ADHD For Parents Interviews Mental Health Podcasts

How to Manage Risky Behavior in Neurodivergent Teens and Youth with Aaron M. Huey

https://neurodiverging.com/how-to-manage-risky-behavior-in-neurodivergent-teens-and-youth-with-aaron-m-huey/

Today we're talking to an expert interventionist for at-risk, neurodivergent teens, Aaron M. Huey!

Aaron M. Huey is an internationally known lecturer on archetypal imagery, body language, and martial arts and the Founder and President of Fire Mountain Programs. Since 2004, he has run kids camps, teen camps, and family programming. In 2009, he and his wife Christine opened a residential Mental Health and Dependency recovery treatment center for teens ages 12-17 in Colorado. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center was named one of the Top 50 Healthcare Providers in the United States in 2019, and in 2020 named one of the Top 100 Innovators in Healthcare. Aaron is also a Family Consultant, a teen coach, and an addiction interventionist who facilitates powerful parenting events, as well as being a very happy husband and father of 2 young adults. Today, we’re discussing:
  • What causes risky behavior in neurodivergent teens, and how can parents help?
  • What interventions are most useful for at-risk neurodivergent teens?
  • Aaron's ADHD childhood, experience with addiction, bullying, sexual assault, and recovery
  • How is the thinking about risky behavior, neurodivergence and trauma changing?
  • Parenting strategies for at-risk neurodivergent teens

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🎧 Want to listen? This post is based off of Episode 45 of the Neurodiverging Podcast! Listen on Apple Podcasts Google Podcasts | Spotify | Youtube

Show Notes:

Guest Bio:

risky Behavior in Neurodivergent Teens aaron huey beyond risk and back neurodivergingFounder of “Parenting Teens that Struggle” and the host of the #1 Parenting Podcast “Beyond Risk and Back” which is Mental Health News Radio Network's highest-rated show internationally, Aaron M. Huey is also a Family Consultant, a teen coach, an addiction interventionist, facilitates powerful parenting events, and is a very happy husband and father of 2 young adults.

Aaron is an internationally known lecturer on archetypal imagery, body language, and martial arts and the Founder and President of Fire Mountain Programs, and since 2004 has run kids camps, teen camps, and family programming. In 2009, he and his wife Christine opened a residential Mental Health and Dependency recovery treatment center for teens ages 12-17 in Colorado. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center was in 2019 named one of the Top 50 Healthcare Providers in the United States and in 2020 named one of the Top 100 Innovators in Healthcare.

His New online parenting Masterclass has just been awarded a Telly! He is also the founder of “Safe-Dojo” a martial arts instructor certification course to work and teach children with trauma. Safe-Dojo is sponsored by the US Martial Arts Hall of Fame.

23 years in personal addiction recovery, Aaron is also VERY ADHD... and it is his superpower.

Find him on Facebook at “Parenting Teens That Struggle” for a TON of free information and advice. You can find his Masterclass at www.brabapp.com, and his podcast you can find anywhere you listen to your favorite shows.

Transcript: How to Manage Risky Behavior in Neurodivergent Teens and Youth with Aaron M. Huey

(Thank you to Justice Ross for their beautiful transcription of this episode!)

WARNING: Please note that this episode included some non-explicit discussion of drug use and addiction, sexual assault, bullying, suicidal behavior, and self-harm. Please take care of yourselves.

Introduction to Aaron M. Huey (and How 2021 Went!) 

SULLIVAN: Welcome, Aaron! Thanks for joining us on Neurodiverging, how are you doing?

HUEY: My pleasure! I'm doing great, thank you so much, thank you for having me. I'm honored to be here.

SULLIVAN: I'm so glad you're here! So, can you tell us a little bit— You have a lot of things going on, a lot of different projects. (Laughs)

HUEY: Can you tell I'm ADHD?

SULLIVAN: I also struggle with having 8 things going on at once, and I'm just autistic, so. But you're ADHD yourself—

HUEY: Very much so.

SULLIVAN: You have a big background learning about it.

HUEY: Yes.

SULLIVAN: You run and have built up your own treatment center, and you work with a lot of parents as a parent interventionist and a parent coach.

HUEY: Yes.

SULLIVAN: Right? What did I miss that you also do?

HUEY: Oh my God—

SULLIVAN: So many things.

HUEY: Well, so here's an interesting thing: we shut our adolescent residential facility down 11 days ago.

SULLIVAN: Wow!

HUEY: We hit one of those letters in the mail where our property insurance (because we own the property that the facility is on) decided to raise our rates from $20,000 a year to $470,000 a year to protect my property from fires.

SULLIVAN: Wow.

HUEY: Where, here in Colorado, there were a lot of fires here last year, and we had some near us. And because we had children, they decided, "Don't want to cover you anymore." So, we could not find a lower offer than $360,000, and so we had to shut it down. I can't, you know—

I was not in this business to make a lot of money; I was in this business to help families in that way. The support of families and everything will continue, my parent coaching, my parent interventions, my adolescent coaching program. We're going back to running kids' camps and teen camps, and, you know, my podcast, all this type of stuff. But we are no longer in the residential treatment business.

So now I also find myself supporting parents who are looking at getting into questioning whether they should be looking towards residential treatment care for their kids, and coaching them along the process. Whether it's helping them ask the right questions, and helping interview the program they're looking for, and working with their family while their kids are in it, or helping them keep their kids at home. 

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: And that's a big part of the next phase of my life. Now, to answer the first question, as you've just seen me diverging off of the path into the yellow wood—

SULLIVAN: It's called Neurodiverging; you can diverge away.

HUEY: (Laughs) I was also asked by the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame to create certification courses for instructors, sponsored by the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame: one for teaching traumatized children martial arts and a second for teaching traumatized women. I have an international and a national martial arts team, I've been a lifelong martial artist, and this was something I never expected but had one of those entrepreneurial Oprah moments, where you find yourself in the elevator with The person you didn't know you must talk to. And I said all the right things, and find myself now creating a course for the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame, which I'm extremely proud of.

SULLIVAN: That's so exciting.

HUEY: Yeah!

SULLIVAN: That's a lot of big changes in a very short period of time.

HUEY: Yes, August 27th to October 11th. I have shut down the top-performing adolescent treatment facility in the United States, right after winning Top 100 Innovator of Healthcare in the United States.

SULLIVAN: Tough.

HUEY: So it's been one heck—and I'm using the word heck so I don't scream profanities—of a year this year. For everybody.

SULLIVAN: For everybody, yeah. Yikes. So, going out of your old chapter, into your new chapter, what do you want to focus on most? That's, like—

HUEY: Helping parents keep their kids at home.

SULLIVAN: Just, yeah, keep them at home.

HUEY: Yeah.

SULLIVAN: So can we talk a little bit about that? I know you work with a wide range of neurodivergent types.

HUEY: Yes.

SULLIVAN: Neurotypes. Right. You're ADHD.

HUEY: Extremely. (Laughs)

What causes risky behavior in neurodivergent teens, and how can parents help?

SULLIVAN: (Laughs) So, I think, like most parents, the goal is always to keep the child in the home for as long as possible. Can you tell us more about kind of, before you shut your treatment center, what kind of family… What's going on at home that has families looking at residential?

HUEY: Yeah. So we're talking about—and this is why my podcast is called Beyond Risk and Back. "At-risk behavior" was, you know, 7 months to 3 years ago. It's been going on for a long time and steadily, or quickly, getting much, much worse. And what I see a big percentage of parents trying to do, when their kid’s neurodivergent behavior or neurodivergent personality starts to truly spin into very risky decisions—and this leads to maladaptive coping strategies when we begin to experience the pain and the suffering of neurodivergent, ADHD, bipolar, and borderline personality disorder, for example, are 3 of… I want to use the word "death sentences" of adolescent diagnoses. When you have a kid, and they go, "I think your kid's bipolar," you're like "Ah, crap, that's a lifelong one." Same with ADHD, same with borderline personality disorder.

Now, the issues that come up with it is that we tend to, as parents, begin to focus on the results, not on the source. We focus on the fruit, not on the root—and your kid smoking weed every day, your kid self-harming, your kid being completely overwhelmed and dependent on video games, your kid's anxiety and depression literally running the house. Not just your kid's day-in day-out experience, but literally, no one can go to work, no one can have a meal, no one can… The whole family starts to satellite around this child's experience; our focus goes there. Our focus goes onto this kid, our focus goes onto the problem, our focus goes onto the results. Or the actions, directly the thing that comes before results, right.

If we keep going down in that iceberg—I love to diagram this as an iceberg—the very tip, thing with the most exposure and focus, the thing we see first, are the results. Right under that is actions. Right under that, at the waterline, are the feelings. And the reason why I say "at the waterline" is because the feelings are usually the biggest motivator for maladaptive actions, and, therefore, unfavorable results. So at the waterline, we have these overwhelming feelings that are creating these actions. There is no gap between the feelings and actions. Adults are supposed to have a gap, children are not. Developmentally, they're not.

But, see, under that water, there's more feelings. And that's what happens when we get into mentorship, coaching, and of course therapeutic intervention process, is that we start to uncover and reveal feelings we didn't know about.

Now, below feelings are thoughts, but we're starting to get dark and cold in this water. Underneath those thoughts are experiences. Like, core, root experiences that this child has had.

And under that, all the way down at the bottom of the iceberg, the purest water, the purest ice, the coldest, the deepest, has the most pressure out there, those are the prime influences. What happened in utero, what happened when they were born, was there adoption in play, how were birth parents doing, what was the chemical makeup, DNA, genetic expressions or epigenetics?

So, to go back up to the top: Everything starts at the roots, the base of this iceberg. And that is prime influence. Not the group of friends they're hanging out with, not the videogame they're playing, prime influence. That leads to experiences in life. That leads to the thoughts we have, what we think about the world. That leads to what we feel. That leads to what we do. That leads to our results.

So the biggest problem, the roundabout way of answering your question is, it's that we're focused on the wrong thing. We're focused on "My kid just got expelled from school because they had a backpack full of pills." "My kid stole my car and crashed it, and was drunk." "My kid cut themselves, and they cut themselves too deep and we had to go to the hospital, now they're in an acute unit, and they're telling me to come pick them up and that the kid should go to residential. What do I do now?" Of course we're gonna focus right there, on these results, they're the loudest screaming. But it's not the work.

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: The work is the purest ice in the iceberg, all the way at the bottom.

What interventions are most useful for at-risk neurodivergent teens?

SULLIVAN: And what interventions do you tend to focus there? Because I mean, we work a lot, as a coach, with the thoughts-to-feelings kind of trajectory, right?

HUEY: Yes.

SULLIVAN: So how do you get under those thoughts?

HUEY: Well, there—

SULLIVAN: That seems to be the tricky part.

HUEY: It is, it is. That therapeutic process is what is required, right? There's thoughts to feelings, or even emotions to feelings, right. These are thoughts to feelings, feelings to action; those things can generally get addressed in seminars.

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: Right? And I love seminars. I'm a seminar leader, I'm a seminar instructor. But at seminars…

Motivation and therapeutic intervention are 2 different things. 

SULLIVAN: Mm-hm.

HUEY: You can motivate a kid to change. I had a client call no-show today. When I talked to him how to tie a bow tie days ago, he was motivated to show up today. There was plenty of motivation. But motivation isn't change. Discipline of motivation is change. Consistent motivation of change is change. Consistent action based in discipline of motivation is change. 

SULLIVAN: Mm-hm.

HUEY: So, we're still not dealing—

And that's where the therapeutic process comes in. That's the difference between therapy and motivation. Motivation is about your state change. I got on the phone with this kid, and he's smoking too much weed, he seems to be some spectrum protocols, but he was so excited, he wants so badly to have the fresh start in life. So I could utilize that energy that he had, and I could reflect it back to him, and that amplified his excitement, and the desire for success, and all of his plans and dreams started coming out. But, see, that's a state change.

SULLIVAN: Mm-hm.

HUEY: That's "I was sad, and now I'm happy."

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: Therapy is a trait change. Trait changes are, "I smoke weed every day 3 times a day, and now I don't." That takes a minimum of 90 days of daily intervention work. So that's the first thing, is that to get underneath, you have to add a therapeutic process to a motivation process. Number 2, and what I believe is the most important thing, and it's why I talk to the parents, it's why I'm a parent interventionist. They call me and say "My kid hasn't been to school in 6 months, all they do is play video games." Now, I'm not going to intervene on the kid.

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: Right? Because at best I'll get a motivated excitement.

I'm gonna intervene on the parents.

SULLIVAN: Mm-hm.

HUEY: Because what we did to get the top results, the top recovery results in the United States for an adolescent treatment program, had less to do with the kids and more to do with the parents. We did great work with the kids, but our success came from our parent intervention. Our success came because of how much we included the parents in the recovery process.

You know, Dr. Patch Adams is an early mentor of mine, and he said once, "Your grandmother does not have Alzheimer’s. [Your] family has Alzheimer’s. Treat the family." If you have a child with cancer, everybody in the family deals with cancer. If you have a family member who's committed suicide, everybody in the family deals with death, and suicide, and that depression that comes with it.

If we don't treat the family, even if a child goes away to the best program in the United States, in the world, but they come home to a place that hasn't changed, that's like trying to plant a fertilized, fermented, pristine seed in soil that is compact, that is stagnant, that is static. You must till the soil at home while [your] child is fertilizing their seeds in treatment.

So, if the child's change is going to be successful, the parents must change their house. And that has been the biggest failure of the industry, and it's where our success came from. Our parent intervention was top of the line, and it's why, as I left, as I walked away from adolescent residential treatment and I said "I'm continuing my work," I had to take the part that was the primary reason for our success to continue. And that's parent intervention.

SULLIVAN: Mm-hm. I also agree, from the perspective of an autistic coach, that parent intervention is the most important piece of solving childhood behaviors and issues with autistic kiddos. But, of course, I don't work with quite as intense cases as I believe you do. (Laughs)

HUEY: You know what's amazing, I've worked with a lot of kids on the spectrum over the years, and it's very clear—and I really think that this is the most beautiful example of a behavioral disorder, right, that we could use to say, "Do you expect the kid to change?"

SULLIVAN: Mm-hm.

HUEY: Like, if your kid has cancer, do you expect them to stop?

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: What changes do you have to make as a parent? If your kid has ADHD, you can medicate it to try to manage it, mitigate it at best?

SULLIVAN: Mitigate, yeah.

HUEY: Yeah. Management is a long shot. But the changes you make at home, the changes you make in your understanding of ADHD, those are lifetime-changing.

SULLIVAN: Yeah. It's the framing, for sure.

HUEY: Yeah!

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: I've always told parents, if your kid's on the spectrum, they have a different alphabet. Like, it's that basic. They have a different language than you have. You can scream at them in your voice all you want, it won't land, but if you scream at them in theirs, if you love them in theirs, if you whisper to them in theirs, like, it's not the content of your voice, it's the context of your voice.

SULLIVAN: Yeah, absolutely.

HUEY: Right?

Aaron's ADHD childhood, experience with addiction, bullying, sexual assault, and recovery 

SULLIVAN: Yeah. No, I completely agree. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into this field to start with? Because that was—

HUEY: Yeah, I was a complete f-up as a kid. (Laughs)

SULLIVAN: (Laughs)

HUEY: I put my parents through the wringer! I was abandoned by my biological father. A really amazing man showed up into my mother's life, they're still together to this day, I'm 52 years old. He was the dad everybody wishes they had. My mom was extremely progressive and smart. "Was"—is. And did a really good job. I was a handful. I was a pretty big handful, I was hard on my younger brothers, I was hard on my teachers, I was hard on my friendships, I was just—I was tough. And I had a great environment to grow up in. And I'm Gen X-er. So I still had the environment that God forbid I told my mom I was bored. 

SULLIVAN: Yes.

HUEY: Because you were going until lights out.

SULLIVAN: Mm-hm.

HUEY: And thank God, because, you know, the experience of what we have now, quarantining and things like that, I would have never survived.

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: So, on top of the abandonment from my biological father and the ADHD, there was a lot of abuse from schoolmates and people in school; I was bullied mercilessly. Thus my entry into martial arts in 7th grade. And then after high school, I went to acting school, I was sexually assaulted by my best friend, who had the exact same name as my biological father. And there's my psyche laid bare for you. (Laughs) And that one really sent me spiraling.

I had started experimenting, and I mean that in the truest form, with weed at 12 years old; it was just a here and there thing. But after my first year away at acting school, it was daily. And it stayed daily for another 7 years. And then, I was 28 years old when I told my parents I was an addict. And I was very, very unfulfilled by the life that I had created for myself, all of which was designed to keep me from the depression that just crippled me in silence in my head.

So at 28 years old, I got sober, and a few years… During that time, I had been working at a kids’ camp. And it had been the only job I ever had where I stayed sober during the workday. But I worked summers, and then only after schools, and had to pick up other jobs. It was just, I had a miserable, miserable time trying to be a good man.

SULLIVAN: Mm-hm.

HUEY: And then, once sobriety hit, my ex-wife was unbelievably desirous of a co-parenting partnership and made every single effort to create a co-parenting experience with me. The boss I was working with was very willing to see me forward from this rock-bottom point. My parents were unbelievable. I had a great place to fail.

And from that place of failure, I just started the law of audacity: who dares wins. I'm gonna do it. I believe I know what these kids need, so I'm gonna do it. And that started with running little kids' camps, and teen rights of passage programs, and just doing right by the communities that I had harmed with my behavior.

SULLIVAN: Mm-hm.

HUEY: And one day a parent said, "Can my kid just come live with you guys?" And we said yes, and a week later we had 6 boys and 4 on a waiting list. And 6 months later, moved my own kids out of their childhood home and started this home, and it kept growing and kept growing until it was the top-performing treatment facility in the US. And that's the story from the dinosaurs to the asteroid.

How is the thinking about risky behavior, neurodivergence and trauma changing?

SULLIVAN: (Laughs) That asteroid must be very hard to handle. So, it seems like there was a lot of call for what you did in the community, that there was a gap that you were filling. Why do you think that that gap existed?

HUEY: I mean, what a great question. Because I think everybody would like to find some singular experience that says "it's worse now." But I think we've tolerated and ignored and miscategorized a lot of things, like autism. In all the shows about autism that I've done in the past 3 months, and it's been a lot of them, I have an overwhelming sense of shame of how many autistic kids and adults have been locked up over the years, in mental health or in prison.

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: Or locked away, not just locked up.

I think society has just begun to understand trauma. And we are a million miles away from where we were 20 years ago. And I think all of these things coming to light has just reinforced the need for a greater understanding of why teens do what they do. Why do they make the risky decisions? It's not "you got a bad attitude." Right? Right, depression is not a bad attitude. Anxiety is not a bad attitude. ADHD is not "you can't focus, you need to sit down, you need to just buck up, you need to keep a day timer," and everything else I've been told. And I do keep a day timer, it's one of the only ways I keep my day together, but it's so much more than that.

SULLIVAN: Yeah, it's not the thing that solved all the other problems.

HUEY: No! That's like telling a kid with autism to pay attention to body language.

SULLIVAN: Yeah. Exactly. They can't do it.

HUEY: Like, “Oh, thank God you came along, I'm cured.” Like. (Laughs) So I think it's the same, I think as we jump into this work deeper and deeper, which psychologists, psychiatrists, brilliant people are, we're like, it is not just simple that it started with a bad attitude. It's not as simple as that your dad was an alcoholic so now you're a pot smoker every day. It's more like, "Huh, my brain is really adept at avoiding pain and discomfort."

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: "I've had a long day at work, I'm totally exhausted, hate my job, hate my boss. Come home, I want to sit on the couch, have 2 glasses of wine, and binge-watch 16 episodes of God knows what on Netflix until Netflix goes, 'Uh, are you still there?' Like, are you still watching?" That's a maladaptive coping strategy.

SULLIVAN: Oh, for sure.

HUEY: Too much mayonnaise because you love the taste of mayonnaise and you like the way you feel, too much soda, too much fast food. Too much exercise, too much— Maladaptive coping strategies are much more commonplace. Trauma is way more prolific than we thought. Addiction means "I keep doing things to mess up my life and I can't stop." I think the reason why there is such a huge need is because everybody, everybody is realizing how f’ed up they are, their families are, their home life was, their kids, even the really good experiences, you can look back and go, "Eugh, that could have been better."

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: And so I think we all need therapy.

SULLIVAN: Yeah. Yeah. Thank you, that's a great answer. I agree— When you were talking about how autistic people used to be institutionalized, I think the rate of ADHD in the inmate population is something like over 50%, 60% of men.

HUEY: Wow.

SULLIVAN: And I'm sure there are plenty of women in there, too, that are probably not identified. But it's a huge percentage of neurodivergent people that are incarcerated currently.

HUEY: Yeah.

SULLIVAN: Which is just indicative, I think, of the whole problem. The whole complex problem.

HUEY: Yeah, we still are trying to create the consequence that changes something that's not an attitude.

SULLIVAN: Exactly, yeah.

HUEY: Right? And that's, it's been with a lot of parents that the teaching around— Depression is not a feeling. Depression is not an attitude. It's a description of brain dysfunction.

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: Your brain's activity is depressed. 

SULLIVAN: Mm-hm.

HUEY: "Well, can't you just fix it with exercise?" No. It helps! And in 90 days—

SULLIVAN: You'd need to be able to exercise in the first place, yeah.

HUEY: Yeah! 90 days later, with every day vigorous exercise, your brain's gonna be producing way more dopamine, so it can help a lot.

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: But depression keeps you from exercising! How? Well, now we're in the study. And that's the part that's hard.

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: You know, "they're anxious, they just need to…" you know, "everybody's nervous." No, that's not what anxiety is. Anxiety lives in the amygdala. The amygdala is a trauma response. "Well, I had a much more traumatizing…" Ok. Well, this isn't about you, isn't it? 

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: Like— (Laughs)

SULLIVAN: And they probably haven't dealt with their trauma. And that's part of the problem. So, yeah.

HUEY: Yes. Yes.

SULLIVAN: It's an ongoing—

Parenting strategies for at-risk neurodivergent teens

HUEY: Absolutely. So the work becomes too, first, that I find with families, the intervention is first "This is not a bad attitude, stop punishing."

SULLIVAN: Mm-hm.

HUEY: This is not about willingness, this is about capability. Stop punishing. Does that mean no consequences? Absolutely not. But what it means is that we're gonna create consequences instead of reacting as a form of punishment. Right?

SULLIVAN: Mm-hm. Yeah.

HUEY: We're gonna consciously create consequences that show the person, the child, how to exist in society, potentially having to live with what they live with. I'm a hard person to live with. I got a 25- and a 26-year-old and a wife of 16 years. I'm very aware—hypervigilant, you might say, because that's a side effect of ADHD—I am hypervigilant of how difficult I am to be around. Thus leading to criticism sensitivity dysphoria.

SULLIVAN: Yep.

HUEY: Hey, the ADHD adults, I bet you've never heard of CSD, go look it up. Criticism sensitivity dysphoria. That one will smack you across the face, because then you're like, “Oh, that's why I get butthurt so easily.”

SULLIVAN: (Laughs)

HUEY: It's because I'm really hard to live with, so I'm hypersensitive and hypercritical of my own actions and behavior. And God forbid anybody else is!

SULLIVAN: Yeah. Yeah.

HUEY: So this is a— There's that divergent conversation I was talking about.

The first thing that we have to do with a parent is recognize that this is about capability. It's not about willingness. The second thing that we have to do is we have to work with the parents to take their own emotional experience, reaction of their misinterpretation of the experience, out of the equation. Which means if you want to know where that emotion is, you have to go to the thinking, which goes to the experiences, which goes to the parents' prime influence.

SULLIVAN: Mm-hm.

HUEY: So the parent has to do their work. And the moment they do, 2 things very quickly start to happen. Number 1: compassion. And number 2: prefrontal cortex thinking. Every parent I start working with is fatigued, fearful, angry, and anxious. And you don't parent well from that place. I don't care how smart you are. I have been coaching parents for 20 years. If I am any of those 4 things, I am sunk.

SULLIVAN: Mm-hm.

HUEY: So you have to get them to deal with their lack of self-care, and many times, if not every time, their lack of adult relationship care. 

SULLIVAN: Mm-hm. For sure.

HUEY: When you become the caretaker of an identified patient of your family, which is terrible for everyone, you start to get caretaker's burden burnout. And you have to take care of yourself, and you have to nurture your adult relationships. Your spouses, you co-parenting partners, exes or currents, and your support groups.

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: Then go parent! Because you're gonna parent from a whole different place. So those are the first 2 things I do with every single parent. Then we can get into how your situation is so special and unique that you're all gonna die.

SULLIVAN: (Laughs)

HUEY: (Laughs) Because once you get there, you realize you're neither. You're not gonna die, and it's not super special. In fact, you have to survive, and there's a support group already in play [that] you gotta go join. 

SULLIVAN: Yeah. Yeah. That fatigue is such a big piece of the puzzle, I think, for a lot of us. And I'm speaking as an autistic parent with neurodivergent kids that maybe has compounded fatigue because of various influences, if you are tired, there's no way you can be compassionate. And if you're not compassionate, there's no way you can approach the child who's having difficulty with your thinking brain, with your reasoning on. So, yeah, just wanted to say that.

HUEY: Whenever we talk about how that slips into anger, anxiety, and fear, and fatigue, look at the first thing. If your child is depressed, or your child is anxious, or your child is using drugs, or your child is self-harming, you can take a look, there's 1 of 5 things that is dominoing the other 4. 1 of them is missing and the other 4 are collapsing.

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: Sleep, nutritious food, healthy movement, drinking water, and breathing on purpose.

SULLIVAN: Yep!

HUEY: And those are the literal 5 foundations of, I don't know how to say this, being alive?

SULLIVAN: (Laughs) Yeah.

HUEY: Like, you have to do those things. You have to. But the moment your kid is sneaking out? The moment your kid is, you know, up at 4 in the morning playing video games, and you know they're not gonna get up for school, but you have to go to work, and-and-and-and-and-and? And now you're laying in bed not sleeping?

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: How do you wake up? And the first thing in the morning, you're pounding coffee. Which is jacking your system way up! Instead of eating a healthy meal, instead of going for a walk and moving your body, instead of, instead of, instead of. Which, guess what, coffee as a crutch is a maladaptive coping strategy, and it's setting you up for failure. Do I drink coffee? Every day, as much as I can! But, I also hit the gym. I breathe on purpose. I really work on my sleep structure. I drink a lot of water. So, you have to maintain the foundations of your self-care.

What is one thing parents can do right now to support their children?

SULLIVAN: Absolutely. Yeah, yeah. What are some suggestions you have that parents can do right now to, you know, help support their kiddos?

HUEY: My biggest suggestion is supported by so much research, and it's so stupid-simple, and it's free. Family dinner.

SULLIVAN: Mm-hm.

HUEY: It is literally the number 1 thing that keeps your kid from risky behavior. This means you sit down— If you can cook together, and clean together, you get a thousand million billion extra bonus points.

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: But if you just eat together, you've gotten an A++. And this means no TV, this means no electronics, this means you, parents. Because it's easy to point fingers, but, honestly, if you work with me, it's mirrors up. Mirrors, not fingers. So all the electronics go off. Phones go off. No one leaves—the phone rings, it can wait. "Well, I have a busy life," so do your teenagers. And what's important to you? "Well, I have to talk to—" they have to talk to someone too. Someone is always in crisis. You can wait. You can eat a meal with your kids. It is the number 1 thing.

The second thing you can do, which has as much research behind it, is getting to know your child's friends' parents. How many of us can so easily let roll off the tongue, "Well, it takes a village"? Well then, become one! Create one! And start with the ones who are already living in your child's purview! 

The third thing is something to do for your child between 3:00 and 7:00. Now, that one's not always free.

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: But we have always said, "Idle hands do the devil's work."

SULLIVAN: Mm-hm.

HUEY: If there is nothing to do between 3:00 and 7:00. And I understand mortgages, I understand rent, I understand having to work. Find something.

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: Something organized. Something structured.

SULLIVAN: Mm-hm.

HUEY: The final thing, which may or may not be free, is the honest-to-God real understanding of how brains work. You don't have to become a neurophysicist, but you do have to understand, because when your kid comes to you with 14 million Google articles on how weed is not addictive, you have to be prepared to have that conversation, and understand what anandamide is, and understand what a neuromodulator is, and understand how anything can be addictive. Because I know razor blades aren't addictive. So why do kids act like junkies around them when self-harming? What's going on in the brain?

That's what we need to know. If your kid's on the spectrum, if your kid's neurodivergent, ADHD, if your child's bipolar, if your child is dealing with addiction, with self-harm, with... then research it, like you would if your child had cancer and you knew there was something you could discover to help.

SULLIVAN: Yeah.

HUEY: Go to that place. 

Learn more about Aaron and check out his podcast, Beyond Risk and Back!

SULLIVAN: Mm-hm. That's so important, the parent research. That's so important. Thank you so much! Where can listeners find you if they want to learn more, especially now that you're off doing all these new things?

HUEY: There are 2 free places I want to send you. First free place is my podcast, Beyond Risk and Back. If this conversation has been for you, if you're like, "Oh, he's talking to me!" check out my show. 

SULLIVAN: It's a really good show.

HUEY: You can listen to Danielle's show— Thank you. You can listen to Danielle's show and mine together, because you've got plenty of food to cook for family dinner. So, please listen to Beyond Risk and Back.

The second place is, go to Facebook if you're willing, and join Parenting Teens That Struggle. It is a private group moderated by me and my daughter, and it is called Parenting Teens That Struggle. I post there every day, I put videos, I put my podcast, and there are 1600 parents who are going, "What the f-?!" and asking their questions, and those 1600 parents are answering. And it is an instant support community of people who are going through the real deal.

Now, if you're interested in an extremely affordable coaching by me, all of my coaching is online, go to brabapp.com. Brabapp.com is a 56-class coaching course, and I promise you, it costs less than a week's worth of coffee. Because I want every parent to have access to the coaching strategies that I've been teaching for the last 20 years. They're broken up into 3 segments, the red, the yellow, and the green. 

Green is good, things are going good, you know they could be great though. You know this kid's a world-changer, so what changes do you make? Yellow, the at-risk, uh-oh, we're seeing some things, little nervous, this isn't good. Found some weed, grades are still ok, what do I do? Well, we got your yellow strategies. And then we got the red. And those are the kids that are off the deep end, the families are in crisis, we got your red strategies there, too.

So brabapp.com for very affordable, and then Parenting Teens That Struggle on Facebook for free, and Beyond Risk and Back for free.

SULLIVAN: Awesome, thank you.

HUEY: You're welcome.

SULLIVAN: Folks, links will be below, so please check out everything, and thank you so much for being here with us today, that was fantastic!

HUEY: Thank you for having me on your show.

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