<![CDATA[CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION - Blog]]>Mon, 12 Apr 2021 11:54:54 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Where do you stand on rescuing your teen?]]>Mon, 12 Apr 2021 14:46:57 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/where-do-you-stand-on-rescuing-your-teen
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Where do you stand on rescuing your teen? 

A parent was saying that their teen daughter keeps forgetting her house key and when she gets back from the school, she is locked out of the house. The parent was asking, “do I leave work and rescue her or just let her live out this natural consequence?” What would you do if you were this teen’s parent? 

You may find yourself feeling frustrated and worried at the thought of your teen stranded outside until someone else arrives home, or you may be on the side of ”too bad for them, they should have been more prepared." The truth is there is no correct answer exactly…. But this can be a great opportunity to flex your parenting muscle to help your teen learn responsibility, resourcefulness, decision making, and maybe even a little gratitude.
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Responsibility

Michigan State University writes here that teaching teens to take responsibility grows their empathy, caring nature, leadership skills and respect for others. These are the building blocks for contributing citizens. The article further breaks it down into personal, interpersonal, and social responsibility and how important each of these are to help teens grow into adulthood.

Forgetting their keys, homework, or other deadlines falls under personal responsibility. Interpersonal responsibility can be built by helping friends and loved ones, or contributing to group projects. Social responsibility is built by contributing to causes and social issues in different ways. Encouraging your teen to have a voice as you collaboratively set clear expectations for their contributions in all these areas will set the path of responsibility in motion. 


A great idea that I’ve heard parents use is an “assist” or a “rescue” limit - they offer a couple of these every school year. I love this idea because it allows teens to take personal responsibility for their things and commitments but also lets them know there is some compassion and flexibility here. 
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Resourcefulness

Want your kid to think outside the box? Figure out how to solve their problems? I am hearing a resounding YES through the screen!

I am an advocate of growing humans that think “I Can handle this," “I Am ready for this," “I can figure this out." According to Clever Tykes Storybooks 
resourcefulness is defined as “having the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties." Encouraging your teen to be able to pivot, think creatively, and reach into their resource toolbox will definitely help them get through the ups and downs of life. Here are some ideas to build resourcefulness:
  • Get your teen to find the answers to their questions (don’t forget they want to cross reference with 3 sources :) )
  • Encourage them to reach out themselves to their teachers if they have a question or issue pertaining to school 
  • Give them chores and contributions around the house
  • Ask them how they would solve a problem or dilemma
  • Consider a STEM class (computer programming, coding, science based etc.)
  • Remind them of a time they did handle it and help them highlight what they did well and what they could do differently
  • Allow them to try new things and experiences on a regular basis

I love hearing parents standing firm in their boundary of “I love you, but can’t help you with this issue right now," only to find their teen figures out another creative solution.
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decision making

The teen brain is under construction. It has some amazing development and wiring processes happening up until young adulthood. This means the emotional brain is wired and heightened and the thinking, rationalizing brain (prefrontal cortex) is still under construction for most of adolescence.

In other words, teens are actually extremely capable of making decisions and in fact make important decisions every day. Encouraging your teen to think, plan, and prepare before acting will guide them towards healthier overall decision making. In
this article, Amy Morin
suggests the following steps to guide good decision making in teens:
​​
  1. Providing parental guidance even if that means opting for natural consequences

  2. Helping your teen identify the actual problem

  3. Brainstorming multiple solutions and challenge them along the way

  4. Having your teen review the pros and cons

  5. Talking about the next step plan so your teen’s knows where to go from here 

I like the “then what” exercise to help with this one. Play out the scenario with your teen - I forget to pack my gym strip in the morning - then what? Don’t have my clothes for gym class - then what? Get all sweaty in my clothes - then what? Feeling kind of uncomfortable throughout the day, etc.

​Play this one out with the successful decision making loop also: I pack my gym strip the night before- then what? I don’t worry about in the morning - then what? I have my gym strip for class - then what? I’m feeling prepared and not worried about this, etc. 
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gratitude

Gratitude is the act of appreciating and being thankful for a person, situation, quality, thing, memory, or event. Gratitude has been known to increase happiness and reduce anxiety, amongst other life-giving things. You can watch an experiment in this video to see just how poweful expressing gratitude can be!

Your teen may have gratitude for your help and support as you show up with care in an awkward or difficult situation. Or gratitude may come in the form of shifting perspective on a challenge that presents itself.

Daily gratitude practices are definitely where you get the most bang for your buck when you're trying to create a gratitude practice. My blog article "
How much do you know about gratitude? And why you should care" shares several ways to build a gratitude practice with your teen.

And here Braden Bell shares 25 prompts that teens can try to start thinking about gratitude. Try one question a day to get your gratitude practice started! Here are just a few examples: 
  • What brings you the most joy in life?
  • If you had to list five things, what would you be most grateful for?
  • What person in your life do you admire most? Why?
  • What experience are you glad is over?

A teen told me that their gratitude technique is to go through a list of “it could’ve been worse” scenarios and then coming back to the actual situation with gratitude - “could’ve been worse, I could have gone to school in my pyjamas," “could’ve been worse, I could have fallen and broken my leg on my way home." This flip in perspective can help teens cultivate gratitude and find the bright side in the bumps along the way.  

So let's go back to the forgotten keys - what do you think you would have done? Has reading this article changed what you would do in the future? 

Love,
Chantal

If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook - Thanks!

- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology - helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets.
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<![CDATA[Making the most of family time during the pandemic]]>Sat, 27 Mar 2021 21:16:24 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/making-the-most-of-family-time-during-the-pandemic
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It can be easy to focus on the negatives, and not without reason. We are living in a pandemic; many people are stuck at home, have lost their jobs, activities of interest, or otherwise made major life adjustments. While a lot of these factors are not easily changed, we can make the most of the situations that we are facing. For some families, the pandemic means a lot more time is spent together at home. Choosing how to relate to others and ourselves can make a significant difference.

Here are some ideas for how to
​encourage healthy family dynamics:

One way to build family cohesiveness is to come together and make a list of factors that will lead to a healthier and happier family. These factors can include anything from values, such as treating each other with respect, kindness, and being honest, to more practical guidelines. Practical suggestions could be taking turns completing certain household responsibilities, or everyone cleaning up after dinner together until the job is done. It is important for everyone to pitch in, have their ideas heard, and to agree to work as a team to reach the goals.
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This list of therapeutic interventions comes from Dr Hertlein’s “recipe for success," whereby the family comes together to agree upon shared hopes, identify ways to get there, and being sure to celebrate when progress is made. For families with teenagers, the “recipe for success” could be rephrased as the honour code or the pizza plan, with the reward for making progress being a family pizza and games night, or whatever other enjoyable activity fits best with the family.
Another way to foster family unity is through gratitude. At times, our minds like to focus on the negatives or things to improve. While there is a time and a place for that, it is not always the most productive strategy to stay in that mindset. Instead, aim for roughly five positive comments to every one negative (or constructive) one. This is a high standard, and admittedly can be difficult to achieve. If verbalizing gratitude for another family member seems like too big a leap, consider reflecting on and writing down aspects of people within the family that you are thankful for.
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Related to gratitude is taking a genuine interest in the activities of other family members. Video games, puzzlles, makeup, sports, fashion, or what-have-you may not be of personal interest but being curious about these interests if they are important to a loved one shows care, support, and encourages connection.
Lastly, role-modelling desirable behaviour is a great way to move toward a preferred outcome. Loving family members even when they are at their worst, taking accountability for errors, and being vulnerable with personal thoughts and feelings set the groundwork for authentic connection. Admitting wrongdoing and asking for forgiveness sends a huge message in terms of what it means to be human – it is okay to be imperfect, to try our best, and that relationships are more important than personal pride.
A part of this role-modelling is kindness for oneself. We all make mistakes, but it is of no benefit to anyone to stay there and dwell on it. Similar to thinking of five positive factors to one constructive factor for others, take a similar approach for yourself.

What are other tips do you have to build family connection and confidence?

Love,

​Jessa

​If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook - thanks!

- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology - helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets.
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<![CDATA[5 secrets on why you want your teens to care about social justice]]>Mon, 22 Mar 2021 05:52:30 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/5-secrets-on-why-you-want-your-teens-to-care-about-social-justicePyramid Psychology psychologist for teens chantal cote therapist in calgary alberta counsellor in calgary therapy for teens counselling for teens social justice teen voice supporting teens teen opinionsPhoto from Canva Pro
I've been meeting the most amazing youth in my therapy practice. One of the things that really strikes me is the caring and passion they have for things they believe in. 

What does your teen care about? What lights them up, sparks their fire, gets under their skin - you know - the thing they just can't help saying something about? You might find it challenging if it differs from your own views and beliefs. This may lead to you to feel frustrated at why they can't see your point of view or a series of pointed heated debates.    

When I was younger, I became really interested in learning about cultures. I eventually started volunteering with an organization that supported refugees who had recently arrived in Canada. It started from a place of curiosity and I ended up learning so much about myself, others, and the world. Even though my views were not necessarily the same as some of the people in my world, I continued to stay connected to this program and even worked there for a while. Following my passion and what I believe in has made for some incredible connections, learning, and experiences. 

Here’s the thing: If your teen is passionate about a cause, they are hitting an important developmental milestone. If your teen’s views or passion are not harming them or others, it’s worth elevating their voice. Even though you may not share the same opinion as them, here are 5 reasons why encouraging your teen's passion is important:

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foster your relationship with your teen

When you take the time to hear about your teen's views, whether it’s political, social, or other, it fosters connection with your teen. Being curious about things they care about is like getting the inside scoop on your teen. It can open your eyes to their likes, dislikes, values, and worldviews. At a time in their development where they are often pushing parents away, these can be invaluable moments of connection and insight for us as parents.

Foster empathy

Empathy is the ability to connect with others, the emotions they are experiencing, and a way of communicating to others they are not alone, even if you have not experienced the same situation. When your teen is speaking up for others, learning about a specific cause or thing that matters to them, they are nurturing their ability to be empathetic. This builds their emotional and social intelligence which will serve them in all human interactions. Even if this cause is not people-oriented like being passionate about rescuing animals, there is empathy in the connection to a living creature as well as to the people they meet along the way that share and don’t share these views. 
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foster identity and confidence

Your teen is constantly in the process of getting to know who they are, how they want to show up, and who their people are. By engaging in something larger than themselves and finding things that matter to them, they can build pieces of their identity. They may go through periods where something is important and then shed that part of their identity and that is ok. They are trying things on for size and this is an important part of developing identity. By speaking out and speaking up your teen is developing their confidence - their ability to take action even if they are unsure, nervous, or doubting. 
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foster connection

Feeling connected is core to the human being. We need connection in order to thrive. This connection can come from meaningful relationships with others, spending time with people who have similarities to us, and in being witnessed and understood. When your teen is passionate about a cause or issue, they will likely find others who have similar views. They may connect to peers, mentors, and other influencers along the way. This is also an opportunity for you as a parent to connect with your teen around what matters to them. 
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foster critical thinking

Giving your teen a voice around their views and beliefs can help build important brain skills. Be open to conversations around the issues they find important. Ask them about their interest and what makes it important to them. When there are opportunities, engage in healthy debates and critical questions around these issues. You are ultimately helping them develop their ability to have perspective and to critically think about things. 

What are some causes you felt passionate about as a youth? Are you still connected to these views and beliefs today? I invite you to share one thing that your teen self felt passionate about with your teen and find out what it is that lights their fire. 

Love, 
Chantal

​If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook - thanks!

- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology - helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets.
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<![CDATA[why stress about stress - a teen's guide to handling the ups and downs]]>Mon, 15 Mar 2021 05:44:17 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/why-stress-about-stress-a-teens-guide-to-handling-the-ups-and-downs
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What is stress?

A breakup, a big test, talking in front of the class - you know exactly when you feel stressed. There are certain situations that probably really rev up your stress levels and you can see them coming from a mile away. Then there might be other times when stress either creeps up or slams into you like a semi-truck. 

Stress is your body and brains' response to the outside world. Whether you're taking a test, meeting a new person, talking to your crush, playing your sport, or performing in some way, stress is basically anything that is put through your brain computer and interpreted as tense, straining, scary, or pressuring. Your brain interprets stress in microseconds.

What you find stressful may not be the same thing as what your friends or parents find stressful. 
But, there are some situations that our brains are wired for from an evolutionary perspective, like rejection, that most of us feel some stress around. Public speaking and speaking up for ourselves or others are pretty common ones.
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what's happening in the body?

When your brain detects something that feels like a threat (emotional, psychological, physical) it flips on the stress response. You might notice your heart start to race, your breathing change, your body feeling tense, sweaty, or shaky. You may be feeling nervous, like you’re in a fog, or like you notice everything on hyperdrive (ex: everyone is staring at me.)

If you think about this response in a real life-threatening situation, it’s actually a really good thing! You would want to be noticing dangerous things and be tense and ready to run or fight. But in the case of meeting a new person or eating in front of your friends, this stress response is….. Kind of a bummer.
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how can we flip the switch on stress?

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Everyone gets stressed. It’s totally normal and can be a good thing. Thinking of stress on a continuum (like the one above) can be really helpful with green, yellow, and red zones, or like a 1-10 kind of thing. 

Some amount of stress actually helps your brain and body focus, be alert and ready for things - so that could be really good if you're taking your drivers test and want to be paying attention and alert or you’re in a playoff game and you need to be focused, muscles tense, engaged and ready to perform.

If you start to look at stress as an opportunity to get better at handling stress, you will actually be better at managing stress. The kind of stress that is an opportunity is sometimes called adaptive stress and this would be your green zone stress. These situations help build your stress muscle to become more resilient, more able to handle stress. You know you’re in your green zone when you are having a stress response, you’re able to handle it, you get through the stressful thing, and the stress goes away.

There is also the yellow zone stress, this is stress that lingers a little more. So even when the thing is done, the stress is still there. Sometimes things like moves, family changes, breakups (friends or relationships), or a death can be considered yellow zone stress. And sometimes people who have become fearful of certain things - like speaking in front of the class or test taking - end up feeling like these are more like yellow zone stress until they learn ways to manage that stress better.

Red zone stress is the kind you want to avoid as much as possible - it’s sometimes called toxic stress. When your body and brain are flooded with stress continuously, it can actually change the way your brain is wired. Stuff like abuse, neglect, and violence fit into this zone.

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when should i pay attention to stress?

So now that you know stress happens to everyone, and stress is not always a bad thing... When should you pay attention to stress a little more? Here are some signs you need to pay attention to your stress:
  • If stress is moving into “all the time" territory and you’re constantly feeling stressed.

  • If stress is extreme and affecting your mood - so if you’re feeling aggression/anger, anxiety, overwhelm, depressed, unable to get out of bed, really down, shutdown, etc.

  • If stress is causing physical symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, lack of appetite, or disrupting sleep, it's time to pay attention. Butterflies in your stomach and sweaty palms don’t count, especially if they are temporary.

  • If stress is affecting your social life like your friendships, family relationships, school success, etc.

  • If your stress coping behaviours are risky like drugs/alcohol, self-harm, restricting your eating or binging, binging on social media to numb out, totally avoiding people or things, etc.
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6 things you can do today to better manage your stress

1. Notice Your Stress - pay attention to what’s happening in your body and brain and dial in to your green, yellow, red zones. The more you recognize this, the more you can choose to do something about it. If you notice yourself ramping up, you can stop and use your coping skills and resources and reach out to your supports as needed.

2. Organization and Planning Skills - make your stress more manageable by getting stuff in order - organizing your space, reminders, lists, using a calendar, planning ahead, breaking tasks down into smaller chunks can be super helpful.


3. Relaxation Strategies - practice calming yourself every single day. Some ideas you can use are breathing techniques, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, journaling, having a drink of water, slowly counting to 10.

4. Express Your Stress - stress has a lot of energy behind it so don’t keep it bottled up. Try working out, sports, writing, singing, art, talking to someone, taking a nap, listening to music.

5. Make Stress Work For You By Using Mindset Stuff - working on your thoughts and beliefs about things that are stressing 6out this? Am I actually in danger? Can I laugh with myself about this right now or after?


6. Enroll in Stress Buster Bootcamp - I have created a bootcamp that includes one month of daily texts for you, with a different tip, tool, or resource to managing stress in each text. Your parents will receive a weekly webinar so they can support you better, too. You or your parent can email info@pyramidpsychology.com for details.

So now you are ready to take on stress and even allow it to be your friend sometimes. If you are looking for more ways to be the boss of your stress, sign up from our Stress Busting Bootcamp, where you will get 28 audio text messages with different ideas and information on how to manage stress, PLUS 4 webinars for parents (and teens if they want) to learn all about stress. 

Love, 
Chantal

​If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook - thanks!

- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology - helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets.
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<![CDATA[Quick tips on how to help your teen around unhealthy eating behaviours]]>Tue, 09 Mar 2021 03:19:42 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/quick-tips-on-how-to-help-your-teen-around-unhealthy-eating-behaviours
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I was prompted to write this blog article when a parent I work with was asking the other day how to support their teen who has been consistently restricting her eating... When your teen is refusing to eat, constantly worried about their weight or body shape, or struggling to get proper nutrition, you may worry that this behaviour will quickly turn into disordered eating. 

Disordered eating needs supportive attention immediately from your healthcare team. If you are concerned that this is more than periodic unhealthy eating behaviours, start by contacting your family doctor, pediatrician, or Alberta Health Services

There are also other resources available to you: incredible books and resources are listed on this website, and there are programs and counselling professionals with expert content to support your teen here.

If you are noticing some unhealthy behaviors around food, let's talk about some things you can do as a parent to support your teen.
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understanding some of they reasons why
​ teens develop unhealthy eating behaviours

  • Media messaging - in our western society, messages about the thin culture and looking a certain way are constantly being fed to our youth.

  • Adult messages (and others in their lives) - the messages youth receive from the adults and role models around them matter. If as parents we are struggling to love our bodies, we are teaching our children and teens what kind of relationship to have with their own body. 

  • Activities and their demands - if your teen is part of a club or sport that places high demands on body physique, this can put pressure to achieve this goal through the cost of eating behaviours.​​
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  • Anxiety and stress - Whether controlling or restricting eating quells anxiety temporarily, stress changes eating patterns, or social anxiety gets in the way of your teen wanting to eat in front of others, anxious and stressed thoughts and feelings can lead to unhealthy eating behaviours.

  • Self-esteem and confidence - the thoughts that your teen has about themselves and their self-worth significantly affect their behaviours and this includes their relationship with food.
 
  • Friendship issues - stressors in various relationships, including bullying can lead to unhealthy eating behaviours.
 
  • Biological causes such as illness.
 
  • Significant stressors such as trauma, abuse, neglect.
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how you can support your teen in
​ nurturing healthier relationships with eating

  • Model and encourage healthy eating habits - sit down for meals together. Cook or bake together. Have healthy snacks around as an option. Talk about food as fuel for energy, mental, emotional, and physical health and model more choices that promote healthy eating habits. 

  • Empower them to make choices around their food - this could in the form of collaboration and responsibility by having them make their own lunch or helping to come up with the grocery list. This could also be by allowing them to snack and graze as they get hungry and learn to trust their body's cues for hunger.
 
  • Look for creative alternatives when anxiety is the issue - if your teen is nervous to eat around others let them know they are not alone, many others feel that way as well, and talk about ways to make eating feel more comfortable. You might try packing finger foods or easy to eat snacks or bevies. You could also encourage them to eat while walking at recess, with a close friend, or to and from the bus.
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  • Be openly critical of media messaging - consider the messages being offered about eating, weight and body shape in the different shows, movies, and online media you and your teen interact with. Question what you see and hear to help your teen gain a wider perspective. 

  • Promote healthy body image - think about how you talk about body image in your home and towards your teen. Avoid joking about body sizes and body characteristics. Avoid making comments that are hurtful about your teen's body and weight. Talk more about healthy choices, healthy bodies, and the diverse forms they can take. For more tips and info you can read my blog article: When Thin is the Fashion Statement.
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  • Foster self-esteem - celebrate your teen's accomplishments and successes. Talk about the things that light them up. Take the time to hear them out. Let them know they are loved unconditionally and the love is far beyond physical characteristics.

  • Knowledge is power - read up on nutrition and health. Talk to a nutritionist or other professional in the health field and get facts about nutrition, health, growth, etc. Share this information with your teen. Let them know about the risks to certain eating behaviours (dieting, emotional eating, restricting, binging, etc.)

Helping your teen have a healthy relationship with food and their body is definitely not a one and done. Continue to be there for your teen as a model and promoter of healthy eating choices. 

If your teen is struggling with how to manage stress and it is impacting their eating, you can sign up for our 28-day Stress-Busting Bootcamp today! Your teen will receive a daily text for 28 days with stress-busting tools, and you will receive a weekly webinar on supporting them through stress. You can email info@pyramidpsychology.com for more information!

Love,
Chantal

​If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook - Thanks!

- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology - helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets.
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<![CDATA[everything you need to know about therapy - on and off the couch]]>Mon, 01 Mar 2021 06:01:13 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/everything-you-need-to-know-about-therapy-on-and-off-the-couch
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Can you picture yourself walking in your favourite park, sun shining down on your face, picture perfect trees against a vast blue sky backdrop?

What if this was your counselling session? 


When choosing a therapist to work with your teen, fit is really important. You want to choose someone who your teen feels comfortable with, someone who you can communicate with easily, and someone with knowledge in working specifically with teen issues. 

Beyond these considerations, you'll also want to think about how the sessions will unfold. When I was developing my therapy practice,  I gave a lot of thought to the different ways I worked things out when I was a teen. I have memories of walking with my best friends, tea in hand, venting about relationships and school stress. I remember keeping a journal for poems, art, and just letting it all out. I also remember blasting my music until the feelings passed.

That's why it's important to offer different ways for teens to meet with me. Here's a little more information on the ways therapy can look when working with the team at Pyramid Psychology.
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walk and talk sessions

My friend reminded me the other day that I had talked to them about the idea of walk and talk therapy sessions over 10 years ago. Although I'm definitely not the only person to have thought of this idea, it has been percolating in my mind over many years. 

Walk and talk therapy sessions are when I meet with a client in a safe outdoor space (generally Fishcreek Park in Calgary, Alberta) and we walk during the session. We can take breaks and sit on the park benches or walk the entire time. 

This kind of therapy can be great if:
- You are intimidated by the idea of sitting face to face with someone and talking about vulnerable topics
- You like to move
- You like being outdoors
- You have good conversations with others while walking
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Movement produces endorphins and other natural chemicals that help boost our mood. So the combination of being able to talk about your struggles while moving can be a natural way to help thoughts, feelings, and experiences transform from the inside out. Even paying attention to the speed of walk or the pace can help bring awareness to your teen’s experience and their ability to make choices that are right for them. 

When I asked my first walk and talk teen client how the pace of our walk was, they answered, “what do you mean?”. I invited them to notice if our walking speed was too fast, too slow, just right and to notice that in their body. At first, I think the teen thought it was a little weird, but as they settled into noticing, they realized they wanted to walk just a little slower and we adjusted. It may have seemed like a small moment but it was so significant to have them check-in with how they were feeling in that moment and to advocate and ask for a change. This is a skill they continue to grow and use in their everyday life.    

Walking side by side with your therapist can also help to even the playing field. What I mean by this is sometimes it can be intimidating for teens to talk to adults, let alone psychologist adults. Walking together can help it feel a little more comfortable and casual. The quality of the therapy is there, but the feelings surrounding it may make the conversation flow with more ease. You can check out www.pyramidpsychology.com for a little more information on walk and talk sessions.
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expressive arts

Expressive arts is a way of supporting teens (people of all ages really) to express, understand and discover while using experiential mediums such as paint, writing, drawing, photography, movement, music, crafting etc. Expressive arts is different from art therapy. It uses many different ways for teens to reflect and get to that place of change and action. Expressive arts also uses something called the Intermodal Process. The Intermodal Process means using multiple mediums in one session in order to gain a deeper understanding. 

For example, you might start by creating an image and then write about the image or you may start by listening to some music and create a drawing in response.

It’s important to know:
- You don't need to be an artist or 
- Even think you are creative
- All you need is a little bit of curiosity and an open mind
- It can be as simple as starting with scribbles or creating a mini sculpture with pipe cleaners

I have trained for some time in expressive arts and the really humbling part is that in order to learn you need to do it. So I have tried many different ways of being creative, some which I love, some which I learn so much, and some that I won’t use that much in the future. 
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If a teen is interested in using expressive arts, we talk about it at first and discuss how it can be used occasionally during sessions as an additional way to process thoughts, feelings, experiences OR that it can be used as the main technique. It’s important for us to find the right fit. I also start off by getting to know the teen’s type of creativity they feel most comfortable with. Teens have said to me it’s been helpful to know the art is not graded and there is no expected outcome. The art making process is just as important as the product (the thing you create).

When teens (and me!) use expressive arts in session, oftentimes, they are surprised at what they notice and what comes to their awareness. It can help them:
- transform an emotional response (e.g. anxiety to calm)
- put into images/art/music feelings and thoughts that are difficult to put into words
- take an experience that feels scary and big and make it into a tangible creation that isn't as overwhelming
- bring awareness to their inner experience in order to make changes and come to resolutions
- learn new skills, new ideas, and new knowledge

If your teen is less verbal, needs more time to process their experiences, or enjoys being creative, expressive arts might be a really good fit. The Thirsty for Art Podcast and Shelly Klammer are a couple resources to check out to learn more.
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virtual sessions

Some teens like virtual sessions because they can hop on from the comfort of their own home. If your teen has a private, cozy space where they can talk to their counsellor,  this may be an option. It can be nice to have your pet snuggle up to you while in session and be able to sit on your bed or wear your pajamas.  

Virtual sessions are not for everyone and here are a few things for your teen to consider:
  • Is my home a space safe? 
  • Is it quiet and distraction free?
  • Am I ok meeting someone in 2D?
  • Am I virtually tapped out? 
  • What are the pros and cons of this type of therapy for me? 
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on the couch

Meeting face to face in a specific office space has its advantages. It is a container for therapeutic work. The space is dedicated for this and once a teen leaves, they metaphorically leave some of that tough stuff in that space. Having a consistent  familiar space to meet can also help with that feeling of comfort and safety. Knowing all you need to do is show up and the space will be there, unchanging, and familiar can alleviate additional stress. Talking with someone face to face can help add things like non-verbal cues (e.g. body language) which gives another bit of information. 
    
Your teen’s choice on how they want to work with their therapist is part of growing their self-esteem and confidence. You can always mix things up also and have some off the couch and some on the couch sessions - making the process of building bulletproof mindsets as creative as they want it to be!

Love, 
Chantal

If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook - Thanks!

- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology - helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets.
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<![CDATA[how much do you know about gratitude? And why you should care]]>Mon, 22 Feb 2021 07:32:57 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/how-much-do-you-know-about-gratitude-and-why-you-should-care
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It can be so easy to find things to complain about, to want more, to be unhappy or unsatisfied with life and how things are going. Our brains are wired to find the negative first as a way of surviving. This is great if you are in danger or if you need to take action to save yourself. It’s not so great if you want to experience emotions that help you feel more connected, happy, joyful, calm, and loved. 

What is gratitude anyways? Gratitude is an emotion and an attitude. Gratitude is the feeling of being thankful and in appreciation. You might be grateful for tangible things you have like friends, family, a phone, clothes you like, the sport you play, the ability to sing, etc. You may be grateful for intangible things like love, peace, memories, quiet moments, laughter etc.  

Gratitude can be a game changer for your mental health. Researchers have found that a daily gratitude practice can increase mood, optimism, and overall pleasant feelings (like happiness).
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As a teen, practicing gratitude has a lot of benefits. Here are just a few: 
  • Gratitude Causes a Good Mood: focusing on the things you appreciate and are thankful for increases happiness and decreases stress, which will definitely put you to be in a better mood. To learn more about moods, check out by blog article: The Miracle of Teen Feelings.
  • Gratitude Promotes Empathy: when you are feeling grateful and thankful for others it’s almost impossible to not care about them and their well-being. This grows your empathy, meaning your ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and to care about and want to understand them. 
  • Gratitude Connects: thinking about and sharing the things and people you appreciate can increase your sense of connection and love to others. This is really good for friendships and social bonds with loved ones. 
  • Gratitude is Flexible: being in appreciation can be done in so many different ways. It can be a thank you note, thanking someone in your head, being grateful for a past experience or something coming up, writing it down, an act of kindness, saying something you appreciate out loud, etc.
  • Gratitude Motivates: the more gratitude you practice, the more wonderful things you will start to notice. This can be quite inspiring to want to do more, live more, and be more.
Here are 4 gratitude practices you can try:
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gratitude journal

Start or end your day by writing down 3 things you are grateful for. You can start with more general things but over time try and get more specific about the things you appreciate. For example, I might write “friends” in the beginning. When I'm trying to get more specific, I may say something like “my friends because I love how much they make me laugh”.

Getting more specific about why you are thankful makes the appreciation feel more connected to you personally; it becomes more meaningful. 
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gratitude circle

In a gratitude circle each person gets the opportunity to share 1 general thing they are grateful for and 1 specific thing that they are grateful for today. It’s a great way to feel connected to others and grow gratitude in your social circles.

You can do this with a group of friends or with your family. Decide on a time where you will practice it. Some families choose at the dinner table or friends may choose to do this in a group chat. 
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gratitude jar

Set up a jar where every day you write something you are grateful for and drop it in. It can be a centrally located jar in your house where everyone can contribute or it can just be for personal use. At the end of the week or at the end of the month read all of the things that you have felt grateful for. Start to fill your jar all over again - and you can keep the previous ones too and watch your jar fill with gratitude.
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gratitude meditation/prayer

You can search on-line and find gratitude meditation scripts or videos. Here are a few you could try:
You can also create your own. Start by writing down 10-15 phrases that begin with “I am grateful for….” or “I am thankful….” and then record yourself saying them in a calm voice and playing them back for yourself as you are sitting comfortably, lying down, or walking outside in nature. 

What are some other ways you are practicing gratitude during your day? 

Share this with someone who you are grateful for. 

Love, 
Chantal

If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook - Thanks!

- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology - helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets.
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<![CDATA[The Miracle of Teen Feelings]]>Sun, 14 Feb 2021 19:37:13 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/the-miracle-of-teen-feelings
Pyramid Psychology Chantal Menard Feelings Emotions Teenager Emotions Emotional Teenagers Therapy in Calgary Alberta Calgary Psychologist
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This could apply to all humans really, but my passion and purpose are all about helping teen girls build bulletproof mindsets and believe in themselves, so I'm writing for you today. 

Feelings (emotions) can fill your heart with love and joy, steady your body with calm relaxation, or claw at your chest with heart rippling anxiety. Feelings can be raw, intense, and totally hijack your body and brain.

Even though they can be pretty powerful at times, your feelings are also a practical and important barometer (measurement tool) for how you are doing in any given moment. They give so much information and if you can be curious enough to learn about them, they can be a guide to your inner world and what you are needing. 

Here are 5 things you must know about feelings:
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1. Understanding the emotion:
​thought-behaviour link

Feelings are the body’s response to your thoughts. Feelings can seem like they are happening in response to something outside of you like a breakup, a test, a fight with a friend, etc. The truth is that it is not the situation or event that causes the feeling. It is actually the mental filter which it is interpreted through. So the mental filter (your thoughts about the thing) which you see a situation through leads to the feelings you experience.

You may not feel a lot of emotion if I tell you that Sarah is no longer best friends with Jude, but if it is you that is no longer friends with your best friend, you will probably have a lot of feelings about this. The meaning we give to situations and events cause our feelings. Why is this important to know this? Well it means anytime you are feeling a feeling you can check-in with yourself by asking: 


What is the story I am telling myself right now (e.g. I’m not a good friend, I’m not smart enough, I will screw this up, I am strong, I can always try again, I am a good friend)?
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2. name it to tame it

When something is unknown or uncertain, our human brains see it as a threat of danger. The danger can be physical, but it can also be emotional or psychological danger. So if you don’t know what you are feeling or you are not sure how to express that feeling, you might end up getting totally overwhelmed. Being able to name your feelings might sound way too simple to make any difference, but it can really help your mind and body start to feel better.

​I like to use the emotion wheel below as a tool to practice this skill. You can start at the centre (these are the 6 primary emotions that have been researched and pretty much found globally across cultures and ages.) They are Happy, Angry, Scared, Disgusted, Sad and Surprise. Then from there you can branch out to other feelings that might help you better understand how you are feeling in that moment.

​I like to print it out and have it around. You can circle different feelings that you notice coming up for you often.

3. Observe your feelings

It can be really easy to get caught up in your thoughts and feelings, kind of like being swept up by a storm. Once you calm down or it is over, do you ever realize that you can look back and see things much more clearly?

Imagine your thoughts and feelings like a big aquarium full of sea life. When you are caught up in your thoughts and feelings it is like swimming in the aquarium along with all of the sea life. It can feel pretty overwhelming to imagine swimming in the water with sharks and stingrays beneath you! (Did I mention the aquarium was really big?) 

Being able to observe your feelings and taking a step back can give you a whole new perspective. It is like standing outside of the aquarium and looking in. All of the sea life is still there (your thoughts and feelings), but you can now look at it with curiosity instead of overwhelm. It often opens up the possibility of choice on what you want to do and how you want to respond when you are observing your feelings.
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One exercise that can help you practice observing your feelings is an exercise introduced by Daniel Siegel, called SIFT. You divide a piece of paper into 4 (see below) and take 1-2 minutes to write or list anything you notice. Start with sensations and work your way through.

Sensations - Any body sensations you are noticing in this present moment (e.g. tense, tight, tingling, numb, warm, cold, shaky, etc.)

Images - Any images that you are noticing. Some people see them as pictures, moving images like a movie, colours, shapes, symbols, or nothing at all. All of these are ok!

Feelings - Any feelings or emotions you are noticing in this moment. It may be one dominant feeling, or different feelings mixed together.

Thoughts - Any thoughts you are having right now. They can be repetitive thoughts, questions or random thoughts. Anything goes!

4. your body can sometimes fool you

Your brain and body are pretty amazing. They take in everything that is happening in your environment - what you see, feel, hear, smell, and taste - and within fractions of seconds, decide if things are safe, dangerous, good, bad, liked or disliked.

The thing is our brain can't tell the difference between an actual situation and a thought. Weird right?! Meaning we can think ourselves into worry (and other emotions) and our body will feel it like a real danger or threat. 


Next time you feel worried, scared, or anxious yourself: Am I in real danger at this moment? What is the evidence for this? Then take a couple slow breaths and see how you’re doing.
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5. the power of flow

The more you resist a feeling, the more it will keep coming back. The expression “what we resist persists” means that if you try to avoid anxiety or ignore anger, it gets bottled up until it basically explodes in ways you are not meaning to. Allowing yourself to feel what you’re feeling helps it flow through instead of getting stuck.

Think of your emotions like houseguests. If your anger houseguest comes to the door and you pretend like you’re not home, anger keeps knocking. Then anger knocks louder and maybe starts trying to find other ways to get it. Your feelings are like really persistent houseguests. Or you may have your joy houseguest that comes by and you invite in and you never want it to leave. Eventually joy is like, “I need to go home now” and you may cling to it and ask it to stay just 5 minutes more.

Learning that feelings come and go constantly is important, and if you allow them to stop by and hang out for a while, they always leave.

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I love this translated poem, written by Rumi - 

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

​You are the miracle that is a Teen and I feel so honoured to write to you today. Here’s to hoping your feelings can be your guide. 


Love, 

Chantal

If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook - Thanks!

- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology - helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets.
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<![CDATA[Fill Your Cup- The importance of Taking Care of Yourself in Order to Take Care of Your Teen]]>Mon, 08 Feb 2021 06:30:48 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/fill-your-cup-the-importance-of-taking-care-of-yourself-in-order-to-take-care-of-your-teen
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Being a parent can be one of the most rewarding roles a person can ever experience. It can also be draining, exhausting, and unusually confusing.

Parents of the teens I support will often say to me, “my teen is struggling with XYZ, and I know I am also struggling, BUT I don’t have time to deal with it right now."


Do you find yourself doing everything in your power to support your teen, finding that at the end of a very rough day, you're exhausted? If you are juggling emails to teachers, counselling appointments, and emotional rollercoasters; it can be like having a second full time job. 

How you take care of yourself will support you and your teen along the way to get through the tough times and relish in the great times. “You can’t pour from an empty cup”, is a message we need to hear over and over again as parents. The more you take the time to fill your cup, the more you can pour into your teen’s cup.
 
If it feels like everything is falling apart and you want a smoother, more fulfilling experience as the parent of a teen, ask yourself: What am I filling my cup with?   

I think parenting will always have ups and downs, there isn’t a utopic vision to strive for. There are however guiding principles that can support you during these capricious years. Try filling your cup with the following:

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Self-care

If you are tempted to stop reading right now, chances are you are not practicing a lot of self-care, or are just over this catch phrase word. I encourage you to keep reading... Self-care is incredibly important as a parent because not only does it fill your cup, it models to your teen skills and behaviours that will build their resilience as they go out in the world.

Self-care can look many different ways and what works for one person may not for another. You may also notice some strategies that worked well for you in the past no longer fit the bill.

Think of self-care as putting your oxygen mask on first. If you invest in daily practices, you will be able to be the best parent you can be.

I sometimes hear from the parents I work with, “how do I find time for self-care?”. I suggest starting small and tacking it on to something you already do. When I started meditating and exercising in the morning a few years back, I started with a 1-minute meditation and 10 sit-ups. I tacked it onto brushing my teeth in the morning. As soon as I was done brushing my teeth, I did my little self-care routine. It quickly became a short and doable habit and eventually grew to be a more filling self-care practice that I now do every morning.

For self-care ideas check this and this out.
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inspiration

What inspires you? Where do you feel the most creative?

A creative brain cannot be a stressed brain at the same time. When we make time to tune into our creativity, it helps the brain start thinking outside the box.
This means thinking on your toes, the possibility of responding to things that come up between you and your teen differently, and looking at conflict and problem solving with a fresh perspective.

​So, go out in nature, pull out your camera or art materials and allow yourself to tune into that creative self as often as you can.
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supports

It truly does take a village. Having a support system in place can provide you a place to vent, lean on, and a shoulder to cry on when needed. Your natural support system may include relatives, friends, neighbors, significant others, roommates, and community (local and online).

You may ask yourself: Who has been instrumental in different points in my life? Who can I count on for help? Who are the people that have my back or are willing to go to bat for me?
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saying no

You might be thinking you already use “No” all the time with your teen. In fact, you may be really great at being clear around boundaries, rules, and expectations in your family. If so, this is amazing and worth acknowledging and celebrating for yourself.

​Saying no is about giving yourself permission to say no to overdoing it, overcommitting, and overexerting yourself thinking that is what it means to be a good parent. Take a moment to do a time inventory and take stock of things you may be able to release or let go of. In saying no to some things, you are saying a BIG yes to being your best self.
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turn the radio down

Our minds are always saying things to us. It can be like radio noise, at times playing in the background and other times blaring and drowning out all other things. When your radio noise is playing the 'not good enough story' or the 'unworthy story', it can be like a fog overshadowing every choice and decision you make as a parent.

Check-in with your radio noise. What is your mind saying to you? What are the thoughts that play on repeat? Turn down the radio noise that doesn’t serve you as a parent and as a person living your best life.  


Next time you find yourself thinking that your struggle isn’t worth putting first, think again and ask yourself: What is one thing I can do to fill my cup today?

If handling your teen's stress is an area you need support with, I am offering a Stress Busting Bootcamp for you and your teens - coming soon! Your teens will receive 28 days of texts with stress busting tools, while you will get four weekly webinars and a session with me. You can email me for details at info@pyramidpsychology.com


Love, 

Chantal

If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook - Thanks!

- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology - helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets.
Contact Me

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<![CDATA[Get Out of My Life- What to do when your teen-parent relationship is feeling distant]]>Mon, 01 Feb 2021 07:56:19 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/get-out-of-my-life-what-to-do-when-your-teen-parent-relationship-is-feeling-distantI really enjoy reading. So much so that I have stacks piling up beside my bed of books I would love to read when I’ve got a minute. When I came across this title (still on my pile) Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall? by Anthony E. Wolf - I laughed and thought “oooh that’s a keeper”.

Once I’ve read this one, I’ll give more feedback on the content, but for now I have to say that I have heard a variance of this message from dozens of parents I work with: “my teen is distant”, “my teen doesn’t want to talk to me unless they need something”, or “whenever I ask her (him) about something they just get upset”. Sound familiar? You are not alone!

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One main teen brain developmental milestone (particularly in western society) is something called individuation. Individuation is the process of renegotiating the parent-child relationship and of your teen starting to settle into their individual identity as a person separate from you (the parent). It’s happening throughout a person’s life but is especially important and noticeable during the teen years. You might notice your teen taking up different political views than you or choosing things that are basically opposite of what you think or like. This includes their physical appearance, the friends they choose, etc. There is also a growing need for privacy and time without their parent(s) around.

So if your teen is wanting to cut their hair a certain way, no longer liking the things you like, or is shutting you out of certain parts, you are in full swing individuation. Individuation leads to self-identity and independence and these are best nurtured by having warm, caring adults who are available to guide and let go. Parenting during individuation is like throwing a boomerang. Allowing them to get out there and make mistakes while learning who they are AND knowing they can and will come back for some of that love and safety.

So how do you throw the boomerang so that it will come back? I mean really how do you do that!? Because I had a boomerang as a child and I went to get it WAY more than it came back to me!!!

A better question is, how do you connect with your teen and give them space to grow their own self-identity?
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Connecting on their terms

I’m not suggesting you stop everything at the drop of a hat and focus solely on your teenager when they request it. However, I am kind of suggesting you stop everything at the drop of a hat and focus solely on your teenager when they request it.

​It is important to take the time to really acknowledge and listen when your teen is engaging with you. If they have a friend problem they are struggling with or an issue at school that’s bothering them and they want to talk about it, possibly at that most inconvenient time for you, other things can probably wait. And if the thing absolutely can’t wait, bookmark the conversation with your teen and let them know how important it is for you by being really clear about when you will free up time just for them (as soon as possible). 


Another way of connecting with teens on their terms is in taking a genuine interest in their stuff. What type of music are they listening to? Which streamers are they watching? Who are their friends? Which sports team are they rooting for? You don’t have to love what they love. Taking a genuine interest is about understanding what they are into and why they connect to these things. It will give you some insight into their values, beliefs, and world.
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connecting creatively

Finding creative ways to spend some time together is important. A parent shared with me that once a week their teen and them will each write down two things they enjoy doing and throw those options in a hat. They pull out one and that is the thing they do together that afternoon. Sometimes they are hiking and sometimes they are gaming together. Moments of connection can be specific times that are dedicated like this example and they can also be spontaneous in the moment interactions. Being genuinely interested and curious about their lives and asking questions that invite them to share snippets keep that connection going.

A mentor of mine once shared that asking a teen to complain about something is a great point of connection. I sometimes ask teens, “so who is the teacher that drives you the most crazy?” or “what is it that you are not liking at school right now?” I am certainly not an advocate of focusing solely on the struggle, but it is incredible how willing and open a person can be if given a chance to talk about things that are relevant to them. 


Being creative about ways to create connection allows flexibility and more opportunities. If sitting down and having a heart to heart is out of the question, maybe a little teasing and laughter is the touchpoint or a car drive to get a treat.
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love on them always

At every opportunity, let your teen know they are loved. Individuation is about pulling away to form self-identity but it is not about shutting off the love valve. Even if your teen’s backtalk and eye rolls are not what you would call languages of love, they are human and still need love, warmth, and connection in their lives. I’m a fan of using the words “I love you”. I send my message of love to my kids with words, text messages, notes, etc. 

You can also consider learning your teen’s love language. The work on the 5 Love Languages developed by Dr. Gary Chapman, helps people understand how they give and receive love with others. Understanding your teen’s love language and your own can help you foster a relationship with your teen that is connected.  You and your teen can do the quiz here.
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communication and conversations

When the boomerang comes back, there will be many opportunities to support and teach. Keep the flow of communication open and create opportunities to plant seeds for the future. Keeping the flow of communication open requires that you: 
  • Listen. My friend shared with me the other day, "you’ve got two 2 ears and one mouth so that you can listen twice as much"

  • Respect their individuality. Be ok with differences and disagreements on thoughts, opinions, and feelings.

  • Be clear about expectations. Have clarity and discussions around family rules, behaviours, and limit setting.

  • Allow your teen to make mistakes. These are often the most precious teachable moments.

  • Help them problem solve and take responsibility.

  • Give them space and some privacy.

In the push-pull of the teen boomerang years, remember that you are still very much needed.

Where did you rebel in the name of individuation in your teen years? 


Love, 
Chantal

If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook - Thanks!

- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology - helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets.
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