Helping Children Cope with Coronavirus Stress

Helping Children Cope with Coronavirus Stress

Since the beginning of the pandemic children have experienced an increase in depression and anxiety. It’s understandable because they have been isolated from friends and family. In addition no one can tell them what to expect and many have lost family members to COVID.

Furthermore, just as somethings were opening up and returning somewhat to normal, we have another significant increase in the number of COVID cases. As a result, many things have to be closed down again, there are definite rules regarding wearing masks and they may not be able to see their families for Thanksgiving. Again we are not able to give children any definite answers regarding when life will return to something normal.

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.

Some Kids Only Want Food for the Holidays

Some Kids Only Want Food for the Holidays

The Holiday Season is here, however, this year it will be very different due to the Coronavirus. We have 225,000 people who have passed away from the virus so far. So we have numerous people who are grieving for spouses, grandparents, siblings, parents and friends. Furthermore, many parents are unemployed. Millions of families cannot afford to pay the rent or buy food. Food Banks are reporting a significant increase in the number of people seeking food. Parents are getting in line at 5 am when the Food Bank opens at 9am. There are doing this because they are desperate for food so they can feed their children.

A teacher asked her first grade class to write letters for Christmas. She asked each student to write one thing they want and something they need. One of the children wrote this heartbreaking letter asking for food and shoes. However, she was not the only one. Many children were asking for food, clothes and a place to live.

This video details the need that many families are facing and how many children are focusing on food and clothes for survival not toys. https://youtu.be/j_05ZuhqCZM

This video is the tip of the iceberg. Currently in the United States one out of five children are going to bed without food and are homeless (CDC). This is the United States, how are we allowing this to occur? While families are having to beg for food and a place to live, President Trump is focusing on lies about how he did not lose the election and playing golf instead of discussing World leaders how we can cope with the Coronavirus. He is the President and the welfare of these families should be his first priority not playing golf.

Many people assume that hunger is not a problem in the United States. However the current statistics of one in five children living below the poverty level and not having enough to eat and many living on the streets tells us that we have a severe problem in the United States. It’s not because they have drug addicted parents either. Many of their parents work 2 or 3 jobs, if they can find a job. As a result of the pandemic, we have unemployment rates that are similar to the Great Depression. We have been aware of this fact before the elections, but the President has refused to act.

I do see children in this situation for psychotherapy. These children are often depressed and see no hope for the future. They feel that they will be homeless for their entire life. In therapy I am trying to help them to not give up. The suicide rate has increased due to the Coronavirus pandemic and if a child sees no hope for their future they do think about suicide. I am able to provide these children psychotherapy because I see them pro bono.

The other sad fact is that the United States government continues not to act. Additionally, the few programs that are helping these families will expire the day after Christmas. Many of these programs are their only source of food. The children are the future of our country. Why would the United States, considered the richest country in the world, cut programs that will increase the number of children living in poverty? Should a child in the United States, need to be asking Santa Claus for food and a blanket? Should the Country’s focus be taking care of President Trump’s ego or children who have no food or a place to live? Where are our priorities?

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

Remember to Tell Your Teenager “I love You” this Holiday Season

Remember to Tell Your Teenager “I love You” this Holiday Season

This year has taught us many lessons. It has taught us that people we love may die unexpectedly and without us having a chance to say goodbye. We have had over 225,000 moms, fathers, sons, daughters, spouses, grandparents and friends die from the Coronavirus this year (CDC). The public health experts are estimating this number may significantly increase before the end of the year. Most of these people died without family present and without their family having a chance to say goodbye.

This is not where it ends. Every year 5,000 teenagers are killed in motor vehicle accidents and 400,000 are injured (CDC statistics). These injures may range from cuts and bruises to someone being paralyzed. Also this year there has been a significant increase in the number of teenagers dying due to suicide (the second leading cause of death) and accidental drug overdoses. Again many of these teens died without being able to say goodbye to their families and their families never had a chance to say goodbye.

The Holiday Season is here and one of the main points of the Holidays is family. It is a time to express to each other how much that we love and care about each other. However, as this year has taught us, we don’t always get the chance to really express how much we care because we are caught up in our everyday lives. As a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers, I have seen this happen to parents and teenagers. I have seen unexpected deaths and the grieving person very upset because they never had a chance to say how much they loved the person.

A mother experienced this fact when her son committed suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for teenagers. After that she wrote the following poem to her son. She also encouraged all parents of teenagers to remember to say “I love you,” to your teenager. You may not get another chance. Given the fact that we are dealing with a deadly virus which is out of control and many teenagers have car accidents during this time of year, I thought it was appropriate to run her poem.

I Love You

How could you?

They asked you,

How could you?

But you could not answer

As you were not here.

Why would you?

They asked you,

Why would you?

But their questions fell onto

The world’s deafest ears.

I loved you!

They told you,

I loved you.

But they told you too late,

Through their tears.

I’ll miss you,

They told you,

I’ll miss you.

And in death now

They hold you more dear.

The point is don’t take the risk. Since you never know what may happen and many teens feel that their parents don’t care, take the opportunity while you have it to express your feelings. Don’t spend the rest of your life regretting I never told him I loved him or wondering if that would have made the difference.

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist is Pleasant Hill who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 20 years of working with teens. To find out more about his work or to contact him visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple or Audible.

Loneliness is A Major Problem During COVID Holidays not Suicide

Loneliness is A Major Problem During COVID Holidays not Suicide

The Holiday Season is just around the corner. This year the Holidays are different due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Many people assume the Holidays and depression go together. In addition to assuming the Holidays and depression go together, people assume that suicide rates increase during this time of year. Well according to the statistics from the CDC, suicide rates actually drop during the Holiday Season. The study by the CDC is not sure why they drop but they do. May be they drop because during this time of year we pay more attention to depression and suicide. There are a number of ads and social media posts where people can call if they feel suicidal.

What the CDC did find is that loneliness increases during this time of year. During the Holidays there are songs and plenty of television shows regarding getting together with family and friends. Usually many people are taking have about all the Holiday parties that they have to go to. However, this Holiday Season people will be talking about the parties that are not occurring due to the pandemic. Some people will still have parties but overall this year the Holidays will be different.

If you are a military family, a loved one may be stationed overseas and won’t be home for the Holidays. Also during the year, especially this year, some close friends or loved ones may have died and you are grieving their death. There have been over 225,000 deaths due to the Coronavirus this year. Therefore, there will be around one million people grieving this year. It is during this time when most people are talking about family and friends that you remember the people you have lost over the year. The first Holiday Season without a close loved one or friend can be very difficult. You may not feeling like celebrating or you may have to change Holiday traditions which can make some one feel sad and lonely. However, it may be necessary so you can tolerate the Holidays. The point is with over a million people grieving this year, the Holidays will be very difficult for many people and will be very different for our society.

Another common difficulty during this time of year is money. Many people feel like they need to spend a great deal of money to show love. However, since many people have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and the White House is not helping the country, many people don’t have enough money for rent or food. Why do we need to spend money to show that we care? What if you write a letter to someone telling them how important they are to you and how much you appreciate them. Isn’t that the real purpose of the Holiday Season? Isn’t this the time of year we take to tell people in our lives how much we appreciate them. Also it’s an opportunity to tell people we tend to ignore, people sleeping on the street or who are dealing with mental illness that they are important too? Everyone is important and should be included. Also instead of spending a lot of money, you can donate your time so someone who is struggling financially or emotionally has an easier time. You may want to consider helping others all year long and not just during the Holidays.

As a psychotherapist, I have seen that people dealing with mental illness feel lonely and out of place during this time of year. They don’t often feel the joy of the season. Sometimes they struggle just to make it through the day. Also mental illness is something we don’t discuss as a society. We tend to act like it doesn’t exist so we ignore the issue. Also since it is an uncomfortable issue for many people the feelings of shame and embarrassment become associated with mental illness. This makes it less likely for people dealing with it or families who have a family member dealing with it to talk about it or seek help. This can make people feel lonely and isolated especially during this time of year.

We seldom acknowledge the daily struggle that people and families dealing with mental illness go through on a daily basis. It is important to acknowledge that mental illness is not a weakness it is a medical condition. There is no reason to look down on someone with mental illness. We offer encouragement and support to people with cancer, why can’t we do the same for people with mental illness? Also the pandemic has increased the number of people dealing with anxiety and depression significantly. Therefore, we may want to reconsider how we view mental health and the help we offer to people who have mental health issues.

I have included a link to a video where a teenager discusses dealing with depression https://youtu.be/dAzqGcOLXBs. Listen to what he has to say and answer the question, does he deserve to be looked down upon because he is depressed?

Also remember the Holidays can be a lonely time for people. So if you see someone who looks like they are having a hard time or know someone who is struggling during this season, try to help. Do something kind for them. Another thing to remember, being kind to people should be a year round activity for all of us. We should not just be kind during the Holidays. If we try to be kind all year, we may be able to decrease how many people feel lonely and depressed. Also if we are kind and offering support year round may be we can eliminate the negative stereotype associated with mental health.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in treating depression and suicide especially depressed and suicidal children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers who are suicidal. For more information about Dr. Rubino visit his websites at www.RubinoCounseling.com, www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple or Audible.

Pornography and Teenage Boys During the Pandemic

Pornography and Teenage Boys During the Pandemic

I have wrote previous articles about the old stereotype regarding what it takes to “be a man” and how this stereotype negatively affects teenage boys. This stereotype typically leads young men to become sexually active in middle school, according to the current research data, and it also leads to a sense of isolation. Teenage boys have been lead to believe they should be prepared to handle life like a grown man. However, they are not fully mature nor are they prepared to handle everything on the own. However, due to the stereotype they feel they cannot ask for help or share their concerns with their friends. Hence they feel isolated, alone and like failures at the age of 16 years old.

This article is going a step further and discussing the epidemic of addiction to porn that many teenage boys and men are dealing with today. In our society sex is a tabooed subject. It is unusual if anyone sits down with a teenage boy and discusses sex. They typically learn by talking to friends, having sex or the most common way pornography. However, no one discusses how to treat a sexual partner, diseases you can catch and the importance of mutual consent.

Many parents may feel this issue doesn’t apply to their son. However, with the internet being available on laptops, game centers and phones most people stumble on to pornography by accident and very easily. Look online for yourself. It is very easy to access pornography in today’s world. Most research studies indicate that most boys have been exposed to pornography between the ages of 8 years old and 10 years old. Their young minds are not prepared to process what they are seeing nor are they prepared for the feeling they experience and how their bodies respond to what they are seeing. They continue to watch and to go back to the sites over and over and many become addicted. Even though pornography addiction is not a formal psychiatric diagnosis yet, most research studies have concluded that the number of teenage boys visiting porn sites at least once a day has reached epidemic rates. Some teenage boys have self reported going to porn sites five to 10 times a day. Therefore, while the DSM V does not list porn addiction as a formal diagnosis, many researchers and clinicians believe that people especially teenage boys can become addicted to pornography.

This is an issue parents do need to pay attention to during the pandemic. Teenagers are having to spend more time at home and cannot see their friends like they are use to. Therefore, many teen boys are reporting being bored and some report being slightly depressed. Since they are spending more time in their bedrooms and have easy access to pornography via their phones or laptop, there is a temptation to look at pornography to help with being bored. This simple distraction can easily turn into an addiction during the pandemic. They are isolated and have no idea when the pandemic will end. Pornography therefore becomes an easy escape and habit before they know it.

Lisa Ling did an episode about porn addiction in her series This is Life. I have included the YouTube link here to the episode. YouTube does charge $1.99 to watch the episode but if you have teenage boys it is well worth the cost. She was able to talk to men in their thirties, homosexual men and an 18 year old high school senior who openly discussed their struggles with pornography and masturbation. They all explain how easy it was to become addicted but how difficult it is to stop. Some men had been trying for years to stop using pornography and still can’t succeed. Here is the link https://youtu.be/UqoCg9Srs18.

Additionally, these men and teenager discussed how pornography has negatively impacted their lives. Besides the guilt and shame they felt about their addiction, they reported difficulties with obtaining and maintaining an erection. Many also reported a decreased interest in having sex. They no longer felt interested in women sexually. They stated they were sexually interested in pornography only. One man stated the only way he could have sex with a woman was to fantasy about porn. Many of you may think these issues primarily pertained to the men in their thirties or 40s. Well these issues impacted the entire group even the 18 year old high school senior. The 18 year old high school senior reported he was only able to get an erection if he was watching pornography. He also stated he no longer was finding girls his age sexually attractive. He stated he found he was more attracted to pornography and despite his desire to stop he was not able to stop watching pornography.

Overall most of the men reported feeling isolated and lonely due to pornography. They felt embarrassed to tell their families or to seek help. Even if they wanted help, they did not know where to go to get help. The man who arranged this group that Lisa interviewed started a website NoFab. It is an online support group helping men over come their addiction to pornography and masturbation. When I say men, most guys on the site are between 18 and 24 years old. This site found that teens between the ages of 13 and 16 are at the greatest risk for becoming addicted to pornography. Most likely because at that age a boys hormones are out of control and they have little to no sexual experience. So unfortunately what they learn about sex comes from pornography a fantasy world.

This subject also pertains to teenage boys during the quarantine. How many teenage boys are spending more time in their bedrooms on their laptops and smartphones. How many are bored of being in the house and looking for something new. Well pornography is new and can eliminate being bored. We have no idea how many teenage boys may be starting their pornography addiction during the quarantine.

Father’s if you noticed changes in your teenage son in the past and you think it may be related to pornography or if he is spending a lot more time in his room since the quarantine then talk to him about pornography. However, do so calmly and gently. Remember how you felt at his age and if the subject of sex came up. You don’t want to embarrass him or make him feel his sexual feeling are wrong or perverted. Explain that pornography is a fantasy and not reality. It is adult entertainment not entertainment for teenagers. Also explain how it can give a boy the wrong idea about how to treat a woman or what she really wants. Basically, do not be afraid to have an open, frank discussion about sex and pornography. Also don’t be afraid to ask if they feel they are having problems with pornography. Reassure them if they are, you will not get mad and you will help them find help for the issue. Remember don’t shame them. Be there as their father to eliminate the lonely, isolated feeling and help them on the road to recovery. Also tell them how proud you are that they were brave enough to speak up and ask for help.

If your teenager needs help look for a psychotherapist who specializes in teenagers, addiction issues and sexual issues. Pornography addiction is not like being an alcoholic. A person can stop drinking alcohol, however, they cannot stop having sexual feelings. Sexual feelings are part of being human so they have to learn a new way to relate to their sexual feelings.

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

Teenagers Texting during the Pandemic

Teenagers Texting during the Pandemic

In today’s world texting has become a very common way for people to communicate with each other, especially for teenagers. Before the Coronavirus, when I would go to a baseball game or the theater, I would see adults texting the entire time. I have even seen people fired via text. We also have a President who makes major announcements via Twitter. His actions make teenagers feel Texting is normal. Additionally, it’s no surprise teenagers today feel texting is the normal way to communicate because they grew up with it. Any teenager today is part of what I refer to as the IPhone generation. Since these kids were born there have been Smartphones that they have been using. Therefore, texting or having instant access to information via the internet is normal to them. They never have seen an encyclopedia or a card catalog at a library. The teenagers I currently see for psychotherapy, use texting as their primary way of communicating with each other. Besides texting by Smartphones, teenagers also now text each other as they play video games oline. Try removing a teenager’s Smartphone or gaming console so they cannot text, many teens become very upset and some even become violent. Additionally many parents don’t feel texting is really communicating, however adults need to pay attention to how often they text people.

While technology is advancing at a fast pace, our laws and ethics are having a difficult time keeping up with the latest advances. However, when laws are passed or ethical standards set, many teenagers and adults are not aware of the new laws. This is creating a tremendous problem for teenagers and their families. I have worked with many teenagers who are struggling with an issue, such as being accused of threatening someone via text, but they had no idea they were doing anything inappropriate.

Additionally now we have the Coronavirus pandemic and teenagers are having to attend school remotely and are not able to hang out with friends like they did before the pandemic. Therefore, for many teenagers texting has become their lifeline helping them stay in touch with their friends. Again these teenagers have grown up with texting so it’s normal to communicate via text. Many parents don’t understand how texting is the same as talking to another person. However, remember when you were in High School most teenagers spent hours on the telephone because we couldn’t text.

Something that it is important for teenagers to remember is that any time you post something online, tweet or text, it is on the internet forever. Some teens will say when they text it’s just from phone to phone. However, it remains on the phone forever and also on the server that provides your cellphone service. In other words, someone can get your text history from Verizon. This is why many celebrities have won very large monetary judgements against people who have posted false or embarrassing material on the internet. You can remove it from the site it was posted to, but it still can found on other sites. Therefore, if a teenager post something, they need to think about the fact that it will be out there forever and anyone can see it. This may lead to embarrassing situations.

Most teens worry about their grades and after school activities because they do not want to wreck their chance of getting into the University of their choice. However, many teenagers are not aware that many colleges check social media sites and the internet when they apply. The schools search for the applicant’s sites but also search to see if the applicant is on friend’s sites. They look at your pictures and opinions and decide do they feel they want you representing their school to the world. They can get your text history depending on how closely they choose to examine your background.

Let’s consider the most common problems that teenagers encounter with texting. The first one is texting sexually explicit photographs to their boyfriend/girlfriend. At the time they think it is no big deal. However, high school romances typically do not last. If one of the individuals feels hurt, they can post that sexually explicit picture all over the Internet. It can be sent to their families and friends. In fact, their entire school could see it. This would be extremely embarrassing. Even if the person who posted the picture is punished, the picture is still out there and the damage is done.

Additionally, teenagers fail to think about the fact that they are under 18 years old. Therefore, they are violating child pornography laws by texting the picture or by receiving it and having a copy on their cellphone. In fact, Congress is trying to pass stricter laws regarding teenagers texting sexually explicit picture. Therefore, besides being very embarrassed, the teenagers involved might find themselves facing legal charges for violating child pornography laws.

The second major issue is harassment. Friends get mad at each other or often one teenager is singled out and they become the object of numerous texts telling them they are ugly, no one likes them etc. These texts can be sent so often and by some many other teenagers that the teen who is the target commits suicide. There are numerous examples of this and a common one is accusing a teenager of being gay. This is not harmless teenage game playing. This harassment can be vicious. They are also cases where the teenagers sending these texts have been charged with stalking or more serious charges if the teenager committed suicide.

When this occurs, the teenagers are shocked. They think they were just teasing another kid and it was harmless. They have no idea what this teenager is already dealing with in their life or what it can be like to have numerous classmates texting you every day all day long. It is not harmless teasing, but because technology has increased so quickly it is not the same teasing that use to occur at school. We have not had enough time to think about this point.

Another major issue is that texting is an excellent way for schools or police to arrest teenagers for dealing drugs, buying or using drugs. I have worked with many teenagers from numerous schools where the school catches someone using or selling marijuana on school grounds. The school then checks the student’s cellphone and looks at the text history. The school then starts calling in the student’s on the text history and asking about drug use or selling. One teenager getting caught at school can result in ten teenagers being expelled. The teenagers are usually in shock. First, they never thought they were doing anything wrong and they never thought a text could get them in trouble. However, it can and it does. I have seen many teenagers for psychotherapy because of a text found by the school.

Finally, new research is showing that texting is increasing the rate of depression in teenagers. Texting creates more access in some ways, however, it is isolating too. When you text you lose the personal interaction which is very important. People do need personal interaction for their mental health. When teenagers text they miss out on the personal interaction. This can and does at times lead to a lonely feeling. If a teenager is already having a hard time and then they experience of feeling isolated too, this can lead to depression. Research is showing an increase in teenage depression and I am seeing an increase in the number of teenagers I am seeing for depression. Therefore, we need to take a closer look at teenagers and texting.

So we are facing a difficult situation. Teenagers today tend to use texting as their primary way of communication. Given the pandemic we are dealing with at this time it makes sense for them to text each other. However, our ethics have not kept up with technology and there are a number of ways teenagers can get into trouble texting. Additionally, research indicates that texting can increase the feelings of isolation and depression in teenagers. Feeling many teenagers and trying to avoid during the Coronavirus pandemic. One way they feel that helps them is texting friends. However, this maybe incorrect according to the research. Therefore, parents are facing a difficult situation when it comes to their teenagers texting each other.

At this point, my professional opinion is that parents sit down with their teenagers and discuss the pros and cons about texting and that parents limit texting to an hour everyday. Additionally, you may want to set up an agreement where your teenager allows you to monitor their texting in away that is comfortable for you and your teenager. Remember to be patient during this conversation because everyone is dealing with stress due to the pandemic.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with 20 years of experience working with children and teenagers. He also treats Internet addiction. For more information on Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Teenage Cutting Increases due to the Pandemic

Teenage Cutting Increases due to the Pandemic

Last year when I was guest co-hosting the Street Soldier radio show on 106.1 KMEL, the topic was how teenagers are impacted by social media. The topic of depression and cutting came up during the conversation. The adults were shocked to hear about cutting and the teens tended to feel the cutting was more of an issue for the girls. However, as a psychotherapist who works with teenagers, I have observed the increase in teenage cutting over the years. I have also observed that a behavior that once was believed to occur mainly in girls is also occurring in teenage boys too. From what I have seen it appears that just as many boys are cutting as girls. I mentioned when I was co-hosting last year before the Coronavirus. Since the Coronavirus pandemic and quarantine the number of teenagers cutting has significantly increased (CDC).

The first question I often receive when I mention cutting is, what is it? Cutting is any behavior that a person engages in with the goal of self-mutilating. Teenagers cut with razors, knifes, paper clips, staples, using erasers or even scratching themselves. These are just a few ways teenagers have found to self-mutilate themselves. Since this is an activity associated with a great deal of guilt and shame, I am sure there are more ways that we have not learned about yet.

Also because cutting is associated with a great deal of guilt and shame our statistics on how many teenagers cut are not entirely accurate. Most recent studies indicate that approximately a third of all teenagers have tried cutting or actively cutting (CDC). If you noticed the research shows a third of all teenagers, which means boys too. I am seeing cutting become more popular with teenagers especially with boys who say they are cutting, have cut or are thinking about it. Therefore, cutting not only occurs in girls but it is occurring in boys too. We need to be aware of the fact that cutting is becoming more popular with teenagers. It is important because cutting can lead to accidental suicide attempts if an artery is cut or permanent damage if nerves in the arm or legs are severely cut. These are things that teenagers and parents don’t think about.

Why do teenagers cut? The reasons I commonly hear is it is easier to deal with the physical pain than the emotional pain they are feeling. Teens who are severally depressed state that cutting reminds them they are alive. They are so depressed that they feel nothing, but when they cut they feel. Also teenagers cut as a way to punish themselves because they are ashamed about something they did or they feel they have let their parents down. Cutting is a way for teenagers to deal with the guilt and shame they are experiencing. It is also a way that they can feel in control of life when their life feels or the world feels out of control or overwhelming.

Since the Coronavirus pandemic many teenagers are feeling overwhelmed and powerless. They also see very little hope for things to improve. As a result, many more teenagers have started cutting since the beginning of the pandemic. It is a way teenagers can try to cope with feeling overwhelmed and powerless due to the pandemic. I have had more teenagers reporting incidents of cutting and more friends who are cutting since the beginning of the pandemic and as the pandemic continues.

If we look at how boys are raised, cutting is a good fit for boys. Most boys grow up learning that boys can’t cry and if you express feelings of sadness or disappointment you are weak. Teenage boys are always supposed to look like life is perfect and they can handle anything without help. Cutting allows them to express sadness, fear or embarrassment in private. No one knows they are cutting or how they are feeling. Unfortunately, this leads to a vicious circle where emotions can get out of control and a boy may end up doing something he never indented to do. The number of boys cutting has increased due to the pandemic because they feel overwhelmed and out of control. There is nothing they can do about the Coronavirus and how their lives have changed due to the Coronavirus.

At this point, most people working with teenagers consider cutting an epidemic. In fact, the CDC does consider teenage cutting to be an epidemic. Additionally, the little research we have about this behavior supports this idea, but we are unable to determine how severe the epidemic is in teenagers. When I mention cutting to a teenager now, they don’t look shocked. Instead they talk about it like we are talking about the weather. They often tell me about friends who are cutting too. Most teens who cut have friends that cut. Most teenage boys who have girlfriends tend to have girlfriends who cut too. As I stated above, the number of teenagers cutting has increased significantly since the Coronavirus pandemic because many teenagers are feeling helpless and overwhelmed by life. No one alive has ever dealt with a pandemic so teenagers feel helpless and hopeless about life. This has been my experience.

Cutting can be a very dangerous behavior and does need to be treated with psychotherapy. If you feel your teen may be cutting, talk to them in an understanding manner. Do not give them any reason to feel guilty or ashamed if they say yes. As I stated above, the teen already feels a great deal of shame and if they feel they will be looked at in a shameful manner or that you will be shocked they will never open up to you. You need to reassure them you love them and you only care about their safety.

I said it needs to be treated with psychotherapy. Find a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers and in treating self-mutilating behavior. If you have to go to someone who is doing teletherapy due to the pandemic that is fine. This is very important because if the therapist acts negatively or shocked, the teenager will shut down and therapy may not work with any other therapist because the teenager now assumes everyone is judging them. I have had teens test me in various ways because of what a previous therapist said about their behavior or what the therapist said to their parents. They need to feel safe and accepted by their therapist if therapy is going to work.

I have included some risk factors and warning signs for you to be aware of in case you think your teen might be cutting:

Risk Factors

Knowledge that friends or acquaintances are cutting

Difficulty expressing feelings

Extreme emotional reactions to minor occurrences (anger or sorrow)

Stressful family events (divorce, death, conflict)

Loss of a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, or social status

Negative body image

Lack of coping skills

Depression

Warning Signs

Wearing long sleeves during warm weather

Wearing thick wristbands that are never removed

Unexplained marks on body

Secretive or elusive behavior

Spending lengthy periods of time alone

Items that could be used for cutting (knives, scissors, safety pins, razors) are missing.

While this is a scary subject, I have worked with many teens who have overcome this issue. The important thing is as parents you are accepting and non judgmental. Also you need to be aware that this issue does exist. My last point is that boys cut too. Girls are not the only teenagers engaging in this behavior.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. He has treated many teenagers who cut and is considered an expert in this area. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his websites www.rcs-ca.com , www.RubinoCounseling.com , or his Facebook page, http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3

Teenagers want Parents to Listen

Teenagers want Parents to Listen

Many teenagers report being frustrated with their parents because they feel that their parents do not listen to them. Honestly, they are probably right at times. Most people have poor listening skills. These are not skills we are taught in school or at home. Most people tend to be focusing on how they are going to respond to the person talking rather than completely listening to the other person.

Since this is a common issue, what happens when children and teenagers feel that their parents are not really listening to them? What teenagers have told me is that they feel angry and that their parent does not care about their feelings. When teenagers have these feelings they tend to stop talking to their parents and to act out. When they feel that their parents don’t care, they feel like they have permission to do whatever they want and at times they act out using drugs or not going to school as a way to get their parents attention.

Teenagers may act like they know everything and that they are not afraid of anything or confused about what to do, but this is only an act. They do not know how to handle everything and often feel overwhelmed by life choices. As a result they turn to their parents. However, if their parents are not fully listening they feel hurt and rejected. As teenagers their communication skills and reasoning skills are not fully developed. Therefore, they don’t know how to let their parents know they feel hurt and rejected. They also do not know how to let you know that they feel you are not listening and they need your help. Most teenagers feel saying they need their parents as a sign of weakness. This is because they are not fully mature and they are still children and they need their parents.

For many parents this may come as a shock. It comes as a shock because of how teenagers tend to react to their parents. Again, because teenagers are not fully mature they tend to act like they know everything and don’t need their parents. However, as I stated above teenagers do need and want their parents support. However, due to their immaturity, teenagers act like they don’t need their parents. However, parents need to understand that teenagers are not fully mature yet and their actions do not always match how they are feeling.

With this being said, it is very important that parents listen to their teenagers. However, since communication skills are a problem for most people especially listening skills, I have provided a list of listening skills that parents may want to try. Remember these skills don’t come naturally to most people so it will take a while for you to improve your skills. Also since teenagers can be confusing at times it makes listening even harder at times. In addition to these skills, if you are listening to your teenager, but you are still confused try asking a clarification question. Repeat back what you thought you heard and ask your teenager if you heard them correctly. This shows you are listening, you care and you want to focus on their concerns. This is exactly what teenagers are wanting from you. Here are the skills you may want to try:

1)  Purposefully strive to focus on listening with an open mind, refrain from jumping to conclusions or forming an opinion while your child is talking.

2)  Do not hurry them, listening requires patience.  Wait for your child’s thoughts to take shape  and give time for the words to form and find expression.

3)  Always show respect and courtesy in listening to what your child has to say, no matter how much you may disagree with them.

4)  Your own body language is important, make eye contact and always provide your attentive and undivided attention.

5)  Don’t be thinking about how you will respond as this will take your concentration away from what they are really saying.

6)  Exercise awareness of your child’s nonverbal cues, facial expression, tone of voice, body stance, general mood and attitude.

7)  Don’t interrupt, hear them out and wait for the appropriate opportunity to ask questions.

8)  Always remain calm when listening and never show your personal feelings of anger or disappointment.

9)  Think of listening as personal growth as your children will always have something to say which will help you to grow.

10) Practice active listening with your heart to genuinely empathize with your child. Put yourself in their shoes to genuinely understand their feelings and emotions.

Remember this will take time and effort. However, by trying you are improving your relationship with your teenager and this is a tremendous benefit to you and your teenager if you can improve your relationship. Teenagers are facing a great deal of confusing and dangerous situations in today’s world and they need their parents now more than ever.

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 www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Celebrating Halloween during the Pandemic

Celebrating Halloween during the Pandemic

In about a month it will be Halloween. This is a holiday that many children look forward to every year. However, this year most children will be missing Halloween due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Many states are reporting an increase in Coronavirus cases and the flu season is beginning too. Therefore, it is not medically safe for children to be trick or treating this year. The major problem is most of these children have missed their birthdays, playing with their friends, summer vacation and now they are having to go to school remotely. As a result, main children are feeling depressed and do not want to participate in school.

With everything these children have been through, hopefully we can find some safe, fun ways for them to celebrate Halloween. One possible option is, as a family, you can let your children pick out their costumes and since Halloween is on a Saturday this year, let them wear these costumes all day. Additionally as a family you can pick out scary movies to watch all day and night and treats they can have for the day. You can also carve pumpkins and prepare a special Halloween dinner. If you google Halloween recipes, you will find a number of dishes that have a Halloween theme. This may not be the same as trick or treating but it can be a fun time for the entire family.

Another possibility is to arrange trick or treating with your family and family friends. You can arrange that with family members and friends that are taking appropriate precautions such as wearing masks and social distancing so they are not likely to have the Coronavirus that you can stop by their homes and trick or treat. This way your children do get to trick or treat but at least you are trying to do it in the safest manner possible. Obviously, your children would need to wear masks and being feeling well. If they had a runny nose or a slight fever, you would need to keep them home. However, this occurs every year, if at the last minute a child is looking or acting ill, you need to keep them home. Obviously, your family and friends would be wearing masks when you went to their houses and if they were feeling sick they would let you know before you left your house so you would know to skip their house.

Another option would be if your city or church has a community center. You can have people who volunteer to pass out candy on Halloween at the hall. All the volunteers would wear masks and their temperatures would have been taken to keep it as safe as possible. You could schedule 10 children at a time to go through the hall and trick or treat. Again, the children will need to be wearing masks and have had their temperatures taken. This way you are making it safe for the children and volunteers. You would need a schedule so you would not have too many children in the same space at the same time. Yes this will take a fair amount of work. However, it will allow children to celebrate a holiday specifically for children and they have a chance to act like children and forget the pandemic for a night. This would be a tremendous gift to children who have missed a lot of their childhood due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Some people may be tempted to say just forget the pandemic and let the children celebrate Halloween like they usually do. However, the research does document that children can and do contract the Coronavirus. The research also shows that children do need to be hospitalized due to the Coronavirus. The research shows that 1out of 3 children who are hospitalized will end up in the ICU. Finally the research numbers show children will and have died due to the Coronavirus. However, an additional complication during this time of the year is it is flu season too. It is possible for a child to have the flu and Coronavirus at the same time. Therefore, we cannot treat this like any other year and we need to brainstorm how children can celebrate Halloween safety.

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

Children’s Right to Psychotherapy is at Serious Risk

Children’s Right to Psychotherapy is at Serious Risk

Parents our elections are coming up and it is very important that you vote and call your Senators regarding health care. Currently President Trump has several suits in the Courts to eliminate the Affordable Care Act and pre-existing conditions. Yes he signed an Executive Order, but insurance companies do not have to comply with the Order. The Executive Order are only recommendations so insurance companies can and will ignore it. I have been a psychotherapist for over 20 years and I have seen how the Affordable Care Act has benefited thousands of people. Before we had it, many people were denied or could not afford psychotherapy.

Before the ACA, if you had ever taken antidepressants, your insurance could deny to cover psychotherapy for you or require you to pay a very high copayment. I saw this happen many times to patients I was treating prior to the ACA. Depression and anxiety are considered pre-existing conditions. Also in your insurance contact there is a standard clause that if the insurance company wants to see all your medical records you cannot stop them. I had insurance companies make these requests and I checked with numerous attorneys and the answer always was the same. The way the insurance writes their contract, you cannot stop them from getting all your records from the day you were born. If you refuse, they can terminate your insurance coverage. Insurance companies typically will ask for all your records because if you had psychotherapy as a teenager that is a pre-existing condition. Therefore, they can deny to cover your psychotherapy. They could even terminate your health insurance all together.

What if you have children? If you have a child with Autism, ADHD or if they were ever suicidal, your child will not be able to get insurance coverage or the psychotherapy they desperately need. Before the ACA I had many families in this exact situation. Many would automatically terminate therapy. Research now shows if children with these issues receive therapy when they are very young we can improve the outcome for them as adults. However, without the ACA, insurance companies specify these issues as pre-existing conditions and therefore the child is not entitled to psychotherapy. I often provided psychotherapy to these families at a fee they could afford. However, not every therapist can afford to lower their fees and I can only do it for a certain number of families because it cost money to run a business.

This election and these cases before the Courts could have disastrous effects on you and your children if the pre-existing clause is eliminated. The President has stated he will protect the clause, but his actions indicate he will eliminate it if he can. If this clause is eliminated anyone who has dealt with depression or ADHD will not be able to get insurance or if they can the rate will be very high. Remember if the clause is eliminated it will not just stop you or your child from receiving therapy it will also stop you from receiving medical care. So if you develop long haul syndrome after having the Coronavirus, you will not be able to get insurance coverage. The Coronavirus is a pre-existing condition. Another fact is that 1 out of 5 children meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health issue (CDC). This means 1 out of 5 children have a pre-existing condition. So parents please vote and call Senators and save the pre-existing condition clause. Please do not trust President Trump to do it.

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