<![CDATA[CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION - Blog]]>Fri, 22 Jan 2021 00:11:21 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Everything you need to know about school transitions]]>Mon, 18 Jan 2021 06:33:09 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/everything-you-need-to-know-about-school-transitionsgraduation school transition new school school anxiety teen transition psychologist for teens in alberta psychologist in calgary yyc therapist teen therapy teen therapist group therapy for teens tools for teens Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash
Whether you are jumping up to junior high, have just moved to a new school, or are preparing to start the world of “adulting”, school transitions are no joke. They are the epitome of change and stretching yourself into a world of unknown. 

When I was in grade 8, my dad got a job in a different city. Our family moved in the middle of the year. I still remember the feeling of walking into class on that first day at a new school, wearing my new floral bodysuit (yeah they were cool then) and feeling like I was going to throw up. My long time best friend says to me she remembers how pale I was that morning, “almost translucent”. That’s about how I felt. If I could have disappeared that day, I would have. The first few weeks were pretty rough and I spent a lot of time crying in the bathroom. But then things slowly got better. I started to make friends. I started to settle in. And those horrifying first few weeks didn’t feel as big and terrible anymore. 

It wasn’t all bad. I made some amazing friends, laughed a lot, and found some things I was good at. Best of all, I got through this thing that was really tough for me and I survived and that helped build my confidence in knowing I could handle some tough things. 

If you are in a transition year or you have just started at a new school, and your brain is freaking out, here are some strategies that will make things smoother. I’ve broken it down into 4 categories- Elementary to Junior High, Junior to Senior high (or High School), Grade 12 is almost over, and just moved to a new school.

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elementary to junior high​​

This one can be a doozy. Not only are you typically going to a new school, but you also have to contend with class changes, combination locks, no more recess, and starting as the youngest in the pecking order of your new school.

On top of that, your body is rapidly hitting you with hormone and physical changes. So fun! ... Not really.

First off, the bad news. Research tells us that many students transitioning from elementary to junior high experience a drop in their self-esteem and grades as well as an increase in anxiety and school absences. You may have fears around bullying or getting lost as you get used to the school and how everything works. Then there’s how to make friends, fitting in, and how to get all your work done. It’s a lot of change. A LOT.

The good news. You are not alone and these are really normal responses. The even better news: there are things you can do to help this change feel easier.

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1. Make a friend (the good kind). Find someone who likes some of the things you do or who is part of a club or group that you are also in. Maybe it’s someone who sits next to you in class and seems kind. Not sure how to make friends? Click here for some ideas! I like to start with asking questions about them and the things they like, smiling, or giving a sincere compliment to break the ice.

2. 
Join a group or club. At the time of writing this blog, this part may be tricky because a lot of programs are on hold. If your school has a club or a group that meets up at lunch and you are even remotely curious, join! What have you got to lose? You may learn that you really like something new and will probably make a friend or two. If there aren’t any clubs, consider starting one (e.g. drama club, mindfulness, craft, social change, just to name a few).

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3. Size up the teachers and find some you can trust. I know there are some teachers out there that seem like they are out to make you suffer, but there are others that really care and want to know about you and your life. Find those that you click with and make a point to talk to them on a regular basis.

4. 
Practice using a lock ahead of time. Believe it or not, figuring how to open a combination lock is one of students' top fears when transitioning to junior high. Ask your parents to buy you a lock and start practicing. It will be one less thing for you to worry about on your first day of grade 7.

5. 
Visit your junior high before you start. Ask your parent(s) to set up an opportunity for you to visit the school and meet with staff. Your school may already be offering something like this.

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6. Pick your options as soon as possible. You will likely have some option classes that will give you a chance to learn some new skills. As soon as you can, pick your favourite options to make it more likely that you will get those. Then you will have something to look forward to in those moments where everything is feeling a bit scary and awkward.

7. 
Watch some junior high movies (Warning, movies are not always an accurate picture of the junior high experience, so take everything with a grain of salt and maybe a couple laughs or tears). Here are a few examples:
a) Max Keeble’s Big Move
b) Akeelah and the Bee
c) Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life
d) Diary of a Wimpy Kid
e) 8th grade

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Photo by Jeffrey F Lin on Unsplash
8. Talk to your parents about school. Let them know what you like and don’t like. They were grade 7 students once upon a time (Parents, if you’re reading this, give your teen some time to complain about the things they aren’t loving and share about the things they are).

9. 
Have a hobby or after school thing. Again at the time of writing this, it may be a bit tricky to have these things going. Be a part of something you enjoy and have connections to others (e.g. sports, art, girl guides, etc.)

10. 
Get to know your school counsellor. Most junior highs have a school counsellor. They can be a great resource to check in with and help you solve problems. Think of them as a bit of a coach or a guide that is there for you when you need.

Here is an extra read if being forgetful of new things is something you're worried about.
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junior high to high school

Things can get dicey here and in a way feel familiar (oh good ole grade 7 transition all over again, but not really!) High school brings new stressors and pressures to achieve school success, more academic demands trying to balance responsibilities like work and school, a lot more exposure to drugs, alcohol, sex, and dating, and starting to think about your future.

That’s a mouthful and it’s a complex web of social, psychological, and emotional experiences to navigate

Parents, there are a couple articles you can read on this here and here

Teens, p
ull out your road map because this journey requires a little bit of guidance along the way:

 1. Brush up on your social skills. You will have tons of new experiences in high school and some repeat experiences. It is good to know how to say 'No', how to start a conversation, how to act at a party, and how to navigate relationships and sex issues. Check out this checklist (thank you www.learningforapurpose.com!) and see how comfortable you are in these 50 different social skills for teens.
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2. Know your supports. Who are the adults in your life that you can talk to? Who are the people your age you can talk to? Where can you look for the answers to some of your questions? Having an idea of where to go for support can be super helpful.

3. Make a friend. Find someone who likes some of the things you do or who is part of a club, sports team or group that you are also in, or maybe someone who sits next to you in your biology class and seems kind. Not sure how to make friends? Check this out.

4. Class choices. Plan ahead, talk to your parent(s), teachers, and school counsellor before starting high school and map out your class choices. You may have a plan of what you want to do later on or have no clue. Plan to leave as many doors open as you can without causing unsurmountable stress.
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5. Go to the high school beforehand. Oftentimes there will be tours or open house events at various high schools. Go to a few and compare your options. Get a feel for the school, the staff, and the programs they offer.

6. Get involved. Try out for the school sports team or join a club at school. This can help you connect with like-minded people and build your confidence.

7. Give yourself a pep talk yourself. It can be easy to get caught up in the “high school is hard” nightmare. Adults in your life may commiserate with you in “high school being the worst years of my life”. That isn’t always the case and it doesn’t need to be the case. You get to decide what to make of these years. Give yourself a pep talk and encourage yourself to make the most of this time and know that you’ve got this… One day at a time.

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8. Connect with the school counsellor. The school counsellor can be a really helpful resource to talk about now problems, future problems, or just to check-in. They can be a wealth of knowledge so take advantage of their availability.

9. Master your study skills. Get really good at figuring out what works for you. Block specific times for studying. Have a usual space to do work. Find accountability and study buddies. There are many strategies, so start honing in on the ones that work best for you​!

10. Get to know You. This time in your life is all about gaining independence from the nest (your family) and a process called individuation (who am I?) Take time to learn about yourself, what you like, don’t like, what kind of people you want to surround yourself with, your dreams and hopes, talents and skills, etc. Give yourself opportunities to try new things and take some risks (maybe not the dangerous might kill you kind) to help you better get to know yourself. Check out this article I wrote on all the reasons why being You, is the best thing to be!
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high school is almost over

When high school is coming to a close it can mark a really significant period in a teen’s life. This is where adulting comes into play and some people say it is like stepping into the real world. Students nowadays have options like taking a gap year, going to post-secondary (college, university, trade school), or entering the workforce. There are a lot of options and it can sometimes feel overwhelming. The next 10 ideas are going to help you know what steps to take. 

You may also want to check out “Race to Nowhere”, a documentary (2010) that was created to get our society to start critically thinking and challenging our current thoughts around how we teach our young generations to prepare for success.
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1. Self-care. There are more responsibilities, loads of new experiences and more big decisions to make, so “filling your bucket” is important. Take social media breaks, get outdoors, spend time with the important people in your life, practice gratitude, and take regular breaks.

2. Advocacy. Be aware of your learning style, your strengths and needs when it comes to learning. Being able to advocate for yourself becomes more important as you increase your independence. As you prepare to advocate for yourself, run your script past a trusted adult or a friend first to help with the process.

3. Get all the freebies. Attend orientations and seminars whenever you can. It will give you an opportunity to see what it is like on various campuses you are considering. Scope out campus websites and maybe attend some free events on campus before you select your post-secondary institution to really get a feel for things.

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4. Talk to adults about adulting. It can be helpful to ask questions and learn about what it’s like after high school from those that are living it. Caution - don’t let that hold you back from your own dreams and ideas about life after high school. Some ways of doing this are through job shadowing opportunities, volunteering, talking to the adults in your life, talking to a career counsellor, etc.

5. Have fun. This is a special time in life where there are so many opportunities. Embrace the independence and the experiences that can be fun and adventurous.

6. Grow. As you complete high and move towards the next step in your journey, there will be moments when you will find yourself thinking- “Oh I don’t know how to do that” or “I don’t know how to manage this." One thing Luki Danukarjanto writes in their blog to try is adding the word YET to some of these thoughts as a way of adding possibility and compassion to your mind as you grow into new experiences. E.g. Oh I don't know how to do that yet. I’m not sure how to manage this yet. Sounds different right?!

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7. Time audit. This can be a great exercise to do as you go into any transition. Try grabbing some markers. Imagine that each represents 1 hour of your day. Give yourself 24 markers and break it down into the different things that you do. Having a visual and seeing how many hours you spend at school, with friends, doing your hobby, sleeping, etc. can be a real eye opener and guide to where you might want to make some changes.

 8. 
Friend audit. The transition between high school and the next chapter can be a great opportunity to appreciate and deepen the important friendships in your life, to let go of some friendships that are not really supporting you, and to develop some new ones. 

9. 
Contribute. Spend some time volunteering or helping out in some way in your community or at your post-secondary school. It feels good to contribute to a cause you care about it and feel like you’re a part of something bigger. It can also be a great place to meet new people and may open some doors for your future.

10. 
Gather your team. Figure out who is going to be a part of your support team- parents, counsellors, coaches, mentors, friends, etc.

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just moved to a new school

When it comes to moving to a new school midyear, most of the strategies above can apply to help you. Take it one day at a time. Give yourself some encouragement, some yet statements (I haven’t made any friends yet), and some time to get settled. It will get better. And if it doesn’t, there are always choices and options. 

Share this with someone you know who is about to make a school transition. 

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[Beauty's in the eye of the beholder - how to help your teen get past thinking they are ugly.]]>Mon, 11 Jan 2021 18:55:41 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/beautys-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder-how-to-help-your-teen-get-past-thinking-they-are-ugly
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​A parent was saying the other day "my daughter thinks she's ugly and thinks when I say she's not that I have to say that as her mom". I thought to myself-

"Ooohh this one hits home"

As I teen, I was so self conscious about my "puffy" (curly) hair and acne ridden forehead. There was one kid in my class that used to tell me how bad my forehead looked on a regular and I let it make me feel terrible. 
​ I would flip through magazines and see examples of beauty in the form of flawless skin, silky hair, and long lean bodies. I had none of these and quickly internalized messages about my physical appearance. 

"My eyes are too big"
"My hair is ugly"
"My face is ugly" 

There were moments I looked in the mirror and saw glimpses of beauty but that was quickly replaced by judgemental self-talk and a harsh inner critic. 

Being a teen is hard. Looking in the mirror can be like holding up a magnifying glass over each imperfection and thinking it is out there for the whole world to see. 

Mamas if you want to help your teen see their unique beauty by boosting their confidence and self-love, here are some things to consider.
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​Explore the why

Your first instinct might be to rescue and say something like "if only you could see what I see" or "but you're beautiful!". While these are coming from a heart centered place, these comments may be met with rejection (you're lying) or dismissal (you need to say that!). Approach your teen's comments from a place of curiosity and empathy.  Be curious about why your teen thinks she's ugly. What does she see? What doesn't she like? How is she seeing herself? Where did she get that idea of beauty? This will give you a pulse on some of her inner world which serves two fold:

1. An understanding of your daughter's experience
2. An opportunity to model empathy


The more you listen as a parent, the more you understand. Teens want to be understood and heard - I mean isn't that what we all want? 

Empathy, as explained by Brene Brown is: "Connecting with a person so they know they're not alone, by connecting to the emotion they are experiencing."

As Brene highlights,  you don't have to have experienced the same situation they are going through but I'll bet many of you (like me) have similar experiences. 


The 4 pillars of empathy are:

1. Perspective taking
2. Staying out of judgment
3. Recognizing emotions
4. Communication


(You can learn more about the 4 pillars here.)

An empathetic response could sound something like "it's not easy to be a teen", "I remember feeling really critical of my body, still am sometimes, I'm sorry you're struggling right now", or "I wish I could do something to take away the pain, I'm here to talk if you need".
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defining beautiful

I was listening to my Teen Wisdom Fundamentals course (thanks Tami!) and there was a part on getting clearer with teens about their definition of things. This really stood out to me as something that I could start doing more of. For example, when a teen says they want to be happy, what is their definition of happy? I've heard things like "having lots of friends", "feeling good when I wake up", "having a boyfriend". 

What is the definition of beautiful? What is your teen's definition of beautiful? One definition that I came across is "possessing qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to the senses such as what we see, feel, hear, think etc." What do you think of this? Where did you get messages and information about what beautiful meant? 

The documentary Beauty CULTure (2012) covers some thought provoking ground when it comes to beauty in western society. 
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role models

Does your teen spend hours on social media? If your teen is scrolling Instagram or other photo based social media, they are not alone. Research has shown there is a link between our interaction with social media and our negative view of our body. (You can read more here.) The more we do the scroll and compare, the worse our view of our body becomes. 

Having role models around beauty is critical for teens. These can be celebrities that look like them, adults in their lives who model self-love and healthy interactions with their body, and peers who are confident and self-compassionate.
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​hold a critical lens

Societal and cultural norms are constantly feeding us messaging about beauty through channels such as social media. The message is often some form of "you are NOT enough".  Not enough beauty, not enough money, not enough friends, not enough smarts etc. Your teen may not be fond of the fact that a bunch of adults with a lot of money are dictating how they feel about themselves.

This is where the critical lens comes in. You could look at any advertising message out there around beauty and do one of 3 things: accept it, reject it, or change it.

Invite your teen to stop the scroll (sometimes... let's real about this also). To pause when they are fed an image of beauty or a message of not good enough. To stop, pause, and ask themselves:

Do I accept this message?
Is this what I agree with? 
Does this seem off to me? 
Is this what I think describes me? 
What I think describes other girls (boys, other identifying genders)? 
What's missing? 
How is this message generalizing/sexist/racist/prejudice? 
Who else believes this? 
What do I believe?

By using a critical lens and not just letting rich marketing companies dictate your beliefs around beauty, you can empower your teens and see real change.
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3 things you can do to support your teen
​on their journey with beauty

1. ​Download our Body Image Tips document

2. Bring gratitude and appreciation of your bodies (yes yours also!) capacities to the forefront (rock a new outfit, take a picture that makes you feel beautiful, post an inspirational self-love quote on your mirror, etc.)

3. Indulge in some extra special treatment together (a spa date, going for a hike, a massage, etc.)


I came across this saying "Butterflies can't  see the beauty in their wings" but it doesn't stop the world from appreciating them. Your teen illuminates the world with their gifts and if they need some help to see that, send me an email or a text with the "contact me" button below. 

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[The pandemic is making teens sad: what to do about it]]>Sat, 19 Dec 2020 20:03:21 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/the-pandemic-is-making-teens-sad-what-to-do-about-it
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So many parents have been saying to me lately, “my teen is just really sad” and “my teen just doesn’t have any motivation”. Their lives have been flipped upside down with the lack of social interaction with friends, group programs and sports teams on hold, constant changes happening in their schools and here in Calgary contending with a lockdown. It is not an easy time for anyone, let alone teens who are developmentally wired to be seeking independence from their families and social engagement with their peers. To add to this, we are in a time of mass communication and teens are fed information at lightning speed on all kinds of topics and important issues that their developing brains somehow need to make sense of. 

There are many things at play that are impacting how teens are navigating and coping with the current state of things. I am just skimming the surface.This is not the first generation to face massive changes and hardship. 

We are in a time of opportunity; the opportunity to look at how to help teens learn new ways to cope with what is going on in their world and learn how to surf the waves instead of drowning. If you are ready to seize this opportunity, here are a few ideas that you can try.
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Grief and loss

As 2020 winds down, I am aware of such a level of grief and loss of the way things used to be. Although some days, my hope remains that things might go back to being how they were, I also recognize there will be changes that are here to stay. Acknowledging the losses felt by teens over these past months can help put those sad feelings into context. Along with the sadness is probably some anger, numbness, confusion, anxiety, and so on. Teens have experienced losses in all areas of their lives throughout the pandemic. Loss of school structures that were familiar, loss of face to face time with friends, loss of group interactions, loss of a sense of control and predictability, loss of some of their independence, loss of some future plans and dreams, just to name a few. 

What you can do: Acknowledge the losses. Let your teen know you see the suck. Create some space to allow your teen to share about what’s been hardest for them or what they miss the most.
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self-compassion

In moments of suffering and hardship,  being kind and caring towards ourselves, the way we would be with a close friend, can be a powerful coping tool. Studies, like this one, that focus on teens and self-compassion have found it to be a strong predictor of health, achievement, social connections, optimism, positive affect, and overall life satisfaction.

​On the other hand, these studies have also found that practicing self-compassion reduces feelings of depression and anxiety, rumination, cognitive distortion (inaccurate thinking), social anxiety, fear of jud
gement, internet addiction, and goal avoidance. 


Self-compassion is not about strictly having good feelings or feeling sorry for yourself. It is based in good will towards yourself and being supportive through the suffering and human experience. 

What you can do: Try a few self-compassion exercises yourself and share with your teen the ones that were supportive for you or the ones that you think might be easiest for them to try. Here are a couple places to start looking:
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seeing through the weeds

It is super important not to gloss over the suffering and hardship part. Acknowledging and offering some empathy (putting yourself in their shoes) is the first step for sure. Saying that, if you are only looking at the weeds, it is easy to get caught and stay there. The next step is to help teens see through the weeds and grow some of their coping skills. The more resources your teen accesses, the better they are able to pull themselves out of those difficult moments of thoughts and feelings. The trick here is practice, practice, practice and repeat. It is like learning to play an instrument or riding a bike, you have to really practice and you need to do it often to get better.

The other thing is to use strategies that work for them and go with those. Each person will have their go to tools and they will change with time, so it is a great idea to often try new ones and kind of do a spring cleaning of mental health strategies.  

What you can do: Do a little inventory of coping strategies to get through tough moments. I like to use ESD as an acronym for my resources. If you and your teen use this tool - it’s interesting to notice which category you have more and less of.

​Challenge yourself to find 5 (or more) in each. 


E - Express

S - Settle or Soothe

D - Distract

Here is a sample:
If you and your teen want to learn more about how to cope with difficult thoughts and feelings, follow me on Instagram @therapywithchantal for weekly tips, ideas and resources.

​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[10 ways to survive the holidays with your bestie during the pandemic]]>Sun, 13 Dec 2020 04:45:34 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/10-ways-to-survive-the-holidays-with-your-bestie-during-the-pandemicI was taking a socially distanced walk with one of my best friends the other day and I felt so grateful to see her in person, hear her voice, and laugh and complain about life with one of my favourite people in the world. 

It got me thinking about friendships and how important it is to connect with friends and people who bring us up, especially in your teen years! Friends can be the anchors that help you get through everything. They can be the fuel that encourages you to go for it. They can be the rock that is there for you, kind, genuine, trusting, and loving you just the way you are.  With a lot of the country going into some form of lockdown over the holidays, those moments of being together and hanging out with friends are going to be trickier to have.
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Here are 10 ideas on how you can get through the holiday season with your besties this year (in no particular order):

1. 
Go For a Walk - Find a spot and go walking or hiking together. You can explore and talk and there’s the added bonus of moving your body which is a great mood lifter.

2. 
Bake Cookies Together (virtually that is) - Set a time to meet virtually and pick an activity whether it’s baking cookies, decorating gingerbread houses, painting a picture, making an ornament, etc. Once you have the activity in mind, each of you gather materials or one of you gather materials for both and do a drop off at the other’s house. Hop on-line and let the magic and laughter begin.

3. 
Try a Class Together - Another virtual option is to try a class together. You can challenge yourselves to a workout, dance, yoga, art class and much much more. You can start here for some upcoming events.


4. Enjoy the Snow - Skiing, snowboarding, sledding, skating… Getting out there in the snow gives you some face to face time and can help get through those winter months. ​​
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5. Gaming Together - Need I say more?

6. 
Do Something for Others - Inspired by my friend (thanks Mel!) Helping others feels good and when you do it alongside a friend, it’s even better. Meet up with your friend and shovel driveways together or break up the ice on the sidewalks. You can find ideas that easily allow you to be distanced and safe while helping others. The community will appreciate your good deed. And bonus - you get to hang out with your friend.

7. Start a Group Chat - Having a group chat can be a great way to stay connected. Make it a place where friends can drop funny photos, memes, and quotes to get you through the day. Your group chat can put a smile on your face and let you know you are not alone.

8. 
Drop Off a Gift - Doing a little surprise drop off for a friend can make their day and let them know you are thinking of them. You can even consider making something yourself, so it’s extra special. There are some great DIY ideas you can start with here.

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9. Make a Tik Tok- Make a Tik Tok video and dedicate it to your bestie. You can also make a Tik Tok together or come up with friend challenges that you can participate in together in a fun way.

10. Mail Something to Each Other - You and your friend can agree to write each other a letter or make a card and then send it by snail mail. It can be fun and different to receive mail this way!

Add to the list - Let’s keep the list going! What other ideas do you have to get through the holidays with your friends this year?

If you are struggling with your friendships and you want to learn who to let into your squad of BFF, follow me on Instagram for weekly ideas and tips: @therapywithchantal

​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[Self-Injury and Self-Harm: What to do when your teen is cutting]]>Sat, 05 Dec 2020 05:46:17 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/self-injury-and-self-harm-what-to-do-when-your-teen-is-cuttingMany of the teens I work with have used self-harm as a coping behaviour. Teens might feel like their parents “don’t get it” and like it is the only coping mechanism that is providing some temporary relief. It can be terrifying for parents who discover this and feel unsure on how to help with their teens pain and suffering.

If you are a concerned parent of a teen who is self-harming, this blog will talk about the what’s, the why’s, and the how to help.
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what is self-injury and self-harm?

Self-harm and self-injury can be used interchangeably and they are behaviours such as cutting, hitting, scratching, pulling out hair, punching hard objects, etc. Any behaviour that causes injury to one's body can be considered self-harm. This is different than participating in a high risk activity that may cause self-injury in that the purpose of self-harming behaviours is to cope with psychological pain and overwhelm. Cutting is one of most prevalent methods of self-harm in adolescents at this time.
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why do people self-harm?

We know that self-harming behaviours are used as a coping method to deal with psychological pain and overwhelm. Sometimes parents will ask me, “is my teen doing this to get attention?”. Well the short answer is: Maybe. Not attention in the way of “look at me” but more so a cry for help or a way of saying “I’m really struggling right now”. 

Other times, parents will wonder if their teen is trying to complete suicide. Most often suicide is not the desired outcome. Teens who are self-harming may also have thoughts of suicide, but the self-harming behaviour is not usually intended as a lethal means. 

So then, why? Well most often self-harming behaviours are used as a way to get relief in managing psychological pain. Whether it is to numb, express, or release pain or a way of gaining a sense of control over emotional overwhelm, these are usually the reasons people turn to self-harm.

The problem with this type of coping is that it provides temporary relief, meaning the psychological pain and overwhelm come back, which keeps a person in a cycle of self-harm. Also, physiologically there is a release of neurotransmitters and endorphins that are linked to that sense of relief. The more a person engages in self-harming behaviours, the more the body habituates and people tend to need to do more of the behaviour in order to get the same physiological response.  This means higher risk in the behaviour, such as deeper or more cutting, and this can lead to dangerous outcomes and unwanted consequences (e.g. infection, scarring, etc.)
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how you can help when your teen is self-harming

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The first thing is to take it seriously. The sooner you can respond with caring and empathy, the quicker you can turn around this coping strategy. If your teen is scraping their legs or rubbing themselves really hard in response to a situation, this still warrants your attention in a real way. You can help early on and avoid the behaviours from escalating into something worse. Responding with caring and empathy can include: 
  • Letting your teen know you have noticed the behaviour
  • Letting your teen know you are concerned
  • Letting your teen know they do not have to feel shame about this but it is important to get some help and get to the root
  • Letting your teen know you are there for them and want to help
  • Asking your teen about the behaviour
  • Asking your teen about what’s going on, their feelings, things they are struggling with, etc.
After that, come up with a plan (with your teen) to help them stay safe and reduce the risk of self-harm. Consider using the TTURN acronym to help TTURN things around. 

T - Tell a trusted adult 
(get your teen to name 3+ adults they can talk to if they have the urge to self-harm, e.g. parent, teacher, coach, relative, etc.)
T - Tag your triggers 
(ask about things, people, situations, and emotions that increase the urge to self-harm)
U - Up your self-care 
(get your teen to collab on a list of things they enjoy doing or people that bring them comfort, e.g. reading, listening to music, going for tea, hugs, doing their hair, exercising, hanging out with friends, etc.)
R - Replacement behaviours 
(understanding why your teen is using self-harming behaviours will help you come up with alternative behaviours that have less risky consequences. For example, if it is about numbing pain which releases endorphins, look at some behaviours that release endorphins such as, exercising, punching a pillow, eating dark chocolate, laughing, etc.)
N - Negotiating Harm Reduction 
(come up with ways to reduce the risk such as making sharp objects less accessible, having them pain or draw on the body parts instead of injuring, using rubber bands or ice instead of sharp objects, etc.)

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Third, consider working with a therapist for additional support. The root cause of self-harming behaviours may be related to managing feelings such as anxiety, fear, stress, anger, depression etc. It may also be related to larger mental health concerns or a lack of coping tools and strategies. A therapist can work alongside your teen (and your family as needed) to help them develop other strategies and offer them a safe place to express their thoughts and emotions.

As a therapist myself, I can support you and your teen with creative sessions in person, via video, or walk and talk appointments. I use hands-on methods to support your teen to communicate through their self-harm. You can book a free consultation with me here.

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[Encouraging good grades: How to support your teen succeed during a pandemic]]>Fri, 27 Nov 2020 04:17:44 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/encouraging-good-grades-how-to-support-your-teen-to-succeed-during-a-pandemicA parent was saying the other day that they wanted to motivate their teen to get better grades and they were asking if they should be punishing them for bad grades and how often to check on their school work.
​ 

With the current conditions and restrictions of the pandemic, teens may be struggling more than ever to see academic success. As a parent, watching your teen struggle with motivation and success can be really difficult. Your mind might go to that place of seeing failure in their academics as something that will screw up their future and lead to lost opportunities, leaving you stressed out and fearful.
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If you want to support your teen to succeed in their school achievements, but don’t want it to be an uphill battle, here are a few questions to consider: 

1. Should I punish my teen for bad grades?
Punishing for bad grades, whether that’s consequences, screaming or lecturing, can lead to increased anxiety and low self-esteem. Pushing too hard for the grade may backfire.  Before you punish or give consequences for grades, consider what factors are leading to the low grades. A different course of action will be taken if your teen is struggling to understand materials vs. your teen is spending hours on-line and not creating enough time to study and complete assignments. Even if your teen is spending hours on-line, that in itself can be a coping mechanism to deal with a lack of organization and time management skills, learning difficulties, or a lack of understanding the materials. Be curious and take the time to inquire about what is contributing to the poor grades. 

If you do choose to implement consequences, it is much more effective to curb the behaviour and not the grade. For example, if your teen wants to do their homework in their room and this is leading to distraction and incomplete work, you can remove the privilege of doing homework in their room to curb the behaviour of distraction. If your teen is on-line for hours and not getting their work done, you can remove the privilege of screen time until a set amount of school work is completed. By curbing the behaviour, you foster opportunities to increase effort and skills such as organization and time management skills, that are useful for life. Punishment and consequences will not build those skills - see more in question 3.
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2. Should I reward my teen for good grades?
Along the same wavelength as punishing, rewarding is much more effective when it corresponds to the behaviour. In this case, it’s the behaviour you hope to see your teen master such as, effort, focus, engagement, planning, and preparing. Communicating your expectations around accomplishments is very important. Be specific and goal oriented, where it is clear and achievable for your teen. Clear and Achievable😊. Instead of the expectation “I want you to get a minimum of X in all your subjects”, you might have something like, ‘I want you to read every night for 1 hour” or “I want all homework complete prior to free time”. Praise the efforts when you see them. You may also have incentives in place for some specific accomplishments. Again, I would focus on the behaviours over the actual grade. If going out for ice cream or their favourite latte is the incentive, acknowledge the effort and the prioritizing of their time that you saw over the actual grade.
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3. How can I help my teen achieve academic success?
Part of this is the bigger picture stuff. Consider the value you hold around the grades. What does this represent for you? Values drive people to believe things, so take some time to reflect on what your values are around the good grades- e.g. lifelong learning , education, contribution, success, status, etc. Share those with your teens. Teens still rely on parents for guidance, modeling, and making sense of the world.

Be clear and collaborative when it comes to expectations and goals. Have an open dialogue where there is room for sharing expectations, problem solving, and setting goals for academic accomplishments. Getting your teen’s input here allows them to be more invested in the process- you really want to have some of the motivation be intrinsic (motivated by personal reward). 

Get to the root of what’s happening. Know the difference between contextual issues and more global issues. If your teen is struggling with math (Oh did I ever!), brainstorm ways you can help like getting a tutor, allowing for more regular time to work on math, working with their teacher, researching ideas of presenting the materials that work for them, etc. If your teen is struggling with more global issues such as organization, time management, focus, and study skills, you can help by coming up with a study plan together, sharing time management and organization ideas, and having them test out tools such as apps, reminders, and alarms. Need some suggestions? Start here for app recommendations or here for study ideas.

In the end the greatest reward will come from your teen feeling competent and capable in their accomplishments and achievements.

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[The Social Chameleon: 10 Reasons Why You Want to be Yourself]]>Sat, 21 Nov 2020 04:05:31 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/the-social-chameleon-10-reasons-why-you-want-to-be-yourselfA teen was saying the other day how they were tired of changing their personality to match their friend group and just wanted to be themselves. Have you ever thought, “if I act like myself how will people react?” and “what if they judge me? Changing your personality or the way you behave in order to make friends and fit in will likely leave you in inner chaos and feeling completely dissatisfied.

​If you want to feel good in your skin and be yourself, even if it feels like a scary possibility, consider these 10 reasons below on why being yourself is best.

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10 reasons why being yourself is best

1. More to Offer - If you spend your time and energy trying to act like everyone else, your thoughts, feelings and personality get lost in the mix. Being a copy of someone else is like eating the same food every single day; it can get to be kind of dull. When you stop putting all that energy into changing who you are, you will be able to let your unique personality shine through and you will have so much more to offer.

2. Independence - Part of being a teen is starting to gain more independence and a sense of self. Getting to know what you like, believe in, and think is an important part of growing up. The more you get to know and show this part of yourself, the more agency you grow. That’s your ability to act independently and make your own free choices. Sounds good right?!

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3. The Best of Friends - When you change who you are to fit in, you are not likely to be spending your time with “your people”. It might be hard to get along with your friends and you may realize that they are not true friends. When you start behaving like yourself, it is like a compass finding the best kind of people and best kind of friends in your life.

4. More fun- Being guarded or watching what you say, think, or feel takes a lot of effort. It’s like putting up a fortress around you and constantly watching for chips or cracks in the foundation. Letting that guard down and being yourself means you can focus your attention on doing the things you love and having fun doing them.


5. Discover Your Talents - Everyone has skills and unique talents to share with others. In order to develop them, you need time to discover them. Being yourself allows you to figure out what it is that you like and what you’re good at. Everyone benefits from that!

6. Within Your Control - Spending your time constantly worrying about what others think is like throwing money in a shredding machine - it gets you nowhere. There is a much bigger impact you can have on yourself and others, and that is to recognize what is outside of your control and what is within your control. For example, others thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are not things you have any control over. You may be able to influence people, but ultimately their choices are theirs. Now, your own thoughts and behaviours are definitely something that are within your control and within your ability to choose. Your response is also within your control. You choose how you want to respond to others and to situations. Would you rather be worrying all the time or having fun with people who like you for you? You get to choose.

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7. Boost Your Confidence - Being yourself might seem risky at first, but this risk is worth the effort. Your confidence depends on your ability to take risks. The more risks you take that move the needle towards the person you want to be, the easier it gets and the more it boosts your confidence. It doesn’t mean it won’t be hard or scary, but it does mean it will be worth it.

8. Dust Yourself Off - Part II of boosting your confidence. I don’t want to sugarcoat things so I am going to say that sometimes acting like yourself might feel like a total bust or a failure. If that happens, know that failure is something that everyone experiences and it also boosts your confidence. How you handle failure is the key. So, if being yourself means you lose a friend, gaining a new true friend is now a possibility. If being yourself means you stop participating in a certain group, finding a new group who like the same things will now be an option.
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9. Discover Your Hobbies - Changing yourself to fit others molds is kind of like sitting on the sidelines instead of being in the game. If you commit to being yourself, you will start to find things that you enjoy and get to do those.

10. Live Adventures - Speaking of sitting on the sidelines, getting to know who you truly are (and you are changing all the time) allows you to be living your life instead of watching it go by. Adventures and experiences that you might see others having on social media or in your peer groups can be yours to have. Or even better, you can be creating your own adventures. And I don’t know about you, but living my life sounds much better than watching others live theirs.

It's not always easy to be yourself. It starts with taking the first step. A mentor once told me, "be yourself and the world will adjust" and I think they were onto something pretty good.

Sincerely,

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[The Vaping Culture: What to do when your teen is using e-cigarettes]]>Sat, 14 Nov 2020 23:36:42 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/the-vaping-culture-what-to-do-when-your-teen-is-using-e-cigarettesThis was a difficult post for me to write. I understand that teen experimentation is a normal part of development. On the other hand, I have read enough to understand that vaping is seriously addictive, especially to the teen brain, and there are still a lot of unknowns in terms of the health consequences of its use. ​
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Perhaps you have found evidence that your teen is experimenting with vaping. Maybe it’s nicotine, maybe it’s marijuana. You confiscate the vapes, tell them about how dangerous it is, and even threaten to take them for a visit to your local coroner's office for an educational experience of what real lungs look like after vaping. But instead of getting the results you’re wanting (for them to stop vaping), you get yelling, frustration, hiding their habit and even lying.

Here is tough to swallow news: if your teen doesn’t want to quit, there is no amount of yelling, consequences, or arguing that will make them quit. AND if anything, it may push them further into their use. 

​But wait, don’t stop reading! There are things you can do to be an important part of their choice making for their health and future. 

A Little About Why

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The truth is that addictions are complex. Research tells us that the developing teen brain has an active dopamine release, peaking about midway through the teen years.

Why is this important to know? 

Well, dopamine is your brain's natural chemical linked to pleasure and reward. Why do you think a lot of that risk taking, impulsive, invincibility behaviour shows up during this time? Yep, dopamine! This increases the likelihood of teens experimenting and trying things that are “thrill seeking” which may include substances. Because the brain has this more active dopamine release, it does increase the addictive potential of substances during this time.​

How you can help

Here are 5 things that you can bring to the table to help encourage your teen to make choices that bode for their health.
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1. What’s the Root - Digging Deeper
Teens just love when parents ask tons of questions (please pick up on sarcasm here). Understanding the root of their choice to vape is delicate work as a parent for sure. 

Ask yourself what is driving me to want to help them? If you are spiraling out in fear of worse case scenarios, you will vibrate at that level in your conversations with them, which is going to shut things down pretty quickly. Whatever shows up for you is ok (no blame here), acknowledge it, name it, share it with your partner, therapist, or best friend, and then take a deep breath and put it on the shelf (I know this is not easy) before you have those conversations with your teen. 

It can sometimes be helpful to start by normalizing the ups and downs of life. Try to be curious and come from a place of really wanting to understand what is going on for them and what it is that is leading them to vape. You might learn they are vaping because it helps with their anxiety, they may have lots of friends who are smoking and vaping, or they may be struggling to manage their stress. 

Show the love by creating opportunities for your teen to feel safe to open up and discuss the issues and concerns they are dealing with.
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2. Be Clear About your Expectations
It’s 100% ok to not be ok with vaping, smoking, drugs, and so on. The most important part of this message is your Why. Be clear that this choice will never be ok with you because they are important to you and you love them. 

Be ultra clear on your limits around the behaviour (e.g. no vaping in home or car). Punishing and consequences are likely going to be counterproductive however,
you can try working with your teen to offer some incentives to help them support them to quit.

3. Learn About It
Get informed about nicotine addiction and the health consequences. You can share some of what you discover with your teen. Research does indicate that information on the long term health consequences is not that effective in reducing tobacco and nicotine use in young populations.

You will likely have more traction in sharing about the shorter term consequences that may have a social impact on your teen such as, wheezing during activities, bad breath, a chronic cough, inflamed gums, rotting teeth, no money, and so on. You can start with the effects on teeth here.
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4. Offer Supports
Keep the dialogue open with your teen. Check-in on their desire to quit. If they offer you a yes or a maybe, you can start supporting them by scheduling an appointment with your family doctor. Your doctor will most likely have some good resources and information to get things started. Share information about cessation programs. Try and find out beforehand if they are geared towards supporting teens. Smokefreeteen and Albertaquits are great resources for quitting supports.   

5. Counselling
​Specialized cessation or addictions counsellors can support teens specifically on how to create a cessation plan, how to deal with cravings, and answer questions about substances. Other counsellors will have skills to explore the underlying issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress that may be leading to the vaping behaviour.

Knowledge is power here and working on staying close in your relationship with your teen will ensure that you are a part of the support team to make it easier to quit when they are ready.

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[10 tips for a smooth morning with teens]]>Mon, 09 Nov 2020 17:29:44 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/10-tips-for-a-smooth-morning-with-teensGone are the days of 6am wake ups because they want to play with you and here are the mornings of whines and moans to get them out of bed and ready for school. A dad was sharing how every school morning is a 45-minute battle, ending with a stressed out dad and teen.
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If you would rather be making your smoothie in the morning, here are 10 ideas that you can try:

1. Lights, Camera, Action - This one works well in our house (most of the time!). About 10 minutes before my kids need to get ready, I turn the lights on and I am talking to them about their day and about getting up. It’s kind of like a monologue because no one replies but the stimulus gets them to start that process of waking.

2. Prepare Ahead of Time - Anything that can be the night before is worth doing. Have your teen make their lunch, pick their clothes out for the next day, charge electronics, and pack their bag. The less there is to do in the morning, the less stress on both you and them.


3. Think about Sleep First Thing in the Morning - Your quality of sleep is impacted by all the choices you make throughout your day (thanks Brittany for sharing this information with me!) Have your teen consider things like how much caffeine they are having throughout the day and when, what kind of food they are consuming, other substances that might affect sleep, how much stress they are exposed to, if they have a consistent bedtime, etc. See where they can clean it up a bit.
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4. Turn Down the Blue Light - Screens emit blue light which suppresses the body’s natural melatonin production (gets us ready for sleep). Ideally, screens should be turned off an hour before sleep. Realistically, this can be a challenge to put into practice. Consider reducing exposure to blue light before bed, whether it’s turning off screens or using something (like blue light blocking glasses) that helps filter out the blue light.

5. Sleeping in your Tomorrow Wear - This is not one I have personally tried, but some teens swear by sleeping in the clothes they will wear the next day and this avoids a ton of morning stress.

6. Nightmares of Being at School in your Underwear - Natural consequences may be the way to go if you’re not getting any traction. The thought of arriving at school in pajamas (or underwear) may be enough to motivate a morning routine that works.   
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7. Throw the Alarm Clock Across the Room - Get an alarm clock (definitely wouldn’t recommend using a phone - way too tempting) and place it just far enough so they have to get up to turn it off. The biggest downside to this is that it might drive you crazy before it actually wakes your teen up lol.

8. Negotiations at the Table - Is your teen looking for an extra 30 mins to hang out with their friends in the evening? Some extra screen time? Have a discussion with them. Be clear on what expectations you have for them in the morning to reduce stress for everyone. Negotiate around incentives that might motivate a cheerful (ok perhaps not quite cheerful) morning disposition.
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9. I like to Move it Move it! - Bodies need to be in motion every day. It helps relieve stress, improve mood, and establish healthy sleep patterns. Have your teen aim for 30 minutes a day of movement and exercise and see if they can get that to an hour. (Strong Girls Fitness Society is a good resource.)

10. Consult a Sleep Expert - Folks like Brittany Andrejcin are experts in teaching people how to optimize sleep. Check out online resources or consider working with someone to help improve the quality of your teen’s sleep, which ultimately will lead to stress-less mornings.

​What is one thing that works well in your family to reduce the stress of school mornings?

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[3 reasons why you want to let your teen clean up their own room]]>Tue, 03 Nov 2020 16:48:07 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/3-reasons-why-you-want-to-let-your-teen-clean-up-their-own-roomThe way your teen keeps their room can be so hard to leave alone. A mom was saying the other day how every time she walks by her teen's room, the urge takes over to look inside and as soon as she sees the dirty plates, laundry on the floor, and chip crumbs, her orderly instincts kick in and away she goes cleaning her teen's room.

Can you relate to "I've asked them 10 times already", "it'll be faster (and better) if I do it myself",  and "it just drives me crazy" when it comes to the way your teen keeps their space? 

​Whether it's their room, their gaming area, or a space in the home, learning how to organize, clean, and manage their space is an important part of teen development.
Helping Teens Clean Their Room Teen Responsibilities Teen Independence Psychologist Working with Teens in Calgary Alberta
Photo by Ferenc Horvath on Unsplash
​Ok disclosure (and sorry Mom because I know you hate bugs!!) - when I was a teen I had a hamster, and I kept his food in my dresser drawer. The food was in a bag. Well, sorta kinda in the bag, and kind of in my drawer... and kinda on the floor.

​I had been told by my parents that leaving food around would attract bugs, but wasn't bothered to clean the hamster food trail I left behind. One day, I went to feed my hamster and his seeds appeared to be moving. Yeah, maggot city 🐛🐛🐛 in my drawers! It was such a gross natural consequence that it got me to keep it clean and sealed up forevermore.
Psychologist Working with Teens in Calgary Alberta Teen Mental Health Teen Independence Parents Helping with Chores
Photo by Jeremy McKnight on Unsplash

Here are are 3 reasons why you want to
​let your teens clean their own spaces:

1. Putting the relationship first. If this is a constant source of tension in your relationship, consider taking a step back to see the bigger picture. In stepping back and not cleaning their room, you're avoiding the scenario of still doing all that stuff for them 5 years from now. 

By stepping back, you can replace those urges with something rewarding for yourself. And although you might be thinking, "I'll enjoy the reward much more if they have a clean room"….having an extra 20 minutes for that bath or that juicy novel has the larger payoff (remember the goal is to have them clean the space so that niggling thought for you to clean it yourself will eventually be gone).

2. Motivation for growing independence and confidence.  As part of the privileges of independence in our family, we have adopted the 'Everyone is a Contributing Member' motto. Everyone is an important member and their contributions are valued. 

Celebrate independence by allowing them to care for their own space. This may include cleaning it, but also personalizing and organizing it in a way that is functional for them. There will be natural consequences to how they keep that space (i.e. hamster maggots).

3. Future ready skills such as Accountability and Responsibility. Clarity of your family rules and expectations will be super helpful to navigating this part. One rule that can be helpful is that all common objects must be brought back to that space or cleaned (for example dishes). 

You can try looking at the privilege/responsibility scale where privilege is a direct result of responsibility. An example of this is in exchange for the privilege of Friday night extra screen time, the expectation (responsibility) is that their room is to be tidied once a week with all laundry off the floor and all dishes returned to the kitchen.

It is also helpful to be clear on rules and expectations for their room vs. other spaces in the house. Check out this post on "𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝘁𝗼 𝗚𝗲𝘁 𝗧𝗲𝗲𝗻𝘀 𝘁𝗼 𝗵𝗲𝗹𝗽 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗖𝗵𝗼𝗿𝗲𝘀 𝗪𝗶𝘁𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗮 𝗙𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝘀𝗼 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗵𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗰𝗮𝗻 𝗿𝘂𝗻 𝘀𝗺𝗼𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗹𝘆⁣"

If you empower them to care for their spaces and take on that responsibility it will pay off in many ways!

And now, I'm going to walk right past my son's room and pour myself a hot bath while listening to favourite tunes!

Have a great night.

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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