If you are currently raising teens or plan on working/raising teens I suggest you grab a copy of Jess Shatkin’s new book “Born to be Wild“, I have recently read this book and was also able to ask the author a few questions.
What to win a free copy? Look out for the details of you how to be entered into a draw!
What made you finally want to write this book after so many years of teaching and public speaking?
I decided to write this book because in the process of building resilience programs for high school and college students in New York City. I learned a lot that challenged my prior assumptions about why adolescents take risks and the approaches we typically take to keep them safe.
I felt that I was simply sitting on too much new science and helpful data to not share it.
You talk about the age of adolescence. I have always found this to be an interesting topic. If we consider that all children are different, why would we automatically assume that all children hit adolescence at the same age? So, what do you consider to be adolescence?
The English word “adolescence” comes from the Latin word, “adolescere,” which literally means “to grow up” and refers to the period of time starting with puberty and ending when we take on adult responsibilities and fully care for ourselves. By that definition, adolescence is lengthening.
These days most young people in the west aren’t fully independent until their mid-20’s. At the same time, as our tools for studying the brain have greatly improved over the past decade, we’ve learned that the brain is still undergoing vast changes until about the same time, which means that we don’t really have a fully “adult” brain until we’re at least into our mid-20’s.
This shouldn’t really be shocking news for most of us; after all, for years rental car agencies haven’t typically rented to those under 25, and car insurance rates drop enormously around this same time. Adolescence, which I define as roughly 12 – 26 years of age, is a risky time.
If you were a Nanny working with teenage children what would you consider a ‘red flag’ or a ’cause for concern’?
This is a great question and a very important one. When it comes to risk, there are a number of simple red alerts we should watch for – like a teen being home alone with his boyfriend or girlfriend; driving at night; driving with peers; and staying out late. In these situations, adolescents are much more likely to engage in risky behavior.
We should also always be on the lookout for sudden changes in teens’ behavior, thinking, and emotions – when teens starting hanging out with a new group of friends, or start spending more time alone; when teens stop meeting their normal developmental milestones (like going to school, finishing their homework, and eating and sleeping the usual amount); if their grades and extracurricular activities change; when they express disturbing thoughts, experience memory or attention troubles, major shifts in mood, high levels of unfounded anxiety, or stop communicating with us; and when teens appear, speak, smell, or dress differently than usual.
These are all possible signs of a major change in functioning which may indicate mental illness.
Do you feel there is a correlation between how a young child is taught, shown how to deal with emotions and the way adolescents and young adults process feelings?
Absolutely, and I have lots of data to back me up here.
We know that kids who learn to identify and express their emotions early in life also learn to regulate their emotions more effectively. And it’s these kids who have more willpower and engage in less risk.
For our readers who have not yet read Born to be Wild, “when we see irresponsible risk promoting ads, we must point out real life implications to our children”, could you give us a concrete example of this and could you please tell us why we should be doing so?
Our kids are inundated with risk-promoting media messaging every day. Whether it’s clothing, perfume, alcohol, tobacco…you name it, advertisers typically make these products seem attractive by appealing, either consciously or unconsciously, to adolescents’ curiosity about sex and interest in excitement. Just google perfume ads and view the images – they’re basically all a bunch of scantily clad women in sexually suggestive outfits and poses, with a perfume bottle that suggests male genitalia. Or have a look at tobacco ads, where the men look tough and the women sexy; or clothing ads where the models are half-naked. When we see these ads, it helps to speak with our kids about them, asking what they see and think.
Tobacco ads make the men look strong and the women sexy, but we know what happens when people become regular smokers – and it’s not tough or sexy. Those who smoke regularly become addicted, their bodies and minds become severely weakened, and they get sick and die young. Perfume and clothing ads devalue our kids by suggesting that the way to be liked or popular among peers is not to work hard in school, art and athletics, but rather to show lots of skin and act sexy.
These are cheap shots at our kids, and they’re surrounded by hundreds of these images every day in print, on TV, and on line. But when our kids learn that they’re being taken advantage of by unscrupulous advertisers, they stand a better chance of engaging in less risky behavior. If you believe that your personal power lies in your smarts and your hard work and not in how sexy you look, then you’re less likely to take risks to impress your peers.
We have a copy of this great book to give away to one lucky reader, please comment below letting us know why you should be the winner. Include your e-mail address.
We will randomly select a winner on October 31st!