Teenagers and Valentine’s Day

Teenagers and Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is coming and if you have a teenager so is teenage drama. There are two main issues which parents and faced with around Valentine’s Day. The first issue is if your teenager is not dating someone. Your teenager is embarrassed and feels like no one will ever love them. The second issue is if your teenager is dating someone. Then there are issues such as gifts, the cost of the gifts and how late they can stay out on Valentine’s night. To many adults some of these issues seem very clear cut, but to some teenagers it’s a matter of life or death.

Let’s start with the first issue, your teen is not dating anyone. This can make them feel worthless, ugly and they may even feel no one will ever love them. The teenage years are very confusing especially when it comes to a teenager’s self-esteem. Most teens are trying to live up to their image of a “normal teenager.” If your teenager is not dating, explain to them that many teenagers do not date in high school. In fact, many people do not start dating until college. Try explaining some of your high school experiences if you feel that would help. Also point out their positive traits and things they do that you are proud of. Help their self-esteem by pointing out things they may over look. Try to change the focus slightly for them. Discuss that St. Valentine’s Day is about being with people who you love and care about. Maybe you can go out as a family for dinner or they have some friends who also are not dating and maybe they can do something together. The main point is let them know whether someone is dating or not it has nothing to do with their self-esteem and when they are ready they will start dating too. Do as much as you can to destruct the “average teenage image” that is incorrect.

If your teen does have a girlfriend or boyfriend, there are a number of different issues you get to confront. The first issue is gifts. Many teenagers have no concept of money and plan these elaborate gifts for their valentine. As they start to assembly the gifts, the quickly determine that they cannot afford everything they planed on buying. At this point, many teens expect mom and dad to help out because it’s Valentine’s Day. This is when mom and dad need to discuss with their teenager about budgeting money. Also it’s important to discuss what is appropriate and not appropriate at their age for gifts. For example, diamond earrings from Tiffany’s are not appropriate. Instead, may be they can buy flowers, a card or go to an outlet and look at costume jewelry. Also explain it’s really the thought that counts not how much or where they purchased the gift. For example, if their Valentine has a teddy bear collection that would be appropriate and showed you had been paying attention to the things that are important to them.

When your teen is dating another major issue is curfew and what they will be doing. Since St. Valentine’s Day is a romantic day, many teenagers may be planning on having sex. Unfortunately, in today’s world teens are becoming sexually active often around the sixth grade. However, typically sixth graders do not consider oral sex as being sexually active. Therefore, St. Valentine’s Day is another opportunity to discuss sexuality with your teenager. You can explain your expectations, the consequences of being sexually active (pregnancy and STDs) and precautions they need to take if they decide to become sexually active. Just because you discuss precautions doesn’t mean you are giving your approval and you can tell your teenager that fact.

Besides discussing sexual activity take this opportunity to discuss drinking alcohol or using drugs. Many teens believe vaping is now safe, but we still do not have all the answers and teens need to beware of these facts. They also need to be aware that using some drugs just once can cause someone to die or become addicted. Again they need the real facts so they can make responsible choices. For example, antidepressants and drugs for ADHD do not interact well with street dugs such as molly or pink and can result in death.

These are a few examples of what parents of teenagers face today. My best advice is not to avoid the subjects. Look at this as an opportunity to improve your communication with your teenager and to ensure they are getting the appropriate information. You cannot stop what they will encounter or do once they walk out your front door, but you can do your best to prepare them and to let them know you are always there no matter what. If they make a mistake, you prefer to help them deal with it appropriately rather than hide it from you.

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

Teenagers and Adults Are Desperate for Love

Teenagers and Adults Are Desperate for Love

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and many people are focusing on love and relationships. Many people are familiar with this line, “you complete me,” from the movie, Jerry McGuire, starring Tom Cruise. A deaf couple signs this message to each other in an elevator and Tom Cruise’s character assumes they must really be in love. However, this may not be the reality. In reality it may be an unhealthy relationship.

As a psychotherapist with 20 years experience treating couples and teenagers, I have observed a common mistake that many people make regarding relationships and love. Many people tell me they feel an emptiness inside themselves and describe it as a “big empty hole.” They assume that a relationship will fill this emptiness. In other words, they are relying on their partner to eliminate the empty feeling they are experiencing.

This is a mistake. The only person that can fill that emptiness you feel is you. When I work with couples or an individual who is experiencing this emptiness, they usually are upset with their partner. They are upset because their partner is not filling the emptiness. Also the other partner is frustrated because they are tired of having to constantly reassure their partner. They report they are tired of always having to worry about meeting their partner needs and that their needs are constantly being pushed aside.

This type of pattern is very common in relationships where there is domestic violence or a substance abuse problem. Also jealousy is a major issue in these relationships. The person who is experiencing the emptiness is very sensitive to feeling rejected or abandoned. This is usually a result from childhood issues that have never been addressed. However, as an adult, if they sense these feelings in their relationship they tend to over react to them. The person may drink excessively to reduce their fears and men often result to verbal or physical abuse. Anything that will keep their partner in the relationship and continue to fill the empty space.

This tends to occur because as we grow up there is a great deal of pressure for people to be in relationships. You see this in children in first grade or kindergarten when adults jokingly ask children if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. If a child doesn’t they often feel there is something wrong with them.

I see this issue a lot with teenagers. I have teenagers who feel they are defective because they never had a girlfriend or boyfriend. This defective feeling increases significantly, if the teenager never has been on a date. They believe if they are going to be a “normal” teenager, they must at least be dating. Boys tend to believe they must be sexually active too. I have had teenagers tell me they felt suicidal or were using drugs because they did not have a girlfriend or boyfriend. They are willing to risk their lives using drugs or believe they are better off dead, if they don’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend. They are so tied up trying to live the stereotype, they can’t believe that many teenagers do not have a girlfriend or boyfriend and do not date in High School.

This pattern continues into adulthood. Many women feel defective if they are 30 years old and not married. Men feel as if they are not men if they do not have a girlfriend. Both men and women often settle for anyone as long as they can say they are in a relationship.

As children, we never learn how to love and care for ourselves. Ask someone if they would go out to dinner by themselves and most people look terrified by the idea. They have no idea what they would do and they are afraid about what other people with think. This is a sad state that we cannot love ourselves. If we always need someone to reinforce we are lovable, we turn our power over to strangers. If someone says something nice about us we feel good, if they say something hurtful, we feel unworthy as a person. But, why should someone else determine our value? We should be the one who judges if we are lovable or not. A relationship should add to our life like a bottle of wine adds to a meal. A relationship should not define us as a person.

As a result of this problem, many couples end up divorcing because a partner is tired of having to reassure their spouse daily. I have seen these divorces become very nasty and costly. So both parties are hurt even more and so are the children. They only people benefiting are the attorneys.

We also have this same issue with teenagers. However, when they break up it tends to be more dramatic. A teenager may start to use drugs, develop an eating disorder, start cutting, become depressed and may attempt suicide. The behaviors are not uncommon after teenagers break up.

We see this acting out behavior more in teenagers and children. Teenagers and children are desperate to feel that they are loved by their parents especially. If they don’t feel they are loved, there is a tendency to act out. Disney’s movie, Frozen, has a segment where the trolls explain that if someone doesn’t feel loved they may act out in pain or make poor decisions in an attempt to find love. Oprah, during her last show, had a very good way of expressing this need. She stated, “everyone wants to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you.” The program Challenge Day, which Oprah recommends, states what teens are looking for this way: every teenager wants to feel safe, loved and celebrated. I see it every day, when teens don’t feel loved, they act out. Negative attention is better than no attention.

How do we handle this issue? We need to start to acknowledge as a society that a relationship doesn’t make you a complete person. Only you can make yourself feel complete as a person. Also we need to remove the stigma of seeking mental health care. We need to encourage adults who feel incomplete without a relationship to seek psychotherapy and deal with their issues. Parents, if you notice that your teenager is desperate to be in a relationship, help them get psychotherapy so they can deal with the pain they are feeling. Remember this emptiness feeling typically begins in childhood. Therefore, if we show children and teens that they are loved or get them help when they are acting out, we can prevent them from dealing with this emptiness for years.

Again, please remember a relationship should add to your life, it should not make you a person or define you as a person.

Dr. Michael Rubino has 20 years experience working with families and teenagers. If you would like more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.