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When a foster child comes into your life, they’ve often experienced trauma that makes it difficult for them to form new attachments. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Tana Amen speaks with Dr. Jay Faber about his foundation ‘The Bony Pony Ranch’, and they discuss the methods used to build and maintain a solid, loving relationship with children.
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.
So today on the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast, we have a special treat. Daniel is finishing his newest book. I would say his next book, but he's just constantly working on another one. I think this is number 46, or something crazy.
Dr. Jay Faber: Oh my gosh.
Tana Amen: So I have one of our psychiatrists, who is just wonderful. Dr. Faber.
Dr. Jay Faber: Thank you!
Tana Amen: And I wanted him to join us because I went with you last year. Daniel and I, and Chloe, actually, our daughter, went with you to one of your charity events. You're highly involved in something called the Bony Pony Foundation.
Dr. Jay Faber: Ranch Foundation.
Tana Amen: Bony Pony Ranch Foundation.
Dr. Jay Faber: There you go, yes.
Tana Amen: And so we went with you, and initially I didn't know what it was really about, but when we went, I was very impressed. I really enjoyed it.
Dr. Jay Faber: Oh good!
Tana Amen: And so, I want to talk to you about what that is.
Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah.
Tana Amen: I know you do a lot of work with foster kids, which touched, really, our own lives this last year. And so, I want to talk to you a lot about that.
Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Tana Amen: So tell us a little bit about what it is.
Dr. Jay Faber: So, yeah. Historically, the Bony Pony Ranch started off probably about 10 years ago. A good friend of mine, Dr. Frank Ryan, plastic surgeon, had kids that were at risk up to his ranch in Malibu and we would teach them life skills. Unfortunately, Dr. Ryan passed away and then I moved back to California and some of the old members said, "Let's get this going again." So, boom. Here we are, giving the Bony Pony Ranch.
Tana Amen: It was really great. You had a couple of the kids that you had worked with, who were in foster care, who had benefited from this foundation there speaking.
Tana Amen: And I was so impressed. And you never know what's gonna happen in your own life, and these things touch ... I don't care who you are and what your family is like, they can touch your life. We never expected, at that time, that it was gonna touch our own lives.
Dr. Jay Faber: Yes, yes.
Tana Amen: And right after that, actually, we ended up ... My nieces who lived out of state, who I hadn't seen for years because someone in my family sort of disappeared and I hadn't seen them for a while, they went into foster care. And it took us the last year, it was pretty rough, trying to work with them and get them out. But what happens with some kids in foster care, even if it's not the worst stories that you hear, it can be pretty traumatic.
Tana Amen: Just going through that process.
Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah. The whole process and the separation from your caregivers, no matter what the quality of the relationship is, it's hard. In fact, the younger the kids, the harder it becomes. I, at one point, worked at a hospital in Houston and they had an adolescent and a child unit, and I had to go down and visit. The child unit had broken sinks, holes in the cement wall, and then on the adolescent side, where you'd think things would actually be worse, they had some scratches on the wall, but nothing broken. I said, "Well, what's going on?" And it was the fact that these kids were taken out of their homes.
Tana Amen: Oh.
Dr. Jay Faber: And so-
Tana Amen: That's so heartbreaking.
Dr. Jay Faber: -the anger, the fear. Yeah. It's a lot harder, the younger you are.
Tana Amen: Well, we've certainly experienced it firsthand. My nieces, it was devastating. And you have to think about what was going on in their lives before they even got put into that situation that made that happen to begin with. Clearly, there are some skills missing. So that's what your foundation does.
Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah, our foundation really is set to help build healthier attachments with kids who have not had those attachments and then, second, teach them the life skills, the leadership skills that the schools may not necessarily be teaching them.
Tana Amen: That's what we're doing now.
Tana Amen: Now that they're out, we basically have adopted the whole family, because we don't know what ...
Tana Amen: How do you rebuild a family that's been through what they've been through?
Dr. Jay Faber: Right.
Tana Amen: We moved them down here, and we've adopted the entire family because the family is broken. So rebuilding that entire structure is hard, but not everybody has a family who is gonna do that, right?
Tana Amen: So, you spend a lot of energy helping these kids build those skills. And I gotta tell you, it's a lot of work. It's a lot of energy.
Dr. Jay Faber: It's a lot of work and it's a lot of just building relationships.
Tana Amen: And trust.
Dr. Jay Faber: Making the connection with the trust issue, and you think of all the things they've been through and all the things we mistakenly can do, too. Like, we'll meet next week and if you don't meet next week, for us, it's like, "Well, we'll call them off." For them, it's like, "Can I really believe they're gonna call me at all?"
Tana Amen: Exactly. We're dealing with all of that.
Tana Amen: One of my nieces basically made the comment that, "My life has been a series of periods of things being okay, but I'm always waiting for the next major tragedy and let down."
Tana Amen: So, she goes, "I almost would prefer it wasn't okay."
Dr. Jay Faber: Yes.
Tana Amen: Because it just means the next big thing is about to happen. I'm like, "Wow." And I remember when I was a kid, nothing like that, I didn't go into foster care, but I remember always thinking there's a white tiger hiding around every corner. It's that same idea. What's the next things that's gonna happen?
Dr. Jay Faber: What's the next thing? Yeah.
Tana Amen: It's horrible.
Dr. Jay Faber: And it's scary. And for foster kids, they're afraid the foster parents aren't gonna be there, and so what's the fear? I'll be on the streets. And it sounds sort of melodramatic, but it's not. This is a real situation.
Tana Amen: Oh, no. It's survival. Everything was survival. Getting my nieces just to believe that they could tell us the simplest things, and it wasn't that she wanted to lie. She looked at me and started crying. I'm like, "Why is it you can't tell me something so simple? You can't trust me with something so simple?" She looked at me and started to cry. She's such a good kid. She managed to get straight A's through this whole process, which is bizarre all on it's own.
Tana Amen: She looked and me and she goes, "Survival."
Tana Amen: And I was like, "Wow." That's something I can't ... As bad as my situation was growing up, I can't comprehend it being that bad.
Dr. Jay Faber: Bad.
Tana Amen: So I just had a whole new level of empathy for her. So give us two or three things that someone listening, who might be struggling. Number one, how could they reach out to you if they wanted to access your foundation?
Dr. Jay Faber: The Bony Pony Ranch, the best way to get ahold is go to our website, Bonyponyranch.org, and you'll get all sorts of information about what we do, our board of directors, how to get in touch with us. So that is, by far, the best way right now to get in touch.
Tana Amen: And I will tell you, after going through what I went through the last year with my nieces, your foundation means that much more. I have a very personal understanding of why a foundation like this is so important, because not everyone can do what we are doing with our family. They need someone to help intervene and to help do that.
Tana Amen: So, that's a really important thing. And what are a couple of tips that you could give someone who is struggling with youth that maybe needs some intervention? What are a couple tips you would offer?
Dr. Jay Faber: I find one of the best ways is sit down and have a lunch or dinner. It sounds simple, but it's amazing when you break bread, people are more open to tell you things that are really going on. And you will learn a lot. Second, I would just have some kind of catch questions, just in case, so you know how to engage them on different things. And you could look in books. I like to use my own personal ones, "Tell me something in your life that was really great that you remember?" And you'd be surprised the answers you get. "Tell me something that was sort of painful?" And you'd be surprised what you get.
Tana Amen: It's amazing if you just listen, isn't it?
Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah. If you listen, and that's a whole other conversation in itself, how to really connect. But yeah! Yeah.
Tana Amen: It's amazing with teenagers. So many parents always say, "Oh, my teenager just won't talk to me. They shut me out." One thing I learned, my daughter's friends and my daughter tell me way more than I've ever wanted to know. I'm like, "I don't know how to shut them up." So it's really weird. But what I found works is, like you said, as busy as we are, and we are incredibly busy people. We've made a point to have dinner together. I've always made a point to take time. When my daughter was little, I always read to her. Now it's just taking that time to spend some time together at night, whatever. If it's watching a little bit of her favorite TV show. I don't care what it is. Spending a little bit of time together where I set everything aside. But the big thing, is I go for drives with her.
Tana Amen: We set time aside every day. She's homeschooling now, but even when she was in school, we would leave extra early in the morning and when I would pick her up at the end of the day and I would make a point to go, whether it's Starbucks and get tea or whatever it is, take a drive down to the beach. I would just take that extra ten minutes to go out of my way before I'd get home, because there's something about being in the car and there's no pressure. And we're just driving. And I don't know why, and I know so many parents who say the same thing. There's something about being in the car and just driving, ask a question, and then shut up. And they just start spilling their guts.
Dr. Jay Faber: Guts.
Tana Amen: It's so weird.
Dr. Jay Faber: That's interesting. I hadn't thought of that, but that-
Tana Amen: I don't know why, and I know so many moms who say the same thing.
Dr. Jay Faber: Same thing.
Tana Amen: Or they're driving and they're with their friends in the car, and for some reason they're way more open to talking with their friends in the car. And so you're just sitting there listening, and you're like, "Wow, are they really saying this in front of me? Do I really want to know this?" But you do.
Dr. Jay Faber: It's a little too much information.
Tana Amen: Right. But it's good, you know?
Dr. Jay Faber: That's how you learn. And then, again, kids, 12-13 year olds, if you want to know where the trends are going, they'll let you know.
Tana Amen: Absolutely. Yup, it's so great. Well, thank you so much. So Bonyponyranchfoundation.org?
Dr. Jay Faber: Yeah. Bonyponyranch.org.
Tana Amen: .org. Okay. .org.
Dr. Jay Faber: So just go there and you'll get all the information.
Tana Amen: Okay, well I really loved attending that event that we went to and it's such an important topic, and one that is just so overlooked in our society, so thank you.
Dr. Jay Faber: Well, great. Thank you for having me. Appreciate it.
Tana Amen: Absolutely.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Thank you for listening to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. Go to iTunes and leave a review, and you'll automatically be entered into a drawing to get a free signed copy of the Brain Warrior's Way and the Brain Warrior's Way Cookbook we give away every month.