie about something as serious as the pandemic and no one holds him accountable, what are we teaching teenagers?

As for respect, he continues to use Twitter to call people names, threaten people exercising their right to freedom of speech and complaining that the media and Supreme Court don’t like him and are being unfair to him. This is exactly the type of behavior we expect and see from teenagers using social media. However, how do we expect them to follow the rules, when the President ignores the rules. In fact, when teenagers are getting in trouble for their posts they feel it’s unfair because the President is never held accountable for his posts. Society is expecting them to comply with the laws, but the President, the most powerful man in the world, doesn’t have to follow the laws. We are being hypocrites and teenagers have a right to complain.

I wrote a prior article on this subject, but I am writing this one today because the situation is very serious. We have a President who demeans people daily and who is misleading people regarding the status of the pandemic. We are supposed to be the strongest and be the smartest nation in the world, however we have the largest number of people with the Coronavirus virus and the most deaths than any other nation in the world. His disregard for the medical experts recommendations are putting people’s lives in danger and causing the death of thousands of people. In addition to this serious issue, he is teaching the teenagers of our Country that it is acceptable to demean people, to be disrespectful, to lie and to just think about what is best for you ignoring everyone else. If we do not act, the Coronavirus will kill thousands of additional people, maybe one of your children, and some teenagers will see his behavior as acceptable and act like him. We will have a very difficult time changing how these teenagers act and some of them we won’t be able to change their attitudes. Therefore, we will have a generation of lying, narcissistic, racist adults. This is a sad outlook for our Country. Parents this leaves you with a very tough job. Explaining to your teenagers why it’s important for them to act as respectful, caring people regardless of how the President acts and to vote for role models you want your teenagers to follow.

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 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.