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Charting a Mindful Path with your ADHD Teen with Drs. Karen Bluth and Mark Bertin

Today on the show we're talking with Drs. Mark Bertin and Karen Bluth, authors of "Mindfulness and Self-Compassion for Teen ADHD."

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We’re continuing our conversations on ADHD and family relationships on The ADHD Podcast with a discussion on teens. “But wait,” you might be thinking, “I’m no teen… what do I need with this episode?” Just hang with us a bit.

We’re talking to the authors of Mindfulness and Self-Compassion for Teen ADHD, Drs. Karen Bluth and Mark Bertin, a book not written about teens and ADHD, but too them. It’s one of the rare experiences that asks teens directly and personally to think about their ADHD, their relationship with others and their experience at school and work.

A Teen ADHD Book for All

We’ve read the book and agree: it’s an approachable read, not lingering in the complexities of neuro-diversity, but not shying away from the way the brain works. The main focus, however, is around building a healthy social life, independence, good grades, all in a voice that lets the reader know they’re not alone when they get frustrated or feel isolated along the way.

The authors join us on the show to talk about the tools that help on the way, mindfulness and self-compassion. And this is where we come back around to you all, likely adults, likely not expecting to be introduced so favorably to a book on ADHD and teens. Well, as we hope you’ll hear today, our guests are presenting a mindfulness and self-compassion practice as a tool for all of us, as “the engine for change” in our lives. We live with ADHD, we’re parents of ADHD kids, our ADHD lives contain multitudes. Giving ourselves a compassionate pat on the back can go far in helping us approach the world with confidence and kindness to others.

About Karen Bluth, Ph.D.

Karen Bluth is on faculty in the department of psychiatry and a research fellow at Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is founder of the Frank Porter Graham Program on Mindfulness and Self-Compassion for Families (https://selfcompassion.web.unc.edu). She is a certified instructor of Mindful Self-Compassion, an internationally acclaimed eight-week course created by Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer; and is a codeveloper of Self-Compassion for Educators, a self-compassion program offered through Mindful Schools.

Bluth is also cocreator of the curriculum Making Friends with Yourself: A Mindful Self-Compassion Program for Teens, the teen adaptation of Mindful Self-Compassion; and Embracing Your Life, the young adult adaptation. She is also author of The Self-Compassion Workbook for Teens and The Self-Compassionate Teen. As a mindfulness practitioner for more than forty years, a mindfulness teacher, and an educator with eighteen years of classroom teaching experience, Bluth frequently gives talks, conducts workshops, and teaches classes in self-compassion and mindfulness in educational and community settings. In addition, she trains teachers in Making Friends with Yourself internationally.

About Mark Bertin, MD

Mark Bertin is a developmental pediatrician in private practice in Pleasantville, NY. He is author of How Children Thrive and Mindful Parenting for ADHD, which integrate mindfulness into the rest of evidence-based pediatric care; and a contributing author for Teaching Mindfulness Skills to Kids and Teens. He is on faculty at New York Medical College and The Windward Institute, on advisory boards for Common Sense Media and Reach Out and Read, and on the board of directors for APSARD (the American Professional Society of ADHD and Related Disorders). His blog covering topics in child development, mindfulness, and family is available through PsychologyToday.com, Mindful.org, and elsewhere. For information about his online mindfulness classes and other resources, visit https://developmentaldoctor.com.


Episode Transcript

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Mark Bertin:
There’s this elephant in the room that’s not being addressed, which is if you’re feeling rotten about yourself and overwhelmed and just generally swamped that gets in the way of everything else we’re trying to do. And that’s just a huge missing piece of the whole picture of so much of what we’re being asked to do in life in general.
But certainly very specifically to ADHD is hard. Change is hard, and sticking to a new routine is hard, and problem solving is hard and all these things. That’s just life. I mean, and with ADHD, it’s even more intense. If you come at it with a just hyperactive self-critical voice in your mind, that just undermines everything.

Pete Wright:
Hello, everybody. And welcome to Taking Control, The ADHD podcast on TruStory FM. I’m Pete Wright and I’m right here with Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hello everyone.

Pete Wright:
Nikki.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hello, Pete Wright.

Pete Wright:
How you doing?

Nikki Kinzer:
I’m doing great. How are you?

Pete Wright:
I’m great, always. Just always great.

Nikki Kinzer:
Always great.

Pete Wright:
Good weekend. You know what we did? You know what we did this weekend? We’re putting in a little itty-bitty library in our front yard. Do you know those things?

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, so that people can come by and pick what they want and put stuff in there.

Pete Wright:
Leave a book, take a book.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s great.

Pete Wright:
So fun. So, this weekend was screwing the post hole screw, the giant land screw into the earth through rock.

Nikki Kinzer:
How did that go?

Pete Wright:
And it was hard. It was hard. It’s only like two feet long and screwing it into the earth was, we had to go to Home Depot and get tools.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh my gosh, Home Depot?

Pete Wright:
We did get. [crosstalk 00:01:55]

Nikki Kinzer:
You had to go to Home Depot?

Pete Wright:
The neighbors were out in the cul-de-sac and they were like watching this activity. And I’m out there in my flannel pajama pants trying to screw this thing in. I thought this is going to be easy, but we’re going through like two feet of root and stone. That’s really what’s underneath our house. So, we went, we got a, it’s essentially a six foot crowbar with a point on the end of it, that’s used to break through concrete and stuff. And we had to use that to actually get into the ground, into the earth. I don’t know how anything lives, like we have trees and grass. How does it live down there? It’s just hate underneath the ground. It’s just stone and hate.

Nikki Kinzer:
Stone.

Pete Wright:
That’s what it feels like- [crosstalk 00:02:38]. Anyway, that was my weekend.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, do you have it up?

Pete Wright:
Well, we don’t have it up because we only just got it screwed into the earth. We have it now in the earth and it is settling, I guess. I don’t know the earth is reclaiming it.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, you need to take a picture when it’s all done.

Pete Wright:
Oh yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
We want to see it.

Pete Wright:
It’s so cute.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, I bet it is.

Pete Wright:
So cute.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s awesome.

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
Good for you.

Pete Wright:
So, anyway, that was my weekend and I’m very excited about it because I just love anything. We got a basketball hoop, the neighbors kind of come and play anytime. I just love the community that comes to our house. So, I’m really excited about that. I love having the kids around, which is why I’m thinking about it because of today’s guests.

Nikki Kinzer:
I know.

Pete Wright:
It’s about the teens.

Nikki Kinzer:
It is. It’s about the teens. I love it. I can’t wait to pick their brains.

Pete Wright:
Oh yeah. When you had babies, were you scared of teens?

Nikki Kinzer:
No, I wasn’t thinking about it. And then they became teenagers and I’m thinking, why did I not think about this when they were babies?

Pete Wright:
I know. I know right.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s different problems. I mean, it’s just different issues and it’s hard.

Pete Wright:
I was always terrified of my babies becoming teens, because it was just all I remember from my teen experience was the struggle and I didn’t want them to have to go through it. But it turns out they get through it.

Nikki Kinzer:
They do.

Pete Wright:
It’s never as hard, I think, as it’s made up in my head, even when it’s really, really hard. So, we’re going to talk about mindfulness and self-compassion for teen ADHD. In fact, the authors of a book by that very name are joining us in just a bit. Before we do that head over to takecontroladhd.com and get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show right there on the website or subscribe to our mailing list and we’ll send you an email each time a new episode is released. You can connect with us on Twitter or Facebook at Take Control ADHD.
And if the show has ever touched you or helped you make a change in your life for the better, if you found that your understanding of your relationship with ADHD is different in some way, we invite you to consider supporting the show directly through Patreon. Patreon is listener supported podcasting. With a few dollars a month you can help guarantee we continue to grow the show, add new features, invest more heavily in our community. You could very well push us over the hump. You could be the one that pushes us over the hump toward our new members only podcast that is coming very soon.

Nikki Kinzer:
What’s the name?

Pete Wright:
Well now it’s still soliloquy. Because I didn’t do my homework. I got stuck on Soliloquy and it’s still that. [crosstalk 00:05:04].

Nikki Kinzer:
Soliloquy. I can’t say that.

Pete Wright:
But maybe it’s just Talking to Himself with Pete Wright. Maybe that’s it. I don’t know. But it’s going to be great. And I’m very excited about showcasing guests from our community, showcasing more member experiences, talking about technology tools, tips, systems, processes, and things like that on maybe Soliloquy with Pete. That could be the name. Who knows?

Nikki Kinzer:
All I have to say is any time you’re promoting it or talking about it. You’re the one that’s going to be saying that word. I can’t say it.

Pete Wright:
How will you ever learn if you don’t practice.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, that’s true. I got to practice. Oh my gosh, thank you coach Pete. I can do hard things.

Pete Wright:
Nailed it. Visit patreon.com/theadhdpodcast. patreon.com/theadhdpodcast to learn more. All right, Nikki, we have announcements.

Nikki Kinzer:
Gosh, I just feel like I got caught.

Pete Wright:
You did. Player, thou has to played thy self.

Nikki Kinzer:
No kidding. All right. See how easy we can get into that trap, but how easy we can get out of it and look at possibilities. So, there we go. Yes. I just want to briefly talk about the GPS workshop. It’s coming up in a couple of weeks. The deadline to enroll is Wednesday, September 8th. I know that a lot of you don’t listen to these podcasts necessarily when we put them out. But the good news about GPS is that they’re ongoing every six weeks.
And so even if you miss the one that’s starting in September, you can probably maybe get the one that’s next, which is six weeks after that. And I don’t know what the exact date is, but it would be six weeks after September 8th or 13th. I don’t know. [crosstalk 00:06:43]. See the numbers are not coming to me. But anyway, GPS is a twice weekly workshop where we are planning.
So, it’s not just learning the planning process and getting familiar with the different steps that I teach you, but it’s really giving you the time and the space to do the planning with me and with other people that are going through the exact same challenges. But also being able to share the successes and all of the great things that you can possibly learn about yourself when you really take the time to plan and see how can I best prioritize? How can I get these things done? And just all of that, that is confusing and hard and messy. We’re trying to make it a little bit easier for you so you can walk away from the GPS with a system and feel more confident about your planning.

Pete Wright:
It is a great program and the schedule, the Monday Thursday schedule is just so smart. S-M-R-T, smart. GPS Program, you can learn more about it on the website. Thanks, everybody. Now let’s meet the docs. We have a fantastic show today. We are talking today to doctors, Mark Bertin and Karen Bluth. They are the authors of Mindfulness and Self-Compassion for Teen ADHD. I don’t know why it says teen in it. I’ve read the book and it’s like it was written for me. Karen and Mark welcome to the show.

Mark Bertin:
Thank you so much. It’s great to see you both.

Karen Bluth:
It’s great to be here.

Pete Wright:
I’m reading this book and I feel like you’ve been in my head for the last about 24 hours, because I really plowed through it over the last day. And I’m thinking, I’m a 50 year old man and I still feel like you’re talking straight to me. And I think part of that is because my ADHD makes me feel like a child inside a lot of the time. Is that something you’ve ever heard?

Karen Bluth:
Yeah. When I first heard that I heard that there are some things about it that are refreshing actually. I think sometimes, as adults, we get really stuck into these adult modes and modes of thinking and ways of being. And sometimes it’s nice to have that refreshing childlike outlook. So, I don’t know if that’s what you were referring to or are you referring to something else?

Pete Wright:
Well, I think there are two sides to it. One is, I feel like I have this sort of potentially creative energy, a sort of frivolousness of the way I think that I appreciate in myself. And also when I am at my most compromised, as a result of ADHD, I feel it is very easy for me to lose the one thing that you guys are really nailing with this book, which is how to talk to myself compassionately and how to forgive myself for the things that I see as faults and challenges.
And that is a thing that I think was really beautiful about the way you wrote this book. I’ve read a lot of ADHD books and they sound like they’re written for, well for grownups. This one, I felt like you were talking to my inner child, my inner teenager. And that was gloriously refreshing. And so I guess, I first want to say, thank you. As an adult I appreciate this book. I know I’m probably not your right over the strike zone audience, but I really appreciated the book.

Mark Bertin:
I mean, thank you, Pete. And that’s really great to hear. And I think there is something to be said for just keeping things simple a lot. And in talking to, you’re not the first person I’ve heard that from about it being like written in a way that adults could appreciate it. And some of that I think is just that you don’t want to talk down to teens. You just want to keep things simple. So, it’s still all the right information.
And it’s trying to be honest and straightforward about things. And because they’re teenagers we tried to keep it as direct and as accessible as possible. So, I think that’s something that hopefully it comes across in general. I mean, there’s a little bit of a spin. One of the things we were aiming for too is trying to think like a teenager and like who would read the book. But I think everybody can connect with that in some way. You want to be appreciated for who you are and wherever you are in life and that’s what you want. And whenever you’re trying to connect with a teenager, that’s kind of what you’re aiming for.

Nikki Kinzer:
One of the things that I really appreciated about it is that there’s so many books around strategies and tips and how to do this and how to make things better. And what I love about the book is that the focus, you have some of those things for sure, and you have some great exercises to practice mindfulness. But the core principle was that self compassion and how to use mindfulness. And I realized reading through the book, [inaudible 00:12:00] well, of course that’s what it’s going to be.
But it was still this like, oh, this is such a needed conversation, especially for our teenagers. Because both Pete and I, we’re right in the middle of parenting teenagers. I have a 15 and an almost 19 year old, or 16 and almost 19 year old. See, I can’t even remember what their ages are. Oh, I have so many questions too, because I told my daughter that I was reading this and she said, oh yeah, I don’t have any self-compassion. I don’t have that.

Pete Wright:
So cut and dry.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. And I’m just like, I’m so curious about your intentions behind writing the book and what you were thinking when you were saying, this is going to be for teenagers.

Karen Bluth:
So, this is what my work specifically is about self-compassion in teenagers. That’s my focus, that’s my research focus. And it’s absolutely for the reasons that you both mentioned is that teens really, really struggle with this. They’re excessively hard on themselves, extremely hard on themselves, very self-critical, very self judgmental. And they don’t have to be. And so the message that we’re trying to get across with this book is, and frankly, with all my work is that you don’t have to beat yourself up so much, that you don’t have to be so hard on yourself. You can still be successful. You can still get done what you want to get done. You can still have friends and you don’t have to be so hard on yourself. By the way, adults could stand to hear this a lot also. And there are programs for adults, but our focus, Mark and my focus, is on teens.

Mark Bertin:
I always think Dr. Barkley’s summary of ADHD, that it’s not a disorder of not knowing what to do. It’s a disorder of not doing what you know, captures so much of just here you are as a teen, struggling with all the typical developmental experiences we all have gone through. But with ADHD, you’re often struggling more in some aspect of life. And you might not even be clear that it’s your ADHD, but that’s part of the diagnosis, is that it’s impacting something. Pretty often quite under addressed around ADHD, both in teens, I do a lot of work with parents too, is that there’s this elephant in the room that’s not being addressed, which is if you’re feeling rotten about yourself and overwhelmed and just generally swamped that gets in the way of everything else we’re trying to do. And that’s just a huge missing piece of the whole picture of so much of what we’re being asked to do in life in general.
But certainly very specifically to ADHD is hard. Change is hard, and sticking to a new routine is hard, and problem solving is hard, and all these things. That’s just life. I mean, and with ADHD, it’s even more intense. If you come at it with a just hyperactive self-critical voice in your mind, that just undermines everything. I think it’s an important point around all of mindfulness and self-compassion, I think Karen and I could probably both spend the whole time just trying to dispel myths and just sort of normalize it all.
It’s not like a self-help program, it’s way more than that. It’s about building resilience. It’s about recognizing, really things that we all know, like if we’re feeling rotten about ourselves, that changes how we treat everybody else, and that’s no small thing. And all of that as part of this very wide ranging practice, it’s not a very narrow practice at all.

Pete Wright:
I think that gets to a question I had for you. And you talked about this, I mean, you latch on to Sharon Salzberg who calls self-compassion our main engine for change in the book. Self-compassion requires exactly this, talking to yourself as you would a good friend. I’d like to sort of go back and hang on Nikki’s comment about talking to her daughter about self-compassion. Oh yeah. I don’t have that. How do you start an engagement with a teen who doesn’t feel like they have any sort of affinity with self-compassion with themselves and because we know how important it is, how do you engage them and help them learn how important self-compassion is?

Karen Bluth:
When we teach them, we have classes. And so when they come in for a class, for example, we have an exercise that we do that comes from the adult self-compassion program, which is created by Chris Germer and Kristin Neff. And it’s called, How Would I Treat a Friend? And what we do is we take them through this exercise of basically what they understand or what they get out of it is that they treat their friends, their good friends, much more kindly than they treat themselves. And they can see that through this exercise. It just becomes very clear and very apparent.
And so then we give them the definition of self-compassion, the informal definition, which is treating yourself the way you would treat a good friend when you’re having a hard time. And that you can do that because you treat your friends that way, you treat your friends kindly, and you can do the same thing for yourself. You’re just not used to it. We don’t raise kids that way to treat themselves with the same kindness as we teach them to treat other people.
So, from day one, it becomes very clear to them that, oh, they do have the capacity to be kind because they’re kind to others, they’re just are not kind to themselves. So, there are a few things that we do. That’s one exercise. And then there’s another guided practice, which is in the book called Compassionate Friend. And actually the How Would I Treat a Friend also is in the book. And Compassionate Friend is a guided practice that takes them through, and what they get out of that is realizing that they have this kind and wise voice within themselves at all times that they can access whenever they need to.

Nikki Kinzer:
Which is so important that they do learn that because we can tell them, I mean, I can just tell you as a parent, I can tell her a million times how wonderful I think she is and how great she’s really trying. And she’s doing really well. But it doesn’t connect, but I think the way that you’re talking about it is giving her the internal empowerment that this is inside her. This is something that she can choose. And she doesn’t have to believe that she doesn’t have self-compassion.

Mark Bertin:
And one nuance to it all, that I think, again, it’s part of that broader view of both mindfulness and self-compassion practice is that it is a practice, that is something that can change. The first step to changing any habit is you have to be aware of, like Karen were just talking about, first you just have to notice like, oh, this is how I’ve been thinking about things. You have to be aware that it’s going on. And then what’s really different about all of these types of practices is the recognition that they seem like they’re just permanently traits that we have that we can’t even begin to touch. But with practice, they do change. And I think actually that’s a particularly important reframe when it comes to talking about mindfulness or self-compassion practice in ADHD.
One of the first questions that often comes up is can people with ADHD even do this stuff? And the answer is, of course. Sometimes you just have to sort of drop how you’ve been thinking about it. It’s not, your body’s going to be totally still, and it’s not that your mind is going to be totally free of thought, that never happens. But we can start to look at some of the rust we’ve been stuck in, and the inner critic, and the way we’ve been beating up on ourselves. And through putting the work in, putting the intention in, and we can begin to change that kind of bigger picture stuff in ways that anybody can do if they choose to.

Pete Wright:
I noticed that in myself, and I’m thinking about, as a dad with ADHD of ADHD kids that as I’m reading the book, I’m reflecting on the fact that when I’m compromised, I’m not kind to myself and I’m modeling behavior. And then sometimes when the homework doesn’t get turned in or the books don’t get brought home for the big project, I might more critical of those sorts of lapses because of my own ADHD. Is because of that, just massive projection that I’m wearing around my neck, because I’m already judging myself and feeling miserable about it.
And I just don’t want, please let my life serve as a warning to others. That’s the sort of spirit. And it is so easy to get wrapped up in your head when I fall out of practice, when I fall out of any sort of mindfulness experience throughout the day. And so I found that really interesting to reflect on. And to your point, we are more malleable than we think we are.

Nikki Kinzer:
And that brings up too a question that I have. So, I think that some people do probably confuse meditation and mindfulness. And so I’m curious if you could give us an example of how to use mindfulness in that exact thing that Pete just said, oh, I’m not a calendar person. How would you use mindfulness as a tool to help you get through that limiting belief?

Mark Bertin:
I think one of the most important things is to separate a little bit what’s meditation and what’s mindfulness. So, meditation, this style of meditation it isn’t very, I can’t try and make something happen specifically in terms of like bliss or something. Mindfulness is about building awareness of what’s really going on. And that has implications in countless different ways. And one of my most important things I always say, when I start talking about mindfulness is, just ignore all the cliches, put them out of your mind, if it’s not real to you, it’s not going to matter. So, why does awareness matter? Because if we’re not aware of what’s going on, we can’t handle it well.
I mean, just as a starting point. So, when you start looking at how does mindfulness begin to affect something like the stories we’re telling about ourselves, it starts with that type of awareness. So, you’re sitting in practice and you’re starting to notice what your mind is doing and the places it’s going. And part of that understanding of looking to reach it is what kind of we’ve all touched on already. Is that just a lot of it is story, a lot of it is just like, this is how I think of me, or this is how I think of ADHD even. I mean, I had a good example of that just recently where [inaudible 00:23:12] just was there anybody ADHD, gave them a discussion, just beginning discussion about what executive function is and how it affects day-to-day life.
And she came back for her next visit and said, things were already better at home, which became like a joke. Because we hadn’t done anything yet really. And she said, no, no, they really are. Because now I see that when he’s really emotional and impulsive, it’s just part of his ADHD, nothing’s changed, but at least I don’t blame him for that anymore. And that’s the example of dropping a story. And that’s something we can do in almost any situation, but it does require the ability to … I mean, again, I don’t want to spend my, I can keep going through layers and layers of mindfulness practice, but we’re trying to break those sort of reactive defensive habits and just see things with more clarity and you start to say like, okay, that thing with to-do lists is just because it’s really hard for me.
Like I never remember them and it’s really difficult. So, I’ve started to identify as someone who can’t do that or doesn’t like doing that or whatever box I put it in. But you first have to identify that and go, oh, okay, that’s the story I’ve been telling myself. One of my favorite practices I was ever, there’s just core mindfulness to me is this is a practice where you notice a thought and if you catch yourself, you can ask yourself really briefly, is it true? I mean, when I talk about mindfulness, I encourage people to do that with anything I’m saying about, is this true? Does this make sense to you? Because then you can start catching. And again, there’s a nuance here. You don’t want to have life under a microscope.
You don’t want to be, it’s not like you’re picking things apart to the point that you’re driving yourself nuts. But you do want to catch your beliefs once in a while and go, huh? Is that a thought? If you might even remember, I forgot whose team program used to put up bumper stickers that, what is it? Shoot, now I’m going to forget it. You aren’t your thoughts or what’s-

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh. Oh, yes.

Mark Bertin:
Anyway, thoughts … The point is thoughts are just thoughts. Some of them are real, some of them are not. [crosstalk 00:25:15].

Nikki Kinzer:
They’re not fact.

Mark Bertin:
Thoughts are not facts. And you do stuff, catch yourself periodically and make it part of your practice to say like, oh no. Or to come back to where Pete started. It’s like, well that thought was that I’m the worst parent ever.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, right.

Mark Bertin:
I just had that thought, oh my gosh, I just blew it again. And it’s like, okay. That’s my inner critic spouting off, but is it true or is it just one of those habitual thoughts that have a lot?

Nikki Kinzer:
I really appreciate too, how you guys both in the book separate, oh, well, that’s your ADHD. It’s not who you are, it’s not your character, it’s not … And I think that’s a really important piece because I think especially, I work mostly with adults and college students. So, I don’t work with teenagers or younger people, but I can see where it starts young. As believing that I am everything that my ADHD does. And so I love how you separate that, that nope, that’s part of the characteristic or one of the symptoms of having ADHD. So, it’s a good separation, I think for young people to understand.

Mark Bertin:
Thank you, Nikki. And I think it was certainly a part of my thinking of writing it that young college kids are still teens, because I guess I was imagining younger kids might need to be working with like an adult as they go through the book, the younger teens. And as you got into college it’s something somebody might choose to take on their own. But I do think there’s the, it’s sort of what you both just said. I think part of the challenge of working with teens for me quite often is that there’s this almost like style of living of I’m not the sort of person who uses calendars. And that’s because that’s my preference, it works for everyone else, but I …
And everybody I know who works in the field recognizes that those sorts of systems are part of dealing with some of the challenges that ADHD causes. Any individual might come up with a different solution, but those are the most proven ones. So, in order to connect the dots, you have to sort of let go of the identification like, this is me. And then you can start hopefully owning like, okay, challenging for me, but these things actually might help.

Pete Wright:
Well, and doesn’t it really get into like, exactly like my knowledge of child development, adolescent development is my two kids. So, rigorous empirical research. But there is this point where those preferences are identity, mostly because they’re testing who they are. I don’t know. I’m just going to say some stuff and see if it sticks. It’s not explorational, which I’m reading this book. I’m thinking, how do you both expect teens in this group, teens who may be a little too old to be working with somebody directly.
But not compared to my daughter say who’s a sophomore in college who, when I told her about this book, she immediately said, I would like to read that. It the, I don’t have a coach, but I’m too young to know that I really need this. How do you engage that group?

Mark Bertin:
Well, I mean, just to work top down, because I sort of how we set it up before, I think you’re right. I mean, kids are going to reach an age where there’s, probably sounds like more like who Nikki works with, where you’ve experienced they’re old enough to sort of see that they want to do something, they’re independent in college. So, they might take it on, on their own. I think working with high school aged teenagers developmentally is always more challenging for that reason.
I mean, I often see it with ADHD almost as a little bit of a developmental mismatch where they’re at an age where a part of typical development is becoming an individual and stepping away from your parents and all these explorations we all do in high school. And yet ADHD sort of sets you back a few years developmentally in your ability to be fully independent and do those sorts of things skillfully. So, I mean, so the way to engage that age is always going to be harder. I think the main thing is to start seeing, what is it that engages kids that age. Now, first of all, I would say it’s actually a really, in my experience, a really useful age to try to connect teens to someone outside the family. So, for families that have the resources, that’s developmentally expected, that they’re going to want somebody who isn’t their parents to be giving them a lot of advice.
So, now mind you, there’s a whole socioeconomic part of ADHD that doesn’t get talked enough about, I mean, it’s not always so easy to get those services. But if so, I do think it’s one way to get in to a general discussion about ADHD with a teenager and also to a book like ours might be through somebody who isn’t a parent for some kids. For some teens, it would work perfectly to do it. I have families I’m working with who are doing it with their kids. So, that just is individual to your family. So, for younger kids, it might be like, let’s just read this together, could be with the parent, could be with a teacher, it could be with our guidance counselor. But I think that’s not specific to the book. I think that’s a very specific challenge to high school ADHD in general.

Nikki Kinzer:
In general, yeah. Well, and that was my thought is when she said that to me, I thought, I’m going to read this book and I’m going to somehow incorporate it into our conversations and she’s not even going to know. [crosstalk 00:30:44].

Mark Bertin:
That’s right, [subversive 00:30:48].

Nikki Kinzer:
But I think that’s also really helpful for parents. If you have teenagers and they have any kind of resistant, just read it yourself anyway and see what you can learn from it. And I mean, you have great exercises in there too, that you can teach, as a parent could sit down and say, hey, let’s try how we would treat a friend or let’s try, I do the body scan myself. And so I would say, let’s practice this so you can see what this feels like. I have a question though, that is probably going to open up some conversation for sure.
Emotions, teen emotions are all over the place. They’re hot, they’re cold, they’re sad, they’re happy, they’re elated, they’re disappointed. I mean, they’re everywhere. And then you add ADHD onto that mix, which we already know they’re going to be even more emotional about some of these things. You talk about surfing these feelings and you had these three expressions that you talked about to help people or to help teens understand this kind of process, name it, tame it, feel it, heal it, soften, soothe, and allow. Can you tell us a little bit more about what that looks like?

Karen Bluth:
Well, first of all, the brain science behind why teens are feeling these extreme of emotions is important too, to talk to them about, because there are brain changes that are happening that explain a good part of why they experienced extremes of emotions. So, this process of the three different steps that you mentioned, name it to tame it. So, just naming the emotion engages the prefrontal cortex part of the brain, which is the part that is responsible for logical thinking and making decisions. And it’s the part that is less developed relatively to the emotional part of the brain, the amygdala and the limbic system. And it’s the part that takes until you’re 25 or 26 to be fully developed. So, when you name the emotion, it engages the prefrontal cortex part of your brain and that, according to research, calms down the amygdala, it deactivates the emotional part of the brain.
So, when you’re naming it, you’re actually starting a process in your brain that calms down to your emotions right there. And then we also know that when we’re feeling strong emotions, particularly negative strong emotions, like anger or frustration or hurt, we have a number of different reactions. One of them is to resist it, push it away, not face it, shove it under the rug so we don’t have to feel it. That’s not comfortable to feel. But we know that only way to move through it and to get to the other side is to allow ourselves to feel the emotion. So, that’s why we say feel it then you can heal it. Sometimes we’re not ready and that’s fine. You could just engage it a little bit, feel a little bit, allow yourself to feel it a little bit. And then back away.
Depending on the level of pain or hurt or whatever the emotion is. So, that’s the second step. The second part of it is heal it so you can feel it. And then the soften, soothe, allow allows you to experience the emotion in a way that gives it more space. So, it’s making it more spacious, allowing the feeling to be there. And softening it is, you’re just imagining, okay, I’ve got this, you find it in a place in your body, first of all, because emotions in your mind move very quickly. But in your body they move more slowly. And so you can work with them more easily. So, you find where it is in your body.
I might be feeling tightness in my throat, and then softening it, you’re just imagining that area to just soften a little bit and soothing yourself. You might want to put a hand on there and just imagine that part of your body relaxing a little bit more and allowing it is just giving it space to allow the feeling to be there. This is a practice that I actually do a lot. And I find it just really, it helps me a lot because we tend to really get caught up in our feelings and our emotions.
And we tend to be very tight with them, and we tend to engage the story about the emotions like, oh, he said that and he shouldn’t have said that. And I should have said that. And I didn’t say that. And he’s such an idiot. And why did I do this? We have that narrative that goes on and on in our heads all the time. But we have the ability to let go of that narrative and come back to actually finding where it is in our bodies, finding where that emotion resides in our body and then working with it in that way.

Nikki Kinzer:
And what a beautiful lesson for these teens to learn. Because that’s something that they’re going to carry on for the rest of their lives, because there’s always going to be something that we’re feeling. And I think that when you say feel it, I know that my daughter just lost her guinea pig and it was a very traumatic experience for her. And we told her, you know what, grieve. It’s okay. It’s sad. It’s disappointing. And let’s feel it. And so for about five days, she was in a area where it was very dark and she watched TV, and she just did very little, and she cried a lot, and she talked to us and then she’d cry some more. And then I would say about the fifth day, all of a sudden her mood started like getting better.
She started talking more, she went with a friend yesterday. So, it’s starting to get more like herself. And listening to you, I have to say, okay, I think we did the right thing. We didn’t try to like fix it or pretend like it was going to be okay. It was sad. I mean, it was really sad. And so I appreciate you explaining that. And I think as parents it’s so easy to want to fix that.

Karen Bluth:
I was just thinking that. I was just thinking that. As parents it’s so hard, because you don’t want to see your kids suffer and struggle and be in pain. And you want to fix it. And that’s our tendency. I have two daughters who are in their late 20s and I still find myself falling into that. And I have to catch myself, nope, you don’t have to fix it.

Pete Wright:
It reminds me, kids, they’re such physical beings. They already have a sense of body, because they’re growing and changing. And they know when things hurt and when they’re grieving and they have stomach aches, they know where the pain is and they already have a sense of body. I think introducing them to a more intentional somatic practice is, what a perfect time to get them.
And I think it’s a real gift that you’re pushing in this direction for parents to be thinking about, hey, this is a way for your kid to explore emotions in a way that you don’t have to fix. You don’t have to resolve every thing that comes along. You can just let them experience and we’re going to show you, through exercises, how to let them self soothe. They already know how to do it. We’re just going to help them know that it’s okay. It’s okay to soothe yourself this way. It’s okay. And it’ll serve you for so, so long.
I feel like I get so caught up in my own head around systems and processes that I intend, again, when I’m compromised to move through the emotional piece so fast so I can get to the other side of it and make sure my systems are all okay. And don’t give myself even long enough to practice and sit in the sort of physical embodiment of whatever I’m feeling at the time. And that can be something I modeled better for my kids. We already have the language, the body language, the emotional language. We can model it better for each other. So, that’s powerful.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, we highly, highly recommend your book. And we’re putting it in our show notes so everybody can have access to where to get it.

Pete Wright:
We will. And any talk of an audio book version of this book coming out?

Karen Bluth:
That is a good idea.

Mark Bertin:
It’s great, but, no we’d have to ask publisher. I haven’t heard that yet.

Pete Wright:
Well, I immediately go for the audio book version and the Kindle version. I read it on my Kindle, but I immediately go for Audible. And I see The Mindful Parenting for ADHD, for example, is already in there. You already have an engine for audible books. And boy, I know there are people in our community who would be raising their hand for the audio book version. So, for what it’s worth.

Karen Bluth:
Yeah, I have an audible book coming out probably by the end of the year, they haven’t given me a date yet. And this might be the one that you were thinking of, Nikki is for parents and educators and therapists for teen girls. And it’s all about self-compassion in teen girls.

Pete Wright:
Well, this has been terrific. Can you give us just any other plug, anything else, anywhere else you would like people to go to learn more about you and your work. Karen, why don’t you go first.

Karen Bluth:
Sure. Well, I just updated my website. [crosstalk 00:41:20]

Pete Wright:
Fantastic.

Karen Bluth:
Finally hired somebody to do it. So, finally. So, it’s karenbluth.com.

Mark Bertin:
Great. And my website is developmentaldoctor.com all spelled out. And I have an ADHD resource page and a mindfulness resource page and things like that up there.

Pete Wright:
Outstanding.

Mark Bertin:
And everything else about me is up there.

Pete Wright:
Links in the show notes, as well as direct links to the book. Check it out, everybody, Mindfulness and Self-Compassion for Teen ADHD. But it’s great for everybody. My inner teen loves it too. Thank you everybody for downloading and listening to this show, thank you for your time and your attention.
Don’t forget if you have something to contribute about this conversation, we’re heading over to the show talk channel in the Discord server. You can join us right there by becoming a supporting member at the deluxe level. On behalf of Karen Bluth and Mark Bertin, and of course, Nikki Kinzer, I’m Pete Wright, and we’ll catch you right back here next week on Taking Control, The ADHD podcast.

Through Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast, Nikki Kinzer and Pete Wright strive to help listeners with support, life management strategies, and time and technology tips, dedicated to anyone looking to take control of their lives in the face ADHD.