3 Ways to Respond To Teen Behaviours

What to do once you understand the need driving teen behaviours?

If you ask me, trying to understand why the behaviour is occurring is the hard part, especially when there may be tears, yelling, walking away, or whatever your teen’s favourite way to show that something isn’t quite right is.

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Your mind may not automatically go to “Hmm… my daughter is having another meltdown before piano lessons… she must be expressing a need to have more choice or to be understood!” But understanding this why, or at least potential whys, can open up so many doors for communication, relationship-building, or for your daughter to be known and supported in decision making. If you’re currently unsure why your teen is acting in certain ways, you can read Chantal Côté ’s blog article: 5 Tips to Learning WHY Teens Behave the Way They Do (Teen Behaviours)’.

Once you have a potential why (or two), it is important to check in with your teen when she is in a calmer state. You may say something along the lines of “I wonder if you are resisting piano lessons so much because you feel you didn’t get a say in the matter?” Your teen may immediately jump to agree, or perhaps she has another idea as simple as not having time to eat a snack before the lesson or the piano lesson conflicting with another activity your teen is interested in. Checking in, being curious, and collaborating on the why together is incredibly important, because you both need to agree on the actual why for the “what” to be relevant and helpful.

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There are three general categories that immediately come to mind when I think about potential courses of action once the why is understood. These include self-awareness, skill development, and communication.

Responding to Teen Behaviours Category #1: Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is a big one. Sometimes it can be hard for your teen to understand why they are feeling the way they are or acting the way they do. Taking time to slow things down, to become comfortable with some discomfort, and to use both their thoughts and emotions to guide our actions are all key aspects of self-awareness.

As a parent, simple check-ins can help develop your teen’s self-awareness. Playful questions like “if your mood was the weather, what kind of day would it be?” can get your teen thinking about their internal experience. Using other less-direct strategies like looking at a feelings wheel together, watching Inside Out, or even taking online personality or love language quizzes can be useful tools in encouraging greater self-awareness.

Below is a feelings wheel, which shares not only the emotions your teen may be feeling, but the needs that could be behind the emotion as well. (If you would like a free printable version, email our team at info@pyramidpsychology.com).

 

 

Responding to Teen Behaviours Category #2: Skill Development

Depending on what the need is, sometimes there is a real opportunity for skill development. Let’s use the case of your teen not completing her homework as an example:

Potential unmet need #1: Need to be supported

In this case, a teen may be avoiding completing her homework due to not understanding the material and feeling anxious about the potential of being negatively judged.

A potential “what”: re-affirm your teen that you love her no matter what and that effort is more important than the outcome. In a case like this, your teen may benefit from some quality time, words of affirmation, or a break from the feelings of anxiety or inadequacy – maybe something completely fun and different like trying pottery, a paint night, or getting out to the mountains. Relevant skill development here includes greater self-awareness, communication, and a willingness to be authentic.

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Potential unmet need #2: Need for peace

In this second scenario, your teen may be struggling to complete her homework due to an unmet need for peace. Maybe there is a lot happening at your home, maybe your teen is a little on the messy side, or maybe your teen does not have a quiet place to complete her work.

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A potential “what”: find a quiet place with fewer distractions in your home to help your teen focus. If a consequence is appropriate for your teen not completing her homework, cleaning out a space could be a relevant consequence to meet that need for more peace. Helping other family members understand to keep the volume level down may be helpful as well. Relevant skill development includes aspects like self-advocacy, self-discipline, and organisational skills.

 Potential unmet need #3: Need for independence and choice

As another example, your teen may be choosing not to complete her homework due to a sense of not having enough independence or choice. I have met a few teens who are a little on the rebellious side and tend to push back against any loss of freedom, real or imagined.

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A potential “what” –  have an open and honest conversation with your teen about what areas are appropriate to have choice in and what areas are not. Teens need to go to school, and part of that is completing homework and assignments. However, there may be some room for choice about how and when to do the homework, such as after dinner instead of right after school. Relevant skill development may include completing tasks even when you do not want to and understanding relevant consequences, both good and bad, of personal choices.

Responding to Teen Behaviours Category #3: Communication

Help your teen understand that you are not a mind reader, and that communication is key to everyone’s wellbeing. My wonderful colleague Ally will be writing on this topic for next week’s blog!

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Discussing things such as the feelings wheel, self awareness, and needs behind behaviours, are what 1:1 therapy is all about for your teen. Having a neutral person they can let out their emotions to, and then safely discuss what’s going on behind the emotion, is important. You can book a free consultation to learn more about therapy for teens, here:

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You can also discover more tips for parents around teen behaviours with another one of our team’s blogs: 4 Tips for Parents to Manage Teen Behaviours’.

 



Jessa is a provisional psychologist living and servicing teens and young adults in Calgary, Alberta.

Jessa is passionate about helping people become the best version of themselves and is continually learning how to best support her clients. She has experience with acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), but most importantly she emphasizes the therapeutic relationship.

A safe, authentic relationship is key for therapy to work. Jessa prioritizes compassion and nonjudgmental curiosity. Together, she can find out what matters most to you and how to get there.

If you think Jessa may be a good match for you, please feel free to reach out and set up a free consult or book a session. She is looking forward to hearing from you!

Once a month, she writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents, teens and young adults she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

5 Tips To Learning WHY Teens Behave The Way They Do (Teen Behaviours)

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If your first reaction to your teen’s undesirable behaviour(s) is frustration and stress – this blog article is for you!

This month we are talking to teen girls and their parents about teen behaviours. We want to help you get curious about behaviour in a way that is going to make your parent-teen journey smooth-er sailing. 

When your teen yells, giving you side eye while storming up to their room and slamming their bedroom door where they are surely either flipping you the bird or maybe destroying your hard earned stuff, the last thing you want to do is be curious about the why. I get it. But, what’s underneath our teen’s behaviour tells an important story. It’s like figuring out the Rubik’s cube or solving a Japanese Puzzle Box. 

Eureka! 

Getting curious about your daughter’s teen behaviour can help you:

  • Get out of that stuck feeling of not knowing what to do or where to go from here 
  • Bring more peace to resolving conflict 
  • Regulate your emotions by bringing online the more analytical, reasoning part of the brain
  • Diffuse situations before they escalate
  • Be more creative in exploring options and resolutions

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The first thing to understand is that Behaviour seeks to meet a need. All behaviour is a response to an unmet need. Believe it or not, your teen fighting you on chores and constantly staying up past their bedtime is actually trying to accomplish something. Now, your teen is most likely not thinking, 

“I need more choice and autonomy,  so I’m going to argue with my mom about the chores they want me to do”.

It’s a little more subtle than that.  

Think of it as an iceberg- the part of the iceberg on the surface is the What. 

What you see, what they are doing, what is happening. 

Everything beneath the surface leads to the what. Things underneath the surface are often unknown to you and sometimes even unknown to your daughter’s conscious thought. Things like thoughts, beliefs, assumptions, perceptions, feelings, and needs are all underneath the surface. The behaviour you see is a combination of all of this and their available skills to take action on what they need. 

What does this actually look like in real life? 

 

Here’s an example. You struggle with your teen to get her to go to school. She outright refuses some days. (Tip of the iceberg).

Thoughts, assumptions, beliefs, perceptions– “people don’t really like me”, “they think I’m weird”, “if I stay home things will be better” (underneath the iceberg)

Feelings– worried, stressed, hopeless, embarrassed (underneath the iceberg)

Needs– connection, safety, security, inclusion, peace (underneath the iceberg)

Now you see the tip of the iceberg has a little more to it. In fact, you might have noticed yourself softening with empathy and compassion for this teen. Or, maybe not quite yet, but you’re considering. 

(For more examples and tips like this, give us a follow on Facebook or Instagram).

Teen Behaviours: Common Needs That Precede the Behaviour

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Here are a few important needs of behaviours:

  • Acceptance
  • Appreciation
  • Communication
  • Inclusion
  • Love
  • Respect/self-respect
  • To know and be known
  • Be understood
  • Rest/sleep
  • Movement/exercise
  • Presence
  • Joy
  • Humor
  • Peace
  • Inspiration
  • Choice
  • Freedom
  • Independence
  • Challenge
  • Growth
  • Hope
  • Self-expression
  • To matter

If  you want an even more thorough list, check out the Needs Inventory from The Center for Nonviolent Communication.

Another way of looking at needs is to consider them at different levels. Maslow’s Hierarchy represents this using a pyramid. At the base are the most basic needs and as you climb the pyramid the needs become more existential – and important nevertheless. 

So, how do you, a parent of a teenage daughter, figure out what she needs? Unlike the crying baby who prompts you into non-verbal detective work, your teen can be a collaborative partner in this discovery.  

Teen Behaviours: 5 Tips To Discover The Need (With Your Teen):

Understanding Teen Behaviours Tip #1: Ask questions to understand her perspective (help me understand why you want to stay up later? What’s important about going to that party? What’s your perspective on what happened? What do you think it means when she said that?

Understanding Teen Behaviours Tip #2: Play out the scenario like you are reading a case file from the CSI squad and it is now your turn to do a little profiling- e.g. Teen opposes you on everything. If you say left, she says right. Her political and social views are complete opposites of yours and she doesn’t have a problem letting you know that your beliefs are wrong. Need profiling- maybe a need for self-expression, autonomy, to be known, stimulation, discovery, etc.

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Understanding Teen Behaviours Tip #3:  magician never reveals their secrets, but perhaps will show you a trick or two. Let your teen know you notice the behaviour and are trying to grasp the bigger picture in support of them (and you). “I’ve noticed you run off to your bedroom right after school for a while instead of getting to your homework and chores that we’ve asked you to do. I’m thinking maybe you are needing some rest after school? I could be wrong, but can we talk about it and find a solution that works for everyone?”

Understanding Teen Behaviours Tip #4: Put yourself in her shoes. Empathy can be a great way to discover needs. You don’t need to totally relate to the situation at hand (maybe you’ve never had a snapstreak you didn’t want to give up!), but if you can relate to the feeling that’s where you can discover the need. E.g. I’ve felt annoyed before- I needed some space. I’ve felt left out before- I needed connection. 

Understanding Teen Behaviours Tip #5: Ask your wise council. Talking it through with someone can help give perspective and insights that you may not have considered before. Whether it’s your partner, your pastor, your therapist, or your wise gal pal, – lean in and see what more heads come up with. 

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You can collaborate further with your teen, by introducing a third party support person to talk it out with them. Your teen daughter can sometimes find it easier to go through ideas, or share her emotions, with someone who isn’t immediately connected to her – a safe space. At Pyramid Psychology, we have a team of skilled therapists who can help guide your teen through this conversation. You can book a free consultation with anyone on our team HERE.

Book a free teen therapy consultation

 

Stay tuned for our next blog where we walk you through what to do once you better understand the need. 

Love, 

Chantal

 

Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with.

If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

4 Tips for Parents to Manage Teen Behaviours

Teen behaviours, transitions and developments can be a tricky part of growing, existing and becoming, given that we experience the world, and the world experiences us in different ways. What might work for one, might not work for the other, just the same way we can be on different journeys at the same time. The key is to own it. Even with similar experiences it’s important to note that everyone’s outcome and what that experience means or looks like is unique and distinctive and therefore one’s willingness to understand or find meaning should be tailored to that specific individual and their unique experiences. Thus, not categorize or fit one’s lived experiences into a box. 

Given the diversified experiences and exposures we have as people, parents and even teenagers it is of paramount importance that we develop an understanding of what is behind the behaviours of teenagers – individuals who are slowly growing through their own transitions and working towards becoming young adults at some point.

Here are 3 tips and tricks that parents and teenagers can use in identifying and understanding the particular need behind a behaviour is:

Understanding Teen Behaviours Tip #1 – Develop A Sense Of Curiosity

What I mean by this is adapting yourself to understanding what might be going on or what you might be experiencing. For example, experiencing anxiety is not bad, we all experience anxiety at some point, but when it becomes a corner stone or is always in the forefront such that everything revolves around it, it would be key to be “curious” about what you might be experiencing. What could have triggered it? What is happening inside your body?  What would occur if you would sit with this experience of anxiety instead of trying to push it away? What is this (experience of anxiety) trying to inform me? What would help right now, is this a fact, feeling or a thought?  These are just some questions you can ask yourself as you develop a sense of curiosity around any mental health challenge or behaviour you might have. 

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Understanding Teen Behaviours Tip #2 = Using the S.T.O.P. Acronym:

I think at times as parents or even as teens we can get frustrated over an event, moment, experience we do not like, and end up doing something we might regret. This Dialectical Distress Tolerance Tool helps in grounding and being present in the moment. It also helps one develop an understanding of what might be going on. It has been useful for me and other individuals I have worked with, and I think it might be useful for you too. 

Understanding Teen Behaviours Tip #3 Cultivate An Open, Honest Space

Sometimes we get caught up in a behaviour or a child’s performance instead of appreciating who they are as individuals. As a result, children may shy away from being emotionally vulnerable or honest and rather “act out” if I may say or “shut down”. This can also be as a result of a child, or a teen feeling out of control and may not have resources or useful strategies to help better express themselves. It would be important to not praise a child solely on their outcome/ performance but their process. An example could be instead of just saying “well done on your test”, one could say, “you really took the time, put in effort alongside hard work to achieve your goal. It’s been really beautiful to watch, well done”.  This also helps children note that even in adversity or if struggling they have support and have some will power in them. Its paramount for teens to know that they are loved for who they are and not what they do. Cultivating a space where a child or a teenager can be open and honest allows room for growth, change and mistakes. Cultivating such a space also means respecting and upholding boundaries as well. Establishing a respectful and trusting relationship is key. 

Understanding Teen Behaviours Tip #4: Responsive vs Reactive

Last but not least let’s work on being more responsive than reactive. This ties into emotional intelligence. Here is a picture that could phrase what I mean more clearly.

 

 

I would also say that the use of language is important when trying to understand the needs behind a behaviour. Using diminishing language gets you or a teen nowhere. Using loving terms and language that is filled with humility and concern could help. One should avoid shaming or humiliating a child or a teen even when concerned. Rather see the child or teen as a whole person. A tip on how to go about this is, putting yourself in another person’s shoes, would you like the language, tone of voice being used? How would you respond? 

I would like to leave you with a quote, and I hope this sparks some reflective moments in you:

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Please know that you are not alone on your journey. Sometimes, getting an outside perspective can really help – particularly for your teen, who may  need a neutral sounding board to discover the needs behind their own behaviours. You can book a complimentary meet and greet session with me below, to discover if I would be a good fit to support your teen with 1:1 therapy.

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I am a registered social worker with a Bachelor of Social Work with a major in psychology from the university of the Western Cape, and a Master’s in Clinical Social Work specialization with individuals, families, and groups from the University of Calgary.

In my practice, I note the different intersectionalites that come into play, and I have adapted myself to understanding the effects thereof. I pride myself in working from a holistic and integrative approach using trauma-informed, anti-oppressive, and intersectional lenses in rendering services.

I am grounded by embracing my full humanness-being imperfectly perfect. My faith, family and friendships carry me through life and its happenings. I find being in nature very healing and so is savouring moments. When not working, I love to engage in some fitness, going on walks, journaling, catching up on Korean series, city adventures and reading for pleasure. I also believe in allowing my inner child come out sometimes through art, dancing, building sand castles you name it.

Supporting Teen Mental Health

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With May being Mental Health Awareness month, I’ve been reflecting on the progress we’ve made surrounding reducing stigma around teen mental health. When I was in high school, teen mental health wasn’t something openly discussed, even with close friends. Nowadays there are so many different avenues to discuss and digest content surrounding teen mental health, which is such an incredible shift to be a part of! The Canadian Government has recognized a need to share support avenues on this as well. You can take a look at their suggestions HERE.

After graduating from University and transitioning into the social services field,  I experienced a significant learning curve, particularly during my time working with at-risk youth. As this sparked my passion for working with youth and shaped me into the therapist I am today, I thought I’d share. 

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Early on in my time at the youth shelter, I became familiar with youth “acting out” for attention and the many different ways this could present. Sometimes acting out can involve a teen screaming, using very creative and colourful language, breaking belongings or damaging property. For parents and supporters, dealing with these behaviours can often be challenging and if they persist, they can be incredibly draining and even weigh on your own mental health. It can be difficult to know the right answer for how to deal with them effectively.

Some individuals argue that the solution is to ignore “acting out” for attention because it increases the likelihood of it continuing. However, I’ve observed that when teens “act out” in an undesirable way, it can mean that a need is not being met.

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If a teen is looking for attention and is ignored, the message they are receiving is that their feelings are too much, and they should suppress them. If we ignore, then the teen is taught that affection, connection, and attention are withheld in response to big emotions.

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Alternatively, holding space for these emotions gives teens the opportunity to process and work through them. This is how teens learn to process and regulate their emotions. They are learning to navigate the world around them by looking to their parents and other adult supporters to model these skills to them. You can learn more about talking to teens about mental health from my colleagues blog article: Normalizing Talking About Teen Mental Health.’

 

Sometimes, having a third party supporter that is not emotionally connected, can give your teen an outlet to understand and regulate their emotions. This skill is something I work with teens on regularly. I provide online 1:1 support for residents in Alberta, or in-person for Calgary, Alberta teens. Getting to know me and asking questions about therapy for teens doesn’t cost a thing. You can book a complimentary call with me HERE.

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Hi there! My name is Ally and I am a MA student therapist working with teens, parents, and young adults in Calgary, Alberta. I am passionate about helping others and one of the greatest honours of my life is being able to listen and hold space for other people’s stories. 

 When I am not working, I enjoy listening to music, spending time with family and friends, hiking, and indoor cycling. I love exploring new places with some of my favourites being Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Spain, Iceland, as well as Vancouver Island. 

 Calgary is home, but I will take any opportunity to travel!

Normalizing Talking About Teen Mental Health

Erasing the Stigma and Shame

When I think of mental health awareness month, I am reminded of how much progress has occurred over the last decades in normalizing mental health. Like physical health, it’s almost like we all have our own mental health to be mindful of or something! I am grateful for the increased curiosity, conversation, and connection.

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When I think of mental health awareness, my mind goes to how much stigma and shame used to surround mental health. We are by no means out of the woods, but the growing level of openness is something that I am inspired by. When we can talk about hard things and bring them to the light, we tend to notice threads of similarity across stories – we begin to realize that perhaps we are not as alone as we thought, or that others are struggling with some of the same things we are.

 My mind goes to human suffering, and how like some invisible disabilities or diseases, mental health concerns can be earth-changing for the individual but less obvious to the outside observer. My heart goes out to those who feel unseen, that they can not share, or are shrouded in silence.

 

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My mind goes to labelling, to social media, and to the youth I work with that are dear to my heart. I wonder how all the awareness, albeit bringing many wonderful things, has a hidden underbelly of confusion and struggles for a young population trying to find their identity. “Dr. Google” and social media influencers are not always right or helpful.  

My mind goes to finding that middle ground between normalizing mental health concerns but also establishing purpose and growth. Taken to the extreme, the downside of not talking about mental health is silent suffering and perhaps a desire to appear perfect. The extreme downside on the other end, however, is identifying so much with one’s mental health concern that their identity becomes “anxiety” or “depression” and that the label is an immutable fact. I see the hopelessness on both extremes.

 My mind goes to embracing variety and being open to new ideas. A movement does not need to be perfect for it to be good. I see mental health awareness as permission to open the door and turn the light on to take a look at ourselves.

At the end of the day, I see mental health awareness being rooted in a desire to help people live their best lives and to share their stories – the good and the messy. 

It’s a topic that needs constant awareness.  Last May I wrote a blog specifically about this, with many great tips on how to help them function, red flags to watch for and how to help as a parent.  Check out  How Are They Doing?

The Happiness Pill Program:

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A 4-month group program I designed specifically for teen girls experiencing struggles with perfectionism, anxiety, or depression. Teens get some 1:1 appointments on me for specific tools, as well as weekly calls with teens experiencing similar struggles as them. For parents, there are 8 group calls – the best part about these groups so far, has been the community the parents have built! You can read more about the program HEREit is available online for anyone in North America!

 

 

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Jessa is a provisional psychologist living and servicing teens and young adults in Calgary, Alberta.

Jessa is passionate about helping people become the best version of themselves and is continually learning how to best support her clients. She has experience with acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), but most importantly she emphasizes the therapeutic relationship.

A safe, authentic relationship is key for therapy to work. Jessa prioritizes compassion and nonjudgmental curiosity. Together, she can find out what matters most to you and how to get there.

If you think Jessa may be a good match for you, please feel free to reach out and set up a free consult or book a session. She is looking forward to hearing from you!

Once a month, she writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents, teens and young adults she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

Routines for Teen Mental Health

Teen Mental Health

If I have to use one more tissue, I am calling up my investor to buy shares in their company! Being sick can sure slow things down and get you thinking…

My thoughts have not always been great company. Over the years, I’ve learned that even unwelcome company can be ok with the right approach. 

My mental health has had highs and lows over the years. In my teens and right after having my kiddos are times that I distinctly remember struggling to be well. And thanks to A LOT of self-reflection and some trial and error, I’ve come up with a pretty solid mental health routine that feels like the right panacea of care for me. 

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What is mental health anyways? I look at it as anything related to your overall well-being (your mind, body, heart, and soul). 

I know it’s not a one size fits all. Even sometimes my routine doesn’t prevent me from having bad days or tough feelings. What it does though is help my mind be in its best possible state to sit with and go through life experiences. And it helps me bounce back from difficult times and cherish beautiful moments. 

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If your teen daughter is struggling with her mental health right now, don’t give up – there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Having a teen struggle is also taxing on your own mental health as a parent. So I’m sharing the things I include in my mental health routine in the hopes to inspire you (and your daughter) to be curious to try out your own mental health routines to see what works for you.

 

 

Teen Mental Health: Ideas for Your Mental Health Routine

  1. Meditation– I meditate each morning before I start the action of my day and really find it settles my mind.
  2. Exercise Over the years my exercise routines have changed. I definitely try to get 30 minutes of movement each day (except for days like today where I’m not well)- even a walk counts on days where I have less energy.

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  3. Sugar lows– This is the biggest challenge for me, but I know when I eat less (and sometimes no) refined sugars I am my most calm and even self. Kicking the sugar habit is one that I struggle with the most.
  4. Reading– Whether I’m reading for entertainment or learning, immersing myself in a good book is so good for my mental health. I try to read a little each day.

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  5. Podcasts I love to learn and love stories, so podcasts are a great way to connect with both of these. In fact, the Hard As A Mother Podcast is a wonderful resource for parents. You can find their episode on teen mental health (featuring me) here: Ep. 38 Mental Health in Teens f. Chantal Cote.
     
  6. Art I don’t do this every day. Some weeks I spend more time writing poetry and drawing, other times I am appreciating other artists and their creations. Being around art and allowing myself to be creative is very important for my mental health.
  7. Friends Connecting with my friends, hearing about their lives, laughing and being there for each other is something I notice when I’m neglecting. If your teen doesn’t have a lot of friends and you’re worried about it, I wrote a blog article specifically for you! You can read it here: My Teen Doesn’t Have A Lot of Friends – Should I Be Concerned?
  8. Laughter This is like medicine to me and I can tell when I haven’t been laughing or playing much. Sometimes I put on a cheesy romantic comedy movie to get me laughing. I’ve also been to laughter yoga a few times which was remarkable and strange at the same time.

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  9. Time with Loved Ones I do like solo time to recharge my batteries. I also know that spending time with the people I feel most connected to fills me with love and gratitude.
  10. Trying new things I have to step out of my comfort box and remind myself of this one. When I do, my brain and body light up- it is important to live a life of adventure for me.
  11. Time with animalsI feel honoured to have a special bond with animals and as soon as I am with them, all my worries melt away.
  12. Volunteering I have been volunteering since I was a teen. Contributing and doing things for others makes me feel good and it makes a difference in their lives so it is truly a win-win.

    You can find 50 ways to involve your teen in community service (as well as volunteering) on the TeenLife blog HERE.
  13. OrganizingThis one is also a challenge for me for my creative brain, but I definitely feel more calm in a space that has order. I usually pick a small area to organize and feel my blood pressure drop at the finished product.
  14. Physical TouchHugs, sitting on the couch with toes touching (I know it makes some squeamish), snuggling, even high fives, I do like feeling physically connected to others.

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  15. Affirmations Lately I’ve been using an app that sends me affirmations a few times a day. I appreciate reading the statements, they remind me to take a moment to breathe and think about something positive. 
  16. Being part of support groups This has changed for me at different times. Currently I’m part of a few different groups of people who encourage each other while sharing their gifts and talents with one and another.

    The Happiness Pill Program:

    a 4-month group program I designed specifically for teen girls experiencing struggles with perfectionism, anxiety, or depression. Teens get some 1:1 appointments on me for specific tools, as well as weekly calls with teens experiencing similar struggles as them. For parents, there are 8 group calls – the best part about these groups so far, has been the community the parents have built! You can read more about the program HEREit is available online for anyone in North America!

     

  17. Learning something new each day I enjoy gaining new knowledge and new perspectives. Learning is informal and can come from many different places including the people I meet each day, the resources I read and listen to, the new things I try, and so on.
  18. Walking in nature As soon as I am outside and hear the sounds of nature and look at incredible landscapes, I am hooked- being in nature is definitely my happy place. It can be seaside or mountainside, I’m not picky.  
  19. Dreaming and setting goals I can’t say enough about having something to go for. It has been important to me to have a sense of purpose and be moving towards a goal or an idea. I find it fuels me greatly.

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  20. Loving and Gratitude The opposite of goal setting for me is taking the time to be in the moment and to appreciate everything right in front of me. Each day I take the time to say in my mind what I am grateful for. My mind then gets better at noticing small things throughout the day that are special and delightful.

    You can read more on the science behind gratitude for teens in a blog article Jessa Tiemstra wrote, a Provisional Psychologist on our team: Teen Happiness: The Science Behind Gratitude.

I’d love to hear what is part of your routine! You can email me any time with your ideas or questions at info@pyramidpsychology.com.

Teen Mental Health: Free Anxiety Toolkit for Parents Raising Teen Girls

If your teen daughter is a high achieving girl with big dreams, who is being held back by struggles with perfectionism, anxiety, and/or depression, the Anxiety Toolkit for Parents Raising Teen Girls is for you. You will receive a free PDF with 10 tools you can immediately implement to support your daughter, alongside several free webinars with various topics for improving your relationship with your teen. You can download your copy here:

Anxiety Toolkit

 

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Talk to you soon

Love,
Chantal 

 


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with.

If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

Teen Anxiety: The #1 Thing Teens Are Worried About

The #1 Thing Teens Are Worried About

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The Future. 

Does it fill your teen with excitement and possibility? Does it stress their brain out with worry and uncertainty? 

Many of the teens I work with say to me that the future is the Number 1 thing they worry about. The number 1 thing! More than friendships, more than what’s happening at school, more than ….well everything. How am I going to make money? What do I want to do? Do I take a gap year or go straight to school? What if I make the wrong decision?

Today’s teens are so informed and connected to possibilities that it can spin them into overwhelm so quickly. And if you’ve ever tried to make a decision from the place of emotions only (that chocolate cake looks so yummy and will taste so good and pleasurable)- you might know that it often ends up not being the best outcome (ooooiiii …. I really shouldn’t have had that last piece of chocolate cake). 

I’m joking and not joking- when teens make decisions from that place of fear and worry, they often get stuck, procrastinate, get sick, self-sabotage or just downright avoid.   

The point of this blog is not to alarm you. Instead, I would like to give you nine tools to support you (a parent of a teen), and your teen to welcome the future with a little less worry and a little more tranquility.

Teen Anxiety & The Future Tip #1: Set small goals
Having goals – things you want to accomplish, change, improve, or just try can be a great way to spark motivation and excitement over fear. Yes, some goals may feel scary or stretchy, like when I decided to leave my non-profit job after 15 years in the industry to pursue my passion to help teen girls build bulletproof mindsets- sssccccarrrryyy! And exciting!

Even the stretchiest biggest goals are made up of a series of smaller goals to get you there. Start by brainstorming goals for yourself (e.g I’d like to run a 5km marathon, I want to raise money for the local animal shelter, I want to make a new friend, etc.) that you’d like to accomplish over the next few months up to 1 year from now. Then identify 2 or maybe 3 goals that feel like small, achievable ones. You might even find some smaller goals hidden within your larger goals (e.g. talking to the person next to me in class next Monday, putting on my running clothes and run/walking for 10 minutes, researching animal shelters in my area, etc.). These are your targets to start taking action on.

Teen Anxiety & The Future Tip #2: Road map with lots of refueling breaks

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Having a plan can be helpful. Knowing that you have a roadmap to refer to or fall back on can help put your mind at ease. Less in the worry zone- more in the “I’ve got this” zone. You might go off course or choose to ditch your map, but just knowing you have one can be a great tool. If you think you might want to be an engineer and move to another city- great- What would that look like? Who could you talk to? What steps would you need to take to start heading in that direction? 

Plan for breaks along the way. Who knows what life is going to bring, so plan to refuel along the way. Take the time to map out some fun things you see in the roadmap, people you can go to, ways to relax, and so on.  

   

Teen Anxiety & The Future Tip #3: Use the wise mind strategy

A concept in DBT (dialectical behaviour therapy) teaches that you can look at a situation from 3 perspectives.

The first is to look at things from the perspective of your emotional mind…Kind of like tapping into the emotion parts of the brain which is fine tuned for survival, fight/flight/freeze and reactivity. Great for when you need to hide or run from a bear! 

Then you have your reasonable/rational mind…Your ultra logical thinking brain that relies on what has happened in the past to make decisions today; what information you can access, and what logic is telling you. Great for analyzing and calculating the possibility of something occurring. 

Now if you tune into where the emotional mind and reasonable mind overlap, you get the Wise Mind- the part that is aware of your feelings and is able to reason. It’s the sweet spot in your thinking.

Source: 7 cups

Now think about your thoughts of the future – are you considering it solely from your Emotional mind? Your Rational mind? What would happen if you looked at it from your Wise mind? 

Teen Anxiety & The Future Tip #4: Talk to the experts

There are folks who specialize in helping people sort out options for their future. Career counsellors, guidance counsellors, teen career coaches,  just to name a few. This article has some great tips on where to begin and who to talk to. 

Having a third party person can be helpful in many ways, including a coach or therapist. I offer teen coaching with a parent element, as well as 1:1 therapy. You can get to know my services HERE.

Teen Anxiety & The Future Tip #5: Get to know yourself

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When I was younger and magazines were a big deal (aging myself here, haha), I was all over taking the quizzes. So many quizzes. I don’t know how accurate the information was or how valid for that matter, but it was about getting to know myself better- and having some fun. 

Here are a few neat online tests that can give you a perspective on you (or your teen): 

 

Teen Anxiety & The Future Tip #6: Self-reflect on your values

What really matters to you? When you live according to the things that are most important to you- things just flow a little more. There is less room for anxiety, worry, and uncertainty when you are doing, saying, and behaving in ways that are in sync with what you value.

If you’re not sure what your values are yet, you can start discovering them with this Values Card Exercise.

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Teen Anxiety & The Future Tip #7: Enjoy the NOW

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Growing your mindfulness skills will definitely help with future worry. Being mindful helps you tune into your experience in the “right now” moment. The brain can’t be slipping into the future or dwelling on the past when it is being mindful of the ‘now’. This can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings and bring some compassion and acceptance to your experience. 

I wrote a blog article all about mindfulness for teens that you may find helpful: Mindfulness for Teens: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly!

Teen Anxiety & The Future Tip #8: Schedule worry time

It’s normal to experience worry. Everyone does. If worry and anxiety about the future are taking too much real estate in your brain, consider scheduling it in. 

Sound weird? 

Kim Pratt, LCSW shares that “whatever we do as humans over and over again, we get better at.  If we give in to our mind’s pull to worry, at random intervals throughout the day, then the ability to worry will grow stronger”. You can read more in this article.

So, in turn if you limit or schedule worries to a certain time, your brain gets better at processing those worries during those time periods.

Note: I would highly recommend avoiding close to bedtime as one of those worry times. Opt for times that are convenient for you to have time afterwards to chill, connect, and do something enjoyable.  

Teen Anxiety & The Future Tip #9: Ask helpful questions
When worry strikes, it can be all too easy to start asking questions. But are those questions helpful? Or are they getting you stuck in the pit of despair?

Here are a few examples of flipping worry-creating-questions into calm-the-worry-questions.

 

Worry-creating-questions Calm-the-worry-questions
How will I make money???? How many ways can I come up with to make a buck?
What if I don’t get into my top College pick? Where else would be interesting to go if I’m not going to my top College pick?

Which options have the best programs of interest for me?

What if I can’t figure this out? How can I figure this out? 
Do I take a gap year or go straight to school? I wonder what I’d come up with if I did a Cost Benefit Analysis for each of these options? 
What if I make the wrong decision? Most people don’t figure out their future in a straight and narrow- how can I have fun and learn along the way?

Anxiety, including worries about the future, is on the rise for teens. With the access they have to social media, the news, etc., they are carrying worries that you and I never had to. I have developed a 4-month program, The Happiness Pill, to counteract some of the anxiety your teen daughter is dealing with.

The program starts with a road map for you and your teen of what you want life to look like – both for her future, as well as your relationship with her going forward. There are then several parent coaching sessions – an opportunity for you to build a relationship with other parents, 1:1 sessions just for your teen, adn weekly group sessions for your daughter to meet other teens dealing with similar things. I give your teen the tools to handle her anxiety in a healthy way that leads her to a life of presence and joy. It will give her tools well beyond her current worries; tools that will carry her into the future. 

See the FAQ section on The Happiness Pill website for more information. You can email info@pyramidpsychology.com to get on the waiting list for the next intake as well.

 

The Happiness Pill

 

Here is to a future you enjoy.

Love,
Chantal 

 


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with.

If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

7 Tips to Discuss World Events With Teens

7 Tips to Discuss World Events With Teens

‘How do I discuss world events with my teen?’ is a question that has come up a lot lately for the parents we work with. Topics are coming up for teens around things like the ever changing restrictions (or removal of them) with the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, various demonstrations in Canada, etc. 

Simply ignoring these topics right now isn’t always the best solution, because your teen is hearing about it anyways – from the media, at school, through their friends, overhearing adults, etc.

Instead, it is important to open a line of communication with your teen where they can feel safe discussing some of their feelings, and asking questions.

We came up with 7 tips to discuss world events with teens for you. You can download a printable version for free HERE.

Discuss World Events With Your Teen Tip #1: Acknowledge the situation (circumstance/event) with your teen in a way that works for them.

It is important to keep in mind where your teen is developmentally. Consider these points when acknowledging the topic at hand:

sticking to facts as much as possible
✅ going into less detail with younger youth
✅ starting broad and following their lead

Discuss World Events With Your Teen Tip #2: Invite your teen to share what they are thinking and feeling.

Creating space for your teen to sort through what they’re taking in and how they are feeling about it can help them make meaning and express what’s going on for them. This can be done during family time, while going out for a drive, or by creating opportunities to check-in with them individually.

Note: It is also okay if your teen doesn’t say a lot, especially if they are less talkative or verbal in general!

Discussing World Events With Teens Tip #3: How can you help if your teen is feeling helpless?

If your teen is experiencing a feeling of helplessness and wanting to help in some way, but unsure how, you can support them… Encourage them to take action in a way that fits them. You can brainstorm different ideas together!

Discuss World Events With Your Teen tip #4: Remember that this conversation does not have to be a “one and done”.

With challenging or emotionally difficult topics, sometimes it is better to break up the topic into more manageable conversations. This helps reduce the likelihood of your teen feeling overwhelmed and helps them process the information.

Discuss World Events With Your Teen Tip #5: Use self-regulation and co-regulation strategies.

Self-regulation and co-regulation strategies can be used to keep the conversation calm, open, and nonjudgmental. Regulation is a big topic, but if you need some tips or ideas to get started check out THIS ARTICLE.

Here are a few top tips:

  • Take a few deep breaths before and during the conversation.
  • Pay attention to the sensations in your body (is your head pounding, stomach turning, etc.)
  • Acknowledge, label, and share your feelings “I’m feeling so sad about this right now:

Discuss World Events With Your Teen Tip #6: Thank your teen

Let your teen know that you are thankful they were willing to talk with you about the difficult topic. Having hard conversations can be intimidating, and it can take a great deal of bravery, honesty, and vulnerability.

Acknowledge that the topic is difficult and also your teen’s strengths in being willing to talk about it!

Discuss World Events With Your Teen Tip #7: Let your teen know it’s okay to take a break.

Steeping themselves in constant information and stories about what is going on is often not helpful and creates more stress and anxiety. (And yes we acknowledge that this is a privilege that we get to turn off the TV or put the phone down.)

Encourage your teen to take breaks to connect with others, do something they enjoy, or share a talent or skill and put something beautiful out in this world.

If you found these tips helpful, share with a friend and download your free printable version HERE.

It is also okay to recognize if you need outside help to ensure your teen’s mental wellness is doing well. We offer 1:1 counselling virtually, or in-person. You can get to know our team and book a free parent consultation with us HERE.

Love,

Team Pyramid Psychology – Chantal, Jessa, and Ally

 


Counselling (or therapy) is a support that helps people who are facing difficult situations. It’s not meant to “fix you” and it does not mean “something is wrong” with you. It’s about offering a safe place to try new ideas, resolve problems, make changes, and move towards the life you want to live. Different therapists can help people work towards personal, relationship, athletic, educational, and career hopes and go​als.

Counselling is a combination of expressing yourself, being witnessed (listened to), discovering resources, and learning new things. There will be times when you will be sharing about your experiences and your counsellor will listen. There are other times when you will be discovering things that will support you to get through difficult situations. Sometimes your therapist will share information, ideas, and resources with you.

We help teen girls build bulletproof mindsets through:

  • Transforming negative self-talk into confidence, clarity and strength
  • Embracing self-love and stepping into the spotlight
  • Learning who to let into their squad of BFFs

You can learn more about each of our team members HERE or book a free consultation HERE.

If you have something you’d like to read more on – email questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

Six Ways To Handle Change For Teens

Six Ways To Handle Change For Teens

Although change for teens is inevitable, it often doesn’t feel easy or straightforward to deal with, especially in the moment. Change can be scary because we’re often afraid of the unknown. Uncomfortable thoughts or emotions can come up when we feel like we’re not in control of our lives. With so many changes going on during junior high and high school, it’s important to develop skills that can help during these times.

The following tips can be helpful when dealing with change:

Tip for Dealing with Change #1 – Acknowledge and Validate your Feelings: While it can be uncomfortable to consider difficult emotions, particularly when they’re happening, it’s incredibly helpful to start identifying shifts in our mood/emotions. Know that it’s normal to feel many different and intense emotions when there’s changes going on. If emotions wheel for teens you’re not sure how you’re feeling, using a ‘feeling wheel’ can help you identify your emotions. You can read an article on the benefits of a feeling wheel HERE.

Tip for Dealing with Change #2 – Consider Control: Something I’ve found incredibly useful for myself and teens I’ve supported through change, is to consider control. There’s a ton of useful strategies you can use to figure out what you have control of. Imagine you have a hula hoop around your waist. The space between your body and the hula hoop is what is within your control. These are things like your emotions, your responses, your attitude, your opinions, and your behaviours or responses. Everything outside of the hula hoop are things that you cannot control, such as other people’s beliefs and opinions, and other people’s feelings or what they think. When experiencing change, take the time to consider and focus your attention/energy on the things you have control over.

Tip for Dealing with Change #3 – Maintain Consistency and Routine: After considering control, you can take action on some of these things and one of those areas is your routine or schedule. Changes can impact so many aspects of life, keep your routine or schedule in place, wherever it’s possible. Consistency and routine can help you feel more organized and in control.

Tip for Dealing with Change #4 – Celebrate Wins: Since change isn’t easy, it’s important to praise yourself for successes, no matter the size.

Tip for Dealing with Change #5 – Seek Support: From my own experiences, this step can be a difficult one. Asking for help may make us feel like we aren’t able to handle things on our own or maybe it’s because we don’t want to burden others. When I’m feeling this way, I remind myself that I would always want to know if my family or friends were struggling, so I can offer support in whatever way I can. Taking on overwhelming change(s) can feel far less overwhelming when you have someone beside you (literally or metaphorically).

Tip for Dealing with Change #6 – Recharge your Battery: With change being so stressful, it’s important to take the time to recharge! Have fun with friends or family, listen to your favourite music, or watch a nostalgic movie. You can also practice mindfulness to recharge. ‘Mindfulness for Teens: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly‘ is a blog article you can read for tips on mindfulness.

If you’re a teen experiencing overwhelm or other concerns during these difficult changes, you can book a free consultation with me HERE. Sessions with me are private between you and I. They are an opportunity for you to let go of what’s on your mind, and develop tools to handle hard situations going forward.


 

Hi there! My name is Ally and I am a MA student therapist working with teens, parents, and young adults in Calgary, Alberta. I am passionate about helping others and one of the greatest honours of my life is being able to listen and hold space for other people’s stories. 

When I am not working, I enjoy listening to music, spending time with family and friends, hiking, and indoor cycling. I love exploring new places with some of my favourites being Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Spain, Iceland, as well as Vancouver Island. 

Calgary is home, but I will take any opportunity to travel!

You can learn more about me on Instagram, or book a Free Consultation.

7 Ways to Support Teens Through Change

Change for teens, a guaranteed part of life – and rarely easy. Teens have had to face crazy amounts of change over these past few years. As parents, witnessing this may have resulted in many sleepless nights and you stressing over what they’re doing locked away in their bedroom all that time. 

 In the middle of grade 8, my dad was promoted to a new role at his company, meaning we would have to move from Edmonton to Calgary. As my shy, anxious 14 year old self, with a sense of adventure, my brain was working overtime. Moving houses, cities, leaving my friends, and sports club behind in the middle of a school year was terrifying (and a teeny bit exciting). 

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Whether your teen daughter is changing schools, changing friend groups, undergoing body and brain developments, or adjusting to the ever flip flopping social situations, change is on her radar. Teens can be excellent maskers and may not share with you how they’re feeling. Your daughter may not even know exactly what she’s feeling. Instead, she might constantly distract herself from real life, feel things and not be sure why, and shut down or lash out at the people around her. 

When we first moved, I protested with a food strike to share my disdain of my life feeling like it was turned upside down. I spent many lunch hours hiding in the school bathroom crying. It gave me a little release from some of the confusion, anxiety, and fear I was feeling. 

 One lunch hour the hot tears came before I could make it to the bathroom stall and at that very same moment, a group of the more popular girls walked in. I tried my best to look like I was doing anything but crying, but my mascara streaks and red face betrayed me. My 14 year old self was thinking- 

What could be worse?! 

To my surprise the girls huddled around me and sang “You are my sunshine” until we all burst into awkward laughter. I never became close with that friend group, but that wasn’t the point- some time shortly after that moment, I just kind of knew I was going to be ok.  

Photo by Canva

Even though change isn’t easy, it is often necessary and can even lead to some pretty amazing experiences. Below are 7 ideas to help make a world of difference in your daughter’s life as she steers through teen years full of unknowns.

Change For Teens Tip #1 – Validate her experience by being curious, asking questions, and listening you can offer your daughter a space to share her experience and make sense of what she is thinking and feeling. You might even share a story of your own change and ask how hers is different or similar.

 

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Change For Teens Tip #2 – Plan where you can some change comes at us more suddenly, but even in those circumstances, we can do some planning. Invite your teen to examine the situation to see how she (and maybe you together) can plan for things that might come up.

Change For Teens Tip #3 – Help her hone in on her choices As Jessa (provisional psychologist here at Pyramid Psychology)  talked about in her blog last week How to Handle Change for Teens’, even in the most dire situations, there are always choices that we can make. Finding choices can help your teen have a sense of control when external circumstances are feeling pretty out of control.

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Change For Teens Tip #4 – Support them to form meaningful connections feeling connected to people who get it, who your daughter feels safe with and can trust can ease stress felt from transitions. Nothing like a good dose of empathy to help possibilities blossom. The Happiness Pill program is a unique online group coaching experience (with some 1:1 coaching too!) that was designed to give your daughter a safe space to build these types of meaningful connections. If the idea of seeing your daughter build relationships while working on her own joy lights you up, you can get the details for the program HERE.

Change For Teens Tip #5 – Give yourself some of that support sugar- If your teen is experiencing change, you are feeling it too. Whether it’s her behaviour or your own experience of change, the impacts are felt. Take some time to fill your cup with love and care before you try to pour from an empty cup in support of your teen.

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Change For Teens Tip #6 – Highlight past victories- You can ask your teen daughter about some past changes that she has gone through and how she can use those to help her now. How did she survive or even thrive? What are some things she learned about herself in the process? About others? She may have learned tools to manage change, too!

Change For Teens Tip #7 – Create opportunities for joy and optimismChange is stressful- so it’s important to offer a different landscape once in a while. Coming up with ideas on how to take breaks, have some fun, and do things that bring her joy, can be a great way to manage some of the stress that comes with change. 

Love, 

Chantal 

 


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with.

If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.