Many teenagers will soon be leaving for college. This will bring up a lot of feelings for parents. Here are some tips to help you with sending your child off to college. Hopefully it can be a happy occasion for everyone https://yourteenmag.com/teens-college/college-life/my-son-is-leaving-for-college
Last year due to the Coronavirus most graduations either were canceled or occurred virtually. This year due to the the success of the vaccines, many schools are having graduation ceremonies. This is fantastic for High School students and college students. However, if a High School Senior’s parents are divorced, their High School Graduation can create a number of problems. This article address the issues associated with divorce and High School Graduation and provides some solutions to the issues.
Divorce brings a lot of new situations in to a people’s lives especially if you have children. Hopefully, when you and your spouse divorced it was done in a civil manner and the children were not put in the middle of the divorce. This is the ideal situation, however, we do not always get the ideal situation. Very often divorces are high conflict and the two of you argue over everything and anything. Usually in these high conflict divorces, the children are put in the middle and used as weapons. The children feel they have to choose between their mother and their father. This is a very sad situation.
This conflict usually interferes with visitations and holidays too. Parents argue about pick up times and drop off times, how long they have the children for holidays and there is often arguments about can a child bring toys or clothes from Dad’s house to Mom’s house. In short, parents argue about everything and the children become sick and tired of the arguing.
The other factor that adds to this is grandparents saying negative things about the ex wife or ex-husband. This only increases the pressure and stress the children are dealing with after a divorce.
The final stressor is when one or both parents remarry or have a long term boyfriend or girlfriend. Then the arguments about she is not my child’s mother or he is not my child’s father and I don’t want them involved in my child’s life start. Also a new girlfriend or boyfriend can cause teens to argue with their parents because they want their parents back together.
In short in a high conflict divorce, children live in a war zone. They become use to arguing about everything and often feel they must choose sides. At times some children do choose sides hoping to end the fighting or because they are so confused. This type of divorce creates a great deal of issues for children and I cannot cover all the issues in this blog. I would need a book to cover all the issues. Most the time, teens become sick and tired of the fighting and wish that their parents would stop fighting so they could at least not have to worry about what will cause the next argument.
Graduation is one of those issues. Parents will often start arguing about issues such as, “I paid for everything you needed for high school and now your father wants to come.” Or “if your mother shows up, after everything she has done, I won’t be in the same room as her.” And of course there is always the issue of “he better not bring her to my child’s graduation.” What is a teenager to do?
They have spent the last four years working very hard in high school and graduation is a day for them to celebrate their accomplishment. They also usually want the people who they love and care about to be there with them to celebrate their accomplishment. However, how does this happen when Mom and Dad and grandparents are stating their terms about who can attend graduation and how graduation day will go because of the divorce.
Your teenager did not get divorced. You and your spouse divorced and even though you are no longer married, you are both still parents for your teenager and you need to act like parents and adults. This means putting aside all your feeling and issues so your teenager can truly celebrate their day, their graduation. Most parents have told their teens to stop being selfish and to think about someone else, at some point during High School. Well isn’t it time that you followed your own advice. Stop thinking about yourselves and your divorce and think about your teenager and how you can make your teenager’s graduation a happy day for them.
What you need to do is you and your ex spouse need to sit down together or email each other and discuss how the two of you can put your issues on hold for one day so your teenager can have what they deserve, a happy graduation. The two of you need to talk with grandparents too and other extended family and inform them what will be allowed and what will not. This doesn’t mean you have to act like best friends. You simply need to be civil to each other. If you don’t think you can sit next to each other at the graduation, then one of you sits on the left and one sits on the right. You don’t have to have a joint party either. You can decide to have separate parties. The key is communicating with each other before the graduation and decide how you can do it civilly. This will be the best graduation present that you can give your teenager. If you can allow them to have their graduation day to celebrate their accomplishment without having to worry about what fight there will be. You are also teaching them a lesson about love, being parents and relationships.
The most important thing to do is remember this is a celebration. So let your teenager celebrate and allow yourselves to celebrate with your teenager as their mother and father. Remember the divorce ended your marriage not your relationship together as parents. Do not allow your divorce to deprive you from enjoying your child’s High School graduation day with them. They only graduate from high school once.
Dr. Michael Rubino has 20 years experience working with teenagers and families coping with divorce. He is an expert in providing psychotherapy treatment for children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino or his private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.
The Pandemic has been difficult for teenagers & also for parents. Here are some ideas how to make the situation easier for teenagers and parents. A good idea since you are in this together Teens Are in Crisis. So Are Their Parents. – The New York Times
As more people in the United States are vaccinated for the Coronavirus, we are seeing the number of cases and deaths significantly decline. While we have not over come the Coronavirus yet, we are able to start to resume many everyday activities. One of these activities is reopening schools and children and teenagers returning to school.
Before the pandemic most kids and teenagers complained how they hated school and wanted to stay home. However, after a year of remote learning most kids and teenagers want to go back to the classroom and also see their friends again. However, as kids return to school a common issue will return. The issue is kids being teased and bullied. In the 21st century bullying doesn’t just happen at school it now occurs on line and via texting too.
Often when a child is being bullied they do not say anything to their parents until the bullying is really bad. They are afraid, especially boys, that you will see them as weak. They are also afraid that you will be disappointed in them for not defending themselves. Parents it’s important that you understand that you have not said anything or done anything to create this feeling in your child. Our society teaches children these messages, especially boys. Children receive these messages about being strong and solving their own problems from television, music, and video games. This is what the documentary “The Mask You Live In”, is trying to address. It is on Netflix and it might be helpful if you watch it.
It is very important to take bullying very seriously these days. It is no longer just one kid calling another kid names. The bullying today occurs at school and may include threats of being killed and it goes beyond school. Now bullies can continue their bullying via text messages, emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. So the bullying becomes non-stop. It can really make someone feel worthless and that they would be better off dead. One example of a child being overwhelmed by bullying is a 13 year old boy, on the east coast, who committed suicide because he could not tolerate the bullying any longer. The boy committed suicide to escape the bullying. He is not the first child to commit suicide due to bullying. One 15 year old girl committed suicide due to bullying and she left a note to be placed in her obituary. In the note she asked kids to be kind to each other. Some kids are turning to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain and we are seeing a significant number of accidental overdosages resulting in teenagers’ deaths. We assume they were accidents, they could also be suicides staged to look like accidents. Also suicide has recently been moved from the third leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old to the second leading cause of death for kids. Therefore, if kids have been commuting suicide to escape bullying, the rate of bullying has most likely increased significantly.
Bullying is not just an elementary school issue. It occurs in High School and College too. A few years back a college student committed suicide because his roommate secretly filmed him in his dorm room with another guy having sex. When the tape was posted on the college’s email for others to see, the boy was so ashamed because he had not made it publicly known that he was gay. He was so upset and humiliated that he ended up committing suicide.
As the rates for bullying in middle schools increase so do the number of suicides and drug use increase. However, this issue also occurs in elementary school and elementary students are committing suicide or starting to use alcohol and marijuana. We know it is a very serious problem in Elementary schools because suicide it is no longer the third leading cause of death for 10 year old children. Suicide is now the second leading cause according to the CDC statistics. Also fifth graders are beginning to use alcohol and marijuana.
Additionally, I am seeing more and more elementary students in therapy because they are being bullied on line or at school as schools reopen. Many of these children are embarrassed because they feel they should be able to stop the bullying. They are also embarrassed and often don’t want me to tell their parents because they believe they must of done something to deserve being bullied. I explain to them they do not deserve it and they should not have to stop it on their own. I also explain that their parents would want to know so they can help them. I need to emphasize that Mom and Dad won’t blame you or be ashamed of you. It is amazing to see how relaxed these children become when I tell them this about their parents.
What should a parent do? One thing is parents should watch for the following warning signs that your child is a victim of a bully:
Avoiding activities they used to enjoy
Loss of friends or avoiding social situations
Complaining of stomachaches or headaches
Loss of appetite
Missing or damaged clothing or belongings
Self-destructive behaviors like running away from home
If you notice any of these or just have a sense something is wrong then talk to your child. However, when you talk to your child reassure them they did nothing wrong, there is nothing wrong with them and you are not upset or disappointed with them. Try to develop a game plan of how you are going to deal with it together and ask how you can be supportive. Also ask your child to promise you if they feel really sad like they want to hurt themselves that they will talk to you before they do anything. You may think this is ridiculous, but I use a no suicide contract with many children that I work with and they honor it. The contract lets them you know that you care about them and it is okay to talk about their feelings.
The other thing you can do as a parent is go to your child’s school and ask what is the school’s policy on bullying. You can also ask how the school watches for bullying, how is the policy enforced and what is being done to prevent bullying. You may ask the school to contact or you can volunteer to contact a group such as Challenge Day. This is an international organization that addresses bullying and they are located in Concord, California. I have seen their work and it is fantastic and kids love it.
Another thing you can do as a parent is start talking to your child about bullying on an occasional basis. This gives you a chance to let them know it’s not their fault and to develop a plan of action if it does occur. You should also discuss drugs and alcohol at the same time. I work with kids all day long and at times I am still shocked at how young kids are when they are starting to get involved with drugs and alcohol.
Keeping an open line of communication with your child is very important if you want them to come to you. Research still indicates that children are more likely to turn to their friends when they have a problem. This is good that they have this emotional support, but their friends don’t have the answers or solutions that they need. Remember it is best to speak to your child when you are in a calm environment and no one else, such as brothers or sisters, are around. Also remember the word HALT. It stands for:
If you sense your child is experiencing any of these feelings it is not a good time to talk. When you talk with your child you want it to be productive and for your child to feel like they are not being judged. Therefore, sometimes it is better to put off a conversation so you don’t end up in an argument. This is more likely to close the line of communication with your child.
I have mentioned several times that being bullied is not their fault. What I have seen from working with children who are bullies, abusive men and reviewing the research is that bullies really have very low self-esteem. In fact many times they lack a sense of themselves. The only way the feel important or alive is by putting someone else down. They do this because they are afraid the other kids might be able to figure out how lousy they feel about themselves. It is often said the best defense is a good offense. They hope that by acting like the big guy on campus that other people will see them as the big guy and they are able to keep their secret. Kids usually do this because it was done to them too.
Therefore, we need to remember the bully is usually a kid who has been abused too and is crying out for help. If we are going to stop the problem of bullying we need programs to help the bullies too. They are only repeating what they have been taught.
One last comment, I saw a school install a “buddy bench.” If anyone had been bullied, having a bad day, feeling lonely, all they had to do was sit on the buddy bench. Another student or teacher would then go over and ask how they could help. There was no shame associated if you sat on the buddy bench. It was presented as a brave choice. The school was using it as part of their program to stop bullying at school. This fantastic idea came from a 10 year old student. Children often have fantastic answers and we need to listen.
Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience working with children and teens especially those who are victims of trauma. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page at facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.
Unfortunately we are living in a divided nation and people are getting hurt or killed due to their beliefs or the color of their skin. For example, people are getting attacked because they are asking customers to wear masks in their stores. In addition, Asian Americans are getting attacked and killed just walking down the streets because they are Asian. There are people who are blaming Asian Americans for the Coronavirus. We also continue to have African Americans being shot by police officers. All of these incidents are creating a divided nation. It has become so bad that people stormed the United States Capital building and were trying to over turn the results of the 2020 election.
We are living in a country where many people are afraid to go outside because they might be attacked. Additionally, in public people are being rude to each other and no one feels safe. This feeling is severally impacting children and teenagers.
Prior to all of this hate, children and teenagers were reporting increased depression and anxiety. Since the beginning of 2021, more children and teenagers are reporting depression and anxiety. The number of teenagers dying from drug overdoses and suicide continues to rise (CDC). Some teenagers are taking things into their own hands and are carrying guns and knifes so they can protect themselves or others. Remember the teenager who went from Iowa to Minnesota with a gun and killed two people during the riots. He felt he had a responsibility to stop the chaos. Teenagers should not have to stop the chaos occurring in the United States. This is placing too much pressure on them resulting in teenagers feeling depressed and anxious and seeing no future for themselves.
The United States is supposed to be the “great melting pot.” The Statue of Liberty says, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” We are all supposed to be equal and live together in a Country where we can be ourselves and have a chance at making a decent life for our families. However, we are losing that dream quickly especially if we allow those who are spreading hate and lies to continue to spread hate and lies.
The Harlem Globetrotters developed an anti-bullying program for school children in order to stop bullying. The United States belongs to everyone who is a citizen. Yes there are people who are not citizens, but according to the saying on the Statue of Liberty, we still need to treat them with respect and dignity because they are fellow human beings. Therefore, we are all in this together and we all have to fix the problems together. Or, would we prefer that the children continue to live in an environment which is creating depression and anxiety for them and causing thousands of children to commit suicide every year. We are talking about children as young as 8 years old who are committing suicide and the number of children committing suicide is increasing every year (CDC).
The Harlem Globetrotters program is not that hard. All you have to do is remember is A, B, C. A is for action, B is for bravery and C is for compassion. To make it easier let’s use an example, if you see an Asian American being attacked on the street, (B) be brave and don’t ignore it, (A) act by calling the police with your cellphone and screaming for help, (C) stay around and show the person some compassion asking if they need anything or reporting what you witnessed to the police. We can do this, we have done it before. This is exactly what happened in the George Floyd case and by everyone working together a bad police officer is now off the streets. If we had not acted together, that officer would still be on the streets chocking people.
If adults are willing to take action, we can teach children and teenagers the same A,B,Cs and if they see their parents and grandparents getting involved they will follow your example. Additionally, if they see adults working together for the common good, maybe we may see a reduction in the number of teenagers feeling depressed and anxious. If that occurs we would most likely see a decrease in the number of teenagers cutting and overdosing on drugs. We would also see a reduction in the number of teenagers and children committing suicide because they would feel a sense of hope for their futures.
Finally, if we all work together we would be worthy of what is inscribed in the Statue of Liberty. We also would stop being a joke to the world. We are the United States, the most powerful nation in the world! However, how can we say that if we allow stereotypes and racism to decide how we treat each other?
Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. If you would like to learn more about his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.
Autistic teenagers have sexual feelings and it’s important to acknowledge these feelings & explain these feelings. Sex is a normal part of life so why shouldn’t they have sexual feelings too. Autistic Kids Need to Know About Sexuality | Psychology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/everyday-neurodiversity/202104/why-autistic-kids-need-know-about-sexuality
With all the stress teens have in their lives now, how do parents determine the difference between stress and a mental health issue and the need for therapy? Stress Response or Mental Health Disorder? How to Tell the Difference https://www.healthgrades.com/right-care/mental-health-and-behavior/stress-response-or-mental-health-disorder-how-to-tell-the-difference
As a psychotherapist who works with children and adolescents, I often hear how their parents are too strict and unfair. Many children and adolescents feel their parents punishments are not appropriate and their parents are out of touch with today’s world. I also hear parents tell me no matter what rules or punishments they impose that their children refuse to follow the rules. While this disagreement has been going on for many, many years, I would imagine with the Coronavirus and teenagers doing school remotely and not able to spend time with friends that the argument has become unbearable for some families by this time.
From my experience, one of the major issues in this situation is the difference between discipline and punishment. Many people may feel there is no difference between the two concepts. However, there is a major difference between the two terms. The difference can determine how many arguments you and your teenager have regarding the issue.
Discipline is used to teach a child or teenager about rules and life. Punishments are used to tell a child or teenager they did something wrong such as breaking a house rule. However, punishments often have no association to the broken rule and often make a child feel like they are bad and they often don’t know which rule they broke. Punishments do not teach they only make a child feel bad or angry. For example, if it was the child’s turn to take out the garbage and they forgot and played their video game online with friends. Discipline would be having them take out the garbage and clean the dinner table for a week and they could not play their online game. A punishment would be that they were grounded and had to stay in their room for two weeks without any electronics. What connection does the grounding have to forgetting to take out the garbage?
Research has shown that discipline is a more effective way to teach children\teenagers about rules and appropriate behavior. The discipline needs to have some association with the rule that was broken. A punishment which tends to make a child think they are bad and has no association to the rule they broke typically teaches a child nothing. What it typically does is make a child feel like they are a bad person and they often don’t understand why they are being punished. All punishment tends to teach some children and teenagers is that they are worthless and they feel unlovable.
I had a fourth grader ask to come to therapy because they were tired of getting in trouble at home. They felt like they were a bad person and he had no idea why he was doing bad things at home on a regular basis. Therefore, the punishments taught him nothing except it did lower his self-esteem. Research also has shown that children and teenagers who feel they are bad people are more likely not to graduate high school and to get involved with drugs and alcohol. They feel they are bad so they feel they should be doing things associated with “bad kids.” They give up trying because they don’t believe anyone will see them as a lovable person who is worth something.
As I stated discipline has been shown to be more effective with children and teenagers. However, before a parent imposes discipline there are important steps for the parent to take:
1. First, the parent needs to let the child\teenager know that they love them and that the child\teen is not bad, but they made a mistake.
2. The parent needs to explain to the child when they made a mistake and what was the mistake. Additionally, emphasizing to the child that they are not the mistake, their choice was a mistake.
3. Explain that they are imposing the discipline to help the child learn from their mistake and hopefully they won’t make the same mistake again.
4. Let the child know when the discipline starts and ends. Also do not make it too long or severe. It should be in proportion to the mistake. It should also needs to be age appropriate.
5. Finally, ask the child if they understand and if they have any questions.
One thing that makes disciplining a child or teenager easier is having a behavior contract. It is important that parents sit down with their child or teenager and develop a behavior contract regarding house rules and expectations a parent has for them and consequences if the child violates the contract. Therefore, if your child makes a mistake, the consequence is already known because it is in the contract. Therefore, it is less likely that the child will feel like a bad person or confused about the consequences because everyone in the family agreed to them. This also makes it easier the mistake was the choice they made not them.
I recommend contracts on a regular basis. The contracts help reinforce the discipline and that choices have consequences. Therefore, the parent is teaching a child to think before they act. Thereby, significantly decreasing the odds that they will make a bad choice. It can also help a child deal with peer pressure because you have already discussed what you feel is appropriate and inappropriate. A contract also help to reduce arguments at home. If everyone agrees to the contract and a teenager violates the contract they cannot blame Mom and Dad for the consequences. Mom and Dad are only enforcing the agreed upon contract. The teenager needs to take responsibility for their choice.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.
Working with teenagers, I often have parents who are concerned about their teenager using marijuana or alcohol. Besides the concern that their teenager may be using drugs or alcohol, they are concerned about their teenager becoming addicted. Besides marijuana and alcohol, parents are concerned about methamphetamines and heroin. Currently there is an epidemic of teenagers addicted to methamphetamine, heroin and opioids in the United States (CDC). While parents worry about opioids, methamphetamines and heroin addiction in teenagers, there is another drug parents need to be concerned about. Parents need to be concerned about the drugs children and teenagers take for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Methamphetamine is a very popular drug because it is easy to get and there are a number of ways to use it. Also many teenagers like the effect that they receive from methamphetamine. They get an adrenal rush and can stay up for days at times. Therefore, it makes it easier for them to get all their work done. Many teenagers are involved with numerous school activities, trying to maintain a good grade point average and want to spend time with their friends. They often find out that they don’t have enough energy to keep up with their schedule. The boost they receive from the methamphetamine helps them keep up and get everything done. However, buying methamphetamines can be a dangerous thing to do and if they are caught with methamphetamines, they are in a lot of trouble.
Many teenagers do not want to run the risk of being caught with or buying methamphetamines. Therefore, teenagers have found away around the risk, medications for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Most medications for ADHD such as Ritalin or Concerta are stimulant based. In other words, they contain a form of methamphetamine. Therefore, if a high school student who does not have ADHD takes Concerta, they experience the same effect as if they took methamphetamine such as cocaine. They get a burst of energy and can stay up all night so they can finish their work.
During finals, I hear many teenagers talk about taking Concerta or other ADHD drugs so they have the energy to study. Some teenagers will tell their parents they are having difficulties concentrating hoping their parents will take them to the physician so they can get a prescription for ADHD medication. On the other hand, teenagers who are suppose to be taking medication for ADHD often sell their medication. They can sell it very easily to friends at school and they can make good money too. Many of these teenagers feel they don’t need their medication so they are happy to sell it.
The buying and selling of ADHD medications on high school campuses is a daily occurrence. Most research studies indicate it starts in 8th grade and continues in high school. Many teenagers rely on ADHD medications to help them when they feel they are falling behind in school. Many teenagers see no problem using the ADHD medications because they were prescribed by a doctor. However, they were not prescribed to them. Therefore, the dosage they are taking may be too much for their body. Also I have seen teenagers combine these medications with energy drinks which have very large amounts of caffeine. I have had teenagers report they felt like their heart was going to come out of the chest because it was beating so fast. In addition, they also report not being able to sleep for days because they are wired.
This is a major danger when teenagers use ADHD medications to stay awake. They can become wired the same way as if they used cocaine or smoked methamphetamine. Also taking these ADHD medications opens the door to teenagers experimenting with such drugs as cocaine. They like the effect of the ADHD medication and wonder how other drugs may feel or may be they can no longer get the ADHD medication so they start experimenting. In fact, research indicates that teenagers who abuse ADHD medication are more likely to use methamphetamine or heroin.
In addition to opening the door to other drugs, they are risking their health and life. If they heart rate is racing and their blood pressure is rising they can induce a heart attack. Also parents may notice there is something wrong, but if they do not know their teenager has been taking ADHD medication, there is no way for a parent to tell a physician. Therefore, the teenager may not get the medical help they need. In addition to the physical symptoms, using too much methamphetamine can cause psychotic symptoms and the teenager may need to be hospitalized. The bottom line is just because the ADHD medication came from a pharmacy does not make it safe for everyone. I have included a link for parents which discusses the dangers and symptoms that parents need to be aware of regarding teenagers abusing ADHD medications https://drugabuse.com/library/adderall-abuse/#effects-of-adderall-abuse.
Hopefully, parents can take this information and discuss the situation with their teenagers. Encourage them that if they are feeling overwhelmed by school and life to talk to you not to turn to a drug. A drug will never solve the problem and more likely create more problems. Also let your teenager know all you expect is the best they can do naturally. You do not expect perfection.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. He is a founding member of the National Advisory board for the Alive and Free program. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.
Today’s teenagers are under a great deal pressure. In fact, according to the CDC, 1 out of every teenager has a diagnosable mental health issue. In addition, depression, anxiety, drug overdoses and suicide are currently at epidemic rates for teenagers. In fact, suicide was the third leading cause of death for teenagers and now it is the second leading cause of death (CDC). Furthermore, cutting or self-harming behaviors are also at epidemic rates for teenagers (CDC). Self-harming behaviors include teenagers cutting themselves with knives or scissors in addition to scratching themselves severely and sometimes teenagers may even use erasers to erase their skin and cause sores. These are only a few examples.
Ten years ago if I asked a teenager if they were cutting or had ever cut, once in a while I would get an answer of yes. Today when you ask teenagers about cutting most teenagers answer yes. In fact, it’s no longer just teenagers. Children as young as 8 or 10 years old often respond yes to this question. This is alarming, but it is evidence of the amount of emotional pressure these kids have to deal with today.
When you ask a teenager about cutting behavior, they usually respond it was easier to deal with the physical pain than the emotional turmoil they were dealing with inside. Others will say the cutting takes their mind off of the emotional situation and others even say it makes them feel human. So as you can see there are numerous reasons, but teenagers are also very embarrassed and ashamed about the cutting behavior. If I am treating a teen who is engaging in cutting I must be very sensitive and non-judgmental about the behavior if I’m going to help. In addition, the family needs to be non-judgmental as well. Teenagers do not cut for the attention and as I stated above they are embarrassed about their behavior. If they sense that someone is viewing them in a negative way, they will not talk about it. Additionally, teenagers who are engaged in cutting hide their cuts so no one will know about their behavior.
Therefore, when treating or dealing with a teenager who is cutting you need to be patient and non-judgmental. Remember they are resorting to this behavior because it is the only way they are able to deal with the emotions they are feeling and the situations they are facing. Life today can be very overwhelming and often teenagers are not prepared for what they have to face in life and they are embarrassed to ask for help too. Often they are embarrassed because our society looks down on people dealing with mental health issues. I recently had a 13 year old ask me, why don’t we place more emphasis on mental health so people can get the help when they need it? A very good question to ask. Our society has a very strong negative stereotype regarding mental health and therapy. As a result, it is very difficult for teenagers to ask for and receive the mental health care they need.
After being treated for cutting, many teenagers are still embarrassed and feel awkward about their past behavior. Many times teenagers are left with scars on their bodies from cutting. Most families cannot afford plastic surgery and insurance will not cover it, even though it is a mental health need and in my opinion should be covered. The point is many teenagers continue to feel embarrassed and ashamed of the scars years after they have stopped cutting. Below is a blog from a teenager who discusses how they feel about their scars and people’s reactions. It also may help give you some insight to what teenagers are going through these days and how many of them are feeling overwhelmed by life. Instead of ignoring their cries for help we need to figure out how we can help them without making them feel embarrassed or crazy.
My self-harm scars are “hideous.” I’m covered in them. Head to toe. No amount of time, no amount of fading will make them unnoticeable. That doesn’t mean I hate them. It doesn’t mean I’m embarrassed by them. I am aware that they make other people uncomfortable and there are times, when out of respect for others, I will cover them. There are other times when I won’t cover them. Whether I choose to cover them or not, I don’t feel that I should have to explain my choice. If I choose to cover them, it doesn’t mean I’m ashamed or feel forced to cover them. If I choose not to cover them, it doesn’t mean I want attention.
I regularly see people comment on social media saying, “If you make a public post people have the right to say whatever they want.” Apparently this entitles people to be nasty and judgmental. It excuses them from filtering what they say and think. It exempts them from extending basic decency and courtesy to others.
I’ve heard the same said about people who walk around with self-harm scars exposed. No. Just because you can see my scars doesn’t give you a free pass to say what you want. You don’t get to say, “You’re too pretty for that.” You don’t get to say, “You’re too smart for that.” It doesn’t matter whether you know me or not. They are my scars from my battles. Even if you know me, I can guarantee you won’t know all about my battles. You won’t know my darkest moments or thoughts. If you’re a stranger? What could you possibly think you know about my life? You don’t get a say on what my scars look like. You don’t get a say on whether or not I’m too pretty, too smart or too strong for that. You don’t get a say on whether or not I cover them.
Yes, you can see them. Yes, they are “hideous.” Look away. Walk away. Think about it by all means. Talk to someone else about it. If you’re game, educate yourself on it. Take responsibility for what you are doing. Take responsibility for what you are saying. Yes, you can see my scars but that doesn’t make me responsible for your reaction.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. In addition, he specializes in treating victims of trauma and first responders. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.