Loneliness Increases during The Holidays not Suicide

Loneliness Increases during The Holidays not Suicide

The Holiday Season is here and many people assume the Holidays and depression go together. In addition to assuming the Holidays and depression go together, people assume that suicide rates increase during this time of year. Well according to the statistics from the CDC, suicide rates actually drop during the Holiday Season. The study by the CDC is not sure why they drop but they do. May be they drop because during this time of year we pay more attention to depression and suicide. There are a number of ads and social media posts where people can call if they feel suicidal. In addition, now social media sites are offering assistance to teenagers and people who are feeling suicidal. Therefore, there definitely is more focus on people feeling suicidal than other times of the year. For example, we tend to forget about suicide during the summer and focus on the sun and swimming.

What the CDC did find is that loneliness increases during this time of year. During the Holidays there are songs and plenty of television shows regarding getting together with family and friends. You also have people talking about all the Holiday parties that they have to go to. Furthermore, you hear people talking about how well their lives are going. However, this is not the case for everyone.

If you are a military family, a loved one may be stationed overseas and won’t be home for the Holidays. Also during the year some close friends or loved ones may have died and you are grieving their death. We are still dealing with the pandemic and we still have thousands of people dying daily due to the Coronavirus. Since the pandemic started in 2019, over 700,000 Americans have died. Therefore, there are a lot of people in our Country grieving and feeling lonely due to a loved one dying from the Coronavirus. Additionally during the Holidays is a time when many people are talking about family and friends that have died and they remember the people they have lost over the years. The first Holiday Season without a close loved one or friend can be very difficult. You may not feeling like celebrating or you may have to change Holiday traditions which can make some one feel sad and lonely. However, it may be necessary so you can tolerate the Holidays.

Another common difficulty during this time of year is money. Many people feel like they need to spend a great deal of money to show love. They may just be able to pay their monthly bills and cannot afford Holiday gifts. Why do we need to spend money to show that we care? What if you write a letter to someone telling them how important they are to you and how much you appreciate them. Isn’t that the real purpose of the Holiday Season? Isn’t this the time of year we take to tell people in our lives how much we appreciate them. Also it’s an opportunity to tell people we tend to ignore, people sleeping on the street or who are dealing with mental illness that they are important too? Everyone is important and should be included. Also instead of spending a lot of money, you can donate your time so someone who is struggling financially or emotionally has an easier time.

As a psychotherapist, I have seen that people dealing with mental illness feel lonely and out of place during this time of year. They don’t often feel the joy of the season. Sometimes they struggle just to make it through the day. Also mental illness is something we don’t discuss as a society. We tend to act like it doesn’t exist so we ignore the issue. Also since it is an uncomfortable issue for many people because they often feeling ashamed and embarrassment about family members who are mentally ill. As a result, they tend to ignore their family members and friends who struggle with mental illness because it makes them feel awkward. This makes it less likely for people dealing with family members or friends who have a mental illness to talk about it with others or seek help professional about how to cope with the holidays. This can make people feel lonely and isolated especially during this time of year.

We seldom acknowledge the daily struggle that people and families dealing with mental illness go through on a daily basis. It is important to acknowledge that mental illness is not a weakness it is a medical condition. There is no reason to look down on someone with mental illness. We offer encouragement and support to people with cancer, diabetes and chronic health conditions, why can’t we do the same for people with mental illness?

I have included a link to a video where a teenager discusses dealing with depression https://youtu.be/dAzqGcOLXBs. Listen to what he has to say and answer the question, does he deserve to be looked down upon because he is depressed?

Also remember the Holidays can be a lonely time for people. So if you see someone who looks like they are having a hard time or know someone who is struggling during this season, try to help. Do something kind for them. Another thing to remember, being kind to people should be a year round activity for all of us. We should not just be kind during the Holidays. If we try to be kind all year, we may be able to decrease how many people feel lonely and depressed. Also if we are kind and offering support year round may be we can eliminate the negative stereotype associated with mental health.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience. He specializes in treating depression and suicide especially depressed and suicidal children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino visit his websites at www.RubinoCounseling.com, www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3

Supporting A Teenager with An Eating Disorder during the Holidays

Supporting A Teenager with An Eating Disorder during the Holidays

Thanksgiving is this week which means Christmas, Hanukkah and other holidays are around the corner. The Holiday Season can be difficult for many people for various reasons. The Holidays can exacerbate family disagreements, someone may be grieving the loss of a loved one or some people are barely surviving financially and have no idea how they can afford gifts for their children. Another major stressor during the Holidays is food. This year due to the economy many families are having difficulties affording food. For others, food is the enemy and they spend most of their days trying to manage what they eat and trying not to draw the attention of others to their eating habits.

During the Holiday Season there are a number of Holiday parties and family dinners. They tend to all revolve around food. Many people are concerned how they will survive the Holidays without gaining a lot of weight with all the food they will be eating. However, if you have an eating disorder, the Holidays can pose a different problem. How do you survive the parties and dinners without drawing attention to yourself because you do not want to eat? What do you do if people are telling you to eat? For someone with an eating disorder, which could be anorexia or overeating, the Holiday Season can be a very stressful time. How will you survive without people noticing you have an eating disorder or if they know, how do you survive without lectures and feeling like everyone is watching what you do or don’t eat?

Dr. Pooky Knightsmen has created a video dealing with how to cope with the Holidays if you have an eating disorder. She offers some very good strategies to help a person cope with the Holidays and food. Also if you have a loved one or close friend with an eating disorder, I would strongly recommend you watch it too. This will help you understand what your loved one is dealing with during the Holidays and provide you with ways that you can help make the Holidays less stressful for your loved one with an eating disorder. Here is the link to the video. Eating Disorders: Managing the festive period https://youtu.be/L4nCW2NEoUg via @YouTube.

Most people are dealing with stress during the holidays. However, someone with an eating disorder has their stress increase significantly because so many holiday activities revolve around food. A person with an eating disorder spends a majority of their time covering up the fact that they have an eating problem. This is significantly harder to do during the Holidays. Therefore, you may notice that their behavior changes and you don’t understand why. Please watch the video above to understand why and who to help. Confronting the person and forcing them to eat is the worse thing you can do. Also dropping comments about eating disorders is not helpful either. Again, the video above will provide you with ideas about how to be supportive. Eating disorders can be very complex and the person is probably dealing with a great deal of stress. Therefore, try to be supportive, don’t add to their stress and shame.

Remember, the Holidays are about spending time with family and friends not about food. If we remember the Holidays are a time to show people you care and bring people together, people with eating disorders do not have to live in fear of the Holidays.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Should I Give My Teen, A Smartphone as a Holiday Gift?

Should I Give My Teen, A Smartphone as a Holiday Gift?

It is the Holiday Season and many middle school students will be asking for their first Smartphone and many high school students will be asking for the newest smartphones available such as the IPhone 13. In today’s society many people including teenagers view cell phones as a necessity of life. I have seen teenagers argue with their parents how they could not function at school or in life without their cellphones. In fact, some teenagers become physically violent, if you take their cellphone. Most teenagers also say they need Smatphones, a regular cellphone will not work. However, cellphones are a privilege not a necessity. We need to remember that fact. Yes for some parents it is a tool they use to keep in contact with their child and for their child to use if they feel they are in danger. However a regular cellphone will do this it doesn’t have to be an IPhone 13. However, since we are dealing with what I call the IPhone generation, most teenagers will not be satisfied and will feel cheated unless they have the latest version of the Smartphone on the market.

During the Holidays many elementary, middle school and high school students will be asking to upgrade their phones too. As I stated above, they feel they need the latest version otherwise they cannot function successfully in their lives. Therefore, many children will be asking for the IPhone 13 for example. Most children and teenagers who are asking for these expensive phones usually never consider the price. They believe they are entitled to have the latest cellphone. They also do not need a powerful smartphone, they are not running a business. Additionally, Smartphones provide numerous ways for teenagers to get into trouble. Look at how many adults get into trouble with Smartphones and how they use them.

Many people have forgotten that cellphones are privileges not necessities especially for teens and children in fifth grade or in Middle School. They have grown up with everyone having a cellphone so they don’t see it as a privilege any more. This is a common argument I encounter between children and parents. Also it is common for children and teenagers to use guilt with their parents in order to get the phones they want. They tell their parents if they cared, they would buy them the smartphone they need and want. Remember being a parent is not a popularity contest. Additionally, if their parents are divorced, they often will play their parents against each other as away to get the cellphone they want. Furthermore, many teenagers do not consider how much these phones cost. Additionally, the amount of money you spend on gifts for your child or teenager has no correlation with your love for your children or teenagers. As a parent you need to do what you feel is best for your child.

Parents if you stop and think about it, why does an 11 year old child need an IPhone 13? They do not need to track mileage or expense accounts nor do they need to remember their own doctor appointments. There is really no reason they need a Smartphone. Also if you do get them one, they do not need it with them all the time. It is important to set limits where and when they use their phones. Why do they need their cellphone when they go to bed? Most teens who take their cellphones to bed will typically spend hours texting friends or watching YouTube. When morning comes, they are too tired to get up because they were awake until 3am playing with their phone.

Smartphones are an area where technology has moved faster than our ethics. If you think about it, IPhones and Smartphones were not around in the year 2000. Now everyone including a majority of children in fifth grade and teens have an IPhone or Smartphone. In my opinion an adolescent does not need a cellphone until they enter Middle School and at that point all they need is a basic cellphone. They need a basic phone so they can check-in with you if their plans change or if they feel they are in need of help.

As I stated above, there is no reason that a teenager really needs a Smartphone. They are not taking care of a family nor are they running a business. Therefore, a basic cellphone should be adequate for what they need it for. I understand that given the way our society has changed some parents may find that it is helpful to their family if a child in middle school has a cellphone. This is a decision that every parent needs to make based on their family’s situation.

The parent needs to make this decision, not let the child guilt them into buying them a cell phone. If you are divorced and have children, this may be extremely difficult, but the decision about if your child gets a cellphone or not, should be a joint decision by both parents and a decision you both agree on. One parent should not buy a cellphone without consulting the other parent and they should not use it as a weapon in the divorce.

If you decide that your middle school child is mature enough for a cellphone, you should discuss the rules and guidelines about using the phone prior to getting a phone. Some things to discuss are who they give their cell number to, not texting during class and not taking it into the bedroom at night so they can text most of the night. As I stated, many kids will text with their friends until 2 or 3 am and then be too tired for school the next day.

Also there should be a discussion about sharing photos. You never know what someone will do with a photo if they get mad with you. Also there needs to be a discussion about the law. It is not uncommon for teens to send their boyfriend/girlfriend nude photos of themselves. What they don’t understand is they are under the age of 18 years old. Therefore, if they have a nude picture of their 15 year old girlfriend, they can be charged with possession of child pornography. Many may say this won’t happen to me, but I have had a number of teens in psychotherapy because they were charged with having child pornography. Also you need to remember, once those pictures are out on the internet, they are out there forever. There also needs to be a discussion about on-line perpetrators too. There are many pedophiles on line trying to lure unsuspecting teens into their plans. Your children need to understand this is a real risk and what to watch for.

Finally, it should be made clear that the phone does not belong to the child — the phone belongs to you the parent. Yes you are giving them the phone to use, but it still belongs to you. If you ask for it back, then the child hands it over no questions asked. Also if you feel they are using their phone in an inappropriate manner, all you need to do is call your cellphone carrier and request that their phone line be suspended. It cost you nothing and it is an easy way to control the phone. When you feel that your child has earned the right to have the cellphone back all you do is call your carrier to reinstate that phone line.

It is very important that you and your teen have an agreement about conditions regarding their cellphone use. All of these conditions and agreements should be written down in an agreement that you sign and the child signs. You each get a copy of the agreement and one copy is posted on the refrigerator. If there are any disputes about a rule, you simply go back to the agreement and you follow what is written. A written agreement is very important because I have seen parents have conversations, make agreements and then 6 months later there is a disagreement and everyone’s memory is slightly different so you have a big fight.

Also given how many adults have gotten into trouble with their Smartphones, if you are going to allow your child to use any kind of cellphone you must discuss the pros and cons so the child or teen understands the responsibility they are assuming, if you allow them to use a smartphone.

Below I have included a sample contract that you can use with your child and modify as you need:

Cellphone Contract

I, child’s name, will not bring my cellphone to the family dinner table.

I will not go over our plan’s monthly minutes or text message limits. If I do, I understand that I may be responsible for paying any additional charges or that I may lose my cellphone privileges.

I understand that I am responsible for knowing where my phone is, and for keeping it in good condition.

I understand that my cellphone may be taken away if I talk back to my parents, I fail to do my chores, or I fail to keep my grades up.

I will obey rules of etiquette regarding cellphones in public places. I will make sure my phone is turned off when I am in church, in restaurants, or quiet settings.

I will obey any rules my school has regarding cellphones, such as turning them off during class, or keeping them on vibrate while riding the school bus.

I promise I will alert my parents when I receive suspicious or alarming phone calls or text messages from people I don’t know. I will also alert my parents if I am being harassed by someone via my cellphone.

I will not use my cellphone to bully another person.

I will send no more than _____ texts per day I understand that having a cellphone can be helpful in a emergency, but I know that I must still practice good judgment and make good choices that will keep me out of trouble or out of danger.

I will not send embarrassing photos of my family or friends to others. In addition, I will not use my phone’s camera to take embarrassing photos of others. I understand that having a cell phone is a privilege, and that if I fail to adhere to this contract, my cell phone privilege may be revoked.

Parent Responsibilities I understand that I will make myself available to answer any questions my tween might have about owning a cellphone and using it responsibly.

I will support my child when he or she alerts me to an alarming message or text message that he or she has received. I will alert my child if our cellphone plan changes and impacts the plan’s minutes.

I will give my child _______ warning(s) before I take his or her cellphone away

Signed ______________________________ (Tween) Signed ______________________________ (Parents). Date ______________________________

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has been working with middle school and high school students for over 24 years. He is considered an expert in this field. Dr. Rubino is one of the founding members of the National Alive & Free Program, a program designed to work with teens. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at www.rcs-ca.com or www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Dealing with the Holidays with A Child who has Autism

Dealing with the Holidays with A Child who has Autism

Typically during the Holidays many people expect it to be a great family time and a great deal of fun for the kids. However, this year the Holidays are going to be different for families due to the Coronavirus. There may be issues over if someone is vaccinated or not and a debate about if masks are needed at certain family events. In addition to the Coronavirus, the Holidays can be a very difficult time for a child who has Autism or is on the Autistic spectrum or have other types of Cognitive Disabilities. The noise and having a lot of people being around can be upsetting to them. However, due to the Coronavirus many families may not be having big gatherings, but they still will be having gatherings. Also many children on the spectrum are use to a certain daily routine. The festivities of the Holidays can disrupt their routine and upset them. Additionally, changes that need to be made due to the Coronavirus can upset children and teenagers on the Spectrum. Thanksgiving is around the corner so it will be the first test for this Holiday season. Parents can evaluate how Thanksgiving turned out and decide if they need to make any changes or adjustments to the upcoming Holiday activities during this Holiday season.

The Holidays, as I said above, are supposed to be a happy time. Therefore, when parents, who have a child on the autistic spectrum, see their child getting upset or agitated, it is difficult for them. Additionally, many parents who have children on the spectrum worry about how other people will react or judge their child. It would help, if we try to remember that children on the autistic spectrum are still children, they simply need some accommodations just like a child with a peanut allergy or who is ADHD.

All of this worry for the parents and change for the kids can make the Holidays a stressful time for autistic children. Also as I stated above, we will have significant changes to our Holidays in terms of how many people will be there and having to change some long standing Holiday traditions, such as Midnight Mass. While researching this issue, I did read a very good article by Lori Lite which has good ideas for parents to use during the Holidays. These ideas can help make the Holidays a happy time for your child and for your family. I would suggest trying these ideas and not worrying how other people may or may not judge your child. Being Autistic is nothing to be ashamed about. I treat many autistic children and they are usually very caring, smart children. We need to change our views regarding autism. It is a medical condition like diabetes or being blind. We make accommodations for children with these issues so we can make accommodations for a child with Autism. Therefore, try some of these ideas to help you and your child enjoy the Holidays.

Get Ready: Social stories, books, and movies can be a big help in preparing your child emotionally for holidays. Comfortable clothing and small dose exposures to holiday sounds can help physically. Think ahead with an eye for anxiety causing issues. If wrapping paper too loud? Use easy open bags or just decorate with a bow. Are the electronic bears with bells at Grandma’s house going to cause sensory overload? Ask her to unplug them before you get there. Let friends and family know about triggers ahead of time. If your child doesn’t like to be hugged suggest a handshake or just a wave. Your friends, family, and special needs children will be glad you did.

Prepare Your Children For Gatherings: Eliminate unnecessary anxiety associated with getting together with family members you rarely see by looking through photos of relatives prior to your event. Play memory games matching names to faces. This will help your children feel more comfortable with people they may not have seen in a while. Aunt Mary won’t seem quite so scary when she bends down to greet your child.

Use Relaxation Techniques: Incorporate deep breathing or other coping strategies into your day. Let your children see you use techniques when you are feeling stressed. Encourage them to use relaxation techniques on a daily basis. Breathing, visualizing, and positive thinking are powerful tools.

Incorporate Positive Statements Into Your Dinner: This is empowering and reflective. Each person at the table can state an attribute of their own that they are thankful for. For example, “I am thankful that I am creative.” Feeling stressed? Try, “I am thankful that I am calm.” Your special needs child can prepare ahead with a drawing or sign language if they want to participate without speaking.

Don’t Rush: It’s simple; none of us are very good at rushing in a relaxed way. The two just do not go together. It is impossible for children or teens to rush without getting angry. Make sure you leave enough time to enjoy the journey and avoid meltdowns. Children with special needs should be given notice of transitions.

Write Things Down: Getting the constant chatter and lists out of your head decreases stress and anxiety. Kids love making lists. Give them a clipboard or dry erase board. Help your child make a list of what they want to do for the holiday. It might be helping decorate or what to pack for self-care relaxation bag. This will help you relax and help your children feel involved. Encourage them to add happy words like laugh or draw a smile face on their list.

Schedule Downtime: Don’t overbook your children. It’s important to use holiday time for relaxation. Try staying in pajamas till noon. Pop your favorite popcorn and watch a movie when you wake up. You’ll be surprised how an hour or two of relaxation can rejuvenate your children’s bodies, minds, and spirits.

Shopping: Avoid taking your children shopping on the busiest shopping days of the year. The chaos, noise of large crowds, and long lines will definitely add stress to your life. If your child is absolutely known to meltdown during shopping you can select a few gifts and bring them home. Set up a shopping experience in your home for your child. The whole family can participate. Have a checkout counter and a gift-wrapping table.

Be Flexible: Relax your expectations and definitions of what a fun experience is for your children. Most of us do not need the full blown exhausting experience of holidays to reflect that we had a good time. A few positive minutes is worth a lifetime of memories!

Let The Children Participate: Let your children do one thing for the holiday that makes them feel proud. Kids can collect acorns or place a few jingle bells into a bowl for a beautiful stress free centerpiece.  Children can fold the napkins or put the forks out. Let them draw a special picture to place on your guest’s chair. Be prepared to accept their participation as perfect and wonderful. Restrain for correcting or straightening out the napkins and enjoy the holidays with your special needs child!

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience treating children and teenagers. Many of these children and teens are on the Autistic Spectrum. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Showing Your Teenager You are Proud of Them

Showing Your Teenager You are Proud of Them

Every child is not going to get straight As and that is okay. We live in a very competitive society and parents and students often brag about their grades or where they are going to college. Some teenagers are academically inclined and others are physically inclined. Therefore, instead of being a surgeon may be they will be a plumber. The question is what’s the difference? The amount of money they are making. Is how much money you make the most important thing about your teenager and their life? What about being happy and what type of person they are? Does that matter?

I often do Career Days and the first question I usually receive is how much money do I make? Followed by what type of car do I drive? My answer is, what does it matter? Most people today are working 60 hours a week. If you are working that hard, it’s more important that you enjoy your career instead of being there just for the money. If you are there for the money, you most likely will find yourself unhappy after a while. At Career Days I tell high school students that I would be a psychotherapist if I was making $300,000 or $30,000 a year because I really enjoy what I do and I am happy to go to the office every day. Money makes paying the bills easier, but it doesn’t make you happy.

In addition to money not guaranteeing happiness, I hear many teenagers feel like their parents are disappointed in them because they are not getting As. Some of the teenagers are getting poor grades because they choose not to study and not to do their homework. They are letting themselves and their parents down. However, some teenagers have learning disabilities or other interest such as music or art and they have difficulty learning in a standard classroom. Therefore, they may be trying their best but they can only get a C. It is nothing to be ashamed about. If a student is trying their best and can only get a C, they are successful as the student who tries their best an gets an A. They are both trying their best and they both should be acknowledged for doing their best.

As I said I see many teenagers who feel like failures because they are not getting As. Typically they hide their issues from their parents and this can cause arguments about grades. While researching this article, I found a blog from a parent who listed how she approaches her teenager who gets Cs. Using her approach helps a teen who is getting Cs to feel good about themselves and to know that their parents are proud of them too. It is very important that teenagers know and feel that their parents are proud of them. Otherwise, they look for attention in other ways such as getting into trouble. Here is the way the parent approached her teenager so he felt celebrated and that his parents were proud of him:

1. Your child’s achievements are not a reflection of you or your parenting.

Even though we often judge other parents based on how their child behaves or performs we need to remind ourselves that our teens are their own person. My son is not an extension of me. As an overachiever who works with children and families this was difficult for me to come to terms with.

2. Do not make comparisons.

It seems like this should go without saying, but we can’t compare our C student to their siblings, neighbors, or friends. I struggled to not compare my high school years to my son’s. I made good grades and got involved in school activities. School was my favourite place to be, and I spent much of my time with my nose in a book. Seeing the years go by with my son never touching the books on his bookshelf were hard.

3. Your child likely does care about their grades.

They might pretend they don’t care about school in order to protect themselves from feelings of failure and embarrassment but, chances are, they care very much. Our son cared about doing well in school and he wanted to achieve and make us happy, but regular classes moved too quickly for him and even accommodations could only take him so far.

4. Find out what your child is good at and get them involved in it.

Our son was extremely interested in skateboarding, so we encouraged him to do it outside of school. He excelled at it and we saw his self-esteem skyrocket. We then worked with the school to find classes that were more hands-on. Help steer your child to a future career that fits with their abilities and aptitudes. Throughout the pandemic, my son has been able to finish his high school diploma through co-operative education. He has also been working with a union to earn his apprenticeship hours in the construction trade. Best of all, he already has a good paying job lined up for when school finishes this year.

5. Celebrate your C student the same way you’d celebrate an A student.

My son has always struggled to achieve in school, but he has so many other amazing qualities that have nothing to do with a letter grade. He is proud of his achievements and so are we. After years of trying to figure out how to help him do better academically, we have learned to celebrate every C that he gets because we know how hard he has worked for it. No matter what grades he earns, my son—and every C student like him—deserves to feel accepted, understood and loved for who he is.

The above last line is very important. We live in a society that tends to see success in terms of money and job titles. Some teenagers are not academically inclined and others are more interested in fixing cars instead of being a lawyer. Every teenager deserves to be celebrated and to feel respected. How much money someone makes should not be how we value people. Instead we should look at how they treat others and are they happy with their lives. Being a caring, compassionate person is more important than making a lot of money in my opinion. Parents hopefully you will find this helpful.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Thank You Notes Teach Teenagers about Gratitude

Thank You Notes Teach Teenagers about Gratitude

Teenagers like receiving gifts and they like when people are nice to them and help them. While teenagers enjoy receiving gifts and having people be kind to them, they do not always know how to say thank you. Many adults, such as grandparents are use to thank you notes. However, due to the computer teenagers, in fact many adults too, do not know how to or when to write a thank you note.

Many parents try to get their teenagers to write thank you notes, but as I stated most teenagers do not know how to write thank you notes because they are use to texting everyone. This can be frustrating because many grandparents, great aunts and uncles are family friends expect thank you notes. They expect thank you notes because often grandparents and other family members live on the other side of the country. Therefore, thank you notes let the person sending the gift that the teen received the gift and if they liked or not.

Since teenagers are use to texting so parents try to teach their teenagers how to write thank you notes and other notes appropriately. Again since many of us are use to texting, many of us may not be sure how to write thank you notes appropriately either.

Given the fact that we rely on texting a great deal, I did some research into writing thank you notes. Hallmark has some very straight forward guidelines about how to write thank you notes. I have included the guidelines below so parents can refer to them and help their teenagers write thank you notes for Holiday gifts they receive during the Holiday Season. Here are Hallmark’s guidelines regarding writing thank you notes:

1. Use an appropriate greeting: Dear Aunt Sally … Dear Nana and Grampy …

2. Express your thanks: Thank you for the … I loved the … I so appreciated the way you remembered my …

3. Add detail: I plan to use the money to help pay for my trip to California next month … Here’s a picture of me wearing the sweater I bought with the money you gave me …

4. Mention the gift-giver: I look forward to seeing you at Thanksgiving … I can’t wait to celebrate my graduation with you …

5. Say thank you again: Again, thanks so much for the …

Thank you notes may seem old fashioned to some people, but many still think they are appropriate. When you think about it, thank you notes are a good way to help teach teenagers how to express appreciation and gratitude to people who have been kind and caring to them. We tend to focus on receiving in our culture, but it’s very important to be able to express gratitude too. Especially in our world today. We are divided and a lot of people are being hurt due to their religion, ethnicity and sexuality. Expressing gratitude for people and what they do for us is away to try to overcome these divisions and try to work together for the common good.

Therefore, you may think thank you notes are old fashioned, but gratitude is not. Educating your teenagers about saying thank you to people and writing thank you notes is a big step towards teaching teenagers about gratitude and why it’s important for each of us to be grateful for what we have and that it’s important to be grateful to the people who help us have the things we have and be able to live our lives with advantages that many people do not have in their lives.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or on his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Ways to Have A Happy Holiday Season with Your Family

Ways to Have A Happy Holiday Season with Your Family

Halloween signals the beginning of the Holiday season. Many people will be worrying about how they will survive the Holidays with certain relatives and since prices have increased this year many people are worrying about how they will be able to afford the Holiday Season. Additionally, there is the Coronavirus pandemic. Many people have been vaccinated, but others for some reason have decided not to get vaccinated. Therefore, some families are faced with decisions about do they celebrate with relatives who have not been vaccinated. This can be very difficult and a very stressful situation. In addition, the Holidays can be stressful because they may bring up family issues that have not been resolved yet or you have some family members trying so hard to make the day prefect that it becomes a stressful day not a happy one. Also parents are concerned how their children will act around the entire family?

Thanksgiving is next and then there is Christmas and Chanukah depending on your family’s tradition. Since Thanksgiving is next, you can evaluate how Thanksgiving went for everyone and decide if you want to make changes for the remaining holidays.

After you have assessed how you would like Thanksgiving and the Holidays to go, the next step is to sit down with your children and ask for their opinions. Also ask about what their expectations are for the Holidays . It is especially important to discuss this point with teenagers because they have been isolated from friends due to the pandemic. Are they expecting to spend Christmas Eve and Day with the family or are they expecting to spend time with friends and girlfriends or boyfriends. It is important to settle this issue before the Holidays. By discussing expectations and trying to accommodate everyone’s wishes, you can avoid arguments. However, many times you cannot accommodate everyone’s wishes and as the parents you may need to make the judgement call. If this occurs explain to your teenager you know they may be mad, but you hope they can understand and you would appreciate their cooperation. May be you make arrangements for them to spend time with their friends the day before or after certain Holidays.

The next discussion is gifts. Explain to your children the point of the Holidays is to appreciate and to be grateful for the people in your life and what you do have in your life. Therefore, if your grandparents give you something you do not like, be grateful that they thought about you and say thank you. Try not to make faces or act disappointed and hurt your grandparents feelings. Again remind them the Holidays are a time to be grateful for what you have in your life.

Reminding your children about being grateful leads us into the next tip for decreasing Holiday Stress. Lori Lite who writes about stress uses the acronym G-R-A-T-E-F-U-L as her Holiday stress guide. It helps her and others get through the day in a peaceful manner. Each letter reminds you of something to do or a way to view the day so you do not get upset.

So here is how to use Gratitude as your Holiday Stress Reliever.

G- Gratitude is the opposite of stress. It is difficult to feel stressed out when we are feeling gratitude.

R- Relax your expectations and let the day unfold. You might be surprised by the outcome.

A- Acceptance is the opposite of judgment. If we accept our family member for who they are and what they are capable of we can relax and enjoy ourselves.

T- Teens can be a part of the Holidays. Ask them what they would like to contribute to the evening or day. Let them what they feel they can contribute.

E- Empower children and let them help with age appropriate assignments. Putting the nuts out or making the centerpiece. Let them do it their way…not your way.

F– Focus on family for this day. Put all work and worries on the shelf

U– Unplug the electronics for dinner so that everyone can be fully present.

L- Love is often overlooked when we are busy. Be present with love… Speak with love… Show your love and gratitude for your family during this Holiday time.

This might seem very simple and obvious, but at times the best solutions are rather simple. Also you may want to practice using this in your daily life. It may seem simple, but it may be harder to do than you think because you are accustomed to doing things and viewing life in a certain way. This idea may challenge you to reassess how you approach life in general.

Many of us are not use to looking at our lives in terms of what we have to be grateful for. Also many of us have a hard time relaxing and not worrying about work or other things we need to do. I have found that just being in the moment is difficult for most people. Most of us believe we always have to be doing something. This creates stress and disappointment. Finally, since we feel we must always be doing something, disconnecting from cellphones and other electronics can be very difficult for the children and for adults too. However, think about it? How can you have fun and enjoy the day with your family, if your mind is not fully present? You can’t. Furthermore, this can create tension for others because they feel ignored and for you because you feel they don’t respect how important what you are doing at the moment is to you. As a result, you have stress which can turn into an argument and everyone is upset. A day of happiness becomes a day of anger and disappointment.

If you notice you are getting angry or your teenager is getting angry use the acronym HALT:

H – hunger, do not try to discuss a difficult situation if you or your teen are hungry.

A – anger, if it is obvious someone is angry give them time to calm down before discussing an issue. Pushing a discussion when someone is angry will only result in making a bad situation worse.

Lonely – lonely, if someone is feeling down or alone again pushing them to talk can make it worse. Let them know when they are ready you are there to listen.

Tired – tired, trying to have a conversation with a tired teenager can turn into an argument fast. Wait until they are ready to talk. There is no need to make a bad situation worse.

Therefore, in order to avoid the possibility of an unpleasant Holiday for everyone try to

use the words GRATEFUL and HALT as guidelines for the day. What do you have to lose?

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with children, teenagers and their families. He has over 24 years experience. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or visit his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcast on Spotify or Apple.

Re-evaluating Teenagers Gaming and Texting in the 21st Century

Re-evaluating Teenagers Gaming and Texting in the 21st Century

Most middle school and high school students have grown up with smart phones and computers for gaming and texting their friends. The fact that they have grown up with technology being part of their daily lives is an important fact we need to remember. However, there are also parents concerns about how much time their children are spending online. Parents worry about if this is healthy for their childrens physical and emotional development. Additionally, 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. Teenagers also feel that their parents do not understand that they have grown up with technology and texting is the way teenagers communicate in the 21st century.

Due to the Coronavirus, gaming is being examined very closely. During quarantine and since the pandemic has started gaming and texting have become the primary way teenagers have remained in contact with each other. Furthermore, gaming and texting are the safest way for teenagers to remain in contact with each other during the pandemic and until we have the coronavirus under control. Think about it, places such as movie theaters and malls were closed for awhile and some are just now partially reopening. Therefore, gamine continues to provide a safe way to hang out with friends. This is very important to teenagers social development at their age. Additionally, research is showing that teenagers who have little access to normal social activities are becoming depressed and anxious during the pandemic (CDC). Therefore, we need to re-evaluate the issue of gaming during the pandemic.

Now 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. However, parents in the United States parents are still worrying about it and debating the issue because the United States does not acknowledge the diagnosis yet.

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 looks 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. Additionally, we do need to remember that teenagers today have grown up with electronics as part of their daily lives since they were infants. They have a very different experience and relationship with technology and gaming than adults do. Most adults started using cellphones and gaming in their 20s. Therefore, the way teenagers experience technology today is most likely very different than how their parents relate to it. We need to consider this fact when we establish rules for how teenagers can use texting and gaming. We also need more research examining this issue.

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. The pandemic points out the different relationship teenagers have with technology because it has been part of their lives since they were born. Therefore, we need to pay attention to this fact and do more research examining how growing up with technology differs from having technology introduced to your life during college. We may find some very unique findings which may change how we look at technology and our expectations for teenagers.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience treating and assessing children, teenagers and trauma victims. For more information about his work visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Parents What Teenagers are Wanting from You

Parents What Teenagers are Wanting from You

Many parents ask me what their teenagers are looking for from them. Teenagers want to know that they are loved, you hear them and see them for who they really are as a person. These statements can help your teenagers. Try it and sees what happens.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims. For more information about his work visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3

Having A Fun, Calm Halloween

Having A Fun, Calm Halloween

Halloween is next weekend and many children are anxiously counting the days until Halloween. For children this is a great holiday. They get to wear a costume they like and they get free candy. What more could a child ask for? Many children plan all year about the costume they are going to wear. Many children have very elaborate costumes and they are very proud of their costume and they have a lot of fun being someone else for the day.

Since most children have been planning for Halloween for months and at school they often have Halloween activities and sometimes Halloween parties, it should not be a surprise that they are full of energy and usually hyper on Halloween. For some parents, this can create a problem especially when you have more than one hyper child to contend with on Halloween. Additionally, since children are so hyper on Halloween and expecting a lot, it is not surprising that children can have melt downs very easily in addition to being very excited. This can set up a situation where Halloween can easily fall a part. If parents have had a hard day or week at work, the last thing they are looking forward to is a house full of children bouncing off the walls who can’t understand why their parents are not excited too.

In order to avoid a chaotic Halloween it is helpful to establish a family plan for the day. A plan that you have also discussed with the children and everyone agrees to follow. By having a family plan you can help avoid melt downs and if one does occur you are in a better position to deal with it.

The first thing to do is to have a family meeting regarding costumes. Discuss what your children want to be and make sure it’s appropriate for their age and for the weather you typically have for Halloween. Additionally, you may need to look at how much your child wants to spend on their costumes. Once you and your child have agreed upon an appropriate costume that they like, you are ready for the next step.

The next thing you need to look at is what day of the week is Halloween. For example, this year Halloween is on Sunday. Therefore, children have school the next day and this needs to be part of the family’s plans for Halloween. Additionally, parents need to decide if they are comfortable with their children trick or treating in their neighborhood or just at houses with people the family has as friends. Maybe you are not comfortable with trick or treating and your city, church or friends may be hosting a Halloween party and you are planning on attending a party. Some families also plan to have a special Halloween dinner and watching Halloween movies at home. Once parents have decided what they feel is the best option for their family, the parents can explain their decision to their children. During this time, parents can address any objections children may have and discuss the issues and feelings until you have an agreement.

The finally step is to have a plan in place for melt downs. The day before Halloween and the day of Halloween make sure your children were able to get a good nights sleep and have had breakfast, lunch and dinner and not too much candy. This will help your children to be able to control their emotions easier and make it easier for them to pay attention. If there is a melt down, a time out usually is the best option. If you are at a party, try to find a quiet place you can sit with your child while they get themselves together. If they are unable to get themselves together or the melt downs keep happening then it’s time to call it a night and let them go to bed. Try to frame it as they are going to bed because they need more sleep and not as a punishment. This may make it easier if you have to call it a night. Also before Halloween go over your expectations and what you consider a meltdown and any other behavior that may trigger a time out. It’s very important that everyone has the same understanding about the rules. This increases the odds that everyone will follow the rules and if they don’t, everyone will understand what is going to happen.

Putting together a plan increases your chances of everyone has a fun Halloween. However, most children are very excited about Halloween and are more hyper than usual. Therefore, take these factors into account when you are dealing with your children. Their behavior may not be what you expected, but if it’s not causing problems it’s best to overlook it. Remember, children have been attending school remotely for over a year with very little contact with their friends. Therefore, they are more likely to be a little more excited this year. Happy Halloween.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.