Looking at Autism Realistically

Looking at Autism Realistically

Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with many children and teenagers who happen to be autistic. Often their parents are very worried. They worry about their child’s future and how people will treat their child. They have this concern because society tends to treat autism like some terrible disease. Many people assume that someone with Autism will never have a future or decent life. Additionally, many parents have difficulties with schools because many public schools find working with students on the autism spectrum difficult. At times it may be difficult, but my experience has been if the schools try slightly harder students on the Spectrum do fine. No one should decide that because someone is on the Spectrum that they cannot do well in school.

Unfortunately, many of these children on the Spectrum are teased at school. It appears that boys seem to be teased more than girls. In my experience this is because boys on the Spectrum tend not to comply with the typical outdated male stereotype. They tend to express their feelings more and they tend to be more accepting of others who are different. As a result, the other boys see them as easy targets to tease. This tends to really hurt their feelings and confuse the boys. They don’t understand why the other boys are being mean to them because they would never treat them the way the boys are treating them. Therefore, my experience has been overall boys only the Spectrum are more sensitive and caring. However, many parents are children will see them as inappropriate and they worry how they might treat their children. All of this is due to a stereotype regarding Autism.

However, this has not been my experience. The children and teens I have had the pleasure to work with who have autism are caring, smart, decent people. When they are given a chance, they can achieve a great deal. Many teenagers on the autistic spectrum are able to go to college, get a job, have a family and be productive members of society. However, for this to occur we need to eliminate the negative stigma associated with autism and mental health. We also need to provide them with the mental health services so they can succeed. They should be able to access these services without being judged. However, many children with Autism are teased at school and many insurance companies refuse to pay for psychotherapy. Autism is not a disease and you cannot catch it. Also people with Autism having feelings and being teased at school does a great deal of damage to their self-esteem. Children and teenagers need to be treated with respect meaning schools need to eliminate the teasing they endure at school. Insurance companies need to pay for psychotherapy so they can develop their abilities to express their emotions and so they can interpret social cues. If we do this, a child with Autism can achieve a lot in their life. The show the Good Doctor, shows an autistic young man who became a doctor. This is not a fantasy. There are several physicians with Autism who are perfectly capable of working as doctors and do.

I saw a video of a teenager talking to a judge. This teen with autism shows why we need to eliminate the negative stigma associated with mental health and provide access to services without judgement. Also he shows why we should not judge people or label people. Watch how impressed the judge is by this young man. He is very mature, acts appropriately, has a plan for himself and not ashamed about being autistic. People can surprise you when you don’t judge them https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:ugcPost:6507566653688160256.

If we provide other teens who are on the autistic spectrum or are depressed with the appropriate services, you would be amazed at what they can do. I have never met and worked with a child or teen on the autistic spectrum who has not impressed me with what they can do once they are given a chance.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers many have been on the autistic spectrum. For more information regarding his work or private practice practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com, his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple or Audible.

Helping Children Cope with Coronavirus Stress

Helping Children Cope with Coronavirus Stress

Since the beginning of the pandemic children have experienced an increase in depression and anxiety. It’s understandable because they have been isolated from friends and family. In addition no one can tell them what to expect and many have lost family members to COVID.

Furthermore, just as somethings were opening up and returning somewhat to normal, we have another significant increase in the number of COVID cases. As a result, many things have to be closed down again, there are definite rules regarding wearing masks and they may not be able to see their families for Thanksgiving. Again we are not able to give children any definite answers regarding when life will return to something normal.

As a result, many parents have asked me how to determine if their child is coping with anxiety and what to do if they are coping with anxiety. I can understand why parents are concerned especially because many children tend to try to hide their anxiety because they don’t want to worry their parents.

Therefore, the APA (American Psychological Association) developed guidelines that parents can use to determine if their child is dealing with anxiety and what to do if they are dealing with anxiety. You can also use the guidelines for depression too. I have provided an outline to the APA guidelines below:

The American Psychological Association (APA) offers the following tips to recognize if children may be experiencing stress or anxiety:

• Withdrawal from things the child usually enjoys

• Trouble falling or staying asleep

• Unexpected abdominal pain or headaches

• Extreme mood swings

• Development of a nervous habit, such as nail-biting

Parents can actively help kids and adolescents manage stress by:

Being available

• Start the conversation to let kids know you care about what’s happening in their lives.

• Notice times when kids are most likely to talk – for example, in the car or before bed.

Listening actively

• Stop what you’re doing and listen carefully when a child begins to open up about their feelings or thoughts.

• Let kids complete their point before you respond.

• Listen to their point of view even if it’s difficult to hear.

Responding thoughtfully

• Resist arguing about who is right. Instead say “I know you disagree with me, but this is what I think.”

• Express your opinion without minimizing theirs – acknowledge that it’s healthy to disagree sometimes.

• Focus on kids’ feelings rather than your own during conversation.

• Soften strong reactions, as kids will tune you out if you appear angry, defensive or judgmental.

• Word swap.

o   Say ‘and’ instead of ‘but’

o   Say ‘could’ instead of ‘should’

o   Say ‘aren’t going to’ instead of ‘can’t’

o   Say ‘sometimes’ instead of ‘never’ or ‘always’

Consider

• Model the behavior you want children to follow in how they manage anger, solve problems and work through difficult feelings. Kids learn by watching their parents.

• Don’t feel you have to step in each time kids make what you may consider a bad decision, unless the consequences may be dangerous. Kids learn from making their own choices.

• Pay attention to how children play, the words they use or the activities they engage in. Young children may express their feelings of stress during play time when they feel free to be themselves.

• It is important to explain difficult topics in sentences and even individual words kids will understand. For little kids it might mean saying simple things like, “We love you and we are here to keep you safe.” For adolescents, it’s important to be honest and up front about difficult topics and then give them a little space to process the information and ask questions when they’re ready.

Call your child’s or adolescent’s health care provider or a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers, if stress begins to interfere with his or her daily activities for several days in a row.

You can find additional helpful information about kids and stress by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Helping Children Cope webpage at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/for-parents.html.

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

Pornography and Teenage Boys During the Pandemic

Pornography and Teenage Boys During the Pandemic

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

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

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

This is an issue parents do need to pay attention to during the pandemic. Teenagers are having to spend more time at home and cannot see their friends like they are use to. Therefore, many teen boys are reporting being bored and some report being slightly depressed. Since they are spending more time in their bedrooms and have easy access to pornography via their phones or laptop, there is a temptation to look at pornography to help with being bored. This simple distraction can easily turn into an addiction during the pandemic. They are isolated and have no idea when the pandemic will end. Pornography therefore becomes an easy escape and habit before they know it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Responding to Someone Grieving during the Holidays

Responding to Someone Grieving during the Holidays

The Holiday Season is just around the corner. For many people it is a very happy time, however, if someone you loved passed away this year the Holidays most likely will not be a happy time because you are missing your loved one. This is true every Holiday Season, however this year it is likely to very different. In previous years there have been a few families grieving the loss of a loved one. However, this year due to the Coronavirus, there are over 225,000 families grieving. Therefore there will be a lot of people grieving this year.

A common problem people face regarding grief is they do not know what to say or do at times when someone is grieving. The reason we have this problem is that we do not really talk about death and grief in our society. There is a tendency to think that after funeral services are completed that people quickly resume normal life. This is not true. The grieving process can take a long time and everyone has their own way of grieving. This makes knowing what to say or do very difficult especially during the Holidays.

I have had many patients ask me what should I say or do when they are talking about someone who is grieving. Therefore, I researched the literature on grieving and came up with these suggestions about how you can respond to someone who is grieving during the Holidays or anytime.

The 10 Best and 10 Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief

Sheryl Sandberg’s post on Facebook gave us much insight into how those in grief feel about the responses of others to loss. Many of us have said “The Best” and “The Worst.” We meant no harm, in fact the opposite. We were trying to comfort. A grieving person may say one of the worst ones about themselves and it’s OK. It may make sense for a member of the clergy to say, “He is in a better place” when someone comes to them for guidance. Where as an acquaintance saying it may not feel good.

You would also not want to say to someone, you are in the stages of grief. In our work, On Grief and Grieving, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and I share that the stages were never meant to tuck messy emotions into neat packages. While some of these things to say have been helpful to some people, the way in which they are often said has the exact opposite effect than what was originally intended.

The Best Things to Say to Someone in Grief

1. I am so sorry for your loss.

2. I wish I had the right words, just know I care.

3. I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in anyway I can.

4. You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.

5. My favorite memory of your loved one is…

6. I am always just a phone call away

7. Give a hug instead of saying something

8. We all need help at times like this, I am here for you

9. I am usually up early or late, if you need anything

10. Saying nothing, just be with the person

The Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief

1. At least she lived a long life, many people die young

2. He is in a better place

3. She brought this on herself

4. There is a reason for everything

5. Aren’t you over him yet, he has been dead for awhile now

6. You can have another child still

7. She was such a good person God wanted her to be with him

8. I know how you feel

9. She did what she came here to do and it was her time to go

10. Be strong

Best & Worst Traits of people just trying to help

When in the position of wanting to help a friend or loved one in grief, often times our first desire is to try to “fix” the situation, when in all actuality our good intentions can lead to nothing but more grief. Knowing the right thing to say is only half of the responsibility of being a supportive emotional caregiver. We have comprised two lists which examine both the GOOD and the NOT SO GOOD traits of people just trying to help.

The Best Traits

Supportive, but not trying to fix it

About feelings

Non active, not telling anyone what to do

Admitting can’t make it better

Not asking for something or someone to change feelings

Recognize loss

Not time limited

The Worst Traits

They want to fix the loss

They are about our discomfort

They are directive in nature

They rationalize or try to explain loss/li>

They may be judgmental

May minimize the loss

Put a timeline on loss

The above information is meant to be used as a guideline. Everyone goes through the grieving process in their own way. It is very important to understand that point. It is also important to remember while the above is a guideline, the most important thing is your intent. So if you say a worse thing but you said it out of love the person will understand. The guideline will hopefully make you more comfortable to offer support to your grieving loved one or friend. Because someone who is grieving needs people to talk to without people feeling awkward. Also everyone is around immediately after the death and through the funeral services. Most people then go back to their normal lives. However, those who were really close to the person are still grieving and trying to figure out how to proceed with life. So don’t forget the person who is grieving can use emotional support for the first year especially. Therefore, do not forget to call, send a card or stop by occasionally. Especially around the holidays and birthdays.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience as a psychotherapist treating adolescents, children and their families. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple or Audible.

Having A Safe Halloween

Having A Safe Halloween

Halloween is a holiday most children look forward to every year. However this year Halloween is not something many children are expecting to celebrate because of the pandemic. However, given the fact they have lived through quarantine and having to go to school remotely and many have lost loved ones to the Coronavirus, we should try to help make the holidays fun for them.

This person has ideas so children can celebrate Halloween safety. Parents may want to read the article and try these ideas regarding Halloween. How can we do Halloween safely during Covid-19?
https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/26/health/halloween-safety-covid-19-wellness/index.html

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

Teenagers Texting during the Pandemic

Teenagers Texting during the Pandemic

In today’s world texting has become a very common way for people to communicate with each other, especially for teenagers. Before the Coronavirus, when I would go to a baseball game or the theater, I would see adults texting the entire time. I have even seen people fired via text. We also have a President who makes major announcements via Twitter. His actions make teenagers feel Texting is normal. Additionally, it’s no surprise teenagers today feel texting is the normal way to communicate because they grew up with it. Any teenager today is part of what I refer to as the IPhone generation. Since these kids were born there have been Smartphones that they have been using. Therefore, texting or having instant access to information via the internet is normal to them. They never have seen an encyclopedia or a card catalog at a library. The teenagers I currently see for psychotherapy, use texting as their primary way of communicating with each other. Besides texting by Smartphones, teenagers also now text each other as they play video games oline. Try removing a teenager’s Smartphone or gaming console so they cannot text, many teens become very upset and some even become violent. Additionally many parents don’t feel texting is really communicating, however adults need to pay attention to how often they text people.

While technology is advancing at a fast pace, our laws and ethics are having a difficult time keeping up with the latest advances. However, when laws are passed or ethical standards set, many teenagers and adults are not aware of the new laws. This is creating a tremendous problem for teenagers and their families. I have worked with many teenagers who are struggling with an issue, such as being accused of threatening someone via text, but they had no idea they were doing anything inappropriate.

Additionally now we have the Coronavirus pandemic and teenagers are having to attend school remotely and are not able to hang out with friends like they did before the pandemic. Therefore, for many teenagers texting has become their lifeline helping them stay in touch with their friends. Again these teenagers have grown up with texting so it’s normal to communicate via text. Many parents don’t understand how texting is the same as talking to another person. However, remember when you were in High School most teenagers spent hours on the telephone because we couldn’t text.

Something that it is important for teenagers to remember is that any time you post something online, tweet or text, it is on the internet forever. Some teens will say when they text it’s just from phone to phone. However, it remains on the phone forever and also on the server that provides your cellphone service. In other words, someone can get your text history from Verizon. This is why many celebrities have won very large monetary judgements against people who have posted false or embarrassing material on the internet. You can remove it from the site it was posted to, but it still can found on other sites. Therefore, if a teenager post something, they need to think about the fact that it will be out there forever and anyone can see it. This may lead to embarrassing situations.

Most teens worry about their grades and after school activities because they do not want to wreck their chance of getting into the University of their choice. However, many teenagers are not aware that many colleges check social media sites and the internet when they apply. The schools search for the applicant’s sites but also search to see if the applicant is on friend’s sites. They look at your pictures and opinions and decide do they feel they want you representing their school to the world. They can get your text history depending on how closely they choose to examine your background.

Let’s consider the most common problems that teenagers encounter with texting. The first one is texting sexually explicit photographs to their boyfriend/girlfriend. At the time they think it is no big deal. However, high school romances typically do not last. If one of the individuals feels hurt, they can post that sexually explicit picture all over the Internet. It can be sent to their families and friends. In fact, their entire school could see it. This would be extremely embarrassing. Even if the person who posted the picture is punished, the picture is still out there and the damage is done.

Additionally, teenagers fail to think about the fact that they are under 18 years old. Therefore, they are violating child pornography laws by texting the picture or by receiving it and having a copy on their cellphone. In fact, Congress is trying to pass stricter laws regarding teenagers texting sexually explicit picture. Therefore, besides being very embarrassed, the teenagers involved might find themselves facing legal charges for violating child pornography laws.

The second major issue is harassment. Friends get mad at each other or often one teenager is singled out and they become the object of numerous texts telling them they are ugly, no one likes them etc. These texts can be sent so often and by some many other teenagers that the teen who is the target commits suicide. There are numerous examples of this and a common one is accusing a teenager of being gay. This is not harmless teenage game playing. This harassment can be vicious. They are also cases where the teenagers sending these texts have been charged with stalking or more serious charges if the teenager committed suicide.

When this occurs, the teenagers are shocked. They think they were just teasing another kid and it was harmless. They have no idea what this teenager is already dealing with in their life or what it can be like to have numerous classmates texting you every day all day long. It is not harmless teasing, but because technology has increased so quickly it is not the same teasing that use to occur at school. We have not had enough time to think about this point.

Another major issue is that texting is an excellent way for schools or police to arrest teenagers for dealing drugs, buying or using drugs. I have worked with many teenagers from numerous schools where the school catches someone using or selling marijuana on school grounds. The school then checks the student’s cellphone and looks at the text history. The school then starts calling in the student’s on the text history and asking about drug use or selling. One teenager getting caught at school can result in ten teenagers being expelled. The teenagers are usually in shock. First, they never thought they were doing anything wrong and they never thought a text could get them in trouble. However, it can and it does. I have seen many teenagers for psychotherapy because of a text found by the school.

Finally, new research is showing that texting is increasing the rate of depression in teenagers. Texting creates more access in some ways, however, it is isolating too. When you text you lose the personal interaction which is very important. People do need personal interaction for their mental health. When teenagers text they miss out on the personal interaction. This can and does at times lead to a lonely feeling. If a teenager is already having a hard time and then they experience of feeling isolated too, this can lead to depression. Research is showing an increase in teenage depression and I am seeing an increase in the number of teenagers I am seeing for depression. Therefore, we need to take a closer look at teenagers and texting.

So we are facing a difficult situation. Teenagers today tend to use texting as their primary way of communication. Given the pandemic we are dealing with at this time it makes sense for them to text each other. However, our ethics have not kept up with technology and there are a number of ways teenagers can get into trouble texting. Additionally, research indicates that texting can increase the feelings of isolation and depression in teenagers. Feeling many teenagers and trying to avoid during the Coronavirus pandemic. One way they feel that helps them is texting friends. However, this maybe incorrect according to the research. Therefore, parents are facing a difficult situation when it comes to their teenagers texting each other.

At this point, my professional opinion is that parents sit down with their teenagers and discuss the pros and cons about texting and that parents limit texting to an hour everyday. Additionally, you may want to set up an agreement where your teenager allows you to monitor their texting in away that is comfortable for you and your teenager. Remember to be patient during this conversation because everyone is dealing with stress due to the pandemic.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with 20 years of experience working with children and teenagers. He also treats Internet addiction. For more information on Dr. Rubino’s work 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.

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

Teenagers want Parents to Listen

Teenagers want Parents to Listen

Many teenagers report being frustrated with their parents because they feel that their parents do not listen to them. Honestly, they are probably right at times. Most people have poor listening skills. These are not skills we are taught in school or at home. Most people tend to be focusing on how they are going to respond to the person talking rather than completely listening to the other person.

Since this is a common issue, what happens when children and teenagers feel that their parents are not really listening to them? What teenagers have told me is that they feel angry and that their parent does not care about their feelings. When teenagers have these feelings they tend to stop talking to their parents and to act out. When they feel that their parents don’t care, they feel like they have permission to do whatever they want and at times they act out using drugs or not going to school as a way to get their parents attention.

Teenagers may act like they know everything and that they are not afraid of anything or confused about what to do, but this is only an act. They do not know how to handle everything and often feel overwhelmed by life choices. As a result they turn to their parents. However, if their parents are not fully listening they feel hurt and rejected. As teenagers their communication skills and reasoning skills are not fully developed. Therefore, they don’t know how to let their parents know they feel hurt and rejected. They also do not know how to let you know that they feel you are not listening and they need your help. Most teenagers feel saying they need their parents as a sign of weakness. This is because they are not fully mature and they are still children and they need their parents.

For many parents this may come as a shock. It comes as a shock because of how teenagers tend to react to their parents. Again, because teenagers are not fully mature they tend to act like they know everything and don’t need their parents. However, as I stated above teenagers do need and want their parents support. However, due to their immaturity, teenagers act like they don’t need their parents. However, parents need to understand that teenagers are not fully mature yet and their actions do not always match how they are feeling.

With this being said, it is very important that parents listen to their teenagers. However, since communication skills are a problem for most people especially listening skills, I have provided a list of listening skills that parents may want to try. Remember these skills don’t come naturally to most people so it will take a while for you to improve your skills. Also since teenagers can be confusing at times it makes listening even harder at times. In addition to these skills, if you are listening to your teenager, but you are still confused try asking a clarification question. Repeat back what you thought you heard and ask your teenager if you heard them correctly. This shows you are listening, you care and you want to focus on their concerns. This is exactly what teenagers are wanting from you. Here are the skills you may want to try:

1)  Purposefully strive to focus on listening with an open mind, refrain from jumping to conclusions or forming an opinion while your child is talking.

2)  Do not hurry them, listening requires patience.  Wait for your child’s thoughts to take shape  and give time for the words to form and find expression.

3)  Always show respect and courtesy in listening to what your child has to say, no matter how much you may disagree with them.

4)  Your own body language is important, make eye contact and always provide your attentive and undivided attention.

5)  Don’t be thinking about how you will respond as this will take your concentration away from what they are really saying.

6)  Exercise awareness of your child’s nonverbal cues, facial expression, tone of voice, body stance, general mood and attitude.

7)  Don’t interrupt, hear them out and wait for the appropriate opportunity to ask questions.

8)  Always remain calm when listening and never show your personal feelings of anger or disappointment.

9)  Think of listening as personal growth as your children will always have something to say which will help you to grow.

10) Practice active listening with your heart to genuinely empathize with your child. Put yourself in their shoes to genuinely understand their feelings and emotions.

Remember this will take time and effort. However, by trying you are improving your relationship with your teenager and this is a tremendous benefit to you and your teenager if you can improve your relationship. Teenagers are facing a great deal of confusing and dangerous situations in today’s world and they need their parents now more than ever.

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

Celebrating Halloween during the Pandemic

Celebrating Halloween during the Pandemic

In about a month it will be Halloween. This is a holiday that many children look forward to every year. However, this year most children will be missing Halloween due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Many states are reporting an increase in Coronavirus cases and the flu season is beginning too. Therefore, it is not medically safe for children to be trick or treating this year. The major problem is most of these children have missed their birthdays, playing with their friends, summer vacation and now they are having to go to school remotely. As a result, main children are feeling depressed and do not want to participate in school.

With everything these children have been through, hopefully we can find some safe, fun ways for them to celebrate Halloween. One possible option is, as a family, you can let your children pick out their costumes and since Halloween is on a Saturday this year, let them wear these costumes all day. Additionally as a family you can pick out scary movies to watch all day and night and treats they can have for the day. You can also carve pumpkins and prepare a special Halloween dinner. If you google Halloween recipes, you will find a number of dishes that have a Halloween theme. This may not be the same as trick or treating but it can be a fun time for the entire family.

Another possibility is to arrange trick or treating with your family and family friends. You can arrange that with family members and friends that are taking appropriate precautions such as wearing masks and social distancing so they are not likely to have the Coronavirus that you can stop by their homes and trick or treat. This way your children do get to trick or treat but at least you are trying to do it in the safest manner possible. Obviously, your children would need to wear masks and being feeling well. If they had a runny nose or a slight fever, you would need to keep them home. However, this occurs every year, if at the last minute a child is looking or acting ill, you need to keep them home. Obviously, your family and friends would be wearing masks when you went to their houses and if they were feeling sick they would let you know before you left your house so you would know to skip their house.

Another option would be if your city or church has a community center. You can have people who volunteer to pass out candy on Halloween at the hall. All the volunteers would wear masks and their temperatures would have been taken to keep it as safe as possible. You could schedule 10 children at a time to go through the hall and trick or treat. Again, the children will need to be wearing masks and have had their temperatures taken. This way you are making it safe for the children and volunteers. You would need a schedule so you would not have too many children in the same space at the same time. Yes this will take a fair amount of work. However, it will allow children to celebrate a holiday specifically for children and they have a chance to act like children and forget the pandemic for a night. This would be a tremendous gift to children who have missed a lot of their childhood due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Some people may be tempted to say just forget the pandemic and let the children celebrate Halloween like they usually do. However, the research does document that children can and do contract the Coronavirus. The research also shows that children do need to be hospitalized due to the Coronavirus. The research shows that 1out of 3 children who are hospitalized will end up in the ICU. Finally the research numbers show children will and have died due to the Coronavirus. However, an additional complication during this time of the year is it is flu season too. It is possible for a child to have the flu and Coronavirus at the same time. Therefore, we cannot treat this like any other year and we need to brainstorm how children can celebrate Halloween safety.

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

Mental Health Crisis Created by the Coronavirus

Mental Health Crisis Created by the Coronavirus

We have a major mental health crisis coming our way and we are not prepared. Before the Coronavirus pandemic one out of five teenagers met the criteria for a mental health diagnosis and needed psychotherapy (CDC). In addition depression, anxiety and cutting were at epidemic rates for teenagers (CDC). To make matters worse, suicide had been the third leading cause of death for teenagers prior to the pandemic and has been moved from the third to the second leading cause of death for teenagers (CDC). Additionally, African-American teenagers were committing suicide at five times the rate of Caucasian teenagers (CDC). This means prior to the pandemic, we had many teenagers dying due to suicide and the rate has been increasing every year for the past ten years (CDC). In 2018 over 6200 teenagers between 10-18 committed suicide (CDC). If the number of teenagers committing suicide is increasing every year significantly, then how many teenagers committed suicide last year? How many teenagers will attempt or commit suicide this year?

Here are the statistics for teenage mental health prior to the pandemic. We know since the pandemic the number of teenagers reporting depression and anxiety have significantly increased and so have the number of teenage suicides and death due to drug overdoses have increased since the pandemic. I have seen a significant increase in patients calling my office for psychotherapy for their teenagers and children. How are we going to provide all these children and teenagers with psychotherapy? Additionally, many parents are having to stop their child’s psychotherapy because they can no longer afford the copayments. Many parents have lost their jobs or have had their hours cut which reduces their monthly income. Therefore, many parents are having to choose between paying rent and buying food or their child’s therapy. I am willing to make accommodations so the children and teenagers I treat can stay in therapy, however many therapists will not make accommodations. So what happens to all these children who need therapy because the pandemic has exacerbated their mental health issues? Why should parents have to decide between food on the table or therapy for their depressed teenager?

Another fact we cannot overlook is that this week we reached the point where 200,000 Americans have died due to the Coronavirus. This means there are 200,000 families who are grieving. Many children have lost parents and grandparents. Many parents have lost their parents and have lost their child too. The Coronavirus does and has killed children. How do we provide grief counseling to all of the grieving families and friends? With a record number of people out of work order besides finding therapists to help all these family members, how do you provide therapy at an affordable price? If you have a family of four that needs therapy, the monthly cost for therapy will be very expensive. Again people are having to choose between food for the family or therapy for the family.

Another factor impacting the mental health of children and parents is school. Because the President refuses to issue a national mandate regarding masks, children and teenagers are having to attend school remotely. Fourth percent of the parents in our Country have had to adjust their work schedules so there is someone at home to help the children. This has resulted in many parents having to reduce their pay. Again making it difficult to pay the rent and afford food. Additionally, many children and teenagers are becoming very frustrated because the remote learning is not well coordinated and they want to give up on school. This is adding more stress to families who are already over stressed. They are needing psychotherapy to help them, but they cannot afford therapy. Again what are we going to do to help these families?

One final point for this article, we hear that people have and do recover after being diagnosed with the Coronavirus. This is true, however, we have now learned something new about this new virus. A number of people who recover go on to develop what is being to referred to as “long haul syndrome.” People who develop this syndrome have heart palpitations, neurological problems, losing their hair and a condition referred to a brain fog. At this point no one knows how long it will last and who will develop it. It also is creating mental health issues such as depression. These people and their families will require therapy too. Again, how do we provide affordable therapy to these people? Since there is a negative stigma about mental health, we do not have enough therapists in the United States to treat all these people. Right now of course we are looking for a cure to the virus but we have not been paying attention to the collateral damage this virus has caused and how are we going to cope with it. Mental health is a major area, but we have not been paying attention to the mental health issues created by this virus and how are we going to address the mental health needs of the United States.

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