Difficult Teens: How do You Manage Them?

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen wrap up their discussion on teens and parenting by answering some listener questions. Topics include things such as how to get help for a resistant teen, or how to evaluate the seriousness of a child’s struggles.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. Here we teach you how to win the fight for your brain, to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD and addictions.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit AmenClinics.com.
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information visit brainMDhealth.com.
Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We are in the middle, toward the end of Teen Week. Another review from Sandra [McNeil 00:01:04], Tana on your YouTube channel, "I absolutely love your work supporting the mind, body and spirit. The world is a better place because of you. Thank you both for everything you do." Well, you are welcome.
So we asked our viewers, our listeners and we're asking you again, when you have questions, send them in to us. We're going to actually begin to take one of the weekly podcasts and dedicate it to the questions people have. And we have some questions on Teen Week. And one of them is, "How do you get a resistant teen to therapy?"
Do you want to answer that one?
Tana Amen: I think you should answer it because I'm just going to give a comment because I'm not actually sure. But I do know that just from my own experience what ... I had one teenager, my daughter, who would be resistant, she's resistant to therapy because she just has this idea ... even though and maybe because she lives with us and feels like she doesn't need to do it. But also she has this idea that it means somehow there's something wrong. And that for her in her little perfectionistic brain, is hard.
But my niece, our niece that we have, she thrives on therapy because she feels like, "Oh, I have some place to go where I can let it all out and there's help." So I think it depends on the kid. Some kids are very resistant and I don't know how you would suggest that kids really ... how you identify the difference and help the ones that are resistant. Because kids like Chloe are more resistant.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's critical, this is medical care. I know people don't think of mental health care as medical care but it absolutely is medical care. And if he was a diabetic, the parents wouldn't allow that to be optional. If he had cancer, they wouldn't allow the care to be optional. I'm sorry, these are brain health issues and that's just as important and I don't think you should allow it to be optional.
Tana Amen: But is there a way you can rephrase it?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Now you can't force them to-
Tana Amen: ... engage.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... get a scan.
Tana Amen: Well you also can't force them to engage once they're there.
Dr. Daniel Amen: No but we are trained. I can't tell you the number teenagers and children that have said, "I'm not going to see a psychiatrist. I'm not crazy. You can't make me. I'm not going to talk. Don't waste your money." And the parent says all of that to me upfront and I nod my head and I said, "Yes. I know it's hard. Leave him with me."
And for out of the thousands of children I've seen over the last 30 years, I think I've had two that actually went the whole session without saying anything.
Tana Amen: Really?
Dr. Daniel Amen: And one of them, he started with, "Why are you wasting my parents' money?" And then put ... of course it was an Oakland Raiders hat and jacket. Put it over his head and all my efforts to engage were for not. His behavior was so bad. It was just very clear with him at the end of the second session, "I understand you don't want my help. Your behavior worries your parents and your behavior worries me. You have a choice. You're going to let me scan you and find out what's going on or I'm going to recommend, and your parents have already found a place for you, then I'm going to recommend a hospital where you go stay for a couple of months. I don't care. It's up to you." He took off his hat and he said, "I don't want to go away. What do you want me to do?" And we scanned him.
But there was a commotion in the scan room because you know, he was oppositional as could be. So I walked back there. I'm like, "What". He said, "I'm not doing the scan." And I'm like, "I've been a Child Psychiatrist for a long time now." I'm like, "What will it take?" He said, "$20." And so I handed him $20 and he put his arm out, got the scan and I said, "I'm going to hang around and we're going to look at it together." And so I got the scan. I looked at it. His frontal lobes were on fire. You know, worried, rigid, inflexible, things don't go his way. I mean oppositional from hell. And so I explained it to him. And then he looked at me and now we're having a conversation. And he said, "Can you help me?"
Tana Amen: Aww.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I said, "For $20 ..."
Tana Amen: For $20.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I said, "For $20, give me my $20 back."
Tana Amen: That's hilarious.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And I put him on some medicine that calmed down his frontal lobes and he ended up in medical school.
Tana Amen: Oh my gosh.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's like how do you know unless you look what's going on ...
Tana Amen: So you said something super important.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... in his brain.
Tana Amen: But you said something really important. Because a lot of parents just struggle with this idea that their kids are not going to engage, they're going to be difficult, they don't know what to do. You said the most important thing that I heard out of this conversation was, "We're trained for that so just get them here."
Dr. Daniel Amen: Get them here. Get them to a therapist. All kids start with that and it's not their fault. It's mental health, mental illness being deranged, being crazy, being stigmatized. My profession's done that to people because we made it a brainless profession. If people go, "Oh I'm going to go have a better brain and a better life," well who doesn't really want to do that? But if you think you're going to be ...
Tana Amen: ... called crazy.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Go and you're going to get a diagnosis, "Oh, I'm ADHD or I'm oppositional or I have a conduct disorder or I'm bipolar."
Tana Amen: Or I can't be helped.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And nobody wants that. That's the whole issue we're going to talk about it forever. But coming up this year, we're going to talk about the end of mental illness because I'm done with it. We need to start calling these things what they really are which is brain issues that steal your mind.
Tana Amen: I want to end with this. Are my teen's struggles normal?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well you know we sort of talked about that in the last podcast. If their behavior is interfering ... So this is how the short answer. If your behavior, your teenager's behavior or feelings or thinking is interfering with their ability to do school. If it's interfering with their ability to work. If it's interfering with their ability to be in relationship in the family. If it's interfering with their ability to feel good about themselves, that's when you know they need help.
Tana Amen: Right. But they are going through massive hormonal changes, brain pruning, sleep Circadian rhythm cycle changes, there's a lot going on even in a normal situation. So you just have to be able to differentiate the two.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well when their behavior, when their feelings, when their thinking is off and it's interfering with their ability to be successful in their life, that's when I would pull the trigger. I mean ultimately I would want everybody to want a better brain because you know, for Chloe, none of those things are true. She has good relationships, she's doing great in school, she's volunteering. But her scan was so important ...
Tana Amen: ... to her.
Dr. Daniel Amen: To her and ...
Tana Amen: ... to me.
Dr. Daniel Amen: When you develop a relationship with your brain, you want a better brain and that gets you a better life.
Tana Amen: Can I end with a little story about why it's important? So Chloe has sort of an anxious brain. She's like very active. And mine is different than hers. My frontal lobes are a little bit sleepy. And so when I want to prepare for something, I dive in, I'm intense about it. I'm super intense. I over-prepare. I do all this stuff. And when she needs to prepare for something if she does that, she'll work herself into a complete frenzy, flip out, become anxious and then she can't focus, she shuts down.
So she's got this big test coming up and I immediately went into my mode of, "Here honey, here's a plan." And I gave her this big outline, "Today you do this. Like we're going to do this three hour practice test and we're going to cancel everything we have going." And literally I saw her eyes get really big and she started to freak out. She started shutting down. And then I stopped and I went, "Okay. What do you that you need to do?" It was the exact opposite. She goes, "I need to trust that I already know it. I need to spend a few minutes reviewing practice questions and I need to let it go." And you know what?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Which is the best advice for her.
Tana Amen: And I stopped and I went, "You're absolutely right. You're 15 and a half, you know yourself. We've already been through this." And I had to trust that. But it's because I've seen her scan and I've been down this road with her. And I just went, "She's not me."
Dr. Daniel Amen: She's not you. One of the big lessons from Teen Week, she's not you. Stay with us.