The lack of time or ability to plan can be harmful to your mental state, especially for those with more rigid brain types. With the back to school process seeming to be happening on the fly in many cases, the situation can be difficult for students and their parents alike. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen discuss the current education climate, why the transition has been so difficult for families, and how you can work with your kids to help them adjust to unfamiliar situations.
Daniel Amen, MD:
Welcome to the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel. Amen.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
And I’m Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to brainmd.com.
Welcome everyone. Today we’re going to talk about college preteens and their mental health. And we are going to start by answering your questions, and we’ll just open it up to discussion. But before we get started, do you want to read a couple reviews?
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All right. Let’s answer questions. So we’re going to talk about preteens and-
I’m going to do my librarian look today.
… College students and their mental health. So we have the preaching here. I mean, she’s 10, but she’s going to be 11-
We have a 10, a 15 and a 17 year old. The 17 year old, she hasn’t been able to tour colleges. So we are getting ready to go on, in about a month, a little tour to go check out colleges, which she’s been super anxious, talk about anxiety. She’s got to plan everything yesterday or two weeks ago. And so this lack of ability to plan has been driving her crazy. And that’s kind of what we’re talking about today. So I don’t know if anyone else is experiencing that, but getting your kids ready for college can be challenging, especially right now.
Well, the most important thing you can do is take care of yourself.
Because if you’re anxious, if you’re afraid, if you’re angry, COVID concussions with the level of anger going on is breathtaking, right? Divorce went up 34% because this is stressing us all. And so one, take care of your own mental health. Model it. That’s critical. Listen to them, empathize with them. Because kids have lost a lot, from friends to Chloe’s boyfriend really didn’t have a graduation.
No and he lost the thing that is his coping mechanism. I often talked about how exercise is mine. Well, he was on the tennis team and he got onto the tennis team in college and he played four hours a day. That’s his stress relief. He hasn’t been able to play at all. And that really sent him into a tailspin. So noticing these things and not just getting irritated with your kids, but understanding why are they acting this way. So question, “Why are they acting more anxious, more depressed, more irritable, more all of these things?” As soon as I saw him not being able to play tennis, I knew it was going to be a problem because I know how I get without my one hour of exercise.
I know how you get without your… “Please, go exercise, go, go, go.” Teaching them. So you have to model this, so not believing every stupid thing you think. Learning how to kill the ANTs, the automatic negative thoughts, that steal your happiness. Whenever you feel sad or mad or nervous or out of control, write down what you’re thinking. Have the kids write down what they’re thinking and help them turn those thoughts around to something that’s healthier, that’s more positive.
Well and spending a little time explaining to them, and I think it’s way harder when they’re teenagers, really teaching them about how food affects their brain and supplements. Supplements aren’t as difficult, I think, as food, because they’ve got so much peer pressure. We think of peer pressure for drugs. We don’t think of peer pressure for food. And I got to tell you, it is way more difficult with a teenager than it was when they’re little. Because I just controlled the food when she was little. So one of the things we do in our house with food is, I know it sends Daniel into just having a conniption fit sometimes when bad food comes into the house, so I’m like, “What do we do?” Because at this point my daughter works full time. She has her own money, right? She’s 17. So we have a deal. It’s like, “We’re not going to buy that stuff. We have done our job training you. You understand why we feel this way. We love you. But if you’re going to choose to eat a certain way, you are going to have to pay for that.” And so that’s really the best thing we can do on that one. But helping them understand why, and not just we’re just being mean or extreme, but it actually affects your brain.
So you model it and you don’t reinforce it.You make it their decision and then they have to pay for it.
And they pay the consequences.
I remember when we did this, when we were doing the Daniel Plan and we went and cleaned out someone’s kitchen, who basically said she was a healthy eater, and I’m like, “So why the Frosted Flakes?” She said, “Oh, well, that’s the only thing my son will eat.”
And he was 17.
And what did you say?
I’m like, “It takes 30 days for kids to starve to death.” So now, granted, I had a younger child and it was much easier to control the food. Now I understand teenagers are harder. But I still stick by my values. And it’s like, if you get allowance, you work, you make your own money, I just can’t… She’s about to be an adult. So I can’t tell her that anymore. She understands the principles, now she has to make the choice, she has to pay the consequences. And here’s the thing, we know, even my daughter and my two nieces, they do understand the principles. They might pull away, they might push back because that’s what kids do when they’re breaking away from you at a certain age. But I notice whenever she starts to feel bad, she comes right back to it. So she’s pulled away, she comes back. So I know eventually she’s going to come back to it.
“So how do you look after your mental health at college?” So this must be from a college student, I’m thinking.
Or a parent?
Or a parent.
So hopefully you’ve planted the ideas ahead of time. And going away to college now is just so weird because-
Well most people aren’t.
Well no, there are a lot people going away and some people are really anxious, so they don’t come out of their room, so they’re likely to get more depressed. Other people, it’s sort of a fight; the virus is real, the virus is not real. And there’s this tension and you have to be careful. And as we’ve said before on previous podcasts, the virus is real. But there’s an interesting new study that shows that 90% of people who are positive, who test positive for COVID-19, are actually not infectious. Now you don’t know who you are, but it’s because the tests are so sensitive that it’s picking up people who even have very low levels of the virus. And so we shouldn’t be freaked out, but we should be thoughtful. And wearing masks, it’s controversial.
Except if you think about it, the places where mask wearing is not controversial; Singapore, Japan, China, Taiwan, even though they’re either in or right next to the epicenter, have had dramatically fewer deaths. So Japan has a third of the United States population about 120 million people, but they’ve only had 1200 deaths. So it’s like 2% of the United States death. And I think thinking about other people, wearing the masks, not shaking hands, being thoughtful is just an important part of keeping yourself safe.
And I like that as far as addressing right now what’s going on with the virus. But in general, one of the things that I would say about, “How do you keep your mental health intact, going away to college?” Some of the stuff we just said; food is huge. Sleep. I think one thing that changes when kids first move away from home and they’re going to college and they’re all of a sudden responsible for everything on their own when they never have been, they don’t sleep. For many reasons. They’re studying, they’re socializing, they’re worrying and they don’t sleep.
Right. And it’s also one reason I’m a fan of homeschooling. And when Chloe did homeschooling starting in eighth grade-
So much better.
She got an extra hour, at least, a day of sleep.
More like two.
And children who sleep an hour less than their peers have a higher incidence of depression. So sleep is just critical.
And we have podcasts just on sleep, so I would highly recommend you listen to our podcast on sleep hygiene with Dr. Creado. We actually have a course on sleep hygiene as well. So super important. And that’s where I would start is with sleep. You always say, “Fix sleep first.”
Especially when you’re dealing with grief. Fix sleep first. You just feel so much better.
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