Helping Teenagers Understand Responsibility

Helping Teenagers Understand Responsibility

We have people blaming teenagers and college students for not wearing masks, having big parties, such as pool parties, on the weekends and that college students are hanging out at bars and as a result of their behavior we blame them for Coronavirus rates increasing across the Country. College students and teenagers have been involved in a number of protests, such as Black Lives Matter, and we are saying the virus is increasing because of protestors not wearing masks and not social distancing too. Finally, we are looking at teenagers and college students across the Country having Coronavirus parties and this is another reason the virus is spreading. As of today, August 4, 2020, there have been 159,000 deaths in our Country due to the Coronavirus and we are averaging 1,000 more every day (CDC). There are a tremendous amount of people who have died in our Country and in my opinion we are being unfair blaming teenagers, college students and protestors.

If we look at the White House, what do we expect from teenagers? Today in an interview the President stated yes a 1,000 people are dying, but that is how it is. No empathy in his tone of voice and taking no responsibility. He has been holding press conferences about the Coronavirus and he has stated people can wear masks but he will not require it. Additionally, he has been going all over the Country and he does not wear a mask. He wore one only once. Therefore, what message is he sending to the Country and teenagers especially? Additionally at the President’s press conferences he continues to state that the malaria drug is a cure for the virus. However, numerous studies by our top medical experts have all shown that the drug is ineffective and can cause deadly side effects. Yet he stands in front of the Country and makes it a popularity contest by saying people like Dr. Fauci better. Again this is what teenagers do, if you confront them on a story that they cannot back up with facts, they say you don’t like me. How can we expect teenagers to be responsible about their actions, when the President cannot be reasonable about his actions?

The President has been pushing that all school children must return to school on time and in their school buildings. However, his son’s school has delayed the beginning of their school until October and they will be doing remote learning (ABC, CBS News, CNN). Again we have a message of do as I say not as I do. What are teenagers and college students going to think when it is clear the President is willing to gamble with their lives, but not his son’s life or his family’s life?

Let’s take a different look at this situation. If your teenage son was not doing well in school and he was in danger of not passing his classes and his response to you was, “it is what is.” How would you feel? If this same son spent every weekend hanging out with friends and not doing his homework or studying, what would you think? Furthermore, if your teen did see any reason to spend his weekend trying to repair his grades and he believed it was more important to hang out with friends because he needed a rest, what would you think? I don’t think you would approve of your son’s behavior. We are in the middle of a global pandemic and the President spends his weekends golfing not addressing the pandemic. Today, 8/4/20, was the first time in six months that he attended a meeting of the Coronavirus Task Team (ABC, CBS News, CNN). Looking at the standard the President is setting for teenagers, I’m sure, as I stated above, you would be disappointed in your son’s behavior, but how can you say anything based on the President’s actions? How do you argue with your teenager to do his geometry homework, when the President is ignoring 159,000 Americans dying?

Parents you are faced with only one option in my opinion. You need to explain to your son that yes the President is not being responsible and ignoring his duties. However, two wrongs do not make a right. The President can choose to be irresponsible and he will have to face the American voters and may lose his job. Just like the President will be judged by the voters for his choices, you need to point out to your son that his teacher will judge his choices about studying by the grade he receives in the class. Additionally, you will be judging his choices about school based on the grades he receives in his classes. Finally, you need to point out and educate them on the fact that just because someone else chooses to ignore their responsibilities, even if he is the President, it does not give him the right to ignore his responsibilities. The final choice is up to him and he must face the consequences for his actions.

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 http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or listen to his podcast on Apple or Spotify.

Teenagers May Need more Access to Electronics during the Pandemic

Teenagers May Need more Access to Electronics during the Pandemic

Most middle school and high school students have grown up with smart phones and computers for gaming and texting their friends. This brings up the common argument about how much time teens are spending on line. Many parents have concerns that their teenager is addicted to their smart phones and gaming. Teenagers feel that their parents are over reacting and they can’t become addicted to their devices.

However, due to the pandemic gaming is now one of the few safe activities teenagers can do. Most places such as movie theaters and malls are closed so gamine provides a safe way to hang out with friends. This is very important to their social development at their age. Additionally, research is showing that teenagers who have little access to normal social activities are becoming depressed during the pandemic (CDC). Therefore, we need to re-evaluate the issue of gaming during the pandemic.

While the truth is teenagers can become addicted to their computer devices and gaming. The World Health Organization (WHO) took a step this year and classified “Gaming Disorder” as a formal diagnosis. As I stated, many parents have been concerned about this for years. Also it does not just impact teenagers, as many may think. I have had couples come in for marriage counseling because Gaming was destroying a marriage. For several years the American Psychological Association has said it would be adding Gaming addiction as a formal diagnosis to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, however, so far the APA has not been able to decide on the specific criteria for this diagnosis. What the WHO has done is they have acknowledged what many parents have been reporting for years and helping us to take a step so it is acknowledged as a diagnosis. While it is a diagnosis according to the WHO, gaming again is one of the safe activities teenagers can engage in during the pandemic. This does create a difficult situation.

The United States appears to be behind other countries in identifying that video game addiction does exist and does create problems for individuals and families. Seoul, South Korea and Tokyo, Japan have inpatient treatment centers for gaming addiction. These rehabilitation centers have been open for years and have treated thousands of people over the years. Therefore, other countries have acknowledged Gaming addiction that United States parents have been reporting for years.

As a psychotherapist who treats teenagers, I would have to agree with the parents and I say Gaming addiction is real. I have seen teenagers become violent, punching holes in walls or physically threatening their parents, if there video games or cellphones are taken away as a punishment. Teenagers have told me they cannot function without their video games or cellphones and will do anything to get them back. This sounds like and look like a problem to me. A cellphone or PlayStation should not be a teenager’s life line.

However, as I stated above, the pandemic does create a different situation regarding teenagers gaming online with friends. Since this is a safe way for teenagers to maintain social contacts, I think we need to create new guidelines for the pandemic. Parents are aware that teenagers can become addicted, but they can monitor how their teenagers are acting before and after using electronics. Also maybe have a day without electronics, while allowing some extra time on other days. So try to balance out how much time they are on electronics along with doing other things such as going outside for walks to get exercise.

The statement from the WHO states that the Gaming must be interfering with activities of daily life, such as homework, and be present for at least a year. These guidelines seem sensible to me. Also the WHO cautions that issues such as depression and anxiety need to be ruled out before assigning the diagnosis of Gaming Addiction. Many teenagers who are depressed or dealing with severe anxiety do self-medicate with video games. Finally, the WHO states your child needs to be evaluated by a mental health clinician who specializes in treating and assessing children and teenagers. This is very important because typically children and teenagers do not always have the typical symptoms we associate with depression or anxiety. A clinician experienced in assessing children and teenagers can make the appropriate diagnosis. Given these guidelines it appears to me that parents can allow teenagers to use their electronics more during this time of the pandemic. Parents can make sure to balance electronic time with other activities such as exercise. Furthermore, parents need to be observing their teenagers mood on a daily basis. If the teen is looking depressed or acting anxious then the parents need to schedule a time to have their teenager evaluated by a mental health professional who specializes in treating children and teenagers.

I have included a link to a segment on Good Morning America which discusses the diagnosis and other issues I have discussed to assist you in understanding what the WHO is referring to with Gaming Addiction, https://youtu.be/axG1tLdutmY.

The World Health Organization has taken an important step in helping us understand and define a problem many parents have been reporting for years. This is not a bad thing. I view it as a positive step. Technology is moving very fast. In fact, it is moving so fast we cannot keep up with all the new issues we need to deal with as a result of new technology. The more we understand this technology the more we all can benefit and avoid potential serious problems.

With that be stated, the Coronavirus pandemic does present parents and teenagers with a entirely new set of issues. If we stay calm and flexible, we should be able to address these new issues without a great deal of stress for parents or teenagers. Remember this is a new situation for everyone and no one has experienced this type of health situation before. Therefore, if we all work together, we should be able to find solutions to the new issues we continue to face on a daily basis.

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

Should Schools Reopen in the Middle of a Pandemic?

Should Schools Reopen in the Middle of a Pandemic?

Are we thinking about the safety of our children, school personnel and family members, when we are debating should we or should we not reopen schools in two to four weeks? Currently, the Coronavirus is out of control in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Arizona and California. Florida has used all of their ICU beds, in Georgia surgeons don’t have enough masks for surgeons and State officials in Texas, Arizona and California are requesting that their states be shut down and return to shelter in place (CDC, CNN, ABC News). Furthermore, the latest results indicate that people under 40 are the ones who are currently being infected (CDC). In addition to this fact, research does indicate that children can contract the Coronavirus and can die from the Coronavirus. A couple of weeks ago an 11 year old boy, in Florida, died due to the Coronavirus (CDC, CNN).

If the virus is out of control and children can contradict it and die, why are we pushing them to go to the school site, where social distancing is impossible? Additionally, many of these children have parents and grandparents living with them who are at high risks. Therefore, by going to school, they are exposing their families to the Coronavirus. How would a 10 year old boy feel if he brought the virus home and his grandparents caught it and died? It would be devastating to the child. The child could also transmit the virus to his teacher or his teacher’s parents who live with her. Again, if any of them died the little boy would be devastated and emotionally scared for life.

Chris Cuomo interviewed a wife, on his show Prime Time, whose husband was on a ventilator due to the Coronavirus. She had the virus too. They were not sure if her husband would survive. The family contracted the virus because their 21 year old son went to a party. The mother reported that emotionally her son was devastated. He was worrying that by going to his friend’s party, his father might die and he was blaming himself. If a 21 year old young man is having severe emotional difficulties dealing with this situation, how would an eight or 10 year old child handle it?

As a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers, I have been asking my patients about how they feel about returning to their classrooms this semester or doing remote learning like they were doing at the end of last year? All the children and teenagers have discussed how it would be nice to return to school so they can see their friends. However, they all are also worried about contracting the Coronavirus and they are concerned about pacing the Coronavirus on to someone in their family. As a result of this fear, all the kids want to do remote learning. Additionally, all the children and teenagers that I work with do not trust the White House to protect them. We forget this is the generation that has grown up with Smartphones. As a result, they have access to news reports and are aware of what is happening in our Country. They also have opinions about the Coronavirus and how it has been handled. They also have opinions about the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent protests that have occurred across the Country.

When the physicians who are experts regarding this virus and public health experts all agree that returning to the classrooms at this time is not safe for the students, their families or for teachers or other school personnel, I think we should listen to them. They said we were reopening the government too fast and look at the mess we are in at this time. As of July 25, 2020, over 145,000 Americans have died and the state of California reported the highest number of people dying in the state today and Florida now has more reported cases than New York at its peak (CDC). This is for today. The numbers in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California continue to rise which means more people will be dying.

Besides medical professionals and educational professionals recommending that we have children do school by remote learning, children and teenagers are requesting remote learning. They are afraid of catching the Coronavirus. Again, the research indicates that children and teenagers do contradict the Coronavirus. When they do they are more at risk to develop a unique complication which is similar to Kawasaki‘s disease. As a result of this fact and other things we do not know about the Coronavirus, children and teenagers can and do die from the Coronavirus (CDC).

The only reason I can see to rush children and teenagers back into classrooms is so President Trump looks like he is doing something about the Coronavirus and being President. If he was serious about protecting our children, he could have started developing a plan to return children to school back in April instead of waiting until two weeks before schools start and then just ordering the children back to school with no safety plans. He also could have urged the public to wear face masks in April and May when that was the recommendation of the medical professionals. Instead, he waited until his poll numbers were so low, he had to do something. Having children return to classrooms is a very serious issue considering how this virus acts and the lack of information we have about the Coronavirus. We would need safety plans for teachers, school staff members, students and families of the students and teachers, if we were serious about children and teenagers returning to the school site safely. With all this happening, what is President Trump doing today? He is playing golf. He is not addressing this serious issue about the schools or any issues associated with the pandemic. Additionally, when the press asked KellyAnn Conway what the President was gong to do about his son Barron, Ms. Conway said it was a private matter between the First Lady and the President and they would be making the decision they felt was in their son’s best interest (ABC, CBS, Fox News, CNN). She never said Barron would be returning to the classroom. Therefore, if the President is not rushing his son back to school, why should your child go back with no firmly established safety procedures.

Given the fact that the White House has failed to take the pandemic seriously and the medical experts are recommending that remote learning is the safest option at this time, I would recommend listening to the medical experts. Additionally, many teachers are stating that it is not safe to return to the classrooms under the current conditions. Finally, the students are saying that they do not feel safe returning to the classrooms and instead they prefer remote learning because it’s safer. I think we owe it to the children and teenagers to listen their concerns and resume this semester via remote learning. In the meantime we need the government to seriously address the pandemic so we can return to normal lives like other countries.

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, his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts, Understanding Today’s Teenagers.

Outside Family Activities during the Pandemic

Outside Family Activities during the Pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Dangerous New Teenage Activity

A Dangerous New Teenage Activity

There is a disturbing new dangerous trend occurring in teenagers that parents need to know about so they can talk to their teenager. We know that many teenagers feel a sense of being invulnerable and nothing bad will happen to them and their friends. It appears that teenagers in Alabama are putting this belief to the ultimate test (CDC, CNN). As a result, they are risking their lives, their friends lives and the lives of their families for a few hundred dollars.

The starting point of this risky behavior is in Alabama and city mayors and paramedics have heard about the risky behavior and they are very concerned. Teenagers are having Coronavirus parties. They invite people who are infected with the virus to a party and then they sell tickets to the party to their friends and other teenagers. The first person who can provide proof from a physician that they have contracted the virus after attending the party wins all the money that was collected. Teens are using social media and word of mouth to advertise these Coronavirus parties. They do not consider how dangerous these parties are and that they are playing Russian Roulette with their lives and with the lives of any one they come in contact with after the party.

We know that teenagers brains are not fully developed until they are 25 years old and the last part of the brain developing is the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for more advanced functions such as reasoning and dealing with abstract concepts. Therefore, when the White House and President Trump are saying 99% of Coronavirus infections are not serious, some teenagers will listen to President Trump. Also when President Trump states we have the virus under control, again some teenagers will listen. They have difficulties reconciling statements from Dr. Fauci and the University of Washington which indicate the virus is not under control and reaching very dangerous levels in our Country. They are not sure who to believe. Also most teenagers don’t listen to a lot of news so they are not aware that United State citizens cannot fly to Europe because the virus is so much out of control in the United States that other countries don’t want to expose their citizens to the virus again. Even if you want to go to New York, the state of New York is requiring people to go into a 14 day quarantine. New York finally has the virus under control in their state and Governor Cuomo is doing what he needs to so New York keeps the virus under control. Therefore, since teenagers are hearing the virus is not a big threat and the President refuses to wear a mask, they are not aware how the virus is really impacting people or how dangerous it can be.

As a result, these Coronavirus parties don’t seem very dangerous to them and they could win $200. They are unaware that they can die from the Coronavirus. An 11 year old boy died in Florida from the Coronavirus so children do die from the Coronavirus (CDC). They also are unaware of the risk they are taking with their families lives. These parties seem like fun to them. It is summer and they are looking for ways to have fun especially having been in quarantine for the past 2 months. Additionally, no one can give them definite answers about school yet. Maybe they will be going to school on line or maybe they are going back to school part time. How they resume school also has an impact on their ability to see their friends and have fun hanging out with their friends. Therefore, they are dealing with a lot of uncertainty that no one can answer right now. However, these parties mean fun with their friends now, they can win some money and the President is saying they don’t need to worry about the virus. As a result, it is easy for their brains to decide to go to the party and have fun with their friends. Currently, it’s the only answer that makes sense to them when they look at how the President and the government are responding to the pandemic.

We are in the middle of a global pandemic. As of today, 136,000 people in the United States have died from the Coronavirus (CDC). Today another 792 people in the United States died (CDC). When we have hundreds of people dying everyday from the Coronavirus, we should not be making this a political issue. All this accomplishes are more people getting infected and more people dying. It also increases the amount of stress and anxiety that our children and teenagers are experiencing. This anxiety results in more teenagers needing psychotherapy for anxiety disorders and more teenagers turning to alcohol, drugs (CDC) and now Coronavirus parties as a way to cope.

Parents what your teenagers need from you is for you to discuss the current situation with them and what are the current recommendations from the CDC. For example, when they go outside they need to wear a face mask and to keep 6 feet in between them and other people. Also to wash their hands regularly and to avoid touching their faces when they are out. Also have an age appropriate conversation about how dangerous the virus can be. Therefore, explain to teenagers how these Coronavirus parties are very dangerous. They can also transmit the virus to other family members or friends who have other health conditions resulting in that person’s death. Furthermore, if they do catch the virus some studies are showing people can have life long after effects such as depression or neurological issues. Overall the message should be since we do not know what this virus can do, it’s not something to ignore and needs to be taken seriously.

Discuss that you understand there are conflicting reports at times and this can be confusing. Therefore, if they hear things that are confusing or friends saying things that do not make sense, they should ask you. Together you can discuss the confusing information and look up the latest information on the CDC website or your county’s Coronavirus website. Bottom line explain that yes this is a very confusing time but if you work together as a family you can help each other to understand what is happening and to stay safe. Let the politicians play games with their careers and lives, but not your children’s or family’s lives.

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

Teenagers Need to Earn Their Parents’ Respect

Teenagers Need to Earn Their Parents’ Respect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dealing with Anxiety When the Coronavirus is Out of Control

Dealing with Anxiety When the Coronavirus is Out of Control

Anxiety is a common issue for children especially when we were all on quarantine and kids having to attend school from home. Remember children’s imaginations are very active. During the last few months we have had conflicting information from the White House and the medical doctors, such as Dr. Fauci who is the expert, about the Coronavirus and what we need to do. Therefore, there has not been a lot to explain to children and they have heard a lot on the news. Many parents tell me they have limited the access to news but with their IPads, phones and friends, they hear more than we are aware of. Also don’t forget, prior to the pandemic the children were dealing with mass shootings on a daily basis. Therefore, children and teenagers already were dealing with a lot of anxiety before the beginning of the pandemic.

The White House had told us they had the virus under control and it was time to start reopening the economy. However, we now find out that this was not the truth. In fact, today our Country had its highest numbers for new cases, hospitalizations and deaths, since the beginning of the pandemic. Many states such as Florida, Texas and Arizona are reporting numbers indicating the virus is out of control in their states. The doctors are clearly stating we opened too soon and we will need to at least pause reopening and in many cases possible go back to shelter in place. California is re-evaluating their numbers and most countries will be issuing new health orders that will take effect immediately. This will definitely increase anxiety for children, teenagers and parents. In other words, it will increase anxiety for everyone.

According to the CDC and what I have seen in my patients, anxiety has been at epidemic levels for children for awhile. The most common reason children are coming into therapy right now is anxiety or depression associated with the state of our Country (mass shooting, riots and the pandemic). Many parents want to know what they can do in between therapy sessions to help their child with their anxiety, especially now since, many people are experiencing an increase in anxiety as the pandemic spins out of control. I ran across an acronym by Lori Lite that is designed to help children who are anxious. The acronym is ASSURE. I will explain what is stand for and how to use it below.

A – Align with your child
 with their body language
 with their tone and volume of speech
 validate their feelings
S – Share your experience
your feelings in stressful moments
mistakes you’ve made and how you emerged from them
how you cope with stress in day-to-day situation
perspective you’ve gained from seeing “this too shall pass”
S – Skills-training
give them words for feelings and worries
get them involved in appropriate exercise and activities to release stress
teach and model coping strategies like visualization, deep breathing, positive imagery
U – Uncover stress-related signs and symptoms
body aches – head, stomach
irritability and mood change
appetite change
sleep changes
R – Reassure them
that they’ll come through
that you’re there for them
that you’re proud of the effort they’re investing in calming and coping
things will normalize – recall examples
E – Engage the topic when they’re calm
listen to what they say and don’t say
respect their process in overcoming stress and worry
brainstorm options while they’re calm, since that’s when the “thinking” part of the brain is turned on.
This may not eliminate their anxiety all together, but it should help reduce their anxiety. Also remember if their anxiety is severe also seek psychotherapy for your child with a therapist who specializes in treating children. Psychotherapy can now be done via telemedicine so there is no risk of exposing them to the virus. Between the mass shootings and the pandemic caused by the Coronavirus, our children are living through historic times. We have never experienced events like we currently are experiencing so there should be no surprise that children may need psychotherapy at this time.

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

Teenagers are Trying to be Their Friend’s Therapist during the Pandemic

Teenagers are Trying to be Their Friend’s Therapist during the Pandemic

There is an issue I have encountered many times working with teenagers in psychotherapy that is seldom talked about. The issue is teenager’s trying to act as a therapist to the friends or girl/boy friend. This issue is increasing due to the pandemic and quarantine. Many teenagers are experiencing more anxiety (CDC) and boredom due to being at home more and no school. There have been many times that a teen will tell me their girlfriend is suicidal and ask me what they should do to help her? Often a teen will ask could they just bring their girlfriend into one of their sessions. They argue since I am helping them, I can help their girlfriend. At this point we need to have a conversation about how therapy works and the situation that they are in at that point.

In terms of me just seeing the girlfriend, I explain I need parental consent because she is under 18 years old. I also explain if she is suicidal the parents should be involved. Sometimes the teen explains their girlfriend is living in an abusive household and the parents would never agree to psychotherapy. In these situations, I provide the suicide crises number and tell the teen to have the girlfriend call the crises line and they will get her help. Some teens will exaggerate a situation just so I will see the girlfriend. Therefore, it may be a normal argument between a teenager and parent that I may be entering. Therefore, I provide the crises line and 911 so the situation can be assessed. If the girl does need help, I don’t want to ruin the chances of her getting psychotherapy by acting too fast. I also need to be careful how I handle the situation with my patient. If he is wanting me to see his girlfriend, I have established a therapeutic relationship and trust with him and I do not want to spoil that bond.

The other part of this situation and the more important part is the teen trying to act like their friend’s psychotherapist. Many teens feel since they have been coming to therapy and making progress, if I give them some advice they can help their friend. I explain that they do not having the training needed to be a therapist. I also point out they are not emotionally ready to be a psychotherapist. Many teens feel a very close bond to their friends and girlfriends because they have shared a lot of very personal information and have been open emotionally. While this may be true, it is not the same as psychotherapy.

Why is it important to discuss this issue? What if a teen tries to be their friend’s therapist and the friend commits suicide. They teen will be emotionally devastated and blame themselves. The parent of the teen who committed suicide may blame the teen too. Maybe they were not handling the situation correctly and the teen might have been saved if they had been hospitalized. However, the teen was never hospitalized because their friend was acting as the therapist. The teen could be in a lot of trouble. I have seen this happen. I have had parents come in for grief therapy because their child committed suicide and their child’s friend was acting as therapist and keeping everything a secret. This is a very sad and tragic situation for all involved.

Any time I have a teen asking me about a friend I explore the situation to determine if they are acting as therapist. If they are I explain to the teen why this is inappropriate. I acknowledge how close they are to their friend and how much they care about their friend. I then point out because they care so much they want to do what is best for their friend. I ask them how they would feel if their friend committed suicide? I point out that they are in a very difficult situation that they are not emotionally prepared for or professionally trained for. We discuss that this doesn’t mean anything negative about them. We discuss how they are expecting too much of themselves. I explain if they really want to help their friend, they will encourage their friend to seek help or they may need to tell someone such as the school counselor or their friend’s parents. Sometimes they say, “but I promised to keep it a secret.” I explain sometimes you may need to break a promise to help someone. I also point out their friend may initially be mad but if they truly care they need to do what is best for their friend.

Teenage suicide is an epidemic. The CDC just moved suicide from the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death for teenagers. Also the CDC has noted there has been an increase in anxiety, depression and suicides since the beginning of the pandemic. Additionally, teenagers are turning to cutting more often to deal with their feelings about life and the pandemic. Therefore, at this time in our history, this issue has become a bigger issue and needs to be addressed. The situation where friends try to act like the therapist happens more often than people realize. I had a situation occur this week. After explaining the situation to the teen, they spoke to their friend and their friend is now in therapy. This was a good ending. I would estimate 1 out of 3 teens ask me about their friends and are trying to be the therapist to their friend. Besides teens feeling they can handle this situation because they feel so close to their friend, I believe this occurs due to our views on mental health.

Because of the mental health stigma many teens are reluctant to go to therapy. They don’t want to be labeled as “crazy” or “weird.” Furthermore, it is not easy for teens to get therapy. Many psychotherapist prefer not to work with this age group for various reasons. Also many families cannot afford psychotherapy and many insurance companies do not cover psychotherapy. As a result, teenagers tend to turn to each other when they are encountering emotional issues. Research indicates that teens turn to their friend first when they encounter emotional issues. If we want to stop teenagers from acting like psychotherapist and if we want teenagers to get appropriate mental health care, we need to talk to teenagers about why they can’t act as a friend’s therapist and we need to increase access for teenagers to mental health care and remove the mental health stigma.

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

How To Improve Your Relationship with Your Teenager During the Pandemic

How To Improve Your Relationship with Your Teenager During the Pandemic

Many parents worry because their teenager talks more to their friends than to them. Often many parents feel like a failure because their teenager is spending more time with friends than them. However, with the quarantine many teenagers have not been able to hang out with friends. They have maintained contact by texting, FaceTime, Zoom and gaming. Some parents have seen this as an opportunity to increase the amount of time they spend with their teenagers and as an opportunity to improve their relationship with their teenagers. This is an excellent idea. Unfortunately some parents who are concerned that their teen spending too much time with friends may result in their teen becoming involved with drugs or other issues. They feel they can use this extra time to pry into their lives and find out what their teenager is really doing. Unfortunately, this idea eliminates the opportunity of improving your relationship with your teenager. By improving your relationship with your teenager, you increase the probability that your teenager will open up to you if they are in trouble. Unfortunately many parents tell me they have decided they way to resolve this issue is that, “”I am going to be my teenager’s best friend” as a way prevent these problems or finding out about them. Unfortunately, many of these parents do not understand that it is normal developmentally for teens to spend more time with their friends.

The solution that you are going to be your teen’s best friend is wrong!! You do not want to be your teen’s friend. You need to be your teen’s parent. Your teen has enough friends. Your teen doesn’t need another friend, they need a parent. They need someone to educate them about life and how to make decisions.

Remember, as a parent it is your responsibility to help guide your teen to be successful as an adult and in life as a productive member of society. This means at times you will have to set firm boundaries, educate them about life and sometimes tell your teen no. It is important to remember being a parent is not a popularity contest. You must set appropriate limits for your teen which means at times they will be mad at you. It is okay if they are mad at you. This is part of the process a teenager experiences as they are maturing into an adult.

Despite what they say, most teens want and like boundaries. At times they can be very helpful to your teen. They may be faced with a great deal of peer pressure to do something that they do not want to do and they can use you as the excuse why they cannot do it. Some may say this is immature because the teen is using their parent as an excuse, but we put our teens in a very, very difficult world so I think they are allowed some extra help now and then.

Another reason why should you not be your teen’s friend because your word and rules will mean nothing to your teen, if you are their friend. A friend is defined as a close associate. In other words, teenagers see their friends as equals. Now think about what this implies, if you are equals, you are on the same level as your teen. Therefore, they think they know as much as you do and since you are equals they can choose to follow your rules or ignore them as they see fit.

I run into this problem daily in my office. A parent will say “we have always been best friends, I talk to my teen and their friends about everything and we have good times together hanging out. I don’t understand why they disregard my authority as their parent.”

The answer is simple: you eliminated your authority as the parent and made yourself an equal as a friend. If you want your teen to respect your authority as the parent, you must remain the parent and not be the friend.

Consider the decisions these teens have to make every day. They are faced with issues regarding alcohol, drugs, sex, gangs and decisions about careers in their future. Teens live in a very difficult and complex world today. They need parents to help set appropriate boundaries and guide them so they make the best choices for themselves and avoid a great deal of trouble. You can only do this as a parent. Remember, as a parent you are not in a popularity contest. You have a responsibility to help guide your teen. If you want to help them survive high school then be the parent and make the tough, unpopular decisions that are in your child’s best interest. This will help your teen to respect you and the rules you made earlier you can enforce. If you set yourself as friend and equal, your teen loses respect for you, your advice and your rules. You find yourself powerless and you leave your teen on their own to decide what is appropriate behavior.

This is a difficult time for you and your teenager, but if you maintain your role as parent and your teen maintains their role as child you both will survive high school easier. Of course there will be difficult moments, but nowhere near as difficult if you blur the relationship boundaries.

Dr Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their parents. He is well respected in the community. To learn more about his work or private practice, visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or http://www.RubinoCounseling.com. You can also visit his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3. You can also email him from this website, if you have questions.

Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover

Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover

These last couple of weeks there have been numerous protests regarding how African Americans are treated by police and by society in general. The point that has been being made over and over is that African Americans are not treated fairly in our society. Many people felt that with the election of President Obama that racism was over. Many people felt if a Black man could be elected President, how could our society be racist?

However, the racism and prejudice still continue. The death of George Floyd was a prime example that racism continues in our society. Additionally, the protestors are not just talking about obvious racism, they are protesting institutional racism which exists at many levels in our society. One place in exist is in our schools. Children and teenagers are not born with racism and prejudice, but we teach it to them as they grow up. We need to change how children are raised if we want to eliminate racism and prejudice.

One example is Jill Elliot’s blue eyed/brown eyed exercise. The day after Martin Luther King assignation’s, she put her third grade class through this exercise. At first she told her class research showed that Blue eyed people were better and made all the brown eyed children wear a necklace identifying them as brown eyed people. Within a couple of hours these third grade students, who they day before were treating each other as equals, were putting down the brown eyed children. The next day she said she had been mistaken and Brown eyed children were better so all the blue eye children needed to wear the necklaces. Again within a couple hours all of the Brown eyed third graders were forming prejudice attitudes about the blue eyed children and treating them according to these prejudice attitudes. This amazing exercise demonstrated how easily prejudice and racism are taught and how easily children will adapt to and treat others with the prejudice attitudes they have been taught by society. This was a very bold step for Mrs. Elliot to take, but it taught us a lot. Her exercise still works today. Oprah had Mrs. Elliot on a show and put the audience through the same exercise and 50 years later the results were the same. The thing many of us have found so amazing about this exercise is that with very little information prejudice and racism can take hold of people very quickly without people being aware of what is happening. In the original third grade class you had best friends stop being friends due to eye color. Thankfully the results were not long lasting. On the third day when Mrs. Elliot explained what she did the children stopped treating each other differently. However the point was clearly made how easy it is to teach children to be prejudice and how easy it is to keep prejudice and discrimination going.

The 1984 movie, The Breakfast Club, is another excellent example of how we teach children to be prejudice and to discriminate. In the movie five teenagers representing the common high school stereotypes, the rich popular kid, the jock, the nerd, the weirdo and the juvenile delinquent, are all together having to serve Saturday school for various mistakes they made at school. The teacher overseeing the Saturday school reacts to the teens according to the stereotype the fit. He asks them to write an essay describing themselves.

At the beginning of the movie the teens treat each other according to the stereotypes. As a result, they are rude to each other and put each other down when ever they can. They never stop to think how they are making each other feel even when it’s obvious they are hurting someone’s feelings. It’s all part of the stereotypes they have learned so it’s alright. In other words, they are already operating from a point of view that some people matter and other people do not matter. If they don’t matter you can say or do whatever you want to them and not feel guilty or any remorse.

However during the course of the day, they begin to notice and learn things about each other. They start to learn that they are not as different from each other as they thought. They begin to identify things they have in common and notice they have the same feelings as each other. Once they remove the stereotypes they started to see how similar they were to each other. However, then the question came up, what happens when they return to school on Monday? Could they maintain the friendships they made that day? Finally one person speaks up and says no due to the peer pressure. They felt they would have to continue to follow the stereotypes at school if they wanted to keep their other friends. Even though they had learned how wrong the stereotypes were and the friendships they were missing out on, they felt no one else would understand and accept what they were doing. Since this was a movie they were able to discuss the price they were paying conforming to the stereotypes and the friendships they were losing. At the end they decided to abandon the stereotypes and take the risk of no conforming to the norm, so they could maintain their friendships. Exactly what we need teenagers to do if we are going to eliminate racism and discrimination.

As for the easy, they wrote a group easy for the teacher. They realized that no matter what they said the teacher would still see the stereotypes; the princess, the jock, the nerd, the weirdo and the juvenile delinquent. I find the closing line very interesting because they state what they discovered during the day was each of them had parts of all the stereotypes as part of their personalities. Therefore, no one was better or worse, they were all equal and deserved to be treated equally. They also felt no need to explain themselves to the teacher because in their opinion he was going to continue to see what he wanted. It would not matter to him what they said. He already made up his mind about them.

This movie does an excellent job showing how teenagers learn to conform to society’s prejudices and discrimination. However, it also provides hope that if we take down the preconceived ideas that we may discover the similarities we share and celebrate the our differences. Wouldn’t the world be boring, if we all were the same? Also the United States has always been referred to as the great American melting pot. The meaning is clear our Country was suppose to accept all who want to join and contribute their unique cultures. When did we forget this point?

The children and teenagers are the future of our Country. We need to listen to them and we need to allow them to have experiences like the Breakfast Club. There is a group Challenge Day that does provide this opportunity for teenagers. As adults we need to be honest with ourselves about the prejudice attitudes we teach children. Parents demand that your schools make Challenge Day and other programs like it as part of the school’s Curriculum. We need to end racism, discrimination, people not being given a fair chance to succeed and especially people being killed.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. He is a founding member of the national Street Soldier Advisory Board and has worked with Challenge Day. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.