IEPs and 504 plans Exist with Remote Schooling Too

IEPs and 504 plans Exist with Remote Schooling Too

While most of the schools in California are using remote learning, it does not mean that Individual Educational Plans (IEP) and 504 plans are obsolete. In fact, due to remote learning and the pandemic many students are experiencing increased problems with learning and need IEPS and 504 plans as a result. Unfortunately I have been contacted by many families who were in the process of having their IEP meetings when the schools shut down suddenly due to the Coronavirus. These families have been contacting the school to finish their child’s IEP, but the district continues to postpone. Additionally, some children who didn’t have difficulties when they were in class are having difficulties with remote learning and increased anxiety due to the Coronavirus. Therefore, parents you are correct when you are asking to have your child’s IEP completed. Legally the school districts must complete a student’s IEP. The pandemic does not allow them to legally abandon IEPs and 504 plans. Also until they finalize the new IEP, the district legally must comply with the existing IEP on file. Furthermore, for parents who have children who need an IEP due to the remote learning or anxiety due to the pandemic, you can still legally request an IEP for your child. Additionally, school districts must comply with the existing IEP guidelines and laws. The pandemic does not allow a school district not to comply with the IEP and 504 laws.

It should be a straight forward process if your child needs an IEP, but many school districts play games with the process because it cost them money. However, they have enough money for IEPs. It comes down to a school districts priorities and how they choose to spend their money. Therefore, don’t be afraid to demand what your child is entitled to.

In order to help you understand how severe the schools play games with the process, here is one family’s experience trying to get their child an IEP and how the school district abused the family. The names have been changed for the family’s privacy. However, this same story happens daily to many families and children. In fact, I have three other families I am currently working with where the school district is doing similar things. Instead of decreasing, it appears the abusive behavior by the school districts is increasing every year. Therefore, parents please read carefully because you never know when you may be facing the same issues.

The story of Tara and her daughter Payton is a common story I have heard many times from families who have children who need an IEP. Prior to the age of 4 years old Payton was diagnosed with a speech and auditory processing difficulties. Payton was behind in her speech developmental milestones and attending preschool to address these issues. However, no one explained to Tara, Payton’s mother, what this diagnosis meant or the prognosis. Neither did anyone explain to Tara about the special education services she was entitled to.

Payton started kindergarten and do to her difficulties she needed to repeat kindergarten. Again, no one explained to Tara, Payton’s mother, how this may impact Payton and they also did not explain any other options, Tara agreed. She was not alarmed because Tara had to repeat kindergarten herself.

However, this started a never ending cycle, where Payton was not meeting the standards for her grade level even when she was receiving Resource Assistance. Tara stated some Resource Teachers were great and others knew very little about auditory processing issues so her daughter received no help.

Tara, watching her daughter struggle, decided to do her own research. She found out more about her daughter’s learning disability and that there was a private school which specialized in this learning disability. Mount Diablo School District continued to lie to Tara as she asked more questions. Also the District went to Payton’s father and lied to him. They told him if Payton’s mother was successfully in getting Payton into the private school, he would have to pay upfront. The District said they would reimburse him later. This is a lie. Also it is not uncommon for the school district to take advantage of a divorce situation and play the parents against each other.

This resulted in a long fight with the school district and in the family court. Payton is in 6th grade and after many years and a great deal of time and money, the fight continues. Mount Diablo School District never looked at the price Payton was paying not receiving the education she is entitled to and having to endure her parents fighting each other in the courts.

This could have been handled very easily if someone was honest with Tara and told her what her daughter was entitled to and if the District followed the legal guidelines. However, they lie to parents all the time hoping parents will give up. If they do, then the District doesn’t need to pay anything and can use the money how they want. Tara was a prime target. A single parent who does not have a lot of time or money. Mount Diablo misjudged Tara, she would not give up on her daughter.

Tara also found out something else parents need to be aware of when dealing with the IEP process. The parent liaisons provided by the district are not there to help the parent or the student. They serve as another way to confuse parents by providing incorrect information to parents. Most parents trust these people believing they are on the student’s side, but they really are there to support the District.

As I said, Tara and Payton’s story is not uncommon. I have worked with many other families who have very similar stories. Also as I stated above, the number of families in these situations are increasing not decreasing. Parents tend to believe school districts have the students best interest at heart. This is how it is suppose to be. However, I have worked with families across the United States and what I have seen is that school districts have their best interest at heart not the students. Tara had a very good way of stating the problem, “the child is the one who struggles for not having their needs met academically”.  How many more parents are out there with struggling students who have been given the same bad information?  I don’t know.  But we need to help them help their child, or these children will be at risk of dropping out and struggling the rest of their lives.  The school district is actually helping create children who are unable to get jobs and will be unable to afford decent housing when they become adults.  And that is a very very scary reality, no one wants to talk about it because it’s not their child who is at risk. However, it could very easily be your child. What do you do then?

Parents need to come together and demand that their children be provided the accommodations they are entitled to. Look up the educational law so you are aware of the appropriate procedure and accommodations. Also do not be embarrassed for standing up for your child’s rights. You are just being a good parent. The school districts need to look at how they are treating children. Also when it comes time to elect the school board, research the candidates and elect those who have a history which demonstrates they truly care about children.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. In addition he has over 20 years experience serving as an IEP advocate for families. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his websites www.RubinoCounseling.com or www.LucasCenter.org or listen to my podcast Understanding Today’s Teenagers on Spotify and Apple.

Teenagers Encourages Us to Accept Our Differences

Teenagers Encourages Us to Accept Our Differences

We have many stereotypes about groups, such as people who enjoy sports, and about people from different ethnicities, financial status and education status, such as did they go to college or not. Most teenagers have been taught these stereotypes and feel that they need to conform to the stereotypes even if they disagree with the stereotypes. However, many teenagers also feel and believe that these stereotypes are wrong. As a result, they ignore the stereotypes they were taught and treat everyone with dignity and respect regardless of the person’s ethnicity or financial class. I have many teenagers asking me during their sessions how they can ignore the stereotypes without getting into trouble. They can clearly articulate why the stereotypes are wrong, but they know many adults strongly believe in the stereotypes and if they ignore the stereotypes, they could get into trouble with the adults who believe the stereotypes. They know taking a stand could create problems with parents, extended family and teachers just to name a few. However, they feel if they are going to be true to themselves, they must take the stand regardless of the cost.

We are seeing that the teenagers born after the year 2000, tend to have these beliefs and tend to act on them. As I have said before, the teenagers born after the year 2000 are a unique group and have different ideas and beliefs based on the many things they have experienced that no other group have kids have ever experienced. Remember these kids were born primarily after the 9/11 terrorist attack and have grown up with warnings about terrorist attacks and increased terrorist attacks around the world. Additionally our Country has been at war since they were born too. They also lived through the great recession and many where impacted by it. Finally, they have grown up with mass school shootings which around 2018 were occurring daily. Also because of this fact, they had mass shooter drills not fire alarms. All of this will impact how they see and react to the world.

Another thing these teenagers were exposed to were messages via movies and non-profit groups who work with teenagers and children that there was hope for the world and they were the hope. The children and teenagers were hearing they had the ability to change the world through their actions and by voting. Many children and teenagers have paid attention to these messages and believe them. As a result, they are trying to change the world.

Disney provided many movies with positive messages for children and teenagers. Beauty and the Beast taught children not to judge by appearance. You need to look inside the person to get an accurate view of their heart and beliefs. The movie, Frozen, taught children that it was alright to disregard the typical male stereotype. The movie said boys do cry and it’s normal. Finally, the movie showed that love is more powerful than hate. You can get more done and live a happier life by loving those around you instead of hating people. Finally in the High School Musical movies, children were taught that it’s normal for people to have different interests and the stereotypes could be wrong. In these movies you had a hispanic teenage girl as the lead and in the movie she was the smartest person and should how you could expect others without judging. You also had a white, overweight cheerleader, a black girl who was extremely intelligent and you had a black basketball player who also liked to cook. All the characters violated the ethnic stereotypes and all the characters were very good friends. In fact, the final song discusses how we are all in this together and need to work together and accept each other just the way we are. There was no need to judge and it was alright for people to have differences. A very powerful message. This message was also highlighted in the movie The Greatest Showman, a movie about P.T. Barnum. The newspaper critic provides the message of the movie, “putting people together of all different sizes and colors could be considered a celebration of humanity.” Again another message to accept people as they are and it’s alright for people to have differences. In fact, we should accept and celebrate our differences.

Children and teenagers watched these movies and paid attention to the message these movies were delivering. In addition to these movies you also have groups, such as Challenge Day, working with teenagers. These groups educate teenagers it’s alright to be different and the stereotypes regarding men and women are outdated. They are educating teenagers that everyone has the right to be accepted and loved just the way they were born. Additionally, teenagers are receiving the message they are the future and they can change the world. Teenagers are listening to this message and also starting to act.

A great example of how teenagers have listened to these messages are the teenagers from the high school in Parkland, Florida. These teenagers had to endure a horrific experience with a mass shooter at their high school. Typically after a shooting everyone discussed how changes need to be made. However, changes never seem to occur. However, these teenagers decided to take action. They formed a group to meet with politicians and demanded changes. These teenagers formed the group March for Our Lives and have established satellite groups in most states of the United States. They are still meeting with politicians but now all over the Country. They are also protesting and educating the public using social media.

Black Lives Matter is another great example. Teenagers are tired of seeing people being discriminated against because of their ethnicity. They feel everyone is equal it doesn’t matter if you are white, black, brown or asian. We are all equal and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. The teenagers are willing to put their beliefs into actions. They are willing to hold peaceful protests and to educate others about how society needs to change and accept everyone. They are determined to give meaning what is in scribed on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” This statement implies that we all need to be treated equally. It also indicates our Country world eliminate systemic racism and discrimination.

Our Country is facing numerous issues regarding race and ethnicity. I think we need to remember what is on the Statue of Liberty and we need to pay attention to what the teenagers are pointing out and requesting our Country to do. The time has come to address systemic racism and discrimination in this United States. If we do, we will make life better for everyone in the Country. A very common mistake is this systemic discrimination only impacts people of color, however as the Disney movies point out is the systemic discrimination impacts people who are white too. Think about it because it does have an impact on our lives. A negative impact. The movies, novels and history have shown us that hate is toxic and love sets you free and improves your life. Listen to the teenagers and choose love.

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

Teenagers Need to Know They are Important

Teenagers Need to Know They are Important

I have many teenagers who see me for therapy believing that no one loves them and that they are worthless. They tell me their parents don’t love them, their siblings don’t care about them and no one at school cares about them. They feel they are unloveable and no one cares if they live or die. Because they have this belief, they don’t care about themselves. They don’t care how they are doing in school and they see no future for themselves. As a result they don’t care what happens to them either.

There are many reasons why children have this feeling about themselves. For some their parents were drug addicts, for some were sexually or physically abused, some have gone from foster home to foster home their entire lives. As a result, they see no hope and no future for themselves. The most important point is not why teenagers have developed this attitude about themselves, it’s that they have this attitude. We need to look at what this belief will do to these teenagers and their lives.

Many teenagers who feel unlovable turn to drugs or alcohol to numb these feelings. Some turn to self-mutilating behaviors, such as cutting, again as a way to numb these feelings or as a way of punishing themselves. Often teenagers become sexually active at an very early age. They equate sex with love. Also many of these teens become involved with gangs and bullying. The gangs serve as a psedufamily for the teenagers. In fact, gangs consider their members as family members. Bullying is another way teens numb out their pain. They believe by making someone else look weak that it makes them look strong and people will respect them and love them. Also they can it is a way they feel they can hide from other that they feel worthless.

The above stated behaviors are a few ways that teenagers deal with feeling unlovable. However, the number of teenagers who feel this way are creating numerous problems for everyone. As a result of teens feeling unlovable, we have a severe drug problem in the teenage population. Teenagers are dying from accidental drug over dosages at an epidemic rate. According to the CDC the number of teens using drugs, such as heroin and meth, is at an epidemic rate. Cutting, suicide and being murdered are all at epidemic rates for teenagers (CDC). All because many of them don’t feel loved.

We are receiving this message in many ways that teenagers need to feel loved. In Disney’s movie, Frozen, they mention that people make poor choices and do hurtful things because they feel unloved. The movie goes further to say that if people feel loved you would be amazed at how they can change. Oprah in her last show commented on one thing she had learned from her show was that everyone wants to know that they are important to someone and that someone sees them and cares about what they say and do. Challenge Day, a program designed to work with teenagers, believes all teens deserve to feel loved and cared for by people. I have worked with Challenge Day and I am amazed every time that this big, tough teenager ends up crying on the floor when he realizes that someone cares. Teenagers are trying very hard to let us know they need to be loved when they act out. I have teenagers telling me they are willing to take a chance of overdosing just so they can escape the pain of feeling abandoned and unloved. It is heartbreaking to hear a teen tell you this as they try to hide the fact that they are crying.

We know love makes a difference to many people so why not teenagers? The teenagers I work with don’t really want to be the tough guy. They want to know that they are loved. When I tell a teen I’m working with in therapy that they deserve to be loved, they think I’m crazy. They test me in numerous ways to get me to throw them out of my office. They are testing the point I made that they are lovable. They try everything they can think of to prove me wrong. However, in reality they are hoping to fail and prove that I am right that they are lovable. So, I hold strong and tell them I won’t change my mind and I will not give up. I will not throw them out of therapy. If they decide to walk out that is their choice and I can’t stop it, but I will not throw them out because I know they are worthy of being loved. I also let them know if they do walk out that my door will always be opened to them.

After testing me, many of these teens decide they are worth it and decide to make a future for themselves. It is amazing to see and it is very nice to see. However, there are those teenagers who walk out and that is very disappointing. It’s not disappointing because I lost it is disappointing because the teenager will continue to live in pain.

The main point is that Challenge Day, Alive and Free (another program for teens) and other therapists like myself cannot be the only ones trying to help teenagers. We need everyone to help. Parents, teachers, physicians, psychotherapists, the juvenile justice system and our communities. We need to let children know from the day that they are born that they deserve to be loved and that they are important members of our society. We cannot continue to wait until these children are teenagers to tell them they are lovable. Waiting until they are teenagers may be too late and the teen may not believe you. If we start when they are babies, they will grow up with a sense that they are important and deserved to be loved. This could help reduce how many teens turn to drugs or violence.

So, think about how you can show a teenager that they deserve to be loved and that they are important. If everyone starts with one teenager, you would be surprised the changes we can make in someone’s life and the world.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience treating teenagers. If you want more information about Dr. Rubino visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

Seeing No End to the Pandemic more Teenagers are Thinking about Suicide

Seeing No End to the Pandemic more Teenagers are Thinking about Suicide

Many parents ask me, if their child could be suicidal and what to do if their child is suicidal? I have been getting this question even more now that the pandemic has lasted so long. As a result of teenagers and children having to stay in the house for so long and not being able to return to school, many teenagers are feeling isolated and lonely. Suicidal feeling have been increasing for teenagers for several years. As a result, the CDC has moved suicide from the the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. Furthermore, since the quarantine and pandemic have occurred, there has been an increase in suicides and deaths from drug overdoses in teenagers. A recent study by the CDC has found that during the pandemic, the idea of suicide for teenagers has increased. Currently, 1 out of 4 teenagers have been having suicidal thoughts (CDC). Also for adults, the suicidal ideation has increased by 11%. As a result, parents are worrying more about if their teenager may be feeling suicidal. Additionally, before the quarantine and pandemic, parents were worrying more about their teenager being suicidal because a study by the CDC indicated that survivors of mass shootings were more likely to attempt suicide. 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 think their teen is suicidal. This creates a great deal of anxiety for parents because we were discussing the teenage suicide epidemic, but since the pandemic has lasted so long, the number of teenagers thinking about suicide has increased suicide significantly (CDC). Parents have been isolated to due to the pandemic so besides the fact they are dealing with their own feelings of isolation and fatigue, they are faced with trying to decide what is the best thing to do for their teenager.

A successful suicide attempt is definitely a tragedy for the entire family. However, an unsuccessful attempt can be a major tragedy for the teen 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. Some teenagers may need a face transplant which is a new technique surgeons have as an option.

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 looked at the study and questions and I highly recommend the Lighthouse Project.

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. It provides you with symptoms and signs to watch for in teenagers. It also helps you talk to your teen about their feelings and opinions you can use for help. The bottom line, if you feel your teenager is suicidal do not be embarrassed. Remember today’s teenagers have had to deal with a lot over the past couple of years. They had to worry about being shot at school by a mass shooter, bullying has significantly increased so has the pressure to succeed and now they have had to cope with 4 months of being quarantined, their school was abruptly closed and now many are having to return to school remotely. They are all saying the same thing to me, when do I get to see me friends and when will life return to normal. Since many are now feeling life will never be normal, they are feeling suicidal. We need to be there for them and help them through these very confusing times. These times are confusing for adults imagine how they are for teenagers and children. So if you teen or child seem depressed or are talking an suicide make an appointment to have your teen evaluated by a psychotherapist who specializes in suicidal teenagers. If you walk in on a teenager attempting suicide, 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 www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page www.facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcast Understanding Today’s Teenagers on Spotify or Apple.

Special Ed & IEPs Still Exist During COVID 19

Special Ed & IEPs Still Exist During COVID 19

While most of the schools in California are starting the year with remote learning, it does not mean that Individual Educational Plans (IEP) are obsolete. In fact in some ways the pandemic has created more problems with IEPS. I have already been contacted by several families who were in the process of having their IEP meetings when the schools shut down suddenly due to the Coronavirus. These families have been contacting the school to finish their child’s IEP, but the district continues to postpone. Even with remote learning children are going to need their accommodations listed in their IEPs, but the IEPs need to be completed. Therefore, parents you are correct when you are asking to have your child’s IEP completed.

This is one family’s experience trying to get their child an IEP and how the school district abused the family. The names have been changed for the family’s privacy. However, this same story happens daily to many families and children. In fact, I have three other families I am currently working with where the school district is doing similar things. Instead of decreasing, it appears the abusive behavior by the school districts is increasing every year. Therefore, parents please read carefully because you never know when you may be facing the same issues.

The story of Tara and her daughter Payton is a common story I have heard many times from families who have children who need an IEP. Prior to the age of 4 years old Payton was diagnosed with a speech and auditory processing difficulties. Payton was behind in her speech developmental milestones and attending preschool to address these issues. However, no one explained to Tara, Payton’s mother, what this diagnosis meant or the prognosis. Neither did anyone explain to Tara about the special education services she was entitled to.

Payton started kindergarten and do to her difficulties she needed to repeat kindergarten. Again, no one explained to Tara, Payton’s mother, how this may impact Payton and they also did not explain any other options, Tara agreed. She was not alarmed because Tara had to repeat kindergarten herself.

However, this started a never ending cycle, where Payton was not meeting the standards for her grade level even when she was receiving Resource Assistance. Tara stated some Resource Teachers were great and others knew very little about auditory processing issues so her daughter received no help.

Tara, watching her daughter struggle, decided to do her own research. She found out more about her daughter’s learning disability and that there was a private school which specialized in this learning disability. Mount Diablo School District continued to lie to Tara as she asked more questions. Also the District went to Payton’s father and lied to him. They told him if Payton’s mother was successfully in getting Payton into the private school, he would have to pay upfront. The District said they would reimburse him later. This is a lie. Also it is not uncommon for the school district to take advantage of a divorce situation and play the parents against each other.

This resulted in a long fight with the school district and in the family court. Payton is in 6th grade and after many years and a great deal of time and money, the fight continues. Mount Diablo School District never looked at the price Payton was paying not receiving the education she is entitled to and having to endure her parents fighting each other in the courts.

This could have been handled very easily if someone was honest with Tara and told her what her daughter was entitled to and if the District followed the legal guidelines. However, they lie to parents all the time hoping parents will give up. If they do, then the District doesn’t need to pay anything and can use the money how they want. Tara was a prime target. A single parent who does not have a lot of time or money. Mount Diablo misjudged Tara, she would not give up on her daughter.

Tara also found out something else parents need to be aware of when dealing with the IEP process. The parent liaisons provided by the district are not there to help the parent or the student. They serve as another way to confuse parents by providing incorrect information to parents. Most parents trust these people believing they are on the student’s side, but they really are there to support the District.

As I said, Tara and Payton’s story is not uncommon. I have worked with many other families who have very similar stories. Also as I stated above, the number of families in these situations are increasing not decreasing. Parents tend to believe school districts have the students best interest at heart. This is how it is suppose to be. However, I have worked with families across the United States and what I have seen is that school districts have their best interest at heart not the students. Tara had a very good way of stating the problem, “the child is the one who struggles for not having their needs met academically”.  How many more parents are out there with struggling students who have been given the same bad information?  I don’t know.  But we need to help them help their child, or these children will be at risk of dropping out and struggling the rest of their lives.  The school district is actually helping create children who are unable to get jobs and will be unable to afford decent housing when they become adults.  And that is a very very scary reality, no one wants to talk about it because it’s not their child who is at risk. However, it could very easily be your child. What do you do then?

Parents need to come together and demand that their children be provided the accommodations they are entitled to. Look up the educational law so you are aware of the appropriate procedure and accommodations. Also do not be embarrassed for standing up for your child’s rights. You are just being a good parent. The school districts need to look at how they are treating children. Also when it comes time to elect the school board, research the candidates and elect those who have a history which demonstrates they truly care about children.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. In addition he has over 20 years experience serving as an IEP advocate for families. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his websites http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or http://www.LucasCenter.org or listen to my podcast Understanding Today’s Teenagers on Spotify and Apple.

Helping Teenagers Understand Responsibility

Helping Teenagers Understand Responsibility

We have people blaming teenagers and college students for not wearing masks, having big parties, such as pool parties, on the weekends and that college students are hanging out at bars and as a result of their behavior we blame them for Coronavirus rates increasing across the Country. College students and teenagers have been involved in a number of protests, such as Black Lives Matter, and we are saying the virus is increasing because of protestors not wearing masks and not social distancing too. Finally, we are looking at teenagers and college students across the Country having Coronavirus parties and this is another reason the virus is spreading. As of today, August 4, 2020, there have been 159,000 deaths in our Country due to the Coronavirus and we are averaging 1,000 more every day (CDC). There are a tremendous amount of people who have died in our Country and in my opinion we are being unfair blaming teenagers, college students and protestors.

If we look at the White House, what do we expect from teenagers? Today in an interview the President stated yes a 1,000 people are dying, but that is how it is. No empathy in his tone of voice and taking no responsibility. He has been holding press conferences about the Coronavirus and he has stated people can wear masks but he will not require it. Additionally, he has been going all over the Country and he does not wear a mask. He wore one only once. Therefore, what message is he sending to the Country and teenagers especially? Additionally at the President’s press conferences he continues to state that the malaria drug is a cure for the virus. However, numerous studies by our top medical experts have all shown that the drug is ineffective and can cause deadly side effects. Yet he stands in front of the Country and makes it a popularity contest by saying people like Dr. Fauci better. Again this is what teenagers do, if you confront them on a story that they cannot back up with facts, they say you don’t like me. How can we expect teenagers to be responsible about their actions, when the President cannot be reasonable about his actions?

The President has been pushing that all school children must return to school on time and in their school buildings. However, his son’s school has delayed the beginning of their school until October and they will be doing remote learning (ABC, CBS News, CNN). Again we have a message of do as I say not as I do. What are teenagers and college students going to think when it is clear the President is willing to gamble with their lives, but not his son’s life or his family’s life?

Let’s take a different look at this situation. If your teenage son was not doing well in school and he was in danger of not passing his classes and his response to you was, “it is what is.” How would you feel? If this same son spent every weekend hanging out with friends and not doing his homework or studying, what would you think? Furthermore, if your teen did see any reason to spend his weekend trying to repair his grades and he believed it was more important to hang out with friends because he needed a rest, what would you think? I don’t think you would approve of your son’s behavior. We are in the middle of a global pandemic and the President spends his weekends golfing not addressing the pandemic. Today, 8/4/20, was the first time in six months that he attended a meeting of the Coronavirus Task Team (ABC, CBS News, CNN). Looking at the standard the President is setting for teenagers, I’m sure, as I stated above, you would be disappointed in your son’s behavior, but how can you say anything based on the President’s actions? How do you argue with your teenager to do his geometry homework, when the President is ignoring 159,000 Americans dying?

Parents you are faced with only one option in my opinion. You need to explain to your son that yes the President is not being responsible and ignoring his duties. However, two wrongs do not make a right. The President can choose to be irresponsible and he will have to face the American voters and may lose his job. Just like the President will be judged by the voters for his choices, you need to point out to your son that his teacher will judge his choices about studying by the grade he receives in the class. Additionally, you will be judging his choices about school based on the grades he receives in his classes. Finally, you need to point out and educate them on the fact that just because someone else chooses to ignore their responsibilities, even if he is the President, it does not give him the right to ignore his responsibilities. The final choice is up to him and he must face the consequences for his actions.

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 at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or listen to his podcast on Apple or Spotify.

Teenagers May Need more Access to Electronics during the Pandemic

Teenagers May Need more Access to Electronics during the Pandemic

Most middle school and high school students have grown up with smart phones and computers for gaming and texting their friends. This brings up the common argument about how much time teens are spending on line. Many parents have concerns that their teenager is addicted to their smart phones and gaming. Teenagers feel that their parents are over reacting and they can’t become addicted to their devices.

However, due to the pandemic gaming is now one of the few safe activities teenagers can do. Most places such as movie theaters and malls are closed so gamine provides a safe way to hang out with friends. This is very important to their social development at their age. Additionally, research is showing that teenagers who have little access to normal social activities are becoming depressed during the pandemic (CDC). Therefore, we need to re-evaluate the issue of gaming during the pandemic.

While the truth is teenagers can become addicted to their computer devices and gaming. The World Health Organization (WHO) took a step this year and classified “Gaming Disorder” as a formal diagnosis. As I stated, many parents have been concerned about this for years. Also it does not just impact teenagers, as many may think. I have had couples come in for marriage counseling because Gaming was destroying a marriage. For several years the American Psychological Association has said it would be adding Gaming addiction as a formal diagnosis to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, however, so far the APA has not been able to decide on the specific criteria for this diagnosis. What the WHO has done is they have acknowledged what many parents have been reporting for years and helping us to take a step so it is acknowledged as a diagnosis. While it is a diagnosis according to the WHO, gaming again is one of the safe activities teenagers can engage in during the pandemic. This does create a difficult situation.

The United States appears to be behind other countries in identifying that video game addiction does exist and does create problems for individuals and families. Seoul, South Korea and Tokyo, Japan have inpatient treatment centers for gaming addiction. These rehabilitation centers have been open for years and have treated thousands of people over the years. Therefore, other countries have acknowledged Gaming addiction that United States parents have been reporting for years.

As a psychotherapist who treats teenagers, I would have to agree with the parents and I say Gaming addiction is real. I have seen teenagers become violent, punching holes in walls or physically threatening their parents, if there video games or cellphones are taken away as a punishment. Teenagers have told me they cannot function without their video games or cellphones and will do anything to get them back. This sounds like and look like a problem to me. A cellphone or PlayStation should not be a teenager’s life line.

However, as I stated above, the pandemic does create a different situation regarding teenagers gaming online with friends. Since this is a safe way for teenagers to maintain social contacts, I think we need to create new guidelines for the pandemic. Parents are aware that teenagers can become addicted, but they can monitor how their teenagers are acting before and after using electronics. Also maybe have a day without electronics, while allowing some extra time on other days. So try to balance out how much time they are on electronics along with doing other things such as going outside for walks to get exercise.

The statement from the WHO states that the Gaming must be interfering with activities of daily life, such as homework, and be present for at least a year. These guidelines seem sensible to me. Also the WHO cautions that issues such as depression and anxiety need to be ruled out before assigning the diagnosis of Gaming Addiction. Many teenagers who are depressed or dealing with severe anxiety do self-medicate with video games. Finally, the WHO states your child needs to be evaluated by a mental health clinician who specializes in treating and assessing children and teenagers. This is very important because typically children and teenagers do not always have the typical symptoms we associate with depression or anxiety. A clinician experienced in assessing children and teenagers can make the appropriate diagnosis. Given these guidelines it appears to me that parents can allow teenagers to use their electronics more during this time of the pandemic. Parents can make sure to balance electronic time with other activities such as exercise. Furthermore, parents need to be observing their teenagers mood on a daily basis. If the teen is looking depressed or acting anxious then the parents need to schedule a time to have their teenager evaluated by a mental health professional who specializes in treating children and teenagers.

I have included a link to a segment on Good Morning America which discusses the diagnosis and other issues I have discussed to assist you in understanding what the WHO is referring to with Gaming Addiction, https://youtu.be/axG1tLdutmY.

The World Health Organization has taken an important step in helping us understand and define a problem many parents have been reporting for years. This is not a bad thing. I view it as a positive step. Technology is moving very fast. In fact, it is moving so fast we cannot keep up with all the new issues we need to deal with as a result of new technology. The more we understand this technology the more we all can benefit and avoid potential serious problems.

With that be stated, the Coronavirus pandemic does present parents and teenagers with a entirely new set of issues. If we stay calm and flexible, we should be able to address these new issues without a great deal of stress for parents or teenagers. Remember this is a new situation for everyone and no one has experienced this type of health situation before. Therefore, if we all work together, we should be able to find solutions to the new issues we continue to face on a daily basis.

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

Managing Screen Time, Bedtime and Online Schooling

Managing Screen Time, Bedtime and Online Schooling

Due to the Coronavirus and having to shelter in place, many kids have been using computers, IPads and smartphones to entertain themselves. Also many teenagers state this is how they can still communicate with friends by texting, FaceTime or Zoom. Since it’s summer many parents are allowing their teenagers to use electronics more because there is not much to do as a result of the coronavirus. Additionally, many families have had to cancel or drastically change vacation plans due to the pandemic. This all makes sense and is appropriate given the situation we are living in and the limited number of options children and teenagers have to enjoy the summer.

While most parents are fine with the increase use of electronics over the summer, they are worrying about what happens when school resumes. Many families are still waiting for final decisions to be made by school districts. However, it appears based on medical advice and the recent increase in the spread of the Coronavirus that most children are teenagers will not be returning to their schools and instead they will resume online schooling like they were doing at the end of school last year. Whether they are returning to the physical school structure or doing school online, they still need the appropriate amount of sleep. Many parents are concerned with relaxing some of the rules around electronics, how will their children respond to less electronic time when school resumes and if there are difficulties, how will it impact their children’s sleep if they are using electronics prior to bedtime.

Research studies have shown the electronics, and especially screens, can be stimulating to children and teenagers brains. While that might be a good thing during the day, it’s not at night when it’s time for kids to sleep.
Part of the stimulation from electronic screen time is from the blue wave light that comes from screens. During the day, many things stimulate our brains, and blue wave light is one of them. But at night, blue wave light exposure sends a signal to the brain that it’s daytime. When exposed to blue wave light, children may struggle to wind down and begin the process of falling asleep.

Besides the effects of blue wave light, screen time affects sleep if children become stimulated having conversations over the phone or text, playing games, or engaging in social media. Video games or movies might include disturbing themes or images that will affect sleep and emotional health.

How to Manage Screen Time for Better Sleep:
Your pediatrician may have their thoughts about how screen time affects sleep and you may want to consult your pediatrician about the appropriate amount of screen time before bedtime. Limiting screen time mostly to daytime hours is best. Blue wave light exposure during the day isn’t as problematic as nighttime exposure. And stimulation from screens during the day is normal.

As parents, it’s essential to set clear rules on screen time use. A good rule of thumb is to avoid screen time at least 2 hours before bedtime. Encourage kids to engage in other relaxing evening activities during that time as part of a healthy bedtime routine. They can read a book, work on a puzzle while listening to relaxation music, and get ready for the next day. The other rule parents should enforce is to avoid screen use in your child’s bedroom. Their bedroom should be an environment devoted to sleep and relaxation, and when you bring screens into it they may be tempted to engage rather than sleep. Additionally, when you bring your electronics into their bedrooms, you are sending a mixed message about not using electronics before beds. This may result in teenagers trying to use electronics in their bedrooms, when you think they are asleep. It is not uncommon for some teenagers to stay up until 2am texting or watching movies on their smartphones.

Another factor to consider is how screen time has replaced play time in some households. Kids who are using screens for many hours a day may be sedentary while they do so. Activity and exercise are a part of a healthy lifestyle, as they reinforce a circadian rhythm that’s in sync with the environment and allow kids to be tired when it’s time for bed.

Screens have become a part of everyday life and are an important tool for kids and adults. It’s imperative for parents to show their children the proper way to use screens without negatively affecting their lives. Take the lead to demonstrate responsible use so children can enjoy screen time as well as a good night’s sleep. Therefore, try to develop a nightly routine for yourself where you stop using electronics before you go to bed. By modeling appropriate behavior regarding electronics before bed, you increase the probability that your children and teenagers will follow your example and you also decrease the likelihood of arguments because you are not asking your children to do anything that you are not willing to do yourself.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 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 at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Outside Family Activities during the Pandemic

Outside Family Activities during the Pandemic

Since the Coronavirus has hit, we have had to change our work lives and family lives. Change the family life has been a challenge for many parents. It has become more of a challenge since summer has started and the kids want to go outside. They are tired of being inside. I found some good recommendations on Lori Lite’s blog regarding reducing stress for children. All of these activities can be done wearing a mask and keeping the social distancing requirements. These are perfect activities during the pandemic and with the State being closed down. Also getting outside in the fresh air and sunshine is great for the whole family since we have been locked down for several months. It’s a great family bonding experience and a great way to reduce everyone’s stress. Here are some fun outdoor activities to do as a family:

Go For a Walk:
Not only is this a completely free activity, but it is also an excellent opportunity to talk more with your family. However, remember you need to wear your masks, keep appropriate social distance from others and use your sunscreen. Take the time to ask them about they are feeling about the situation with school, friends, or anything else that interests them. You can take a walk around the block or head to a trail nearby. This is also a great way to get in more exercise as a family and can encourage a healthier lifestyle. You can easily take a walk after dinner or make a day out of it as well. It’s amazing the topics of conversation that come up with kids when there aren’t the distractions of being inside, screens, phones, or chores.

Go For a Ride:
Riding with family, like walking, is great bonding activity. Again, remember your helmets, masks, sunscreen and to social distance from others. At first, it’s good to do it on footpaths and then get to cycle-paths to build up each of your skills and also to bit by bit learn how you ride together and communicate with each other. Like walking, it’s amazing the conversations that will arise with your family. The beauty of cycling with your family is the different places you can see. You can do an off-road trail and explore the bush. You can ride around a harbor, lake, river or parkland – chatting about the wildlife, views, houses and architecture. As long as you remember to social distance from others and to wear your masks. Of course, you don’t have to ride all the time, there will be plenty of playgrounds to stop at and explore and many times there are great trees which are just beckoning your kids to stop, get off their bikes and climb. Consider making cycling a regular family adventure and build lifetime memories with your kids!

Have a Picnic
Enjoy the next sunny day with your family by having a picnic. You and your kids can prepare the food together in the morning. Choose foods you all love and have them help pack everything you need for the picnic. Then you all can spend the day in the park or even your backyard enjoying each other’s company. If you are at a park, remember your masks and to keep appropriate social distance from others. Picnics can also be an opportunity to play games, try out new recipes, and find new parks around your neighborhood. 

Water Balloon Fight:
You and your kids can do this in the backyard or even at the nearby park. Grab a large bucket and a bunch of balloons to fill with water. You can make your own rules with this kind of activity or even make it into a hide-and-seek game. This will also get your family moving and exercising without even realizing it. Again, remember you still need your masks and to social distance from others at a park. You can change it up by using raw eggs at times. This may be a good idea if it’s a little too cold for water balloons.

These are a few ideas. Now that we have started the ball rolling, you can also ask your kids about activities or games they may want to play. You may be amazed at their creativity and again it’s a great way to keep the communication flowing between you and your kids.

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

A Dangerous New Teenage Activity

A Dangerous New Teenage Activity

There is a disturbing new dangerous trend occurring in teenagers that parents need to know about so they can talk to their teenager. We know that many teenagers feel a sense of being invulnerable and nothing bad will happen to them and their friends. It appears that teenagers in Alabama are putting this belief to the ultimate test (CDC, CNN). As a result, they are risking their lives, their friends lives and the lives of their families for a few hundred dollars.

The starting point of this risky behavior is in Alabama and city mayors and paramedics have heard about the risky behavior and they are very concerned. Teenagers are having Coronavirus parties. They invite people who are infected with the virus to a party and then they sell tickets to the party to their friends and other teenagers. The first person who can provide proof from a physician that they have contracted the virus after attending the party wins all the money that was collected. Teens are using social media and word of mouth to advertise these Coronavirus parties. They do not consider how dangerous these parties are and that they are playing Russian Roulette with their lives and with the lives of any one they come in contact with after the party.

We know that teenagers brains are not fully developed until they are 25 years old and the last part of the brain developing is the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for more advanced functions such as reasoning and dealing with abstract concepts. Therefore, when the White House and President Trump are saying 99% of Coronavirus infections are not serious, some teenagers will listen to President Trump. Also when President Trump states we have the virus under control, again some teenagers will listen. They have difficulties reconciling statements from Dr. Fauci and the University of Washington which indicate the virus is not under control and reaching very dangerous levels in our Country. They are not sure who to believe. Also most teenagers don’t listen to a lot of news so they are not aware that United State citizens cannot fly to Europe because the virus is so much out of control in the United States that other countries don’t want to expose their citizens to the virus again. Even if you want to go to New York, the state of New York is requiring people to go into a 14 day quarantine. New York finally has the virus under control in their state and Governor Cuomo is doing what he needs to so New York keeps the virus under control. Therefore, since teenagers are hearing the virus is not a big threat and the President refuses to wear a mask, they are not aware how the virus is really impacting people or how dangerous it can be.

As a result, these Coronavirus parties don’t seem very dangerous to them and they could win $200. They are unaware that they can die from the Coronavirus. An 11 year old boy died in Florida from the Coronavirus so children do die from the Coronavirus (CDC). They also are unaware of the risk they are taking with their families lives. These parties seem like fun to them. It is summer and they are looking for ways to have fun especially having been in quarantine for the past 2 months. Additionally, no one can give them definite answers about school yet. Maybe they will be going to school on line or maybe they are going back to school part time. How they resume school also has an impact on their ability to see their friends and have fun hanging out with their friends. Therefore, they are dealing with a lot of uncertainty that no one can answer right now. However, these parties mean fun with their friends now, they can win some money and the President is saying they don’t need to worry about the virus. As a result, it is easy for their brains to decide to go to the party and have fun with their friends. Currently, it’s the only answer that makes sense to them when they look at how the President and the government are responding to the pandemic.

We are in the middle of a global pandemic. As of today, 136,000 people in the United States have died from the Coronavirus (CDC). Today another 792 people in the United States died (CDC). When we have hundreds of people dying everyday from the Coronavirus, we should not be making this a political issue. All this accomplishes are more people getting infected and more people dying. It also increases the amount of stress and anxiety that our children and teenagers are experiencing. This anxiety results in more teenagers needing psychotherapy for anxiety disorders and more teenagers turning to alcohol, drugs (CDC) and now Coronavirus parties as a way to cope.

Parents what your teenagers need from you is for you to discuss the current situation with them and what are the current recommendations from the CDC. For example, when they go outside they need to wear a face mask and to keep 6 feet in between them and other people. Also to wash their hands regularly and to avoid touching their faces when they are out. Also have an age appropriate conversation about how dangerous the virus can be. Therefore, explain to teenagers how these Coronavirus parties are very dangerous. They can also transmit the virus to other family members or friends who have other health conditions resulting in that person’s death. Furthermore, if they do catch the virus some studies are showing people can have life long after effects such as depression or neurological issues. Overall the message should be since we do not know what this virus can do, it’s not something to ignore and needs to be taken seriously.

Discuss that you understand there are conflicting reports at times and this can be confusing. Therefore, if they hear things that are confusing or friends saying things that do not make sense, they should ask you. Together you can discuss the confusing information and look up the latest information on the CDC website or your county’s Coronavirus website. Bottom line explain that yes this is a very confusing time but if you work together as a family you can help each other to understand what is happening and to stay safe. Let the politicians play games with their careers and lives, but not your children’s or family’s lives.

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