The Connection between Bullying and Suicide in Children

The Connection between Bullying and Suicide in Children

Before the pandemic most kids and teenagers complained how they hated school and wanted to stay home. However, after a year of remote learning most kids and teenagers want to go back to the classroom and also see their friends again. However, as kids return to school a common issue is returning. The issue is kids being teased and bullied. In the 21st century bullying doesn’t just happen at school, it now occurs on line via texting and by kids posting things on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram to name a few social media sites. Therefore bullying and teasing can occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Therefore, kids who are being bullied or teased never get a break from it.

Often when a child is being bullied they do not say anything to their parents until the bullying is really bad. They are afraid, especially boys, that you will see them as weak. They are also afraid that you will be disappointed in them for not defending themselves. Parents it’s important that you understand that you have not said anything or done anything to create this feeling in your child. Our society teaches children these messages, especially boys. Children receive these messages about being strong and solving their own problems from television, music, and video games. This is what the documentary “The Mask You Live In”, is trying to address. It is on YouTube and it might be helpful if you watch it.

It is very important to take bullying very seriously these days. It is no longer just one kid calling another kid names. The bullying today occurs at school and may include threats of being killed and it goes beyond school. As I noted above, today’s bullies can continue their bullying via text messages, emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. So the bullying becomes non-stop. It can really make someone feel worthless and that they would be better off dead. One example of a child being overwhelmed by bullying is a 13 year old boy, on the east coast, who committed suicide because he could not tolerate the bullying any longer. The boy committed suicide to escape the bullying. He is not the first child to commit suicide due to bullying. One 15 year old girl committed suicide due to bullying and she left a note to be placed in her obituary. In the note she asked kids to be kind to each other. Some kids are turning to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain and we are seeing a significant number of accidental overdosages resulting in teenagers’ deaths. We assume they were accidents, they could also be suicides staged to look like accidents. Also suicide has recently been moved from the third leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old to the second leading cause of death for kids. Therefore, if kids have turned to suicide to escape bullying, the rate of bullying has most likely increased significantly.

Bullying is not just an elementary school issue. It occurs in High School and College too. A few years back a college student committed suicide because his roommate secretly filmed him in his dorm room with another guy having sex. When the tape was posted on the college’s email for others to see, the boy was so ashamed because he had not made it publicly known that he was gay. He was so upset and humiliated that he ended up committing suicide.

As the rates for bullying in middle schools increase, the number of suicides and drug use increase too. However, this issue also occurs in elementary school and elementary students are committing suicide or starting to use alcohol and marijuana. We know it is a very serious problem in Elementary schools because suicide it is no longer the third leading cause of death for 10 year old children. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for 10 year old kids according to the CDC statistics.

Additionally, I am seeing more and more elementary students in therapy because they are being bullied on line or at school as schools reopen. Many of these children are embarrassed because they feel they should be able to stop the bullying. They are also embarrassed and often don’t want me to tell their parents because they believe they must of done something to deserve being bullied. I explain to them they do not deserve it and they should not have to stop it on their own. I also explain that their parents would want to know so they can help them. I need to emphasize that Mom and Dad won’t blame them or be ashamed of them. It is amazing to see how relaxed these children become when I tell them this about their parents.

What should a parent do? One thing is parents should watch for the following warning signs that your child is a victim of a bully:

Avoiding activities they used to enjoy

Loss of friends or avoiding social situations

Problems sleeping

Complaining of stomachaches or headaches

Loss of appetite

Declining grades

Missing or damaged clothing or belongings

Self-destructive behaviors like running away from home

If you notice any of these or just have a sense something is wrong then talk to your child. However, when you talk to your child reassure them they did nothing wrong, there is nothing wrong with them and you are not upset or disappointed with them. Try to develop a game plan of how you are going to deal with it together and ask how you can be supportive. Also ask your child to promise you if they feel really sad like they want to hurt themselves that they will talk to you before they do anything. You may think this is ridiculous, but I use a no suicide contract with many children that I work with and they honor it. The contract lets them you know that you care about them and it is okay to talk about their feelings.

The other thing you can do as a parent is go to your child’s school and ask what is the school’s policy on bullying. You can also ask how the school watches for bullying, how is the policy enforced and what is being done to prevent bullying. You may ask the school to contact or you can volunteer to contact a group such as Challenge Day. This is an international organization that addresses bullying and they are located in Concord, California. I have seen their work and it is fantastic and kids love it.

Another thing you can do as a parent is start talking to your child about bullying on an occasional basis. This gives you a chance to let them know it’s not their fault and to develop a plan of action if it does occur. You should also discuss drugs and alcohol at the same time. I work with kids all day long and at times I am still shocked at how young kids are when they are starting to get involved with drugs and alcohol.

Keeping an open line of communication with your child is very important if you want them to come to you. Research still indicates that children are more likely to turn to their friends when they have a problem. This is good that they have this emotional support, but their friends don’t have the answers or solutions that they need. Remember it is best to speak to your child when you are in a calm environment and no one else, such as brothers or sisters, are around. Also remember the word HALT. It stands for:

Hungry

Angry

Lonely

Tired

If you sense your child is experiencing any of these feelings it is not a good time to talk. When you talk with your child you want it to be productive and for your child to feel like they are not being judged. Therefore, sometimes it is better to put off a conversation so you don’t end up in an argument. This is more likely to close the line of communication with your child.

I have mentioned several times that being bullied is not their fault. What I have seen from working with children who are bullies, abusive men and reviewing the research is that bullies really have very low self-esteem. In fact many times they lack a sense of themselves. The only way the feel important or alive is by putting someone else down. They do this because they are afraid the other kids might be able to figure out how lousy they feel about themselves. It is often said the best defense is a good offense. They hope that by acting like the big guy on campus that other people will see them as the big guy and they are able to keep their secret. Kids usually do this because it was done to them too.

Therefore, we need to remember the bully is usually a kid who has been abused too and is crying out for help. If we are going to stop the problem of bullying we need programs to help the bullies too. They are only repeating what they have been taught.

One last comment, I saw a school install a “buddy bench.” If anyone had been bullied, having a bad day, feeling lonely, all they had to do was sit on the buddy bench. Another student or teacher would then go over and ask how they could help. There was no shame associated if you sat on the buddy bench. It was presented as a brave choice. The school was using it as part of their program to stop bullying at school. This fantastic idea came from a 10 year old student. Children often have fantastic answers and we need to listen.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with children and teenagers. He has over 23 years experience working with children and teens especially those who are victims of trauma. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Teenagers Need Psychotherapy, but Insurance Denies Claim

Teenagers Need Psychotherapy, but Insurance Denies Claim

Over the years children and teenagers have been exposed to stressful life events especially the last two years. The teens today have grown up with daily school shootings and mass shooting drills. Imagine being a second grader having to rehearse a man with a gun is on campus and you don’t know if you are going to live or die. Additionally, we are coming up on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack in New York. Teenagers today have also grown up with terrorist alerts and having to be searched anytime they went to a concert or places such as Disneyland. Finally they have had to cope with COVID. Over 600,000 Americans have died from this virus (CDC). Many children and teenagers have lost grandparents, siblings and parents to this virus. We thought we had turned a corner regarding the Coronavirus and we find out we are back at the beginning. There are over 150,000 people being diagnosed with the Coronavirus daily and the number of people dying is increasing and hospitals don’t have enough beds to treat everyone. Additionally, this time the virus is effecting teenagers and children. Since schools have started 450 children have died due to the Coronavirus virus (CDC).

This is a lot for a child or teenager to have to adjust to. Remember, their brains are not fully developed yet. Therefore they cannot understand things like adults do. Furthermore, they have very active imaginations which are fueled by misinformation on social media or from people such as Tucker Carlson on Fox. Having to cope with all of this together has resulted in a significant increase in depression, suicide, drug overdose and anxiety disorders. At my office we get at least 20 requests daily for teenagers seeking psychotherapy due to anxiety disorders.

The fact that we thought we were on the right track with the Coronavirus and now we have another spike which is similar to the numbers a year ago is confusing and irritating to teenagers. Just as somethings were opening up and returning somewhat to normal, we have this spike and need to adjust our lives again. As a result, many things have to be closed down again, there are definite rules regarding wearing masks and they are not able to freely socialize with their friends. Again we are not able to give children and teenagers any definite answers regarding when life will return to something normal.

With everything teenagers have had to cope with growing up, terrorist attacks, war, the economy collapsing, mass shooting and now the Coronavirus, we failed to make plans for their mental health care. Yes hospitals are running out of beds and physicians are becoming exhausted, but we are also running out of psychotherapists. Also psychotherapists are exhausted because they are dealing with depression, suicide and anxiety daily. However, psychotherapist do need some breaks so they can keep going. Finally, more and more insurance companies are declining claims or raising copayments so high that families cannot afford their copayments.

This lack of mental health care is unacceptable in the United States. Parents call the Human Resource Department at your work. They negotiate your benefits with the insurance companies. Therefore, they can renegotiate your coverage so you receive the benefits your family needs. Also call your Senators and demand that insurance companies need to provide mental health care.

As a result, many parents have asked me how to determine if their child is coping with anxiety and what to do if they are coping with anxiety. I can understand why parents are concerned especially because many children tend to try to hide their anxiety because they don’t want to worry their parents.

Therefore, the APA (American Psychological Association) developed guidelines that parents can use to determine if their child is dealing with anxiety and what to do if they are dealing with anxiety. You can also use the guidelines for depression too. I have provided an outline to the APA guidelines below:

The American Psychological Association (APA) offers the following tips to recognize if children may be experiencing stress or anxiety:

• Withdrawal from things the child usually enjoys

• Trouble falling or staying asleep

• Unexpected abdominal pain or headaches

• Extreme mood swings

• Development of a nervous habit, such as nail-biting

Parents can actively help kids and adolescents manage stress by:

Being available

• Start the conversation to let kids know you care about what’s happening in their lives.

• Notice times when kids are most likely to talk – for example, in the car or before bed.

Listening actively

• Stop what you’re doing and listen carefully when a child begins to open up about their feelings or thoughts.

• Let kids complete their point before you respond.

• Listen to their point of view even if it’s difficult to hear.

Responding thoughtfully

• Resist arguing about who is right. Instead say “I know you disagree with me, but this is what I think.”

• Express your opinion without minimizing theirs – acknowledge that it’s healthy to disagree sometimes.

• Focus on kids’ feelings rather than your own during conversation.

• Soften strong reactions, as kids will tune you out if you appear angry, defensive or judgmental.

• Word swap.

o   Say ‘and’ instead of ‘but’

o   Say ‘could’ instead of ‘should’

o   Say ‘aren’t going to’ instead of ‘can’t’

o   Say ‘sometimes’ instead of ‘never’ or ‘always’

Consider

• Model the behavior you want children to follow in how they manage anger, solve problems and work through difficult feelings. Kids learn by watching their parents.

• Don’t feel you have to step in each time kids make what you may consider a bad decision, unless the consequences may be dangerous. Kids learn from making their own choices.

• Pay attention to how children play, the words they use or the activities they engage in. Young children may express their feelings of stress during play time when they feel free to be themselves.

• It is important to explain difficult topics in sentences and even individual words kids will understand. For little kids it might mean saying simple things like, “We love you and we are here to keep you safe.” For adolescents, it’s important to be honest and up front about difficult topics and then give them a little space to process the information and ask questions when they’re ready.

Call your child’s or adolescent’s health care provider or a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers, if stress begins to interfere with his or her daily activities for several days in a row.

You can find additional helpful information about kids and stress by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Helping Children Cope webpage at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/for-parents.html.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple or on Audible.

Helping Teenagers Cope with Peer Pressure

Helping Teenagers Cope with Peer Pressure

Many parents worry about peer pressure and so do a lot of teenagers. Teenagers worry about the stories they have heard and don’t know what to do. Many parents see their teenagers worrying and don’t know what to do about it either.

Let’s face it peer pressure has been part of life for a long time and it does not appear that we will eliminate it any time soon. However, be sides the negative we associate with it, research shows pressure does play an important role in helping Teenagers develop into adults. Therefore, since it doesn’t appear we will be eliminating it soon, we should help our children learn how to cope with it in a positive manner.

Additionally, since the research indicates that it plays a role in the development of teenagers, parents need to understand it better. If parents understand it better, they will be better prepared to help their children deal with it. While researching this topic I found an article which explains these points easily and it is an article that is easy to read. Therefore, I have included the link so parents can read it and gain a better understanding about peer pressure it more.

Here is the link to the article https://yourteenmag.com/social-life/teenagers-friends/peer-pressure

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers and trauma victims. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work, please visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at Facebook.com/Drrubino3

College Eating Disorders Impact Females & Males

College Eating Disorders Impact Females & Males

Many parents are getting ready to send their children off to college. This is a very happy time and sad time for many parents and teenagers. It is also a time, especially now, many parents worry about their child’s health and safety while their child is away at college. Being realistic parents are not their to watch their child so they have to trust their child’s judgment.

Additionally, we are seeing a significant increase in the number of people being diagnosed with the Coronavirus Delta variant. While their child is at home, they can keep watch and remind their child if they feel they are taking unnecessary risks. However, they cannot do this when their child is at college.

While parents are worrying about the Coronavirus, mass shooting and how their child will do on their own, there is another issue most parents don’t worry about regarding their child. The issue many parents do not think about is eating disorders.

Many research studies indicate that many eating disorders begin in college. If your child had an eating disorder during high school or middle school, they are at a high risk for a release during college. Furthermore, it’s not just girls who are at risk for eating disorders. Boys suffer from eating disorders too. In fact when the college population is examined 1 out of every 3 people diagnosed with an eating disorder is male (CDC, NEDA). Additionally, eating disorders impact every ethnicity and socioeconomic group. Therefore, eating disorders do not discriminate, but the stereotype is that it only impacts females. A stereotype which is incorrect.

Since eating disorders most commonly occur during college, it is a good idea to discuss the issue with your children who are going to college. Since an eating disorder can occur at any time, it’s a good idea that this be an ongoing conversation while they are in college. You don’t want to make it a one time lecture.

I have an outline below of topics to cover and how you may want to cover the various points.

 1. Listen to your teen’s perspective

Rather than launch into a lecture, start by asking your young adult why they think eating disorders are so prevalent among college students. Get their take on potential vulnerabilities specific to this age group. You’ll also be able to assess their understanding of eating disorders and what misconceptions they may have.

2. Bust myths about the “freshman fifteen”

If your teen hasn’t already brought up their concerns about freshman weight gain, now is your chance to address the tired jokes and fear-mongering around this popular phrase. The reality is that, even though the average weight gain among college students is much lower than fifteen pounds, everyone responds differently to this big life transition. Remind your teen that they are still growing and, despite cultural messages to the contrary, we don’t have to demonize weight gain. 

3. Address the risks of dieting—even if they call it “healthy eating”

Make sure your kids know the facts. Whether it’s a lifestyle change, a cleanse, a reset, or a weight-loss app that insists it “isn’t a diet,” restricting calories and/or food groups is likely to disrupt one’s relationship with eating. In most cases, dieting (by any name) can lead to fixation and bingeing. In others, it can cause anxiety and increasing restriction. And while eating disorders can be triggered by many factors, dieting is the single biggest predictor: one in four people who diet will go on to develop a diagnosable eating disorder. 

4. Talk through the college dining experience

Navigating a campus meal plan is nothing like wandering into the kitchen at home. Acknowledge how challenging this adjustment might be. Familiar foods may not always be available and buffet-style cafeterias can be overwhelming at first. Emphasize the importance of eating regularly. Skipping meals affects mood, sleep, and concentration—and can catalyze a disorder. 

5. Learn about mental health care on campus

If your child—or their roommate, teammate, or friend—seems to be struggling with body image or their relationship with food or exercise, where would they turn? The RA? A coach? University health services? Finding out more about mental health care available on campus is a great opportunity to address any lingering stigma around mental health needs and to normalize asking for help.

As you prepare to send your new college student off to school, and when they return home for breaks, be sure to make time for shared meals as a family. Family meals are a powerful protective factor against many of the stressors and pressures young people face. And, perhaps most important, when we share a meal with our teens, we are modeling the role of food as more than just calories or a nutrient-delivery system. Eating with people we love helps create a sense of safety, belonging, and joy. And that’s what we all want our kids to experience in college—and beyond. 

Hopefully this is helpful for parents and college students. Again remember, it’s best if you make this an ongoing conversation while your child is going to college. Finally it’s important to remember that both females and males develop eating disorders and die from them.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers and trauma victims. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Starting High School During the Delta Variant Outbreak

Starting High School During the Delta Variant Outbreak

All over the Country teenagers will be starting their first year in high school or returning to high school. Typically I would recommend that parents think back to their first day of high school and how they felt and what they were expecting. I did this to help parents relate to some of the feelings their teenager maybe having as a way for parents to help their teenagers starting high school. This may help parents with some of the issues facing their teenagers, but teenagers starting high school or resuming high school in 2021 do so in the middle of a deadly pandemic. Therefore, high school students are facing additional issues besides the typical first day of school issues.

High school students, in fact all students, are starting school when there is a significant increase in the Coronavirus due to the Delta variant. As a result, many people including teenagers are contracting the virus and having to be hospitalized (CDC). The number of people contracting the virus is similar to the numbers we were seeing a year ago (CDC).

Therefore, high school students are starting high school not knowing if they will or will not contact the deadly virus. Yes there are vaccinations they can get and they can wear masks, all of which decreases their chances of getting the virus, but some governors, school boards and parents are refusing these options. People are objecting because they say the precautions are not necessary and do not work. However, teens are hearing that in Alabama the State has run out of ICU beds for teenagers and 99.7% of people contracting the virus and currently dying from the virus have not been vaccinated (CDC). Additionally, they have heard about schools not using masks and having to shut down because the Delta variant had already infected too many teachers and students (CDC).

Besides worrying about contracting the virus, students have missed an entire year of high school. Therefore, students who are sophomores never had a freshman year and have no idea what to expect. Teenagers who were enjoying their high school experience have missed out on an entire year. Therefore, students starting high school and returning to high school in 2021 are doing so facing many issues that students usually never face. For example, the main issue is adjusting from remote learning to being back in the class. Their school days are longer, they have more homework and they are around more people. This is not a simple adjustment. As a result of all the issues we have seen a significant increase in depression and anxiety in high school students (CDC).

Parents hopefully you can remember everything teenagers and you are facing as your teenagers start high school. You may need to contact your teenager’s school and ask for assistance from the school. You may need to seek out a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers and have your teenager participate in psychotherapy. There is no shame in doing this because teenagers are facing tremendous mental health issues and many need help. Since the pandemic and school resuming, there has been a significant increase in the number of teenagers needing psychotherapy (CDC). In fact we are running out of psychotherapist who are able to treat these teenagers. No one planned on how to adequately handle the number of teenagers needing psychotherapy due to the pandemic.

Parents all you can do is to be patient and listen to your teenagers and seek the help you feel is appropriate. Also do not forget yourselves. Parents are under a great deal of stress too and you may need psychotherapy too. If you try to work together and are patient with each other, you should be able to handle the stress teenagers are facing due to the pandemic.

In addition to the pandemic, students starting high school still deal with common anxieties most teenagers have faced over the years. One common stressor for many teenagers are the stories they have heard about how seniors picking on and teasing the freshman students. Another common fear for freshman is that they are going to get lost on the campus and not be able to find their classrooms. Your teenagers are at a point in their life where they want to make a good impression on the other students. At their age image is very important. Therefore the idea of being teased by the seniors or getting lost on the campus can be very stressful and also create a great deal of anxiety for a student starting high school.

As parents, you can talk to your teenagers about your first days days at high school and reassure them that the stories they hear about Freshmen being targets for the seniors are greatly exaggerated. Also you can try to go with them over to the school before it starts and walk around the campus so they can get use to where everything is at their new school. Another thing you can do is remind them that everyone makes mistakes so if they do get lost the first day it is not a big deal. Remind them there will be a lot of other kids starting their first day of school too and there will be other kids getting lost. This is also another opportunity to continue to establish an open relationship with your teenager. The more you talk with each other, you increase the likelihood that they will feel comfortable coming and talking to you about issues they will have while in high school.

Another issue facing some students is starting all over. In middle school may be everyone knew them and they were in the “popular group.” Now no one knows them and they need to start all over. This may be frightening to them, but remind them there will be many times in life when they will need to start as the new person. Also remind them, if they were able to do it in middle school, they can do it in high school too. Be sure to encourage them to have faith in themselves because it won’t happen over night. Now for many students middle school was a nightmare. They may be looking forward to starting over. Again remind them if they have the desire to try they can do it. All the Freshmen are starting all over just like them, but also to be patient because it may not happen as quickly as they like.

Also before school actually starts is a very good time to establish what your expectations are regarding grades and after school activities and hanging out with friends. At this time is a good time to establish what your expectations are homework, after school jobs and weekend curfews. If you establish an understanding between yourself and your teenager before these situations arise you can save yourself a lot of time arguing with your teenager. However as you establish these guidelines you want to have a conversation with your teenager about these issues. Remember your teenager is starting to enter the adult world, if you simply just tell them these are the rules, they will feel that you are being unfair and they will try to find a way around your rules. If you have a discussion with them about the rules they will feel that their opinions were respected, they are more likely to feel that the rules are fair and are more likely to follow the rules. It is also a good idea to write a contract with all the things you agreed to. If you write the agreements down and there is a misunderstanding you simply need to refer back to the contract. Also this is another opportunity for you to establish a relationship with your teenager where they feel comfortable enough to come to you and discuss any problems they may be having. You are also role modeling to them how to have an adult discussion and how to negotiate fairly and respectfully with other their people.

Of course you also want to take this opportunity to discuss with your teenager the fact that they are going to be faced with making decisions about alcohol, drugs and sex. This is a good time to provide them with the education they will need in order to cope with these situations. It is even more important today because technology has changed a number of rules. For example, if a girl texts a nude photo to a boy, he is guilty of having child pornography. Yes it was mutually agreed to but they are still under 18 years old so it is a crime. Texting is another area where they can get into trouble. If someone takes a text as a threat they can get into trouble for bullying or assault. As I said, technology has changed the rules and many of us have not been able to keep it. Therefore, remind them that information they may receive from their friends may not always be accurate. Furthermore, encourage them that at any time if they have any questions or concerns regarding these matters or any other matters you are always there to listen and to talk with them.

One thing to remember is acronym HALT. I teach this often with anger management, but it helps with communication too.

H – hunger

A – anger

L – lonely

T – tired

If either one of you are having these feelings, it is generally not a good time to have a discussion. Also if either one of you is feeling like this and you may not be listening to each other. Therefore, if either one of you are having these feelings or don’t feel like talking, then it’s better to postpone the conversation until you are both ready to talk.

Lastly, remind them that they are starting a brand-new phase in their life and it is normal to feel anxious and stress. Also remind them that these feelings are normal in the beginning but they usually quickly disappear after they have started school.

Besides having to face the pandemic, high school students today also have to face the issue of school shootings. Sadly, this is another stressful subject you may want to discuss with your teenager. Develop a plan with your teenager about what they would do if there was a shooting at their school. Also discuss with them what to do if they hear rumors or have concerns about how another student is acting. Finally, discuss how you can help if they are feeling worried or not safe at school. It is sad, but this is the world we live in today. Talking to you teen can help decrease anxiety and help you to maintain open communication with your teenager.

A few things you can do on the first day of classes to help with any anxiety are you can get up in the morning with them and have breakfast with them before they go to school. You can also put a note of encouragement in their backpack that they will find when they are at school and this can help reassure them and remind them how much support they have at home. Finally, you can arrange to be at home when when they get home from their first day of high school so you can talk about it with them. Also plan to have a family dinner to discuss everyone’s first day of school and offer encouragement where needed. These are just a few ideas to help with the transition process.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience working with teenagers. To learn more about his private practice in Pleasant or the work he has done over 20 years visit his web site at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Good sleep is vital to teenagers mental health

Good sleep is vital to teenagers mental health

Parents are usually arguing with teenagers about how much sleep teenagers are getting and the quality of their sleep. Turns out that parents are right. Getting enough good quality sleep is vital to teenagers mental health.

Research has shown Sleep is necessary for good physical and mental health. This article outlines the benefits of getting enough good quality sleep. Teenagers may want to disagree bet the research is consistent on this fact.

Here is another study outlining the benefits of sleep. The Science of Sleep: 10 Surprising Health Benefits | Psychology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-healthy-journey/202108/the-science-sleep-10-surprising-health-benefits.

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about his work visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3.

Using A Driver’s Contract with Teenagers

Using A Driver’s Contract with Teenagers

Raising teenagers is a difficult task especially raising teenagers in today’s world. Before the year 2000 most patients had to worry about school, amount of time the teenager was on the phone and what their teenager was doing when they went out with friends or a date. These are still major areas of concern, but they are made more difficult due to the internet. Take going out with friends as an example, teenagers often look online for parties to go to in the weekend. They will make arrangements to get there with people they just met online. Additionally, they have no idea for sure what is or isn’t allowed at the party and the party may go one until 4am. This would cause many parents to worry and it should.

This is the reason that I have always stressed behavior contracts with teenagers. It gives parents a chance to discuss their concerns with their teenagers and to also set limits regarding appropriate behavior. No parent wants their teenager to fail school or to get hurt while out with friends. Since the prefrontal cortex of a teenager’s brain is not fully developed, at times they have difficulties making appropriate decisions. Again they may physically look like an adult, but mentally they are still very impulsive and at times act more like 5th graders. This is why contracts can help teenagers understand where their limits are and what will happen at home if they violate the limits.

Besides a contract regarding school and homework, a contract regarding driving is very important. Due to the new laws some teenagers are not driving at 16 years old and waiting until they are 18 years old. When they are 18, many of the new laws do not apply to them. However, whether they are 16 or 18 years old, they are driving your car so you are financially responsible if they are in an accident. Additionally, whether they are 16 or 18 years old, no patent wants their child seriously hurt in a car accident. With that being said, below is the contact I recommend patients use for their teenagers regarding driving. I recommend you use this contact whether they are 16 years old or 18 years old. Below are the essential parts of a driving contract that I recommend:

1. Have some baseline rules.

The driving contract for new drivers should include baseline rules to discourage behaviors that lead to accident and injury or death. These behaviors should include never driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, never using a cell phone while driving, never speeding, and always wearing a seatbelt.

2. Include consequences.

The teen driving contract should also include specific consequences for violating the rules. Parents must be willing to enforce the rules in the teen driving contract. Otherwise your teenager will have no real incentive to follow them. Making the consequences specific—you will lose access to the car for a week, if … —is helpful. That way, everyone will be on the same page about what will happen if the rules are broken.

3. Always offer a “Safe Passage” clause.

Parents should institute a “safe-passage” clause in their contract. If they are ever concerned about getting into a car, as a driver or a passenger, you will pick them up. No questions asked. Save the discussion for the next morning or, better, yet several days later.

4. Be willing to enforce the contract.

The effectiveness of the teen driver contract directly correlates to your enforcement of it. These kinds of rules encourage teenagers to take the responsibility of driving seriously, while also helping them resist peer pressure.

The contract is basic and everyone understands the consequences if the contract is broken. This can prevent a lot of arguments. I recommend that parents and the teenager all sign the contract and all receive a copy of it. This is an example of a contract for driving, but you can use contracts for many issues such as homework. I have found that many parents become overwhelmed trying to write a contract. Therefore, I have included this link https://adayinourshoes.com/behavior-contract-templates-elementary-teen/. It has templates to over 27 behavior contracts you can use with teenagers and they are free to download. Hopefully, this will make using contracts easier.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers and trauma victims. For more information regarding his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Lessons Simone Biles Taught Us About Mental Health

Lessons Simone Biles Taught Us About Mental Health

Mental health is a topic we tend to avoid in our society. It’s the “dirty little secret” people whisper about and will talk about behind someone’s back. Many people are afraid that if other people know they are feeling down or anxious that people will think they are crazy. Especially if a teenager is going to psychotherapy. They assume many people will think of them like the person living in the streets and talking to themselves. This is not reality. This negative stigma makes it difficult for adults to seek help for mental health issues. This negative stigma also makes it very difficult for children and teenagers to ask for help when they feel depressed or anxious. They are afraid their friends won’t understand and won’t want to be friends with them. They are also afraid their parents will think they are crazy and be disappointed with them. These ideas are incorrect, but if mental health is overwhelming for an adult, imagine how it can be for a child.

It is very important that children and teenagers do ask for help when they are experiencing mental health issues. The CDC estimates 1in 5 children need psychotherapy for a mental health issue. Furthermore, the CDC has stated that Suicide is an epidemic for children between the ages of 10 and 18 years old and is the second leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. Cutting, self-harming behaviors, are also now at an epidemic rate in children. Furthermore, since the pandemic has started we have seen a significant increase in the number of teenagers seeking therapy for depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Additionally, since the pandemic we have seen a significant increase in teenagers overdosing on drugs. Before the pandemic anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations and overdosing on drugs were at alarming rates in teenagers too (CDC). Teenagers have been dealing with mental health issues for years and the number of teenagers needing therapy has been increasing every year (CDC).

This year at the Tokyo Olympics, Simone Biles, took a huge step forward in removing the stigma from mental health issues. Simone came into the Tokyo Olympics with everyone expecting her to win gold in every event. In addition to this pressure, during the pandemic she came forward to say she too had been sexually abused by the team doctor for years. This was a huge thing to do especially since the entire world would learn about it. She stated she did not retire and continued with the Tokyo Olympics to ensure that the Olympic committee takes steps to protect the younger girls in the program.

Simone was dealing with a lot and we do not know what else is occurring in her private life. She had posted some posts on social media stating she was feeling slightly overwhelmed but that was the extent of what she said publicly. To everyone’s surprise on the first night of the Women’s team competition, Simone suddenly drop out of the competition. She confirmed she was dealing with some emotional issues but that she was okay and would decide about the rest of the competition later. She finally decided to remove herself from competition completely.

After she removed herself from competition, she commented about the overwhelming support she received. It sounded like she was expecting criticism not support. Additionally, she commented it was the first time in her life that she realized there was more to her as a person than just gymnastics. Making this realization made her feel very good about herself in the statement she released.

Many parents are wondering what is the lesson to learn from what Simone did this week. As a psychotherapist, who works with teenagers and young adults, there are several lessons we can learn from Simone.

The first and in my opinion the most important lesson is that everyone deals with mental health issues daily and at times we may need to take a break or seek treatment. Simone handled her situation no differently than if she was having a medical issue such as tearing a ligament. She did not act ashamed not did people treat her like she was crazy. In fact, other competitors complimented her. They all have had struggles with mental health issues and they were happy and proud that Simone was taking care of herself and not acting embarrassed or ashamed that she had a mental health issue she needed help with. Therefore, the lesson is mental health is part of life and when you need help it’s okay to ask for help.

The next lesson is how people responded to her request. No one acted like she was crazy and the team coaches and her team mates were giving her the time and support she needed. Therefore, the second lesson is when a teenager asks for mental health help, we need to support them in getting the help they need without judging the person.

Another important lesson is that asking for help did not destroy how people reacted to her or her accomplishments. She is still a world class gymnastics star and she won a silver team medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Therefore, asking for help did not ruin her life. If you have a teenager who needs mental health help, reassure them that it will not ruin their life. Asking for mental health care is no different than asking for physical health care. Our mental health and physical health go hand in hand. This is another lesson Simone taught us. Mentally she needed help and therefore she was not physically capable of competing.

Providing support to someone is another lesson Simone taught us this week. Her teammates, coaches, family and friends offered support abs would check-in with her. No one walked away which many teenagers fear if they say they need mental health care. Her support system was there for her. They did not smother her, but if she needed their help they were there.

Also commentators had been wondering if something was wrong because she was not acting like herself. Therefore, if your teenager or friend is acting somewhat differently and you are concerned, don’t be afraid to ask if they are having a problem. Sometimes asking for help can be difficult especially when you are a teenager. Therefore, if your teenager or friend is acting differently, do not be afraid to ask if they need help.

Finally we often assume people who look like they have everything they want, cannot have problems in their lives. Simone Biles is one of the most decorated Olympians in gymnastics history and she is having problems. Kevin Love, a pro basketball player, suffered from panic attacks. Here are two athletes at the top of their games, but they still have mental health issues. Therefore, we all have mental health issues and need therapy at times and there is no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed. It is simply part of life.

I was researching this subject and the lessons Simone opened up this week and found a video by the Anna Freud Institute. It is called, “We all have mental health.” It is a short video directed at teenagers and middle school students. It discusses the issue in a very relaxed manner and provides teenagers with options for how they can talk about their own feelings. I encourage parents, teachers and anyone who deals with children to watch this video. You may want to watch it with your teen and begin a discussion about feelings. The link to the video is https://youtu.be/DxIDKZHW3-E.

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

Does My Teenager want to talk?

Does My Teenager want to talk?

Teens often feel lonely & want help or want to just talk. However, it’s difficult for parents to know if their teen want their teen wants their attention Here are some helpful tips to help you know when your teen wants attention https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/26/health/teen-loneliness-tweens-parenting-wellness/index.html

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about his work visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple

Helping Teenagers Get Enough Sleep

Helping Teenagers Get Enough Sleep

It’s getting close to the end of summer and for many teenagers will be returning to school soon. For most students they will be returning to their school sites. This means no more remote learning and students will need to be getting school on time in the mornings. In order to do so they need to get a good nights sleep. However, many parents have been reporting that with the remote schooling students were able to sleep in because school was starting later. As a result, many teenagers have developed poor sleep habits such as staying up later at night and taking naps during the day. Many parents are concerned how they are going to get their children and teenagers back to a health sleep pattern so they can function at school and get up on time for school.

I have had many parents asking me and emailing me regarding getting children and teenagers back on a healthy sleep pattern for school. Many parents are looking at this as an opportunity to get their children and teenagers on a healthy sleep pattern because their teenagers were never on a healthy sleep pattern to begin with. As a result I researched teenage sleep patterns and found some very good information from James Maas, PhD., who specializes in sleep patterns, and he wrote the book, Power Sleep for Success. According to Dr. Maas many teenagers are sleep deprived because beginning at puberty up until the age of 25 around midnight teenagers brains begin producing human growth hormones and reduces the amount of melatonin the brain produces. As a result, teenagers are not ready to sleep until 2am and their brains are ready to wake up at 11am. Dr. Maas refers to this as Chronic Delayed Phase Syndrome and states that every teenager suffers from it.

Since the amount of natural melatonin being produced in teenagers brains is reduced, many parents try providing their teenagers with melatonin supplements. The parents hope that by increasing the amount of melatonin in their teenagers brains with melatonin supplements that teenagers will be able to sleep easier. However, this may not be the case.

Dr. Maas has this to say about melatonin supplements. He states they are not the best way to get your sleep. First, 3 mg of melatonin is the maximum amount that an adult needs, and many over-the-counter formulations start at 5 mg. Some even go to as high as 10 or 12 mg. You are peeing away a lot of melatonin that your body doesn’t need and can’t process. It does work, but there are other options on the market that work just as well as melatonin or better: (1) lavender, either in tea or in a spray; and (2) valerian root. These two over-the-counter supplements actually have been clinically proven to have a sleep-inducing effect.

Dr. Maas has outlined several steps that teenagers can go through before trying to go to sleep. He believes that if children and teenagers follow these steps on a regular basis that it will help a teenager fall asleep. He also believes these steps will help teenagers get enough sleep so they are not sleep deprived and are ready for school the following day. Here are the steps Dr. Maas recommends that children and teenagers follow before their bedtime:

1. Take a warm bath or shower an hour before bed to relax and to signal to the brain that it’s time to begin to unwind.

2. Avoid eating food late at night that is likely to disturb your sleep: heavy, greasy, spicy, or difficult-to-digest foods like pizza, garlic, or anything really fatty. Instead try fruit (bananas or grapes) or lean protein such as tuna.

3. Get your homework done earlier in the afternoon or evening while you are still awake and alert. This will also reduce your stress if you don’t have so much homework to do in the evening close to bedtime.

4. Watch how you are spending your waking hours. Teenagers don’t typically have great time management skills. They can get caught up on social media or on their phones, which are a huge distraction and eat up that part of the day when you should be in study mode. Catch up on your social things after your homework is over.

We know that the amount of sleep that a child or teenager gets is related to how well they do in school, but it is associated with many more aspects of a teenager’s life. Dr. Maas noted that sleep is really the one thing that underlies all of good health. Good health refers to both physical and mental health. When you are getting enough sleep, stress goes down and immunity goes up. It’s linked to greater longevity and reduced risk of car accidents, cancers, and heart attacks. If teenagers could add just one more hour of sleep to their daily routine, they would find that they have a higher GPA, that their athletic skills are better, and that their social life and ability to manage stress and anxiety improve. Everything hinges on getting enough sleep. If I could tell teenagers one thing, it’s this: If you want to do well in school and on the athletic field, getting more sleep is the single best thing you can do. I have seen this in many teenagers that I see for psychotherapy. Additionally, most teenagers who are having difficulties with anxiety or suicidal thoughts are sleep deprived.

Therefore, parents it is important to make sleep an important issue with your children and and teenagers. If you explain to your children and teenagers why it should be a priority, you increase the probability that your children and teenagers will understand why sleep is important and will work with you to help them increase their amount of sleep especially as they try to adjust their schedules and lives to a post pandemic world.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims and first responders. For more information about his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.