Why Today’s Teens Are Feeling Anxious and Depressed

Why Today’s Teens Are Feeling Anxious and Depressed

“What are we doing to our kids?” is a quote from Cameron Crowe, who wrote the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High a movie from 1982. I ask this question on a daily basis. Cameron Crowe while discussing the movie with CNN for their special report on movies made his statement about teenagers. He explained he went undercover in a high school as a high school senior to write the movie. He stated he was shocked at how sexually active these kids were in high school. He stated between the focus on sex and working, the kids were being denied their adolescence. They were going from kids to adults very quickly. Sadly what Cameron Crowne noticed in 1982 has continued and has only become worse. It is so bad that I typically have difficulties scheduling appointments with teenagers because of tutoring sessions, meeting with college consultants and their homework. Many teenagers are so overbooked that they seldom have a free minute to relax.

Cameron Crowe was commenting on high school students in 1982. However, what he noticed occurring in high school in 1982, however it is now starting to occur in middle school not high school. In middle school today it is not uncommon for kids to be sexually active. In fact, many middle schools now provide condoms to sixth graders. Many 6th graders do not think oral sex is being sexually active. They tell me they are just “messing around, like kissing.” In addition to sex, kids in middle school are using drugs. They are not just using marijuana. Many middle school students are using concerta, ecstasy, vaping and designer drugs. Additionally, what they are exposed to on television and in movies has changed dramatically. I use the film, Good Will Hunting, in an anger management group for teenagers. The movie is rated R, but they only swear. I looked at the release date and it was in the early 1990’s. If you watch some television shows today, they come close to showing people having sex. This is a significant change and has a big impact on the kids watching these television shows and movies.

In addition to being sexually active and using drugs many middle school students are worrying about how much money they will make at their jobs. Kids are looking at different careers and thinking about how much they will get in paid and what they will be able to afford. They wonder about, how big of a house or what type of car will they be able to afford as adults? Mr. Crowe’s observation was correct in 1982. However in 2023, kids are losing their childhood too early and they are losing their childhood earlier and earlier. In 1982 it was high school in 2023 it is occurring in middle school. When will it start occurring in fifth grade?

In addition to these factors, teens in middle school and high school continue to live through the pandemic. Most kids had a year of remote learning which was a disaster. Therefore, teenagers were forced to spend over a year at home by themselves and their main interaction with friends was by texting or gaming. As a result, many teenagers feel like they have lost a year of their lives that they will never get back and a year of exploring life with their friends. Many teenagers are reporting depression , suicidal feelings and anxiety due to the Pandemic. Who can blame them because they have lost a year of their childhood that they cannot get back. Additionally, some children are now having panic attacks regarding going to school or being in crowds. They are not use to being around a lot of people and many still are concerned about being exposed to the Coronavirus or some new virus such as Monkeypox.

Even though many teenagers are back in school, their school experience is not the same as it was prior to the pandemic. Their ability to socialize is still limited greatly and schools have changed many after school activities and have canceled events such as indoor dances. So teenagers are back in the classroom, but they still feel lonely and many see no end to the pandemic or school shootings in site.

Since I specialize in treating children and teenagers, I have had more children and teenagers reporting depression, anxiety and a sense of loneliness over this past year. In fact, in my office the number of middle and high school students seeking therapy has increased by a factor of 10. Besides parents calling, schools and insurance companies are calling daily regarding adolescents who need therapy. Many of these teens are feeling disconnected and out of touch with their friends and other teenagers their age. In 2000, I was noticing this in a few teenagers now in 2023 a majority or teens and middle school students report feeling lonely and isolated and anxious. I am also beginning to hear this from fifth grade boys too. Besides loneliness increasing in middle school and high school, the number of kids feeling depressed is increasing significantly. It makes sense. Teenagers have lost a year of “normal” teenage life and no one knows what to expect next, another school shooting or a return to remote learning due to this new variant. This provokes anxiety and depression when you don’t know what to expect from the future. Especially when predictions are changing daily, teenagers are left having to wait and they see no end in site.

You may ask with their focus on friends and sex, how are they feeling lonely or isolated? With this focus on friends, sex, drugs and the future comes a great deal of competition. Everyone wants to look like they know exactly what they are doing. Therefore, they may be talking and texting each other, but they focus more on shallow issues. No one really opens up about their true fears and worries. As a result, they feel lonely and isolated. The movie and play, Dear Evan Hansen, explores and explains how many teenagers are feeling lonely and insignificant. They have missed a year of “normal, typical” experiences which help them mature. Teenagers know they are not going to get these years back which is depressing. Therefore, they are using computers, drugs and sex as a way to numb out the anger, disappointment and anxiety about what they are missing and not to worry about what their futures will be like.

A very good example of this are teenage boys. Most teenage boys are trying to live up to the outdated stereotype about what it takes to be a man. According to the stereotypes men don’t cry, don’t focus on emotions because they are weak and must be sexually active to be a man. There is a documentary, The Mask You Live In, which focuses on boys conforming to this outdated stereotype. Overwhelming the boys in the documentary reported feeling lonely and isolated. They shared they had no one who they could talk to when they felt overwhelmed or confused by life. They always had to have the right answer and they did not always what was the right answer. As a result, they made mistakes and they felt lonely not being able to ask for help. They felt like they had to hide their true feelings which makes them feel lonely.

Having over two years with little to no personal contact with their friends only increases this feeling of isolation and loneliness. Since teenagers try not to act like they need help, they are experiencing more feelings of anxiety and depression. The CDC has documented a significant increase in the number of teenagers coping with depression and anxiety since the beginning of the pandemic. Also as I stated above we have experienced a tidal wave of teenagers seeking psychotherapy. Furthermore, the longer we ignore issues such as school shootings, the longer children worry about their safety and futures, and the number of kids feeling anxious, depressed and isolated will continue to increase not decrease.

Texting and online gaming have increased as a way for teenagers to feel a connection with their friends. Many parents worry about their teenagers texting or gaming, but if it provides a sense of connection with their friends and the world, I have recommended to parents to adjust their rules regarding these behaviors during this time that teenagers are adjusting to the new normal. Teenagers need a way to feel connected to others. Without this sense of connection during this adjustment period, we will see an increase in the number of teenagers committing suicide or overdosing on drugs.

Another aspect to teenage boys and girls feeling lonely, isolated, depressed and anxious is that they tend to close themselves off emotionally. As a result, they do not know if anyone cares about them. They never know if someone loves them. This can create major issues for teens. In the Disney movie Frozen, they point out how people will act out in pain and make mistakes when they don’t feel loved or cared for by people. The movie also points out how opening yourself up so you can feel love will help people change and make better choices. The lead character, Elsa, when she felt lonely and afraid could not control her power and it only caused destruction. When she finally opened herself up and saw she could be loved she discovered the good her powers could do. When she was afraid she isolated herself and when she felt loved she opened up and interacted with others. The idea of allowing themselves to be emotionally vulnerable is a very scary concept for teenagers. They don’t know what to expect and they don’t feeI in control. Teenagers need to feel a sense of control especially during this time of their lives and with all of the unknowns in our world today. I see this happen daily with teens. When they feel no one cares, they isolate themselves and say hurtful things to keep themselves isolated. When they discover people care, they allow themselves to open up and start to share their true feelings and interact with others. They are very happy and surprised when they make this discovery.

Parents may notice that their teenagers are not taking to them or listening to them despite the fact that parents are trying to be supportive. The problem is that your teenagers are feeling so depressed and anxious that they are ignoring their parents. Many teenagers see how society is acting and they see no hope. They assume you are going to try to make them feel better, but you are just as powerless as they are so they ignore you. Be patient with them and continue to be there for them. By taking this approach when your teenager is ready to talk, you will be there and not miss the opportunity.

In 1982 the world was much easier. In today’s world things are moving fast and make it easy for people to isolate by texting or using social media to communicate. In addition, teenagers have lived through a pandemic (which no other recent generation has had to do), mass shootings and a political climate that has changed how we communicate and view the world and each other. As a result, teenage boys and girls feel pressure to follow the outdated stereotypes about men and women. There are few people telling teens they don’t need to follow these stereotypes. We also need to set examples about communication. Adults need to not text so much and rely on social media as often as they do. Parents need to take time talking with their children as soon as they are born. Technology can be a great thing but it is making many people feel lonely and isolated. Teens as well as adults. We need to study technology and look at how it is impacting our lives and the lives of our children. One thing for sure, I have seen technology increasing the amount of teens feeling lonely and depressed. We don’t want our kids to lose out on their childhood. Therefore, we need to study the impact technology has on us and teach our children how to use it responsibly. Also we need to teach teenage boys and girls that they don’t need to live up to the outdated stereotypes about men and women. We need to encourage our kids to be themselves and to accept themselves.

Additionally, remember today’s teenagers are the only teenagers in recent history who have had to cope with daily mass shootings and a pandemic which has killed over 1,000,000 Americans. We need to look at all these issues and help our children and teenagers cope with the world they have to live in. Hopefully this will help our children reclaim their childhood and be kids.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

The Daily Risks LGBTQ+ Teenagers Have to Face

The Daily Risks LGBTQ+ Teenagers Have to Face

As I have said before, the teenagers in this generation are different from past generations. One way they are different are they question the “norm” and they are setting new standards. One area where they have set new standards is in the area of sexuality. Yes people still identify as gay, lesbian and bisexual, but we have more teenagers identifying as transgender, transsexual and pansexual. Pansexual is a person who is sexually attracted to the person’s personality their gender does not matter.In fact, some teenagers even identify as asexual. Additionally, we have more teenagers who do not identify as male or female. They identify as nonbinary. They feel they have male and female attributes therefore they feel the old labels are too narrow. As a result, they identify as nonbinary so they can be themselves. In fact, you may have noticed this change on demographic forms you need to complete. For gender more people are being given the option to put nonbinary or decline to state.

With demographic forms changing it is a sign that society is acknowledging what teenagers are feeling. We also see this in a recent Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are entitled to the same protection on their jobs as everyone else. The Supreme Court is acknowledging the change in society and this is correct. Homosexual marriage has been legal in our country for a few years and there are many laws addressing the rights of transgender and transexual individuals. These laws are acknowledging that regardless of sexual orientation, we are all human beings entitled to the same rights.However, we have Governors and even Judges on the Supreme Court who are causing people to doubt will the laws protecting those who are not heterosexual remain laws or will the Governors and the Supreme Court revoke these laws that protect everyone regardless of their sexuality or gender.

Some parents are questioning why so many teenagers are questioning their sexuality. The truth, in my opinion, is due to the pandemic and quarantine. There have always been teenagers who identified as LGBTQ+, but they were afraid to say anything due to the discrimination they would face from people. However, spending two years isolated from the world gave many of us time to think and evaluate our lives. Many people have decided to change careers, get divorced and make other changes in their lives after having the time the pandemic gave us to re-evaluate our lives. In my opinion, many LGBTQ+ teenagers decided they were tired of denying their real feelings and identities so the quarantine period gave many the opportunity to decide they were going to stop hiding and be themselves. Therefore, there are not more LGBTQ+ teenagers in the world today, there are simply more teenagers choosing to be themselves.

While there has been progress is it enough? As a psychotherapist who treats adolescents, I would say no. I still have parents who bring their teenager who identifies as homosexual or transgender into therapy. They do not bring the teen in for therapy to help them deal with the social pressures they are encountering at school and other places. No they bring their teen into me so I can fix them. Many parents still consider these feelings to be a teenage phase or that someone convinced their child to think and feel this way. Unfortunately, we are seeing this idea in some of our schools, where parents are trying to ban classic novels and make it a crime for teachers to mention anything that remotely refers to LBGT+ issues or people. One classic novel parents are trying to ban is the book, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” As I stated parents are also trying to restrict what is discussed in high school classes because they believe the school is try to convince their child to change their sexuality.Why would someone select a sexual preference that opens them up to discrimination and possibly being killed? When I explain to parents there is nothing to fix, many parents do not believe me. They tell me they will take their teen to someone who will fix them.

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

When parents still believe that their teens can be fixed and teens are still being harassed and bullied at school due to their sexual feelings, I do not think we have made a lot of progress. In addition to the harassment at school, we have seen a significant increase in the number of violent attacks against transgender teenagers (CDC, Trevor Project). Yes some progress has been made, but we still need to make more progress.No one should be killed just because they don’t identify as heterosexual.

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

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

It is 2023 and teenagers should not have to be dealing with these stereotypes at home and at school and there should be support services available. We need to eliminate the stigma associated with sexuality and mental health, we need to educate parents and schools about teenagers sexuality and we need more mental health services for teens. As psychotherapist we need to do a better job of educating the public that if a teenager tells us they are homosexual or transsexual or transgender, we cannot break confidentiality. Meaning we can tell no one not even there parents. We also need to educate parents this is not a disease that we cure. Sexuality is a normal part of being a human being and there are various forms of sexuality and they are all normal. However, when you have states creating laws eliminating transgender individuals of their basic rights as a person and people not concerned about the increasing violence against transgender teenagers, how is a LGBTQ+ teen going to have any hope of being able to live a happy life as themselves and not have to hide their entire lives. Again, think about those suicide rates and how many teens we lose every year because of a stereotype. This is ridiculous!!

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

Memorial Day Weekend and Teenagers

Memorial Day Weekend and Teenagers

This weekend is a big weekend. It’s Memorial Day weekend, it’s also the beginning of graduations celebrations and it’s the beginning of summer too. For many teenagers this means parties, hanging out with friends and staying out late. It’s a popular weekend to celebrate by drinking, smoking and some teenagers head for the beaches or swimming pools depending on the area they live in. Most people assume these are every day activities and everyone will have a good time.

However, this is not reality. Every year 5,000 teenagers are killed in motor vehicle accidents and 400,000 are injured (CDC statistics). These injures may range from cuts and bruises to someone being paralyzed by breaking their back. Concussions are very common and can have life long effects on someone. For example, Concussions can lead to Post Concussion Syndrome. As we learn more about concussions, we are learning that concussions can cause a number of issues for a person.

Also regarding swimming, there are 3,500 accidental drowning every year. And out of these drownings 1 out of 5 are teenagers (CDC statistics). This is the number who die. It doesn’t include brain injuries due to lack of oxygen to the brain or breaking a neck by diving. A broken neck can result in death, paralysis or being in a Halo Brace for 6 months. Again this is an activity we assume is safe and nothing would happen swimming in a friend’s pool. These injuries can occur in car accidents too.

With it being the Memorial Day weekend and the beginning of graduations and graduation parties, there are going to be a lot of parties and drinking. There are also going to be a lot of drunk driving accidents, drownings and accidental overdosing. You have no way to know if your teenager or your family might be one of the unlucky families this weekend. It could be your teen who is killed or it could be you.

You never know what is going to happen in life. Especially given everything that is happening all over the world. And if you look at the above statistics, you never know when or if something is going to happen.

Since you never know what may happen, take the opportunity to talk with your teenagers. When you talk to your teenagers talk to them using a casual tone. If it sounds like a lecture, your teenagers are probably going to ignore you. However, if you just approach them to have a calm conversation they are more likely to listen. Besides using a calm tone, remember to listen to what your teenagers have to say. Therefore, you want to have an open, two way conversation with your teenagers.

As I mentioned above, you never know what to expect when you are dealing with teenagers today. A mother experienced this fact when her son committed suicide. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for teenagers (CDC). After that she wrote the following poem to her son. She also encouraged all parents of teenagers to remember to say “I love you,” to your teenager. You may not get another chance.

I Love You

How could you?

They asked you,

How could you?

But you could not answer

As you were not here.

Why would you?

They asked you,

Why would you?

But their questions fell onto

The world’s deafest ears.

I loved you!

They told you,

I loved you.

But they told you too late,

Through their tears.

I’ll miss you,

They told you,

I’ll miss you.

And in death now

They hold you more dear.

The point is don’t take the risk. Since you never know what may happen and many teens feel that their parents don’t care, take the opportunity while you have it to express your feelings. Talk with them about your concerns and listen to them about how they are feeling and what is going on in their lives. Don’t spend the rest of your life regretting I never told him I loved him or wondering if that would have made the difference.

Also the ironic part to this weekend is it really a time to honor the men and women who have served in the military. To remember all those soldiers who have been killed, injured for life or coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or a Traumatic Brain Injury, so we can benefit from a democracy that allows us the freedom to live our lives how we want to live life. So we can go to church if we want and express our opinions without having to fear for our lives.

However, over time we have forgotten the meaning of today. Therefore, we do not value what we have and take chances with our lives we do not need to take. We also forget the veterans who are paralyzed or trying to cope with PTSD and reliving the war they were in daily. This also has a major impact on veteran’s families too. Another fact we forget.

May be if we take a few minutes to remember the true meaning of this weekend, we will value life more and be less likely to take senseless chances such as driving drunk. We may also remember the veterans who are still struggling with their injuries today and ensure they get the help they need and deserve. Many do not and as a result the suicide rate for veterans is very high compared to the general population. There are few treatment option for them too. A very sad fact when they provided us with the freedom we enjoy daily.

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist is Pleasant Hill who specializes in treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. He has over 25 years of working with teens. To find out more about his work, his private practice or to contact him visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Information for Parents about How to Handle the Benadryl Challenge

Information for Parents about How to Handle the Benadryl Challenge

It is getting close to the end of the school year and many teenagers are stressed about finals and completing final projects. From working with teenagers for over 25 years, I know many of them feel that they are entitled to a break from studying and a chance to have fun. Well Memorial Day weekend is coming up and many teenagers are planning on using the long weekend as a break and a chance to have fun. Teenagers can define how they have fun in a variety of ways. For some teens it’s online gaming with friends, maybe it’s hanging out at the mall and for some it’s drinking alcohol and using drugs. Teenagers have been finding ways to get high for years because they believe that it is fun. However, many teenagers are not aware that the ways they are choosing to get high can cause serious health risks even death. Teenagers were using and still use the cough medicine, Robitussin, because it contains DMX an provides an easy high. However, stores have made it difficult to buy Robitussin so it’s not as easy to use as it use to be. Well teenagers are now using another allergy medication. Teenagers are now using the medication Benadryl made by Johnson and Johnson.

Many parents are familiar with Benadryl. It is a common medication pediatricians prescribe to parents when their children have allergies. This medication is considered safe for young children and parents can purchase it over the counter. Additionally, many pediatricians suggest that parents use this medication when children are having difficulties sleeping. Besides being a safe allergy medication for young children, it also has a tendency to make children and adults drowsy. Most people fall asleep after taking Benadryl.

Now the app TikTok, which is very popular with teenagers, has away listed on the app so teens can use this medication to get high. It is called the Benadryl Challenge. People who use TikTok have issued a challenge to other TikTok users. The challenge is to take as many Benadryl pills as they can so they start hallucinating and experience a high. Therefore, we have teenagers across the country taking dozens of Benadryl pills. Teenagers are able to get Benadryl easy because it is sold over the counter and is considered a safe allergy medication by most people. Therefore, most parents won’t suspect anything if their teenager tells them they are taking Benadryl for their allergies. Additionally, since it is easy to get and a majority of teenagers feel that it is safe, a number of teens will probably be taking the challenge over Memorial Day weekend as a way to relax.

However this challenge posted on TikTok is dangerous and deadly. Johnson and Johnson has stated that Benadryl was not designed with the intention of taking dozens of Benadryl pills at a time. For example, a 15 year old girl, who was taking the Benadryl Challenge, has died from taking too many Benadryl pills. Additionally, three 15 year old teenage girls in Fort Worth, Texas were hospitalized because they took too many Benadryl pills. Johnson and Johnson has stated that if you take to much Benadryl it can cause seizures and serious heart problems. The company has the guidelines on the bottle regarding what is an appropriate dosage of Benadryl for different ages and weights. Johnson and Johnson is warning parents about this TikTok challenge so parents can address it with their teenagers.

Parents TikTok is very popular with teenagers, despite the fact that the government is banning its use on all federal cellphones. Teenagers are not concerned with the debate about Tim Tim being used by China to collect information and they are not thinking about how dangerous this challenge can be and that people can die. If your teenager uses TikTok discuss this challenge with them and watch to see if your teenager has any Benadryl. If they use TikTok and have Benadryl take the medication away from them. You may be saving their lives. Additionally, even if your teenager doesn’t use Tik Tok discuss the Benadryl Challenge with them. We all know teenagers talk about things that are going on in their lives. They definitely will be talking about this challenge even if they don’t use Tik Tok and many may decide to take the challenge.

As Memorial Day weekend approaches, take this time to discuss with your teenagers what they are planning to do for the weekend with friends. Also take the opportunity to have an open, honest, nonjudgmental discussion about issues such as drugs, alcohol and sexual activity. Remember a teenager’s brain is not fully developed until they are 25 years old. There are a lot of decisions they need to make and at times they are confused about the information they are hearing from various sources. They want you to see them as young adults and they don’t want to get into trouble for asking a question. Therefore, if you establish a pattern of nonjudgmental conversations, you will increase the likelihood that your teenager will talk to you if they are confused or concerned about something. With the number of substances available to teenagers in today’s world, you may be saving their lives if they feel comfortable talking with you about difficult issues.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or on Apple.

High School Graduations are Happy Events and Sad Too

High School Graduations are Happy Events and Sad Too

This year most high schools will be resuming their normal graduation ceremonies. Due to the success of the Coronavirus vaccines, the CDC has acknowledged that it would be safe to hold graduation ceremonies again. Last year some high schools had traditional ceremonies and this year most high schools will be having graduation ceremonies. This is different from the past few years when graduation ceremonies were canceled due to the Coronavirus. While schools are having graduation ceremonies, they will most likely be different for the graduates. It will be different because for most of the graduates their high school experiences have been different from the “traditional” high school experience. Many of these students had to attend high school part-time remotely and had typical high school events such as sports and the prom altered or canceled due to the Coronavirus.

As I stated above for many high school graduates, this year graduation ceremonies will be somewhat differently emotionally. However, High School graduation still marks a big accomplishment for teenagers. They have finished their basic education and they are ready to move on to begin their life plans as a young adult. For many students this means going to a four year college and earning a Bachelors degree. In addition, many graduates will be celebrating scholarships they received and awards they received for their academic or other accomplishments in high school. They also have friends and family there to join them in celebrating their accomplishments. Of course this is a happy day and it deserves to be celebrated.

While this is the stereotype we think about regarding graduation, it’s not the reality for every students. Some students have worked very hard and maintained very good grades, but they did not get accepted into the University of their choice or a college they can afford and maybe they did not receive any awards or scholarships. Many seniors may not be going to a four year university, they will need to attend the local two year junior college and try to transfer into a four year university. While there is nothing wrong attending a junior college, many students feel like they failed having to start at a junior college. Other students who have learning disabilities are just barely graduating and had to wait to the last minute to see if the past all of their classes. Some did not pass and they have to go to summer school so they may be allowed to participate in the ceremony but they are not finished yet. These students do not get to live the stereotype and often feel embarrassed and ashamed when they compare themselves to the other students in their graduating class.

I had also mentioned celebrating with family and friends. For some students this can be very difficult. If their parents had a hostile divorce, the divorce may be being dragged into the graduation. Instead of a celebration, the parents may be making the graduation a civil war. The graduate may be forced to take sides in regards to who they can invite to the ceremony. Do they invite mom’s side or dad’s side? This can change a happy event into a very stressful event the graduate does not want to be involved in. For some graduates a mother or father has passed away and graduation day is another reminder that this very special person is no longer physically present. Therefore, graduation may be a stressful or sad day.

Another aspect that is overlooked is graduation is an ending. It marks the end of a teenager’s high school experience. Many teens have been very involved with their school and have developed close relationships with teachers and school staff and they have developed very close friendships with their classmates. Graduation marks an end to their high school life. They need to say goodbye to these people and move on to a school they do not know and may not know anyone else who is attending their college. I remember one high school secretary’s comment when she looked at the senior class, “I have never seen so many kids look so happy and sad at the same time”.

In addition to saying goodbye to their high school family, graduates need to say goodbye to their families. If they are going away to school, they will no longer living with their parents or siblings. While they may complain about their families, they will miss them too. Mom and Dad will miss their graduated too. So while traditionally we tend to only focus on the positive, which is not uncommon for our society, we also need to acknowledge that graduation marks an ending too. An ending to their high school family, friends they have created and to their high school activities along with a change in the graduates life. They no longer are a high school kid. They are a college student and a young adult and need to start their lives all over. This will have happy moments and sad one too. It’s important to acknowledge both.

While high school students will be starting their lives over, I have included a small segment of a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. that is important for high school graduates to hear. It empathizes that you need to define yourself, don’t let others try to decide who are going to be in life https://www.facebook.com/goalcast/videos/1294330473977473?s=1391497228&v=e&sfns=mo. It’s important that we try to encourage this idea in the high school graduates as they leave high school and start to create their lives as an adult in the world.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children and adolescents. He has appeared on television and radio shows and is considered an expert in adolescent psychology. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com, www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

The American Mental Health Crisis

The American Mental Health Crisis

The United States is facing a mental health crisis. We are facing a crisis in the number of people dealing with a mental health issues and who need psychotherapy. We are noticing this crisis especially in children and teenagers. Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, suicide and drug overdoses are at epidemic rates in teenagers (CDC). Additionally, the CDC reported that the number of teenagers killed by guns increased by 30% between 2019 and 2020. Additionally, the CDC reported that 45,000 people under the age of 19 years died as a result of a gun. Imagine how many parents, other siblings, friends and first responders are dealing with PTSD, anxiety and depression due to these deaths. Additionally, the CDC reported that between 2019 and 2021, the percentage of high school teens experiencing persistent feelings of hopelessness and sadness increased from 37% to 42%, continuing a decade-long trend of declining mental health among young people. For LBGT+ teens and minority teens the rate is as high as 57%. Currently for teenagers and children depression, anxiety, PTSD and drug overdoses are at epidemic rates and the number one cause of death for teenagers are guns and the second leading cause of death is suicide. When we look at the nation as a whole 29% of people reported experiencing depression in 2020 which is a 10% increase since 2015 (CDC).

While we see there are many people who need psychotherapy, there are not enough therapists to meet the current need. According to the APA, 56% of Americans or 6 out of 10 people are seeking psychotherapy. Our country did not have enough psychotherapist prior to the pandemic, but the need has significantly increased since the pandemic. In fact, since the pandemic started 80 percent psychotherapists reported seeing an increase of people seeking psychotherapy. The largest increase of people seeking therapy was in children aged 13-17 years old. There was a 46% increase in this age group (APA). Additionally, many psychotherapist reported receiving calls from at least 15 new patients per day. Most psychotherapist stated that they could not keep up with the demand for psychotherapy and were unable to treat many of the new patients calling their offices even using wait lists. While the pandemic is declining, there still is a significant need for psychotherapy. Many people are still struggling with anxiety and trauma conditions. Additionally, now people are trying to resume their daily activities prior to the pandemic. Many people are finding it difficult to resume their routines prior to the pandemic and many are having difficulties getting out of bed (APA).

People who live in major cities are having and had easier times finding psychotherapists because they are more available in large cities. However, people living in rural areas were and still are having significant difficulties finding psychotherapists because of their location and the lack of psychotherapists in rural areas. Many of these people are having to resort to telemedicine for psychotherapy. However, the lack of the internet in rural areas is making even telemedicine difficult for some patients.

What happens to people who cannot get psychotherapy? For children and teenagers they may develop life long anxiety or depression disorders. They may develop significant difficulties leaving their homes, they can become antisocial and they can become dependent on drugs or alcohol. These are a few issues that may develop. We do not know who will develop what symptoms or conditions for sure. However, research strongly indicates that children and adolescents who do not receive psychotherapy when symptoms first occur are more likely to develop mental health disorders as adults (APA, CDC). Adults who do not receive therapy are more likely to struggle with mental health disorders for the rest of their lives. Also they are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope and often live isolated lives (APA, CDC).

Why is this happening in the United States? The primary reason is because we do not place a high priority on mental health. Another reason is that we do not place a high priority on those studying to be mental health professionals. For example, besides my Bachelor’s degree, I have a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology and my Doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology and I am certified to treat anger management, military and their families and first responders. I also took the same neurology course as medical students and worked over 5,000 hours as an intern. However, in order to hospitalize a patient I have to call the police and have them decide if someone is suicidal despite all of my training. Mental health professionals are not allowed to treat patients as we feel is necessary. Instead we need to follow a patient’s insurance guidelines. Finally, we are not paid the same as other professionals with the amount of education and experience that we have acquired. This is all due to a negative stereotype about mental health. Many people feel it’s not real and people who are depressed are faking. However, as we do more and more research we are finding a strong link between physical and mental health. A fact we really need to pay attention to.

The statistics that I quoted above were all getting worse over time. Also the mental health issues are increasing at a significantly fast rate. Before we were referring to rates increasing over 10 years, now we are looking at two years. Look at our environment in the United States. Suicide is the second leading cause of death, we are handing out narcon because teenagers are over dosing at an alarming rate. We have at least one mass shooting a day. Ethnic minorities and LGBT+ adults and adolescents have to be careful where they go and what they are doing because violence against them is increasing significantly. We are also seeing a significant increase in antisemitism. The economy is uncertain and inflation is on the rise. Many teenagers are afraid they won’t be able to afford a home. Many teenagers are afraid that they won’t live until 18 and they will be shot a school.

We are living in a very stressful world and it doesn’t not seem like we are going to change our society any time soon. We still have people who believe Trump won the 2020 election and that the attack on the Capital Building was a peaceful protest. These people choose to ignore how many police officers were killed that day and have committed suicide due to the trauma of that day. Additionally, when they were trying to hang the Vice President, how can you call that a peaceful protest? With all of this going on we are going to need more psychotherapists so children and teenagers do not have to wait months for the psychotherapy treatment they desperately need. We also need to treat psychotherapists with the respect they deserve and make insurance companies pay psychotherapists a fair rate. Otherwise, with the rate of psychotherapists retiring because they are at retirement age and placing the pressure on the remaining psychotherapists to treat everyone who needs therapy, you will have psychotherapists burning out at tremendous rates. It seriously time for us to take a step back and re-evaluate our mental health system, our attitudes regarding mental health and how we are going to save our mental health system and the mental health of our Country.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3

Teenagers need education and training before using social media

Teenagers need education and training before using social media

Many parents have been worried about how social media impacts their teenagers. We know social media is used to bully kids 24 hours a day and that it has increased depression rates and caused changes in teenagers brains.

I have recommended that parents educate their teenagers about the internet and cellphones for a long time. They can get into a lot of trouble. The APA is now making recommendations for teenagers

Parents the APA recommends that teens receive education and training before they use social media. Given the bullying and depression rate in teens this is an important recommendation for parents https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/09/health/social-media-teens-apa-recommendations-wellness/index.html

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com

To Search or not Search A Teenager’s Bedroom

To Search or not Search A Teenager’s Bedroom

Teenagers have always spent a great deal of time in their bedroom. Now, due to computers, many teenagers spend even more time in their rooms gaming with their friends especially since the pandemic. However, many parents worry about what else their teenager may be doing in their room, such as vaping or drinking alcohol. As a result, many parents ask me, if is it appropriate if they search their teenager’s bedroom. Besides parents worrying about what their teenager maybe doing in their rooms, parents are frustrated that their teenagers bed rooms are a complete mess. The question about searching a teenager’s bedroom has been occurring long before the pandemic. However, since the pandemic and the quarantine, I have been hearing the question more often. While I understand parents concerns, we need to remember that teenagers do need their privacy. Their ability to have privacy has been significantly reduced due to the pandemic and quarantine. So parents feel in order to be a responsible parent they need to look at their teenager’s bedroom, however, developmentally teenagers need privacy, what to do? This is not an easy issue so let’s deal with this issue.

Parents it is very important to remember to pick and choose your battles. There are a lot of issues you will need to discuss with your teenager. Therefore, it is important to ask yourself, is it worth an argument? Teenagers are at a point in their lives where they do need their privacy. They are also at a point where they are trying to find their own identity. Their bedroom is a place they use for part of this process. Additionally, many teenagers, especially with the Coronavirus and school shootings, feel they have no control over anything. For many teenagers they feel a sense of control in their bedrooms. They find this sense calming and reassuring. Therefore, it’s important to remember these issues and allow teenagers some additional time in their bedrooms. Also you want your teenager to learn responsibility.

My recommendation is not to make an issue of their bedroom. During this post pandemic period when we are readjusting our lives and schedules, you and your teenager will become stressed over numerous issues. Also in the long run you will have more important issues such as school, how late your teen wants to stay out, where they want to go and the common issues of alcohol, drugs and sexual activity. Therefore, their bedroom really is a minor issue. In my opinion it is not worth the fight. Arguing about their bedroom, which they view as their private space, can lead to bigger problems with some of the other issues I listed above. During this pandemic period, teenagers need a private space so they can take mental breaks. Also remember these are only some of the issues you will need to set guidelines and expectations about your teenager’s behavior after the quarantine. This is why I strongly recommend leaving the bedroom alone.

Many parents ask me, “then I should just let them live in a junk yard?” The answer is yes. However, there are some guidelines I do set with teenagers. I tell them that Mom and Dad are not going to clean their room as long as they comply with the following guidelines:

1. The bedroom door must be able to be closed so no one else has to look at the mess.

2. People can walk by the room without smelling anything such as rotting food.

3. There are no ants or bugs going into or coming out of the room.

4. They do not keep dishes in their room so Mom has dishes when she needs them.

5. They are responsible for getting their clothes out of the room and cleaned. They are also responsible for putting away their laundry.

If they do not follow these guidelines, then they are giving Mom and Dad permission to go in and clean the room as they see fit. I ask the teenager and parents to both agree to these guidelines. I also recommend writing down the guidelines. Therefore, two months from now if someone remembers the agreement differently, you have a document you can refer back to which states what everyone agreed to.

Therefore, I recommend to parents if their teenager can agree to these guidelines, let them live in a junkyard. If they forget to get their clothes to the washer then they will be the one wearing dirty clothes. This is helping them to learn responsibility. It also gives them a sense of independence which they need.

I remind teenagers, if you do not want Mom and Dad cleaning their room then they need to abide by the guidelines. I also remind them it is their responsibility to get their clothes to the washer. If they don’t then they will be wearing dirty clothes to school. I also remind them that they cannot stay home from school because they do not have any clean clothes. I am basically telling the teenager that their parents and I feel they are responsible enough to take care of their room. This again helps the teen feel more mature and understand that they have to start assuming more responsibility for theirselves.

Now for the next issue, searching your teenager’s room. I do not think it is something parents should do on a regular basis just because their child is a teenager. As parents you have a responsibility to make sure you are raising a responsible young adult and if they need help, you have an obligation to provide them with the help they need. Therefore, if you have valid reasons to believe your teenager is using drugs or alcohol on a regular basis, then yes search the room. A valid reason would be noticing the smell of marijuana on their clothes or coming from their room. Finding marijuana or alcohol bottles in their backpack or car that they use. Other signs could be changes in their behavior and grades that are associated with drug use. However, before searching the room, I would recommend when your child enters middle school that you discuss with your child about the conditions which would make you search their room. If you feel it is necessary, tell your teen that you will be searching their room. Obviously, you do not tell them a week a head of time so they can hide things. I suggest you calmly inform them when they are home that you will be starting to search their room in a few minutes. It is important you explain the reasons why you are searching their room.

Parents may be concerned about an argument. This may start an argument, but this argument is worth it. Remind your teen about the agreement the two of you had made about searching their room. If you feel your teenager is not mature enough to abide by the agreement and is likely to start a physical fight, then you do not tell them and search it when they are out of the house. Remember you are only searching the room if you feel your teen is having a serious problem and need professional help. As a parent, it is your responsibility to get them help when they need it. You will want to remember this fact because your teenager may be very angry with you. However, it is better to have an angry teenager than a dead teenager. Many of the drugs teens are using today can kill someone very quickly and teenagers are not usually aware of all the risks.

Therefore, in general respect the privacy of your teenager’s bedroom, however, if you notice signs that indicate your teen is having difficulties then search the room.

As for the last issue that become more apparent during the pandemic is parents feel teenagers spend too much time in their bedroom. They hear them staying up late, sleeping until noon and the rest of the time playing games on their laptops and talking with friends using the games. Yes this can be an issue. The best approach is to discuss this issue prior to summer. However, if you did not, it is not too late. Let your teen know you need to talk to them about their room. Do not attack telling them they are spending too much time in their room. They will simply stop listening and the discussion is over. Before talking to them think about what and why you are concerned about the time in their room. One major reason hopefully is you want the opportunity to spend some time with them. Explain your concerns and some possible solutions you have developed. At this point ask your teen how they feel and do they have any solutions. If you have a calm, caring conversation and you are willing to consider all options, you should be able to resolve the issue. Most teens want to hear that their parents care and want to spend time with them. They tend not to admit to these feeling but they are their. Also teens do better when they feel you have listened to their ideas and are not just telling them what to do.

Remember the pandemic is stressful and scary for everyone. This is not a time you want to be arguing daily with your teenagers. If we all remember we are all in the same situation and decide to work together, we can get through this quarantine together.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 25 years experience as a psychotherapist who teats teenagers and children. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino 3.

Mother’s Day can be Difficult

Mother’s Day can be Difficult

Many people assume Mother’s Day is a happy day for people because they can honor their mother. However, for many people Mother’s Day is not a happy day. There are many people who grew up without a mother. Their mother may have died when they were a child due to cancer or the Coronavirus, they may have grown up in foster care going from home to home, their parents may have divorced and their mother was not involved in their lives or maybe they were adopted or they may have been raised by a grandmother or even a father who tried to be both mother and father. These are just a few reasons why someone may have grown up or is currently living without a mother figure. As a result, Mother’s Day can bring up a number of different feelings for these people. They may feel sad or the may feel very angry to name a few emotions. For an idea how widespread this issue is in our country, 1,000,000 Americans died due to the coronavirus. Many of those who died were mothers, grandmothers or mother figures for someone. Therefore, we have over 1,000,000 Americans who are dealing with Mother’s Day without a mother they can physically spend the day with and celebrate. If you think about, there are a lot of people and many of them are small children who are having difficulties understanding why their mother was taken away or in some cases abandoned them. Therefore, we need to be aware that not everyone will be feeling happy on Mother’s Day.

In addition to the Coronavirus, there are other reasons that Mothers Day maybe difficult for people and children. For some people, as I stated above, their mother may have died when they were children. For some people their mother may have left them when they were children and they had to live in foster care. For others, their parents separated and their father raised them and they rarely or maybe never saw their mother. Some people may have had an argument with their mother at some point in their lives and they no longer speak to each other. Finally, many people have lost their mothers, grandmothers and aunts over the year due to cancer, heart attacks and other diseases. Therefore, Mother’s Day may not be a happy day. Also for children who were raised in foster care all their lives, today typically is a very difficult day.

While this may not be a happy day for adults, it also can be a very difficult day for children too. Some children may be dealing with the recent death of their mother. As I stated above, some children may have a mother who died from the Coronavirus or cancer. Other mothers may have left the family due to a drug problem and are not involved with the family any longer. Seeing television commercials or having other family members tell them that it still can be a good day can be difficult for them. Also if their school is making Mother’s Day gifts it can be especially difficult for children whose mothers have died or left the family. Often children whose mother has died or left, act out at school and home when their class is making Mother’s Day gifts.

I work with many of these children, I described above, in psychotherapy. Many don’t express their feeling, but they tend to deal with the emotional pain by acting out. They may be very oppositional during the week and on Mother’s Day as away to express their feelings. Other children may isolate themselves and not want to be involved with anyone or anything having to do with Mother’s Day. If you have a child who has a difficult or No relationship with their mother, you may want to be aware to how they act as it’s getting closer to Mothers Day.

I have had parents ask me how they should handle Mother’s Day when a parent has passed away or left the family. They understand that it is a difficult day, but they do not know what to do in order to help their children.

My recommendation is let the child cope with the day in the way they need to. Try not to make an issue about the day. The other thing I recommend to a parent is to talk to their child. Acknowledge that Mother’s Day may be difficult but it is just one day. They may have a rough day today but tomorrow is another day. It is important that you understand that Mother’s Day is difficult for them and you understand if they are upset or don’t want to do anything. I also recommend to a parent, when a parent has passed away, to ask the child if there is anything they may want to do to remember their mother. A child may want to release a ballon with a note, they may want to visit the cemetery or they may want to do something for an aunt or another female role model in their life. If they do have an idea, go with what they want to do. If they don’t have an idea, let them know that is okay. If they come up with an idea then you can do it. If they do not have an idea, then remind them it’s just one day that you all need to get through and tomorrow will be better.

This approach can help children whose mother has left the family too. Many children may believe their mother will return one day. Confronting this belief around Mother’s Day is not the time to confront it. However, if they have an idea regarding how they want to honor their mother, allow them to do it.

Hopefully this will help parents understand the issues their children may be dealing with on Mother’s Day and make it easier for everyone.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Is Your Teenager Emotionally Ready for College?

Is Your Teenager Emotionally Ready for College?

Parents worry about their teenagers starting High School, however, they also worry a great deal about their teen going off to college. When a teen starts high school a parent can still watch what is going on and help out if they feel they need to. However, with college their teenager is on their own. Their child must learn how to handle their class schedule, make new friends and handle everyday routines such as laundry and getting food. A parent cannot just step in and help. Additionally, parents worry about their child entering the adult world with issues such as alcohol, drugs and sex and worrying about is their teenager mature enough to handle everything that goes along with college.

Kathryn O’keefe, of Teen Magazine, spoke to an emergency room physician and asked him about are teenagers emotionally mature enough to handle everything associated with college. Here is what the emergency room physician had to say about teenagers being mature enough to handle going away to college in today’s world.

As an emergency room physician, Dr. Louis M. Profeta has seen many college students over his career. Having spent over 25 years in the ER, he’s performed rape exams, pumped veins full of Narcan in response to drug overdoses, and worst of all, looked at the clock and pronounced time of death.

Taking His Message Straight to the Source

After too many days spent breaking horrible news to parents, Profeta decided to go to the source. He visits college campuses that are “brave enough to have him” and answers uncomfortable questions about drugs and alcohol, sexual assault, hazing, and a whole host of complex topics. He’s also written several widely-shared essays, including, “A Very Dangerous Place for a Child is College.”

When he speaks to college students he favors an open and honest approach. He tells them he’s there as a doctor and a father who almost lost a child to cancer. He tells them that he wants them to live a long life and experience the joy of holding their own child in their arms one day. In return, the students are candid with him.

It was the questions he got when adults were out of the room that made him feel many of these students have absolutely no business leaving home and going away to college. It’s not a big surprise that the questions changed because teenagers want to look mature to their parents. Therefore, most college students rarely ask their parents or other adults about these issues because they want to appear mature to everyone. I have seen this occur many times when I’m working with college or high school students.

Here’s a sampling of what Profeta has heard:

• “Can you really soak a tampon in alcohol and get drunk?”

• “Is cough syrup OK to mix with vodka?”

• “Can’t you just strap a backpack to them to keep them from rolling over so they don’t choke on their own vomit?”

• “What if you know your roommate is using heroin … should I tell their parents?”

• “How do I tell if the ‘bars’ I bought online are not fentanyl?”

Based on his experiences, this ER doctor has the following thoughts for parents as they contemplate their children’s futures.

Dr. Profeta’s Advice About College Readiness:

1. College is not a place for children — it’s for young adults.

Profeta is very clear about what college is and is not. First and foremost, he notes that college is for men and women, not children. It’s a place to explore career options, expose oneself to diversity of thought. It’s a place to hone social and life skills, and make contacts that might translate into future business opportunities, friendships, or life partnerships.

College is not summer camp, and it is NOT a surrogate parent. Profeta suggests the early discussions around college are all wrong. Instead of worrying about their child’s aptitude for college, parents should step back and consider, “Is my child emotionally and mentally ready to go away to college?” This is a fact that I have found many parents do not address or are afraid to address because of the answer they may need to face.

Remember the question from a college student about “bars” containing fentanyl? Profeta explained that “bars” are slang for bar-shaped Xanax, a prescription drug used to treat anxiety. When students attempt to purchase bars online or on the street, they may end up with drugs that contain fentanyl, a cheaper ingredient that also happens to be an opioid 50 times stronger than heroin. Ingesting such drugs can lead to convulsions, respiratory arrest, and fatal overdose—Profeta has seen it all. In fact, teenagers dying due to fentanyl increased by 23% in 2022 and in 9 out of 10 teenage deaths due to a drug overdose, fentanyl was involved (CDC). Fentanyl comes in many forms and many teenagers and college students are not aware how deadly it can be. Many teenagers die the first time they try fentanyl (CDC).

2. Maturity will serve college students more than a high SAT score.

Thankfully, not every emergency room visit ends with horrible news. But Profeta has another concern regarding his patients. He’s seen college-age patients who won’t look him in the eye and who defer to their parents to answer questions about their health. He’s concerned about some college students’ level of maturity and ability to be self-sufficient in a place that requires both.

“Give me one year of age over a hundred extra points on the SAT,” says Profeta, suggesting parents of teens ask themselves the following questions:

1. Does my child have the strength of character to say no?

2. Are they independent—really?

3. Would I feel comfortable leaving my house and letting them fend for themselves?

4. Could I go weeks without talking to them, secure in the knowledge they are fine?

If the answer to these questions is no, Profeta suggests postponing going away to college. And if a child does enroll and then reaches out to their parents admitting they weren’t ready, welcome them home.

Profeta also advises that parents talk to their children about good decision-making and the need for more self-sufficiency from a place of love. He tells college students the most devastating thing that could happen to their parents is the loss of a child. He should know—he’s had to deliver that heart-breaking news hundreds of times.

3. There is nothing wrong with taking a longer path to college.

For those students who aren’t ready for the traditional residential college experience right out of high school, Profeta advocates an arrays of alternatives. Get a job waiting tables or doing construction. Take classes locally. Engage in community service or environmental activism. The list goes on. I have had many teenagers start college at a junior college. After two years at the junior college, a majority of teenagers are more responsible, know what they want to study and are aware of the issues they will face at a four year college.

He adds this important reassurance for parents who are convinced that their child needs more education to succeed. “College will still be there. It is not a race to adulthood.” He knows about the comparison game among parents but he suggests ignoring it, understanding there are many paths to success.

The one path he doesn’t recommend taking. Don’t toss an immature student into an environment with a thousand temptations you never knew existed. There’s just too much at stake.

The best path to success is allowing your teenager to be who they are and to follow the path that they are best suited for in life. If it means a four year college great, if it means a trade school that is great too. We need to help teenagers redefine “success.” People do not need a fancy title and to make a lot of money to be successful. They need to be able to contribute to society in a responsible manner and to be happy with their work and lives. This is true success. Working at a job you hate because you get paid a lot of money that you don’t have time to enjoy because you are working is not successful. It sounds more like a prison term. Help your child to be proud enough to live a life that will make them happy. After all, isn’t that your job as their parent?

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience working with children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work please visit his website site www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.