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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gay Pride and Teenagers

Gay Pride and Teenagers

This month we celebrate Pride month. We celebrate that people have a right to be homosexual, transsexual and transgender. We also celebrate a recent Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing gay and transgender people are entitled to the same protection on their jobs as everyone else. In a number of ways, this is correct. Homosexual marriage has been legal in our country for a few years and there are many laws now.Therefore, the laws are acknowledging that regardless of sexual orientation, we are all human beings entitled to the same rights.

While there has been progress is it enough? As a psychotherapist who treats adolescents, I would say no. I still have parents who bring their teenager who identifies as homosexual or transgender into therapy. They do not bring the teen in for therapy to help them deal with the social pressures they are encountering at school and other places. No they bring their teen into me so I can fix them. Many parents still consider these feelings to be a teenage phase or that someone convinced their child to think and feel this way. When I explain to parents there is nothing to fix, many parents do not believe me. They tell me they will take their teen to someone who will fix them.

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

When parents are still brining teens in for me to fix them and they are still being harassed and bullied at school, I do not think we have made a lot of progress. Yes some progress has been made, but we still need to make more progress.

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

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

Fifty years later, after people were killed in a nightclub for being gay, teenagers should not have to be dealing with these stereotypes at home and at school and there should be support services available. We need to eliminate the stigma associated with sexuality and mental health, we need to educate parents and schools about teenagers sexuality and we need more mental health services for teens. As psychotherapist we need to do a better job of educating the public that if a teenager tells us they are homosexual or transsexual or transgender, we cannot break confidentiality. Meaning we can tell no one not even there parents. We also need to educate parents this is not a disease that we cure. Sexuality is a normal part of being a human being and there are various forms of sexuality and they are all normal. Again, think about those suicide rates and how many teens we lose every year because of a stereotype. This is ridiculous!!

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

How To Improve Your Relationship with Your Teenager During the Pandemic

How To Improve Your Relationship with Your Teenager During the Pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are We Teaching Children and Teenagers about the United States

What are We Teaching Children and Teenagers about the United States

Many people complain about how teenagers act and their disrespect for adults and rules. However, what do we expect? We are teaching teenagers to be selfish, not to comply with the rules and not to be respectful to other people. How are we teaching teenagers to act this way? We are teaching them to act this way because we have a President who acts this way and no one is stopping him. People just say, “well that is how Trump acts.” We would not say that if it was a teenager calling his teacher a whore.

A perfect example is the rally he is planning on holding in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tulsa just recorded the highest number of hospitalizations today for the Coronavirus (CDC). In fact, the United States also recorded the highest number of new Coronavirus infections today (CDC) and the World Health Organization reported today the world reported the highest number of new cases of the Coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic. These numbers are not due to increased testing either. We know this by the number of people being hospitalized. The mayor of Tucson, Arizona stated yesterday that her city was running out of ICU beds for Coronavirus patients. Dr. Fauci, the expert regarding viruses, stated inside events, such as Trump’s rally, are dangerous at this time. Every other leading public health expert agrees with Dr. Fauci.

However, President Trump is having a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma with over 20,000 people in an enclosed space and people are not required to wear face masks anyway. If it is so safe as Trump claims, why is the Trump campaign requiring people who attend the rally to sign a statement that they will not hold the Trump campaign legally liable if they catch the Coronavirus? Trump doesn’t care if he is exposing 20,000 people to a deadly virus, which we have no cure for, all he cares about is getting his way and having his rally. Never mind that Major League Baseball cannot have games due to the risk of the Coronavirus nor can the National Basketball League have games with fans due to the risk the Coronavirus poses, but Trump can hold his campaign rally. We are telling children and teenagers they cannot go to Disneyland, water parks or play with friends, but Trump is holding a rally because he wants to. If you were a child or teenager, would this make sense to you?

I ask you, what are we teaching children and teenagers? Why should they follow the rules? What they are seeing if you scream enough and insult enough people, you get your way. We need to remember that developmentally teenagers frontal lobes are not fully developed so they do not reason like adults. Therefore, yelling and insulting people in authority is how they tend to react when they want their way. What motivation do they have to change when they see Trump using the same tactics and getting his way.

We are urging teenagers not to bully and to be sensitive to what they post on social media because it can negatively impact other people. In fact, teenagers have had their acceptance to colleges revoked and teenagers have been charged with harassment because of what they posted about other kids or races on social media. This seems unfair when the President insults people daily on Twitter. He never thinks about how his tweets may impact people. In fact, the tweet he posted today about his rally threaten people with physical violence if they protested against his rally. Additionally, this threat may stop people from exercising their right to freedom of speech. Trump feels because we have freedom of speech in our Country he is entitled to hold his rally. However, if we want to protest the rally, he wants to deny us the same access to the rights he has as a citizen. How do we tell teens not to bully or intimidate other people, when the President is allowed to do it daily without any consequences?

Another example of the President’s disregard for the law and disrespect for people came this week when the Supreme Court decided he could not deny transexual employees their legal rights as employees. Regardless of their sexual orientation, they were protected by the same laws as everyone else. Also the Supreme Court decided he did not follow the law appropriately when he tried to end the DACA program. Again the Supreme Court states our Country has laws and the President must obey the laws. However, by what and how he treated these two groups of people, he demonstrated to teenagers you don’t have to follow the laws, if you are the boss. Thankfully, the Supreme Court sent a message that everyone must follow the laws including the President.

Some people may say I’m making a big deal over nothing and teenagers don’t care about anything Trump may do. As a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers, I can tell you that you are wrong. I have many teenagers ask me why is the President allowed to be insulting on Twitter or use sexual or racial slurs or make fun of people with disabilities. They say it makes no sense because if they did anything like Trump does on Twitter, they could be asked to leave their school for inappropriate conduct. They feel the double standard is unfair.

I also have teens who are using racial slurs or insulting people daily and when I point out that their behavior is inappropriate, they tell me it’s not because the President does the same things and worse. They are right about Trump’s behavior. Therefore, how do I dispute their point?Explain there are two set of laws in our Country. One set for every day citizens and another set for white billionaires. No teenagers will accept that excuse nor could I bring myself to say that to them.

Finally, Trump has forgotten how are Country was formed. The United States has always been referred to as the great America melting pot. Meaning we accept people of all colors, creeds and sexual orientations and by all of us working together and respecting what we bring to the United States that we were building a Country for everyone. However, the last couple of weeks show that Trump does not appear to believe in this concept. His campaign adds use racist symbols and statements. His White House will not acknowledge there is institutional racism in the United States. In fact, when asked they deny it and state it does not exist. How can we expect teenagers not to think sexist and racist behavior is okay when the White House supports sexist and racist attitudes in their statements and actions?

Finally, when will the adults in our Country stand up and say enough is enough? Our children deserve better, but if we allow Trump to continue to be an egotistical, sexist, bigot with no empathy for other people, what are we doing to our children? What are we telling girls or children with disabilities about their worth as people? What are we teaching are children about how to treat some one who is black, hispanic or has different religious beliefs than their’s? We are basically telling children the values used to create the United States are no longer relevant. You only are important and have rights if you are white and your family has a great deal of money. Basically the Constitution is dead if we allow Trump to continue as he is acting now.

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

Money Doesn’t Make You Happy

Money Doesn’t Make You Happy

Being a teenager in today’s world is very difficult. Besides dealing with mass school shootings and now the uncertainty of life due to the Coronavirus, they face other daily challenges. Many teenagers believe they must grow up and have jobs with fancy titles, make a lot of money and drive fancy cars to be a success as an adult. They face stereotypes about how boys must act if they want to be men and girls face stereotypes about how they must act to be considered women. I hear teens tell me everyday how overwhelmed and confused they are trying to fit into all the necessary stereotypes. They feel overwhelmed because at times they are not sure how to act and confused because at times they don’t agree with the stereotype. If they don’t, they are not sure what to do. This is a lot of pressure for a 13 year old child to be trying to cope with on a daily basis. It’s no surprise that many teens turn to drugs as a way to cope. It is also not a surprise that Cutting is at epidemic rates for teens and suicide is now the second leading cause of death for teens (CDC)

Now what if you don’t fit into the stereotypes? What if you suffer from depression? If you have a learning disability? Or if you are homosexual or bisexual? What do these teenagers do? This is how they were born and they cannot change that fact. Many of these teens will struggle trying to fit the stereotypes and also try desperately to hide from friends and family that they do not fit the teenage stereotypes. Some are lucky and parents or a teacher intervene helping them to get the help they need. Many are not so lucky and often choose suicide. Teenagers who are homosexual or questioning their sexuality are five times more likely than the average teen to think about and attempt suicide (CDC). These are very scary and sad facts.

The CDC found one in five teenagers are dealing with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or stress. Many may think about psychotherapy but quickly block that option. Only “crazy people” need psychotherapy. If they had to go to therapy they are really a “loser.” For teenagers who are willing to try therapy, they often cannot find a therapist who treats teenagers or their family cannot afford it. Also for many cultures such as Latin or Asian, they believe that personal issues need to be resolved within the family and you would never share intimate family issues with strangers. Therefore, for these teens psychotherapy is not an option.

However, as a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers, I hear daily from teens that all they want is to be accepted for who they are and they don’t want to have to always hide. The teen with depression or the learning disabilities wants to be considered just as important as the star quarterback on the football team. They want this from their school, their friends, society and finally from their families. Is this too much to ask for?

These teenagers are not stealing or doing anything to be ashamed of, they are being themselves just the way they were born. Why can’t they be accepted and celebrated? The answer is they can! It is something I teach them in every session we have together. There are organizations such as Alive and Free in San Francisco and Challenge Day in the San Francisco Bay Area who work with teens and society so these teens can feel accepted being themselves.

Another organization addressing this issue is called Born This Way. It was started by Lady Gaga and her organization works with teens and society so all teens feel accepted for who they are just the way they were born. Lady Gaga explains the mission of her foundation this way, “Safety, skills, and opportunity. Number one, I want everyone to feel safe in their community: school, home, whatever city you live in. Two: developing the skills that are needed to be a loving, accepting, and tolerant person, and to also inject that sentiment into all the people around you, being a supportive human being. And the third is opportunity. I believe once you feel safe in your environment and you acquire the skills to be a loving and accepting person, the opportunities for you are endless to become a great functioning human in society.”

For people who do better by hearing something or seeing it, I have included a link to a YouTube video where Lady Gaga explains Born This Way, https://youtu.be/

The concept really is very simple. Why can’t we accept children and teenagers just the way they were born. Every person is unique and everyone has talents to contribute to the world. So why do we pressure boys into the stereotype the must have big muscles and play sports to be a man? Why do we tell girls that boys are smarter and if someone touches them in a way they do not like it is their fault because of the clothes they are wearing. This is insane!

If we do away with the stereotypes and focus on teenagers liking their own personalities and bodies, we would have less cutting, suicide and drug use. We would also have many more teenagers who are happy and successful at life. Being happy is a successful life not a big bank account. Therefore, let’s get started on helping teens. We need people to support more organizations like the ones I named above. If we do we can eliminate the stereotypes and stigma of not fitting a stereotype. We also need to make psychotherapy more accessible to all teenagers and remove the negative stigma associated with mental health care. Now some people may think what I am proposing is impossible and just a dream. However, you are seeing more groups like the ones I mentioned open every year. We are seeing teenagers and parents being attracted to them. It is possible to improve the lives of children and teenagers. It may need to start with a dream. Dreams do come true look at what Walt Disney created with his dream.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience working with children and teenagers. He is on the nations advisory board for Alive and Free. For more information about his work and private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover

Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raising Children without Prejudice

Raising Children without Prejudice

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis has created a number of protests, conversations and people using his death as an excuse to commit crimes and cause damage. What I want to focus on is that his murder has shined a spotlight on the fact that Black Americans and other minorities are not treated equally in the United States. An issue we have ignored for a long time. Unfortunately, Mr. Floyd’s death gives us a chance to change this fact. It also provides us a chance to change how children are raised in the United States so hopefully we can eliminate prejudice regarding race, religion, sexual orientation, physical disabilities, mental health issues and financial status just to name a few issues.

Some people may ask who am I to address this issue. I am a white man, who has a physical disability, but my status of being white provided me the chance to an excellent education, I was able to go to the best schools, and I was able to earn a doctorate degree. It also gave me the opportunity to open my own business, live in a nice home in a nice neighborhood, to have very nice clothes, a nice car and plenty of food to eat. Additionally, I have access to excellent medical care when I need it. Therefore, being white and working hard has provided me with a number of advantages. The way my family raised me and what I was taught by the Christian Brothers is the more you know the more you owe. In other words, since I was fortunate enough to have all these advantages, I have an obligation to speak out for all those people who are not as fortunate as me. Something I am able to do because I am white. Because I am white with a doctorate degree people are more willing to listen to me than a Black man on the ground saying he cannot breathe.

A Black man made a YouTube video about who he is as a person. Please take the time to watch this video by this black man. As he describes himself, I do not see a big difference between him as a person and myself except he is black. The color of his skin should not make a difference in how I treat this man, in my opinion. Watch it for yourself and see what you think https://youtu.be/oGu_xGBekpo.

In order to address some of the issues people are protesting about those of us who have the privilege and power, we need to look at ourselves and how we have benefited from the privilege and power we were born into. As a result of this power, we have the ability to try to change the way things work in the United States so everyone is treated fairly. Being treated fairly means treating people for who they are not based on race, religion, sexual orientation or physical disability or mental health issues. Michael Jackson said it perfectly, in my opinion, in his song, “The Man in the Mirror.” He describes how the privileged act and how we discriminate against and ignore minorities, the poor and those with disabilities. His challenge to us is do we have the courage to look at ourselves and make real changes so everyone is treated equally. I have included a link to the lyrics of that song. Please review them and look at how they apply to today’s world and ask yourself do you have the courage to really change yourself? https://youtu.be/j2mJZwOMLdQ.

After we have made the appropriate changes then we can teach our children not to discriminate and to treat everyone fairly. Yes, it’s seems impossible, but this is the United States. If enough of us decide to make these changes and work together, we can make these changes. Or maybe we need to let the children teach us. A year ago a video went viral of two preschoolers who were best friends and not afraid to hug each other. They did not care that one boy was white and the other was black. They did not care because they were not yet taught about prejudice and discrimination. I have included the link to that video too https://youtu.be/M68evpsDC8M. These two boys are very happy and very good friends. Wouldn’t it be nice if as adults we could be so nice to each other? Maybe we need to watch the innocent children so we can learn how to unlearn the prejudice thoughts that we have all been raised with by our society. When I see we I mean we. Whites, blacks, hispanics, asians, rich people, poor people, educated and uneducated people, we all have our prejudices and ways we discriminate against each other. However, in order for us to really make a change, white people need to take the first step because we have the majority of the power. However, if we are going to make a permanent change, black people, hispanic people and asian people need to take steps at the same time. We all need to work together if we want our children to have better lives and not have to continue to live with prejudices and discrimination.

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

Teenage Suicide During the Quarantine

Teenage Suicide During the Quarantine

Many parents ask me, if their child could be suicidal and what to do if their child is suicidal? This concern has increased since the CDC no longer ranks suicide as the third leading cause of death and now rates it as the second leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. Furthermore, since the quarantine has been in place, there has been an increase in suicides and deaths from drug overdoses. As a result, parents are worrying more about if their teenager may be feeling suicidal. Additionally, before the quarantine, parents were worrying more about suicidal teenagers as we learned more about suicides of survivors involved in mass shootings. The issue of suicide is very scary especially because we do not discuss mental health issues in our society. As a result, parents are not sure what signs they should be looking for or what to do if they feel their teen is suicidal. Parents are aware there is a teenage suicide epidemic, but have no idea what to do or how to get help.

A successful suicide attempt is definitely a tragedy for the entire family. However, an unsuccessful attempt can be a tragedy for the child and the family too. Depending on the method used, a child who has an unsuccessful attempt may have to live their entire life with major medical complications. They can cause brain damage which may cause them to lose the ability to speak or the ability to breath on their own. Therefore, they may spend the rest of their life on a ventilator. Guns are one of the top three ways teenagers attempt suicide. However, teenagers are not aware that guns jump when fired. Many teens who use a gun do not kill themselves, but they do shoot off their face. The result is they have to have numerous surgeries to reconstruct their face, but their face and life are never the same.

I read this very good article describing what to do if you think your child is suicidal. It provides the steps you need to take in a non-threatening manner. It also addresses issues parents often may not think about, if they are concerned about their child being suicidal. The most important step is don’t be afraid to ask your child if they are feeling suicidal. It is a myth that if you ask someone if they are suicidal that you will cause them to become suicidal. In fact, you may save their life by asking them if they are suicidal. By asking you let them know it’s ok to talk about their feelings. Also by asking you reassure them there is nothing wrong with them and that you are emotionally strong enough to cope with the situation. Therefore, you may save their life by asking, if they are feeling suicidal.

Another reason many parents do not ask their teenager about suicide is the negative stigma associated with suicide. Often when someone dies of suicide the family will give another reason. Many families also request suicide not be listed as the cause of death. The Lighthouse Project conducted at Columbia University is attempting to remove this stigma. The Project has also developed questions that family members, friends and first responders can ask a person who they think might be suicidal. The questions have shown to be very effective at identifying someone who is suicidal and having the person to get help. I am including the link to the Lighthouse Project so you can learn more about it and download the questions that are most appreciated for you, if you feel someone in your life maybe suicidal. http://cssrs.columbia.edu/. It is a very good list of questions and the research shows that the questions are very effective at identifying someone who is suicidal.

I have included the link to this article and I encourage parents to read it and to save it. What to Do if You’re Worried About Suicide |. https://childmind.org/article/youre-worried-suicide/#.W9PRyfwKel8.twitter.
Bottom line, if you feel your teenager is suicidal do not be embarrassed. Make an appointment to have your teen evaluated by a psychotherapist who specializes in suicidal teenagers. If you walk in on an attempt, call 911 immediately.

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

Mother’s Day Is A Difficult Day for Some People

Mother’s Day Is A  Difficult Day for Some People

Many people assume Mother’s Day is a happy day for people because they can honor their mother. However, for some adults, it is not a happy day. For some people their mother may have died when they were children. For some people their mother may have left them when they were children and they had to live in foster care. For others, their parents separated and their father raised them and they rarely or maybe never saw their mother. Therefore, Mother’s Day may not be a happy day. Also for children who were raised in foster care all their lives, today typically is a very difficult day.

While this may not be a happy day for adults, it also can be a very difficult day for children too. Some children may be dealing with the death of their mother. As I stated above, some children may have a mother who left the family and are not involved with them any longer. Seeing the television commercials or having other family members tell them that it still can be a good day can be difficult for them.

Additionally, this year we are under quarantine. This may make it more difficult for people to visit their mother or grandmother. If someone has been exposed to the virus or if their grandmother is over 70 and has other health issues visiting mom or grandma may not be possible. However, you can use Zoom or FaceTime, but this Mother’s Day will be different and some people may have a hard time accepting it.

I work with many of these children, I described above, in psychotherapy. Many don’t express their feeling, but they tend to deal with the emotional pain by acting out. They may be very oppositional during the week and the day as away to express their feelings. Other children may isolate and not want to be involved with anything having to do with Mother’s Day.

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

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

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

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

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