Born to be wild: why young people take risks. A Happy Hour Conversation with Jess Shatkin

This week's show is with Jess P. Shatkin, M.D. An acclaimed adolescent psychiatrist and educator, Shatkin has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and on Good Morning America.

Jess is one of the country's foremost voices in child and adolescent mental health. He serves as Vice Chair for Education at the Child Study Center and Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine. He has been featured in top print, radio, TV, and Internet outlets, including the New York Times, Good Morning America, Parade, New York Magazine, Health Day, CBS Evening News, New York Daily News, Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times. In addition, for the past eight years Dr. Shatkin has been the host of "About Our Kids," a two-hour call-in radio show broadcast live on SiriusXM's Doctor Radio. He lives in New York City with his wife and two teenage children.

Jess brings more than two decades' worth of research and clinical experience to the subject, along with cutting-edge findings from brain science, evolutionary psychology, game theory, and other disciplines - plus a widely curious mind and the perspective of a concerned dad himself.

In this week's show, we explore how even though adolescence is a risk-taking time, it is also a time of incredible potential. As any parent of a tween, teen or 20-something knows, adolescents take risks. In fact, those aged 12-26 are hard-wired to take risks, but how do you not just handle but even harness these natural impulses? 

Jess also gives practical examples of what parents and teachers can do to honour adolescents journey of risk-taking - in everyday interactions, teachable moments, and specially chosen activities and outings - to work with teens' need for risk, rewards and social acceptance, not against it.

So if you've got an adolescent in your life, this show will allow you to navigate the tricky waters ahead in a much calmer, safer and more rewarding way for all concerned! And if you haven't, this is still an awesome show for understanding more about our evolutionary heritage and how it shapes our behaviour in weird and wonderful ways!

What you'll learn from this episode:
  • Our drive to take risks as a young person is an entirely natural and beneficial aspect of humans, which has developed to take both personal growth, our community and the human species forward. Seen from that perspective it makes a whole lot less sense to demonise young people's behaviour and a whole lot more sense to harness it.
  • It's a huge step forward simply to understand why your adolescent is behaving the way they are. That allows you to be more supportive and understanding of them. Supportive families benefit the brain: Studies show teens raised by parents with low levels of conflict in their homes have less demanding brain reward centers; these teens will engage in less risk-taking behaviour because their interpersonal relationships are rewarding. 
  • Young people assess risks and make choices differently to older people. Teens know that they’re not invincible. In fact, studies have shown that, when teens engage in risky behaviour, they often overestimate their chances of being harmed by that behaviour. Understanding that means we as parents can help our adolescents to connect them to the real emotional impact of their choices as well as support them to make good decisions.
  • There's a value and benefit of all ages in human life, being aware of that and honouring and harnessing it allows all of us to be better understood, to feel more connected and more useful as part of our community.