Returning to School during A Pandemic

Returning to School during A Pandemic

We hear the government talking about reopening the economy and also reopening schools. However, since there is still a lot we have to learn about the Coronavirus, we do not know exactly how school should reopen and when. There has been discussions about options, but no one can make a firm decision yet. Therefore, we have to wait to find out how and when schools will reopen. Since there is no definite plan yet, this creates anxiety in children and parents.

Many of the children and teenagers, I treat, are asking about returning to school and what changes are going to be made at school. When I tell them that there is no definite plan yet, they are not surprised but you can also hear the anxiety it their voices. We have to remember that these kids have been living under quarantine orders for over 2 months now. Also during that time there have been few concrete answers for these children about the virus or returning to school. Furthermore, before the quarantine, these children were dealing with mass shootings on a daily basis and mass shooting drills. This was another situation they had to endure with no reasons as to why the shootings were occurring or when they would stop. Therefore, we have an entire generation of children and teenagers who have had to adjust to living with uncertainty about their safety.

Many parents are wondering how to handle this uncertainty about returning to school. Well one thing we can do to help children and teenagers is to validate their feelings. Instead of just telling them everything will be alright. We need to acknowledge that it makes sense that they are feeling anxious and uncertain about the future and going back to school. We have no answers and it’s natural to be anxious under the present situation. Therefore, instead of telling them their feelings are wrong or they are over reacting, validate their feelings. This will help them cope with their feelings and help them not to feel like they are crazy for feeling the way they do.

Also explain to children and teenagers that we are living in historic times. Inform them that the last time there was a pandemic was 100 years ago. We did survive that pandemic and we will find away to survive this one. It may take sometime but we will find a solution. However, while we are looking for answers, they are living history. When they are older and their grandchildren ask about the Coronavirus pandemic, they will be able to provide first hand answers because they lived through the pandemic. This may help with the uncertainty and provide your child with a different perspective they can use as they view the current situation.

Also reassure them that you know while we search for answers that this can be scary and confusing, but as their parent you are going to watch out for them. As soon as you hear news about what the plans are for school, you will share the information with them. Also reassure them you will not place them in a dangerous or uncomfortable situation. If you do not feel comfortable with the plans for returning to school, you will look at alternatives such as home schooling. Remind them that as their parents you can make different plans for them if needed.

However, while we wait for the plans assure them it’s okay to feel anxious or nervous. Also let them know you want them to share their feelings with you so you can help. There is no reason to be embarrassed about the feelings they are having or needing to talk about the feelings. Also explain you understand that sometimes it’s hard to talk to your parents about certain feelings. Reassure them that if they don’t feel comfortable talking to you that you will understand and make arrangements for them to talk to someone where they will feel safe.

The most important thing to remind children is they have been living with a great deal of anxiety and fear for a long time. Therefore, it’s only natural that they may need to talk about their feelings. It’s normal and a healthy thing to do and you are there as their parent to help them in any way they need.

Another thing that can help is to encourage your child to talk to their friends and their feelings too. They can use FaceTime or Zoom. By sharing their thoughts and feelings with their friends about returning to school, they will see they are not alone. Hearing that their friends have similar feelings can help them relax and not feel so strange about their feelings. It is also an excellent support group for them. If they start talking now about their feelings, it will make it easier to talk about their feelings as they get older and life gets more complicated. Also by talking about their feelings, it also hopefully keep the door open so they continue to talk to you too.

The idea of returning to school will create anxiety when they think about having to wear a mask and other possible changes. However, if we acknowledge the anxiety is legitimate and if we attempt to work with the children and their feelings, they should have less anxiety and an easier transition back to the new normal for schools.

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

What’s Next?

What’s Next?

The quarantine has caused financial and emotional problems for many people. It has disrupted what we consider normal life and many people do not see an end in site. As a result, many people have been demanding and demonstrating that the quarantines in all the states end so they can resume their lives. The President has been leading people to believe that this is a very easy task. However, reopening the economy is not as easy as the President or as many people may think it will be. The medical professionals have stated we are moving too fast and we need to listen to the medical experts who study viruses not the President.

We still have people contracting the virus and dying from the virus at an alarming rate. Los Angeles County reported a significant increase in deaths due to the virus over the weekend. New models just released expect that towards the end of May and the beginning of June we will see another significant increase in the number of people dying from the virus and contracting it.

Yes having to shelter in place is boring and it is costing people their jobs. Therefore, we have people worrying about how they will pay their bills and we have people who are becoming depressed and anxious due to not being able to leave the house. They feel that once the quarantine is lifted everything will be alright, but will it?

After the quarantine, what’s next? We cannot resume life as normal because we are still dealing with the virus. Therefore, we will need to wear masks and maintain social distancing requirements. As a result, we will not be able to attend movies or concerts. Restaurants will not be the same either due to social distancing requirements. Children and teenagers will not be able to attend school in the same manner and our work environments will change significantly too.

Now the quarantine and worry about contracting the virus has already placed a great deal of stress on many people. There now will be people who will be afraid of leaving the house because they are afraid of catching the virus. Besides these people, other people will be feeling stressed and depressed due to all the changes needed to open the economy. They were hoping to return to their lives and they will find out that they have to adjust to an entirely new lifestyle.

In addition to these changes, we will still be facing the issue of needing to take precautions so we do not catch the virus and we will still be worrying about family members who are at high risk due to age or other health underlying health conditions getting the virus. Additionally, we will continue to have family members who contract the virus and die. Just because we open the economy doesn’t mean people won’t be catching the virus and dying. Also it does not mean the economy will return to normal and people will be able to find new jobs. If restaurants are only allowed to operate at 25% capacity and tables need to be six feet apart in addition to having to use disposable menus, would you want to go to a restaurant under those conditions? The answer is most likely no. Therefore, since business will be down in numerous industries, no one will be hiring and people still will be worrying about paying the bills.

As a result of working with trauma victims for over 20 years, I understand the first impulse is to try to resume living your daily life as soon as possible so you feel a sense of control over your life that was taken from you. We have all been traumatized by the Coronavirus. We are the United States and we can handle anything. However, the Coronavirus has turned the tables on us. We are not in control, the virus is in control.

So what’s next? We listen to the medical professionals and we follow their advice. We have made some progress getting a handle on the virus. However, if we move to fast, the virus will come back and many more people will become sick and die. The President is not allowing the professionals to speak out because it is not good for his image. For those of you who say this is wrong, when there was a cruise ship in the San Francisco Bay waiting to dock, the President stood outside the CDC and said, “I don’t want it to dock because the increased numbers don’t look good for me”. We need to consider what is best for the entire country not just the President.

Therefore, as difficult as it maybe, we need to listen to the medical and mental health experts and develop a safe plan to reopen the country. A plan which will minimize the number of people who will become ill and a plan that addresses the mental health issues that will be triggered and exacerbated by reopening the economy.

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

The Least Restrictive Environment

The Least Restrictive Environment

Many schools are currently closed due to the coronavirus, however they can still have IEP meetings or the meeting will resume when school resumes. This will give parents time to prepare for their IEP meetings. An IEP refers to an Individualized Educational Plan that the parents and school agree upon to help a student who is having difficulties learning at school. This plan is a legal agreement which states the school environment and accommodations a child needs in order to benefit from their education. Unfortunately not all schools tell parents about all of their rights they have at their child’s IEP meetings (Individualized Educational Plan). Also they do not fully explain all the terms. This creates a great deal of confusion and anxiety for parents. Typically any time I write an article regarding IEPs, I receive emails from parents across the country asking if they are being treated fairly in their IEP meetings.

A common term that is used at IEP meetings is Least Restrictive Environment. At times this term is used to deny a child services. Parents may be asking about Resource Assistance or a Special Day Class and the school may say the Resource Room is not an option because it is not the least restrictive environment. They may insist that the child be placed in a general educational classroom. In other words, the typical classroom people think about when they think of a classroom. However, placing a child in a general education classroom or school is not always the least restrictive environment. Also schools and at times parents may worry about how much inclusion their child will be receiving with the proposed IEP.

Inclusion refers to providing children, who need special educational services, access to the general educational atmosphere and students. However, this is not always the least restrictive environment for your child. The least restrictive environment is the environment in which your child will benefit the most from their education. This may not always be a general education classroom. Remember, least restrictive refers to the environment where your child has the least amount of difficulties learning so they can benefit fully from their education. Therefore, a Special Educational Classroom may be the least restrictive environment for your child depending on their educational needs. If they will benefit more from their education in a Special Day Classroom then that is the least restrictive environment for your child.

This can be a confusing term to understand especially since most people have been lead to believe that inclusion is the same thing as the least restrictive environment. I have included a link to a video which further explains this term. I strongly recommend you watch it so you have a clear understanding of what least restrictive environment refers to and what inclusion refers to https://youtu.be/I7HFRF8y288.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers in Special Education. He often assists parents with IEPs and school accommodations. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his websites www.RubinoCounseling.com, his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or www.LucasCenter.org.

Helping Your Child Cope with The Coronavirus

Helping Your Child Cope with The Coronavirus

Many people are concerned about the coronavirus. They are worried about being exposed and they are worried about what happens if they contract the virus. Many people are stock piling water, soap, disinfect wipes and surgical masks. People are even canceling their vacation plans. When so many adults are worried and taking numerous precautions, children begin to worry about their safety. They are afraid to go to school because they don’t want to catch the coronavirus. This excessive anxiety is not good for children. Therefore, parents need to get the accurate information and discuss it with their children.

This is a new virus and spreading faster and easier than expected. However, when you compare this virus to the influenza (the flu), the flu is much more contagious and deadly. According to the CDC, 49,000,000 people in the United States contracted influenza this year, typically referred to as the flu, and 20,000 people died from the flu this year. When you contrast this with the coronavirus, there are currently 500 reported cases and 17 deaths as of March 6, 2020 according to the CDC. While these numbers will rise as we continue to test people, it appears that the flu virus is responsible for more deaths. The coronavirus is getting a great deal of attention because we do not have specific protocols for how to prevent and treat this virus yet. The CDC is still developing guidelines for how we need to respond and are currently working on a vaccine.

Therefore, parents it is important that you calmly talk to your child about the current situation. Explain that this is a new virus and the doctors need time to decide what is the best way to treat it and that the flu is more dangerous than the coronavirus. Explain that until the doctors know the best way to treat the virus that it is very important that they wash their hands after using the bathroom, playing outside or touching things outside of the house. Tell them to sing happy birthday while washing their hands with soap and water. This is a good way to know they have washed their hands long enough. Also let them know if their is no soap or water, they can use hand sanitizer instead and that is good enough. Also remind them to try not to touch their eyes, nose or mouth when they are at school or playing because it is a way to catch germs. Also if they sneeze or cough to cover their mouths. Remind them the doctors are doing everything they need to in order to figure out the best way to deal with the coronavirus so they do not need to worry.

Another aspect to address is if they notice they are coughing, feeling achy and like they have a fever to tell you. If they have these symptoms you will take them to the doctor who will tell you what to do. Remind them they do not need to worry about dying. Remind them more people die from the flu and nothing happened to them. Also point out that the people who have died from the coronavirus were usually around 75 or 80 years old and already had health problems such as problems with their heart. The reports show that children their age have nothing to worry about.

This should help your child’s anxiety about the current virus out break. In the meantime pay attention to the reports from the CDC and look at what you and your family have planned. If you have plans to go to events where there are a lot of people such as sporting events you may want to change your plans until the CDC has developed firm guidelines to deal with the current situation. If you stay calm, your child should stay calm. Make the best decisions for you and your family based on the information you have at the time. If we all stay calm and follow common sense guidelines, we should all be fine. Remember the statistics for influenza are much worse than the coronavirus. The flu virus changes every year too. Therefore, staying calm and following the CDC guidelines is the best approach at this time.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. He has a sub specialty in medical psychology. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3

Do Not Leave Your IEP at Home when You Leave for College

Do Not Leave Your IEP at Home when You Leave for College

Working with children and adolescents I have had many parents ask about 504 plans and Individual Educational Plans (IEP). Parents tend to focus on the assistance their child may need in elementary or high school due to a learning disability or mental health issues. Over 20 years as a psychotherapist, what I have observed is that children who need assistance in elementary and high school typically need assistance in college. However, many students are not aware that they are entitled to assistance in College too. Right now many students are preparing to leave home and start their new lives in college. Parents are trying to anticipate what their child will need at college, such as laptop etc. However, do not forget their Individual Educational Plan (IEP) so they can arrange for accommodations at their college.

From my experience, most families assume there is no assistance in college. However, typically if a child has an IEP, they are also entitled to assistance in college. Most colleges in their Counseling departments have people and programs designated to help disabled students. A student with a physical or learning disability or mental health issue such as ADHD or depression would qualify for assistance by the Disabled Students Program at a college. I have recently been receiving many questions from Parents about what happens to their child’s IEP when the go to college and questions from parents who have college freshmen asking about their child’s IEP. Therefore, I thought it would be beneficial to provide information about how IEPs are handled by colleges. In addition to an IEP, any student with a learning disability or mental health issue is entitled to accommodations by their college because they are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991.

Additionally, if you live in California and you have a physical or learning disability or a mental health issue and if you had or did not have an IEP while in school, you may qualify to be a client of the California Department of Rehabilitation. This Department is responsible for assisting people in California, with a disability, find a job and get the education they may need to find a job. The Department may assist their clients by providing tuition assistance for community or state colleges and provide financial assistance to buy text books and school supplies. What they are able to do depends on the State budget.

This is another reason for parents to insist when their child does need an IEP that the school district places the child on an IEP. The lies schools tell parents that an IEP will prevent their child from getting into a college, the military or getting a job are not true. Another reason to insist on the IEP, if your child qualifies for an IEP, as a result of having an IEP, your child can be granted accommodations on the SAT or ACT. These are tests seniors typically need to take when they are applying to four year universities. The common accommodation most students require is additional time to complete the tests. I have had many teens with ADHD come to me seeking accommodations on the SAT or ACT. A common requirement that the testing boards require is that a student needs to have had an IEP if they are seeking accommodations on these tests.

Therefore, many students who have disabilities or mental health issues can receive assistance in college. While many people may be surprised, it is true. However, for many college students finding the assistance can be confusing and overwhelming. For a Freshman in college, dealing with heath or mental health issues, the confusion and embarrassment the feel at times because of society’s stereotypes can cause students to give up. The best place for a college freshman to start is the student counseling center. They can then direct them to the correct department and they can avoid some of the embarrassment and confusion.

Also I was contacted by bettercollege.com with a resource guide they developed for college students with mental health issues. While their guide was created for students with mental health issues, it can also be used as a guide for students with physical or learning disabilities. This guide can help a student not feel so overwhelmed or embarrassed too.

Since I feel this is a valuable guide to Freshman students and their families, I am including a link to this resource guide below:

Guide to College Planning for Psychiatrically Impaired Students – https://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/college-planning-with-psychiatric-disabilities/

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience working with children, teenagers and college students. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit one of his web sites www.RubinoCounseling.com or www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

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The Truth about IEPs and 504 plans

The Truth about IEPs and 504 plans

It’s getting close to the end of the school year and children with 504 plans and Individualized Educational Plans (IEP) must be re-evaluated. Many parents do not know what an IEP is or what a 504 Plan is in regards to a child’s education. Also many parents are not aware of their rights or their child’s educational rights. I receive numerous emails from parents anytime I write about IEPs. Therefore, here is an article describing IEPs and 504 plans for parents. Hopefully this will explain the differences between an IEP and 504 plan and help parents understand what their child is legally entitled to regardless of what the teacher is trying to make you believe.

Parents here is important information about Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and 504 agreements. Besides ensuring that your child receives a good education, you do not need to pay for items such as special computer programs that the school district should be paying for not you. If your child has an IEP the school district is responsible for most educational expenses even a private school if necessary. Please read this article so you understand your rights and your child’s rights.

The beginning of the school year is fast approaching. Besides the mad dash to get ready for school and schools are going to start assessing students to determine if they qualify for an Individualized Educational Program (IEP). I am already hearing from parents how school districts are misleading them and pressuring them to sign an agreement for a 504 before the parents clearly understand the difference between an IEP and 504 plan. The definition for both is further down in this article. An IEP and 504 are not the same. An IEP is legally enforceable and has legal guidelines and time frames. An IEP follows a student from school to school or state to state. A 504 is not legally enforceable and doesn’t follow a child nor are there legal guidelines.

An IEP will not stop your child from getting a job or from getting into college. In fact and college because they still would be entitled to assistance and the State of California may pay for their books. Also educational records are confidential therefore, no one would know your child had an IEP in school.

Many schools say your child must be two grades below in order to qualify for an IEP. If you said your child had a math or reading disability this is true. However, if they have ADHD, Bipolar, school anxiety etc. they can qualify under OTHER HEALTH IMPAIRMENTS. All your child needs is a diagnosis such as ADHD which would interfere with their ability to fully benefit from their learning experience in the classroom. The 2 grade below level qualification doesn’t apply to this category.

Also if you have a child in private school and they would benefit from additional assistance, contact your child’s public school district. Even though they attend private school the public school district is legally obligated to provide your child with services.

One more issue, never pay for outside testing before the school district tests your child. They have the right not to accept any outside testing until they test the child. If you disagree with the district’s testing then you can request an objective testing from an outside professional and you can request that the school district pays for the testing and you can select the evaluator.

An IEP or an Individualized Education Plan is a document that outlines the specialized education services that a student will receive due to their disability. It ensures the student will receive the assistance necessary so they will receive an education.

When most parents hear disability, they usually think of a person in a wheelchair or a student wIth a learning disability. There are various condItions that can qualify as a disability. Depression, Bipolar Disorder or even diabetes. The disability is any condition that will interfere in the student receiving the same education as other students. The students who qualify for an IEP need accommodations which meet the criteria of needing specialized education. As I stated above their are numerous conditions which may qualify a student for an IEP.

if a student does qualify for an IEP, they also qualify for Special Education. Many parents hear this and are afraid or embassies. There is nothing to be afraid of or embossed about. If a student qualifies for Special Education, if the student needs speech therapy or special computer programs, the school district is obligated to provide the services to the student at no expense to the student’s family.

There is also an option called a 504 Plan. This was established in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The 504 plan ensures that a student with a disability will receive accommodations so they will receive the same education as other students. However, the 504 plan does not qualify a student for Special Education services and It is not overseen as closely as an IEP plan.

Currently, many districts are telling parents that their child does not need or qualify for an IEP and a 504 plan is just a good. This is not true. Many school districts are telling parents that their child does not qualify for an IEP because the IEP is more expensive for the district and most districts are trying to save money.The districts take advantage of the fact that as parents, you do not know all the differences between an IEP and a 504 so they can talk a family into a 504 plan easily.

If you find that your child is having difficulties at school due to a learning disability, health issue or emotional issue, consult an outside professional before you automatically assume that the school is giving you the appropriate recommendation.

I see many parents who have been told that their child is better with a 504 plan and that is not the truth. You can consult an educational consultant or a therapist who works with children. You can contact me at via my website http://www.rcs-ca.com. I help many families at their child’s IEP meeting. The main thing is, do not be afraid to ask if your child should have a 504 or an IEP. Also don’t let the district make you feel guilty because you want time to think and investigate the options. This is your child and you should never sign anything until you are sure it is in your child’s best interest.

I have added a link to a chart that will help you compare the two and understand the differences.

504 Plan vs. IEP – Education Centerwww.ed-center.com/504This pages lists the differences between an IEP and a 504 plan.

I have also added a link to a video which helps to explain the differences between an IEP and 504 plan.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with children and teens. He also has over 19 years experience working with children in Special Education and was an Intern for the AB3632 program which works with children in Special Ed and IEPs. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or his new website that deals specifically with IEPs, lucascenter.org.

Having A Safe, Fun Super Bowl Party

Having A Safe, Fun Super Bowl Party

Super Bowl Sunday is coming up in a couple weeks. Since the San Francisco 49ers are playing, there will be a large number of Super Bowl parties and events in the San Francisco Bay Area. As I stated in my previous article for many people it is a day to party and have fun, but it is also the day when the most domestic violence occurs in the United States. This statistic is for adults and teenagers. So, how do you have a safe, fun Super Bowl Sunday? You need to develop a plan that reduces stress and too much drinking.

First, remember that it is just a day and just a football game. Therefore, if everything is not perfect such as you don’t have all the food you wanted or things are not arranged how you wanted, do not stress over it. You can still enjoy the game without a lot food or alcohol. Also if everything is not arranged perfectly, you can still enjoy the game. In other words, do not stress and argue over minor details.

If you are going to have small children around, set up a separate room with food and activities for them. Many children under 10 years old will lose interest in the game and if there is nothing else for them to do, they will want attention and distract people from the game. Therefore, set up another room where they can watch other television shows and have games to play. This way they are not bored and they can enjoy themselves.

People drinking too much is a common problem during Super Bowl parties. Therefore, when your friends arrive, tell them you care about them and their safety. Therefore, you want everyone to put their car keys in the basket as they enter. This way if someone accidentally has too much to drink, you can give them a ride home. This way if someone has too much to drink, you don’t have to argue about them driving if they are not safe to drive. This can help avoid an argument and a possible physical fight.

Also watch how much alcohol you are serving. If you are serving alcohol, serve food too. The food helps to absorb the alcohol and decreases the likelihood that someone will drink too much. Also towards the end of the game stop serving alcohol and switch to sodas. If someone has had too much to drink, this gives them a chance for their body to process the alcohol they consumed so they can lower their blood alcohol level.

Another good idea is to set rules for your party. Announce to your guests that you want everyone to have a good time and no arguing or fighting. Therefore, cheering for their team or favorite player is fine, but you do not want any name calling nor is there to be any insulting other people at the party. Also good nature teasing is fine but no swearing and if someone asks you to stop the joking, respect their request. Bottom line, state that regardless of who wins or loses, you expect everyone to act like adults and to treat each other respectfully so it is a fun day for everyone.

It would also be helpful to remember the acronym HALT:

H – hungry

A – angry

L – lonely

T – tired, too much alcohol

If you notice someone expressing these emotions or drinking too much, this is a situation which could result in an argument or violence. Therefore, if you notice a potential violent situation, try talking to the person to see what is bothering them. If you notice a couple arguing try having one person step outside with you for a time out so they can calm down. You may want to let them know that they seem slightly upset and you are just checking-in to see if there is a problem and if you can help. Instead of ignoring the situation try to offer some help so people can calm down. This can help a great deal.

At the end of your party, if someone is not sober enough to drive, offer to drive them home. Remember all the car keys are in a basket so you do not have to argue to get the car keys. Remind them that you are only offering to drive because you care about them. You do not want to see them arrested for driving under the influence, you do not want to see them get into a car accident and you definitely do not want to see them kill someone else or themselves in a car accident.

If you notice a couple who appear to be arguing, offer to allow one person to stay for a while and you will drive them home later. Giving them a chance to calm down could help avoid a domestic violent incident. If after a little while the person at your house or the person who went home tells you they do not feel safe around the other person right now – listen to them! Offer to let the person stay at your house for the night. You do not want to assign blame to anyone. Simply state that they seem to be having a stressful day and instead of them both staying in the same house that night and arguing all night and arguing in front of the children is not a good idea. It is okay if they need to take a break for the night and talk about it tomorrow. You are providing them and the children with a safe environment and hopefully avoiding a domestic violent incident. Many people are afraid to step in and offer help when they see a potential domestic violent situation. However, if more people offered to help and did not shame the family, the incidence of domestic violence could decrease and more people may be willing to seek help.

If you are a couple who are having incidents with domestic violence, discuss the issue before the day. Hopefully, the two of you are in psychotherapy and can discuss the issue in a therapy session. Discussing a potential problem with a therapist or even a friend prior to the event can be very helpful. If you are not in therapy and afraid to talk to a friend and do not feel safe call the following number for help: The National Domestic Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Someone will answer 24 hours a day, 356 days a year. Do not be embarrassed to call. If you need help, please reach out and ask for it before someone gets seriously injured or killed.

Hopefully these suggestions help and you can enjoy the game in a fun peaceful environment.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and he is certified to assess and treat domestic violence. If you want additional information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his websites http://www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Talking To Kids about Mass Shootings

Talking To Kids about Mass Shootings

Mass shootings have become a daily occurrence in our country. Just the other day there was another shooting at the Naval Base in Pensacola, Florida. Closer to home there was a threat of a possible shooting at Foothill Middle School in Walnut Creek. The police determined in was not a valid threat and it was a kid trying to scare people. However, I did receive calls from parents asking me, how do I talk to my child about this threat? Many parents said to me before it was easier because the shootings were far away. Now it was in our backyards and parents were not sure what to do.

It is not surprising that parents are feeling overwhelmed. According to the CDC, as of November 15th which was the 319th day of the year, there have been 336 shootings as in November 15th for the year 2019. Also there have been 250 deaths and 979 injuries in 2019. According to the CDC, there have been a total of 1347 deaths and 1684 injuries in mass shootings many of them occurred at schools. With the recent shootings at Santa Clarita and the Naval Base, the numbers will increase. When you look at these numbers and you look at there are 1.2 shootings, this is very overwhelming. It is difficult for adults to comprehend how do you discuss with a 10 year old child.

Many people think they can ignore discussing it with their children because they do not watch the news. They may not watch the news, but the hear people talking and see things on the internet. Also most schools have intruder shooting drills now. So children are very aware of mass shootings. In fact, over the last 2 years, I have seen a significant increase of children for anxiety, depression and not wanting to go to school. The kids tell me they are afraid of getting killed if they go to school. Therefore, parents need to discuss mass shootings with their children.

When you speak to your children you need to do so in an age appropriate manner. Reassure them everyone is doing everything they can to keep them safe. Do not deny that there have been shootings at schools because they know there have been shootings. If you lie about the shootings, they will not trust what you have to say. The main point children are looking for is that people are there to keep them safe and everyone is doing everything possible to keep them safe. Children look towards adults to keep them safe so it is very important as parents you say and do whatever you can to reassure your child, you are doing everything you can to keep them safe.

This is a very difficult topic for children and parents. As a parent you want to reassure your child, but you do not want to lie. I have included a link to a very good video. It goes over different age groups and explains to parents how to approach your child regarding this issue. I encourage every parent to watch it and to talk to your child. Remember, if you do so in a loving way, you will help your child a great deal. The most important thing to them is that you love them and they know you are trying to keep them safe. https://youtu.be/Ddk0RUKbAMk.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. He is also certified to treat trauma victims. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Surviving Winter Break with Your Teenager Not in School

Surviving Winter Break with Your Teenager Not in School

It’s the Holiday Season and most people are excited and feeling overwhelmed too. Teenagers are very excited about Winter Break. They have no school for at least two weeks and are looking forward to staying up late, sleeping in and spending times with friends. However, many parents are not so excited about Winter Break. Most parents have to work full time so they are concerned about what their teenager will be doing while they are working and there are some family activities planned which means their teenager cannot spend all of the break with friends. Therefore, parents are starting to wonder how to handle this situation so Winter Break is enjoyable for everyone.

It might help parents, to have a better understanding of how their teenagers look at Winter Break. In their minds, they have spent a great deal of extra time during December studying for midterms, finals and completing final projects. They have had to give up some time with friends and there were several nights they had to stay up late studying. Therefore, they feel they are entitled to sleep in and spend time with their friends. Additionally, a number of juniors and seniors have friends who will be returning from their first year at college. Therefore, Winter Break is the only time they have to spend with them. Again, they feel entitled to the time because they spent a lot of extra time studying so they are entitled to some free time. Another factor is that many teenagers consider some of the family activities scheduled to be boring compared to hanging out with friends.

Now parents can just say this is what you will be doing over Winter Break because we are your parents. This will result in a great deal or arguing and teenagers sneaking off to spend time with friends. This approach is not very effective and results in a great deal of unhappiness for parents and teenagers. Winter Break feels like a prison sentence not anything to celebrate.

I recommend sitting down with all your children and developing a plan for Winter Break. First explain how you envision the break going and the activities you have planned and want your children to participate in. Explain to them why you want them to participate in these activities and what it means to you. Next let your teens discuss what plans they had for break and why these plans are important to them. This allows you and your teenagers to discuss everyone’s plans and a solution that will work for everyone. Remind your teenager that your daily expectations regarding vaping, alcohol and their over all behavior still apply. You are not setting up new house rules. You are simply setting up a schedule for Winter Break.

As for the days, I recommend setting a time they need to up by such as 10:30am. This gives them time to sleep but not sleep the day away. Also leave a couple chores they can help with when they get up. Such as cleaning up their own dishes and maybe cleaning the kitchen or doing some laundry or putting some clothes away. After that they can spend time with their friends. Ask them to tell you what they plan on doing the night before and ask them to check in by text at certain times. Also agree on a time they need to be home. During the week maybe require they are home three nights a week for a family dinner. The other nights and weekends, they can have dinner with friends or bring a friend home for dinner. Whatever they do, they need to tell you before, check in occasionally by text and be home by a certain time. As for bed time don’t spend a great deal on that one. Allow them to go to bed when they want as long as they are able to get up by the agreed upon time. If they miss getting up on time 3 times in a row, then you set a bed time. This is only for teens in high school. For children in middle school and elementary school, you need to set a bed time.

As you are coming up with these agreements, you are also writing them down on a contract that everyone will sign and get a copy to keep. Therefore, if there is a misunderstanding, you just refer back to the contract. You also should agree upon consequences if someone violates the contract and include them in the contract.

Now the big issue to confront, how much evening time your teen will spend with friends and what activities you have planned that they will attend. This is not easy. I usually suggest if the activity is a big family activity including extended family or a family tradition then your teenager needs to attend. Depending on the activity may be the can bring a friend or leave early. As for time with their friends, ask what they have planned and see how it fits into the family schedule. Most often teenagers won’t know their plans yet because they need to talk to their friends. Therefore, give them time to talk to their friends and add their events to the calendar. One important thing to remember, your teenagers are becoming young adults and need their social time too. Therefore, try to be flexible with them. If it is a family event, they definitely should be present and participate. If it is a community event or neighborhood party, it is probably fine to allow them to miss it and spend time with their friends.

As for the time they spend with friends, it is fine to require that they tell you what they will be doing and where they will be. Setting a time to be home is appropriate too. Also it is fine to ask them to check in by text too. One thing you may consider is setting up an activity with your teenager and their friends so you can spend time with them and see how they are maturing. If you decide to try doing an activity with your teen and their friends, only do it if your teenager is agreeable and allow them to plan the activity.

Remember, everything you agree to with your teenager, you will write down in your Winter Break contract. Everyone will sign it and get a copy so if there is a misunderstanding you simply refer back to the contract.

Finally, let your teenager know you are aware that they are getting older and they are starting to have social lives of their own and this is why you are having this discussion. Explain that hopefully this will help eliminate fighting over their break, but nothing is perfect. Therefore, issues may come up that you have not discussed. Ask, if an issue does occur, that everyone tries to discuss it remembering you all have the same goal of everyone enjoying the holiday. Hopefully if you keep this in mind and discusses any issues that occur it can be a happy holiday break for everyone.

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

All I Want for Christmas is A Blanket

All I Want for Christmas is A Blanket

A teacher did a typical holiday activity and asked her first grade class to write letters for Christmas. She asked each student to write one thing they want and something they need. One of the children wrote this heartbreaking letter:

See the video above

The fact that is even more heartbreaking is she was not the only child in the class to write such a letter. Several children requested food and blankets too.

We assume that hunger is not a problem in the United States. However, one in five children live below the poverty level and do not have enough to eat on a regular basis. Many of these children are homeless too. It’s not because they have drug addicted parents either. Many of their parents work 2 or 3 jobs, but the cost of living in the United Stares is so high, they still cannot provide their children with the basic necessities of life.

I do see children in this situation for psychotherapy. These children are often depressed and see no hope for the future. They feel that they will be homeless for their entire life. I am able to provide these children psychotherapy because I see them pro bono.

The other sad fact is that the United States government is considering cutting programs which assist these families and this will make life worse for these children. Many of these programs are their only source of food. The children are the future of our country. Why would the United States, considered the richest country in the world, cut programs that will increase the number of children living in poverty? Should a child in the United States, need to be asking Santa Claus for food and a blanket? Are we really willing to cut these vital programs that these children who are legal United States citizens and turn around and spend $5 billion dollars on a wall. Where are our priorities?

We cannot control what the government is doing except by voting and speaking out to our Senators. In addition, especially at this time of year, we can donate to food banks, churches and non-profits which assist families in need. In addition to donating to these organizations, you and your family can volunteer some time over the Holidays to assist these programs. The Holidays are the busiest time of year and they can always use volunteers. Furthermore, besides donating or volunteering during the Holidays, it is something we can do throughout the year.

There is no reason that a child who lives in the richest country in the world needs to be asking for a blanket at the Holidays. Leaving the children and families in this situation only creates more problems later in life. Research shows children who grow up under these conditions are more likely to have mental health issues as adults. We can change this by donating to non-profit