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When Is It Okay to “Let Go”?

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

Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen share personal parenting experience and discuss when is the right time to allow teenagers to make more adult decisions.


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.

Daniel Amen, MD:

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.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to BrainMD.com.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Hey, everybody. We have a very special week for you, and it actually speaks to our own pain. I think we should call this week-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

You’re always picking on me.

Daniel Amen, MD:

I think we should call this week growing up and going away.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

And letting go.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Letting go.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I feel like you pick on me a lot on this podcast.

Daniel Amen, MD:

I wonder. We should take a poll. Do the people listening think I pick on you or do they think you pick on me?

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

It’s a good question, but notice that I am the… what’s the word?

Daniel Amen, MD:

Material.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Yeah, I’m the material that you use a lot. If I pick on you, it’s because of that.

Daniel Amen, MD:

I think everybody in my life has been the material.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I know. How come you’re not the material?

Daniel Amen, MD:

[crosstalk [00:01:40] to my mom to… Oh, if you read, your brain is always listening. There’s all sorts of crazy bad things about me in that book. But anyways, welcome to the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. We’re going to talk about normal development, the big tasks of adolescence or identity and independence. So, “I want to make my own decisions, and who am I separate from you?” And that’s normal. And I think God created it that way so that when these children, we love so dearly go away, that we don’t miss them that much.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Well, much how she came out of the womb. With her hands on our hips, two and a half years old and said, “I’m a leader. I’m the boss.” I knew there was always going to be [inaudible [00:02:41]. She was never just going to do what I said. So, that was not going to happen. I have this illusion-

Daniel Amen, MD:

Where does that come from?

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I don’t know, but I have this illusion that I was going to have a baby, I was going to be this great mother. I was going to tell her what to do, she’s going to do what I said, and it was all going to be good. Did not happen that way. “I’m the leader, the boss.” And she was just so stubborn. So, I knew she wasn’t just going to do everything I said, but you can’t be a trauma nurse and work in a trauma unit and not be protective. I know where you’re going with this. The letting go part. I know where you’re going with this, but it’s not that I don’t want to let go. It’s just, I need to protect her. I mean, yes, I’m having a hard time letting her to go because she’s like one of my best friends. But besides you, you two are my only best friends. But you can’t see what I saw.

Daniel Amen, MD:

It’s not quite that pathetic. You have other friends that adore you and that you spend time with. It’s not quite that pathetic.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

It’s true. But you can’t see what I saw. Well, I knew I had to start letting go a little bit when she was going to preschool and they told me, “You have to leave because she won’t climb the ladder to the slide,” because she thought, “It’s dangerous, mommy. It’s dangerous.”

Daniel Amen, MD:

And so, from a neuro psychiatrist that sees traumatic brain injury as the number one cause for many people, mental health issues, and a neurosurgical ICU nurse who-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Trauma nurse.

Daniel Amen, MD:

… saw people, who saw their physical brains because they had skull fractures, what you do as a job clearly impacts how you parent. And now what Chloe’s doing is normal, as she normally pulls away, what are the best strategies for you, when you have children that go through normal stages of development, is it helpful to cling-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I’m not clinging. I’m protecting.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Is it helpful to cling, protect? Some, I don’t know who, might say overprotect. What’s the right balance?

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Okay. But one minute. I have to defend myself here.

Daniel Amen, MD:

I’m not attacking you. I’m asking you because you learned parenting with love and logic early.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

And it was so helpful.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And parenting with love and logic means by the time they get to 17, if you’ve been doing this for 10 years, which you have, she’s already responsible.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Oh, she is.

Daniel Amen, MD:

She’s already capable of being on her own.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I have no doubt-

Daniel Amen, MD:

You have to deal with your own sadness.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

But let’s separate a couple of things. I have no doubt my daughter can live on her own and take care of herself now. I actually have no doubt. I’m comfortable with the idea that she’s going to go away to college. I’m sad for me. What I’m still struggling with is the actual… This is what I told her. When you use love and logic, it’s really helpful for letting go of control of certain things.

Kids are at this age where they make adult consequences. They turn 13, they’re not with their parents all the time. They make adult decisions, which means they have to pay adult consequences if they make bad decisions. But they’re not adults yet. So, things like-

Daniel Amen, MD:

[crosstalk [00:06:24] drug abuse, teenage pregnancy.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Right, exactly. STDs, car accidents, drinking, and driving. These are things that we can’t protect them from. And they’re going to make those decisions. They’re either going to make good decisions or bad decisions. So, those are things that I really spent a lot of time honing in and teaching her. It’s like, “I can’t control the things you do. I know. I’m aware of that.”

Daniel Amen, MD:

But when parents help children make these decisions, it’s mixed with excitement.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I’m very proud.

Daniel Amen, MD:

It’s mixed with remembering what it was like for us. Although when I was 18, I went into the army.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I wasn’t doing anything like what she’s doing. I was not nearly as responsible.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Right. I’ve actually seen a lot of patients over the years that got depressed when their kids went away.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I started getting depressed a year and a half ago.

Daniel Amen, MD:

It’s a loss. It’s a loss, and so the important thing is to understand it’s brain development, that wanting to separate is normal, but having enough supervision, especially with vulnerable kids, is really important.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

One thing that helped me. I started to get really depressed about a year and a half ago because she was like… We were attached to the hip. “Mommy, you’re my best friend. I hope you live to be 110 because I never want to leave you. I’m never going to college away. I’m going to be as close to home as I can be.” All of this stuff, right? And then all of a sudden, she turns 16 and that just went out the window. She wanted to be gone. She didn’t want to be close to me. She still liked me. We were still friends, but she was very independent all of a sudden. And I was devastated and I’m like, “Wait, what happened? You want to be with me until you’re old.”

But that just went out the window, and you kept reminding me it was normal. But I was so sad because all of a sudden she was independent. I got a head start on it. But what helped was I went… And I actually did some EMDR therapy over it because I was actually really sad. It’s like I knew it was normal. I didn’t want to stump her growth because of my own issues, I suppose. But I went and did some EMDR because I’m like, “Why am I so sad over something that’s so normal?” I was really just not good, in a good place. And it really helped me.

The EMDR really helped because what I was able to replace those negative thoughts with like, “Oh, she’s leaving me. Oh, I’m so sad. Oh, this is…” It’s like I realized it was sort of all about me, and I replaced it with how proud I am of her and how excited I am for her. Then, I also filled that gap with all the fun things I’m going to start doing. And then I’m going to spend time with you and I’m going to go do some of the hiking trips I’ve always wanted to do once things are opened up, and all of these things.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And back to karate.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Right. Back to the things that I sort of set aside because my life became about being a mom.

Daniel Amen, MD:

[crosstalk [00:09:28] have a little bit more space. The big point of this is there’s normal development. Now, she’s one of those kids where if she goes off to school in another state, she’s responsible enough and has that history where she does well in school because it’s hers to do, not because we have to supervise. There are other kids when they turn 18… Well, emotionally they’re sort of 16, and it’s critical because their brain is actually not finished developing until they’re 25 or six or seven, somewhere around there. It’s critical to have enough supervision to keep them safe. And it’s an independent decision.

When we come back, we’re going to talk more about the art of letting go. Did you learn anything? Write it down, pick a picture of it, posted it on any of your social media sites, go to Brain Warriors Way podcast. Leave us a comment, question or a review. We’ll read it. We’re going to read some coming up. We’ll enter you into a drawing to win a copy of Tana’s new book, The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child. Or my new book, Your Brain is Always Listening. Stay with us.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

If you’re enjoying the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe so you’ll always know when there’s a new episode. And while you’re at it, feel free to give us a review or five-star rating as that helps others find the podcast.

Daniel Amen, MD:

If you’re interested in coming to Amen Clinics, use the code Podcast 10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at AmenClinics.com. For more information, give us a call at (855) 978-1363.