Parenting Teens: A Word of Intention

As I navigate parenting teens, I am always reading to learn more. As I was reading the latest book by Michelle Borba, Thrivers, I was feeling full of hope by her message – ‘By nurturing 7 specific character strengths in our teens, we are practically guaranteed to get them from stressing to thriving’, I couldn’t wait to share this message with the parents of the amazing teen girls I support every day. Something happened as I kept reading. Those feelings of hope and excitement faded beneath a shadow of something else – Self-doubt? Overwhelm? Definitely annoyance. Shame… What was happening?

Well, there is so much information out there, really great stuff, ready and available at our fingertips to equip us to be the best possible parents. So much in fact, that it can quickly feel like too much, that we are constantly failing to keep up on the newest parenting standards. As I read the book, I was getting caught up in the parenting rat race thoughts of “I’m not doing enough”, “not good enough”, “there isn’t enough time, resources, knowledge to parent like this’ ‘, etc.

The role of parenting can be one of the most rewarding experiences. It can also be one that feels isolating; Am I the only whose teen…..?- Are others unsure about how to handle….? – and many parts of parenting seem to operate under a covert set of rules. It’s not an easy undertaking.

There was this meme going around at the height of the pandemic when most parents were at home and kids were attending classes online: It went something like – “My co-workers are the worst. They walk around half-naked, blast their music, and demand food from me”. I definitely cracked a smile and gave a good head nod in recognition of this common at home scenario. The thing is parenting is a non-stop role that keeps us onboard… Well, forever. So it’s a wonder to me how parenting, especially the behind the scenes of it, is not talked about with more acceptance, awareness, and love.

As you step into the new year – which really is an arbitrary time to select, but seems to be a socially accepted time to reset or start anew, why not highlight your intentions as a parent and to do so lovingly with awareness and acceptance.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Parenting Teens: Letting Go of Perfection

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There is just no such thing as perfection. When raising teens, it is more of an art than a science. There is definitely science behind a lot of what is happening in your teen’s brain and body that helps explain the behaviors you see – but when it comes to the manual on parenting – it doesn’t exist. You can watch this link for a short Netflix clip on the topic. The quicker you can let go of getting right all the time and company ring to other parents (guaranteed to bring about bad feelings!), the quicker you can step into being a more present parent. Challenge yourself to drop the struggle with perfection. It will create more empathy in your parent-teen relationship (the ‘me’ to ‘we’ concept). It also releases the pressure valve on stress for both you and your teen.

Parenting Teens: Intention

Intentional, thoughtful parenting is more aware. You question why you do what you do. You stop and think before jumping on the bandwagon of the latest parenting trend or keep doing what you’re doing just because that’s the way it’s always been done. Yes, it requires a little more effort to show up in this way. Yes, it can be so tempting to just hang out at

Photo by Jhon David on Unsplash

cruising altitude. Everyone wins when we parent with intention. Values guide parenting with intention. What matters most to you, becomes your North star. You’ll know when you’re aligned because you’ll feel more solid, certain, and frankly that things are easier (easier, but not perfect).

Parenting Teens: Action

In many ways I’m the master of getting pumped up to try something new and then fizzling out after a few weeks. When it comes to putting your parenting intentions into action, it is crucial to walk the walk, and keep walking the walk, until it becomes almost second nature. Modeling by way of what you say, what you do, and sharing about the values that matters most to you.

I see you amazing parents who love your teens dearly and just want them to be happy. Here’s to 2022 being a year of loving intentions that nurture not only your teen, but you who are doing your very best.

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 Disconnection: How to Stop Feeling Empty

A few weeks ago, a teen was telling me that when she feels stressed, she just grinds through the situation. Afterwards, she notices feeling so disconnected from the experience; empty. She laughed and said, “it’s fine when it’s getting school work done or something, but it really sucks when I want to enjoy spending time with my friends and stuff like that”.

We all have events, situations and even times of the year that can send us into full on automatic pilot – going through the motions from thing to thing. Then, before we know it, the moment has passed and we feel empty and disconnected. 

 

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In my own life, I remember getting ready for my kids’ birthday parties when they were younger. We loved inviting as many people as possible and having big gatherings with kids running around, laughing, and having the best time. The first couple times I did this, I remember getting into checklist mode, getting things done in a rather robotic manner. If people asked how I was doing, the answer was always a simple “good”. As soon as the party was done, I would want to collapse to take the biggest snooze and I felt kinda numb.

Over the years, I’ve changed and started to allow myself to pause, check-in, and be curious about my experiences in times like these.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I still need to buckle down and get sh$t done! But checking-in and pausing has been such a significant shift. The more I practice this, the more I’m able to accept whatever shows up – whatever I’m feeling – and fully enjoy how my experiences feel.

Back to the teen I was talking to – she decided to challenge herself to regularly check-in on her inner experience using the techniques I will share with you down below. Here’s what’s incredible – she came back saying she still had some tough experiences where she was stressed – but she felt more in control. She knew what to do with that stress and could choose how to help herself. She also shared about having some really great hangouts with friends. 

Over these next few weeks, while you (hopefully) have a break from your regular routine over the holidays, challenge yourself to do a little stop, pause and check-in on some of your experiences.

Checking in is great to do before something that you find stressful, when you’re feeling confused or unsure about how you’re feeling, or at the beginning or end of your day… It can help set the intention of your day or help you wind down.

Here are 3 techniques you can use to check-in and decrease teen disconnection:

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An Exercise to Decrease Teen Disconnection: STOP

Take a moment to check-in with this simple practice. You can use the STOP acronym anytime, anywhere.

  • S – Stop. Nothing more to do here – you can keep this simple! Or, you can also be a little playful with this by imagining a stop sign in front of you or the word STOP in fun neon letters dancing around… Or maybe your inner voice yelling STOP
  •  T – Take a breath. No need to change your breathing here. Simply take a breath, in and out!

  • O – Observe what is happening. Take a minute to observe what is happening for you – check your inner experience, your thoughts, feelings, any sensations in your body. You can also check in on what you’re seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling, tasting.

  • P – Proceed with Intention.  Here’s a chance to respond thoughtfully and proceed with awareness.

Here is an example of a time you can use this technique to decrease teen disconnection:

You’re getting frustrated about a school assignment that’s due tomorrow.

S STOP

T Take a breath

O I’m feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. My jaw is clenched. I have a headache and it’s hard to concentrate. It’s due tomorrow and I’m stressed about being behind.

P I’m going to get up and grab a glass of water and take a few minutes to stop looking at my screen. I’ll get back to it with fresh eyes. 

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An Exercise to Decrease Teen Disconnection: SIFT

This exercise comes out of the work of Daniel Siegel and is part of what he calls mindsight – the ability to look inwards and understand our inner experiences. Imagine kind of sifting through your mind and seeing what shows up in that moment. It’s different every time!

  • S – Sensations. List any sensations that you are noticing from head to toe or toe to head. Be curious with your list; no judgement.

  • I – Images. List any images that are dropping in for you. They may be stills like a photo or motion pictures like a movie. Or you could see colours, shapes, symbols, words… You might not notice any images at all! There is no right or wrong here, each person is different. 
  • F – Feelings. List any emotions you are experiencing right now – again, with curiosity and no judgement. You may notice one dominant emotion, or many mixed emotions. There could be a lack of emotions too. Everything is welcome!

  • T – Thoughts. List any thoughts that show up in your mind. What is your brain thinking? You may notice repetitive thoughts, questions, random thoughts, etc. Anything goes!

Here is an example of SIFT in action:

You’re hanging out with your friends.

S my cheeks and mouth are smiling. My chest is kind of warm – happy. 

I not much. Seeing my friend’s face laughing.

F feeling happy. Excited. Loved

T this is fun. I’m just enjoying the moment. 

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You can watch a video on this technique here.

An Exercise to Decrease Teen Disconnection: RAIN

This practice can be used to help you set an intention before you start something. It can also be a good practice to do when you are feeling stressed and anxious. I share the short version of this technique below. You can read about it in more detail here.

  • R – Recognize what’s going on. Take a moment to notice what is happening – how you are feeling, what thoughts you are experiencing, what the challenge is.

  • A – Allow the experience to be just as it is. Instead of trying to solve it, ignore it, or push it away, see if you can give yourself permission to just allow it to be what it is for a moment.

  • I – Investigate with kindness. Take some time to be curious about your experience – your beliefs about what’s happening, your inner experience, noticing what is calling your attention the most, etc.

  • N – Nurture with Loving Awareness. This is where you respond with loving kindness. You offer yourself self-compassion. You are aware of your experience lovingly. 

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Here is an example of a time you could use the RAIN technique:

You are feeling really anxious and overwhelmed. 

R I’m feeling anxious. I don’t want to go to school. I just want to lie in bed.

A I’m anxious and that is ok. I can allow it to be what it is right now. It’s not right or wrong- there is nothing wrong or broken about me. 

I My heart is beating fast. My throat is tight. I think there’s something wrong with me a lot. I’m telling myself it’s ok and it will pass. 

N Others feel this way sometimes. I’m noticing my anxiety and I’m ok – I am going to be ok. I can try putting my hand on my heart for a second and breathe.

If you’d like hands on support to implement presence in your life and decrease the feelings of teen disconnection, check out The Happiness Pill program – my signature coaching program for teens like you!

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You can learn about the science behind mindfulness and get even more tools with my article Mindfulness for Teens: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly!

Here’s to practicing some of these and discovering your incredible resilience and enjoying the good moments so much more. 

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.

Mindfulness for Teens: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly!

Mindfulness for Teens

She glided on the ice, one blade slicing down and then the other. The cold air brushing against her face as she picks up speed, her body swaying from side to side in a balanced motion. It feels effortless, the puck like a magnet drawn to her stick and she pushes and pulls it back and forth heading towards the net. Perfectly lined up, she leans in for the shot – this the only thing in sight, the only thing in her mind. 

Have you ever been in the moment of something you enjoyed so much – something that you were passionate about? 

There’s nothing quite like it – there’s no thinking about the things you said or did that day. There’s no getting lost in a daydream (or nightmare) about future scenarios. It is quite simply being and experiencing that very moment. 

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These moments, they come and go and sometimes can feel few and far between. Instead your life is filled with rumination of past scenarios, playing them back in your head over and over again with the ‘shoulds’ and ‘coulds’ of how it might have played out instead. Or perhaps you spend most of your time worrying and wondering about things that haven’t even happened yet, self-doubt enters here in the ‘what ifs’ of another time in the future, even 20 minutes from now. 

Being present can be this elusive, sneaky thing that you seldom experience. When you do, you know it, you might even love it. So let’s look into how the brain becomes present, why it does this, and how it can help you overcome anxiety and depression. 

Mindfulness for Teens: What’s Going on in the Brain

Let’s take a moment to talk about brain science. The brain has 4 different attentional networks, it is pretty amazing. I’m going to focus on one in this article, but if you want to learn more about this – you can always check out this article and this video.

The attentional network that I want to share about is called the Default Mode Network (DMN). It is activated when your brain is thinking about past and future things. It is the part of the brain that is activated in daydreaming and imagining what someone else is experiencing, which can be linked to creativity and empathy. It is also activated when you get caught in thought loops and rumination, which is often linked to anxiety and depression. So really, it is not good nor bad. But we are discovering that when our DMN is overly active it is harder to stay present to what is happening now in your world making it harder to stay on task, set goals and get stuff done. An overly active DMN is also linked to anxiety, depression and other mood related disorders.

So the DMN is a great network to have in the brain because without it, we wouldn’t have a lot of new ideas or feel a lot of empathy for others. 

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The more you activate your other attentional networks, which help you pay attention to your experience going on around you, the more you have a real time evaluation of what you are experiencing in your body and mind which helps you to become a stealthy responder.  

Being Mindful for Teens

Remember that the DMN leads to thought loops and rumination- getting caught in thoughts that don’t always serve you the best. Here are some more common ones: 

  • I don’t deserve to be happy

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  • I always mess it up
  • I’m not good enough
  • People end up leaving me
  • People can’t be trusted
  • I’m a bad person
  • I am damaged- there is something wrong with me
  • I don’t belong
  • I am a failure
  • The world is unsafe
  • It’s not ok to feel my feelings
  • I have to be perfect

 There are many more – and as you might notice, they all have something in common. They make you feel pretty crummy if you believe them to be true. When you switch to being present to what’s going on around you, you shut the DMN off for some time and give yourself a different perspective- a different experience. You become aware and present. 

You can notice your inner world experience which includes, your bodily awareness (sensations in the body), your feelings, your thoughts, AND you become aware of your external world – what is surrounding you and how you experience it with your senses (what you see, hear, feel, taste, touch, and smell).  

Henrik Edberg writes about 7 awesome reasons to be present here. In his article he talks about how being present helps improve social skills, creativity, and reduces anxiety. If these don’t sound like pretty good reasons to bring more presence into your life, how about increasing your happiness and reducing stress?

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Mindfulness for Teens – Not all Butterflies and Unicorns

I think it’s important to write about the fact that being more present in your life isn’t a guaranteed happiness fix. Just because you are present to what you’re experiencing doesn’t mean you no longer feel sad, angry, or bored. What Willa Blythe Baker shares in the 10% happier podcast is that being present can change your relationship with your feelings, in particular the ones that you tend to find difficult to experience. 

Ok, so imagine you are scared of spiders (I don’t really have to imagine this one). Anytime you think of a spider or if a spider is near you, you get this pretty intense reaction. For me, it’s like a constant shiver down my spine and I feel super jittery and nervous. I want the spider gone- out of sight. Sometimes, we have the same opinion about some of our feelings- we just want them to go away and never come back. The thing that presence can teach you, is that feelings (ALL feelings) are a part of being human and they aren’t really like villain vs. hero feelings- they are inner experiences giving us information. Kind of like data being fed to a computer to respond. 

So, in becoming more present- instead of anger being an intense hurricane of fiery eyed rage, it may be more of a discomfort letting you know you are not ok with something that just happened, calling you to notice and respond. Instead of sadness taking you into the black hole of despair and hopelessness, it may be more of a suffering letting you know you need more connection.  

Being present may mean sometimes you start to focus on your experience, and what is there is not warm and fuzzy. It can be helpful to keep in mind that everything we experience is temporary so even if what you notice is uncomfortable or challenges you, know that it will not be there forever.

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Mindfulness for Teens – 10 Practical Ways to Apply it in Your Life

Are you ready to shrink anxiety and depression from your life? Here are ten ways you can start being more present- Start by picking 1 and try it out everyday for a week. Notice what it’s like for you – how easy-medium-hard it is – what you like or dislike and anything else you become aware of. 

  1. Tune into your senses – Your senses are what you see, feel, hear, smell, and taste. Take a moment to check-in with your senses. You can try noticing 3 things you see, 3 things you hear, and 3 things feel. Or you can 54321- 5 things you see, 4 things you feel, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you can taste right now. 

  2. Observe your thoughts – Like watching your thoughts float past you on clouds or on leaves in a river, allow yourself to be curious as you watch them come up and float away. Try doing this for 1 minute. If your mind wanders away with your thoughts (which it usually does)- as soon as you notice, gently remind yourself to get back to watching them float by.
  3. Notice your breathing – Without changing the rhythm of your breathing, see if you can bring your attention to your breath in and your breath out. You can try Imagining that your breath is coming in and out from your heart centre and repeat for 9 breaths. You can also try placing a hand on your chest and one on your stomach and just notice as you breathe, the natural movement of your chest and stomach. Try this one for 1 minute.

  4. Try Meditation Meditation can be a great way to become aware of your present moment. There are many guided meditation options available. You can try getting started with Insight Timer or Headspace or even find your own. If you have never meditated before, I recommend starting with something nice and short.

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  5. Make art – Making, building, baking, creating- brings you into the present moment. Pick up your art supplies and go to town.

  6. Check out where you areLiterally ask yourself where parts of your body are as a way of getting oriented to where you are in the space. You might be surprised that where you locate yourself is not quite how you imagined. “Where is my left big toe?” and as you do that your attention and awareness will find its way to your left big toe. “Where is my left elbow?” and see if you can allow your awareness to go there. Try finding where your- right index finger, your left calf muscle, your right ear, your left thumb, your right eye and your left eye are.

  7. Have a conversation with someone with no distractions – this is an invitation to put down your phone and all other things that may distract you and to have a conversation with someone. You may try listening without planning your response, knowing that you don’t need to know the right reply, maybe even let go of the idea that there is such a thing as a right reply.
     
  8. Do something with intention – Choose an activity that you can do for 10 minutes or so. As you begin, see if you can be intentional and thoughtful through the process. If you choose to colour for example, think about where you’d like to colour, what surface would be best, what image you would like to colour, what type of colouring tools you will use. As you sit and begin, see if you can remain thoughtful by being aware of the pressure you are applying to the paper, what the crayon feels like, what the colours look like on the paper, etc
  9. Try GLADName 1 thing you are grateful for today, 1 thing you learned today, 1 thing you accomplished today, and 1 thing that delighted you today.

  10. Celebrate the small delights – Maybe your hair is falling just right or you got to have a hot chocolate today or your friend messaged you something that made you laugh. This is about noticing and celebrating those delightful little moments throughout the day that can so quickly go unseen when we aren’t paying attention.

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Bringing mindfulness and presence into your life as a teen will set you up for happiness long term. This is one of the many skills we build on the roadmap to what YOU consider your best life. You and your parents can begin navigating your journey through mindfulness, on your way to happiness for life, with my signature coaching program: The Happiness Pill Program.

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.

Supporting Your Teen with Anxiety: Parenting with Presence

Is parenting with presence something you intentionally think about?

As we drove back home from hockey, me thinking of all the things I had to do when I got home and running through my next day’s schedule, I glanced over and looked at my teen as he scrolled his phone. It hit me how unavailable I was at times, totally caught up in my own world. The more I thought about it, I realized I want him to know that I’m here and present for him – not just for the good mom points (joking!..kind of), but for him to know that he matters and to set the stage for future generations – so that he also will treat others like they matter.

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There’s a lot to tend to as a parent. You’re probably managing multiple schedule –  your personal one, your family’s, your work, other commitments with friends and community, etc. There’s a lot going on and it can seem daunting to think of being fully present with your teen in the midst of all of this.

However, knowing how to activate presence in your parenting will help your teen (and you) build their confidence and resilience to handle the ups and down of life. Change can be difficult and kind of scary, so I’ve picked some of my favourite ideas to get you started. 

First off, what is parenting with presence?

Parenting with presence is about connecting to the human experience of parenting. It’s imperfect, has moments of awe and amazement, can be raw and emotional at times, and it’s all around transformational experience. 

 

What parenting with presence is NOT

  • Getting it right all the time
  • Being perfect
  • Dropping everything for your teen
  • Never getting upset or your feathers ruffled
  • Your teen always being happy

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Parenting with presence is MORE LIKE: 

  •  Being aware of your own inner experience (feelings, thoughts, etc.)
  • Responding instead of Reacting more and more
  • Accessing your calmness as a superpower
  • Raising confident, caring, resilient adults
  • Consciously letting go of old patterns that are not working
  • Showing yourself and your teen some compassion

photo by Canva

 

Think about your big toe – or if not, your left pinkie finger. See if you can pay attention to it for a few moments. Notice it’s presence with curiosity, what it feels like, the weight of it, any sensations. You can even move it around a bit and see what that’s like.

Photo by Readers Digest

Ok, silly experiment over!

Were you able to bring your attention to your big toe or your pinkie for a few moments? The rest of your body was still there, but you were able to bring your awareness to that one body part and notice it specifically. When you choose to be present to something, someone, your own inner experience, it puts you in the driver’s seat and allows for an awareness of things that are often overlooked or on autopilot. Being in the driver’s seat is a place where you can make choices, you can respond, and you can step on the brakes or foot on the gas consciously.

Parenting with presence is kind of like that! Everything else is still there, but you’re in the driver’s seat consciously stepping on the gas – or the brakes – when it comes to your teen.  

Susan Stiffelman, author of  “‘Parenting with Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids, does a real deep dive into what this concept means. You can check out her conversation with Jason Gardner here.

How can parenting with presence help my teen become more resilient or reduce their anxiety?

When you go into a conversation with your teen gun blazing with frustration or annoyance what happens? (Even if yes, you have had to remind them 5 times to take the laundry down)!

More than likely they respond back with pushback, shutdown, or in-your-face anger. Your teen is so importantly testing boundaries and asserting their independence and this often shows up in parent-teen interactions.

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And trust me, I know and appreciate how difficult it can be to keep your cool – through and through! In fact it’s pretty unrealistic to imagine you would show up that way every time. So, I invite you to take a breath with me, and give yourself kudos for showing up today and reading this. 

Parenting with presence invites you to focus on being aware of your emotional reactions to things and consciously responding to it.

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It also increases something called co-regulation. Co-regulation is when your nerves are in a calm state as an adult, it helps to regulate your child’s nervous system. This happens heavily when your teen is younger – if you are calm, it helps to calm your child, if you are losing it, so are they. As your teen gets older they co-regulate more with their peers however, they are still impacted by your emotional responses. 

This is one of the most crucial (and most challenging) benefits of parenting with presence. It is about checking inwards on how you are feeling, what you are thinking (assuming, believing, etc.), and taking a pause to respond instead of react.

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Here are few things that you can do to respond instead of react to your emotions:

 

  • Step away/take a time out for yourself to calm down
  • Say how you are feeling, “I’m getting really heated here”
  • Take a few slow breaths 
  • Pick a time and location that feels neutral to have more serious conversations with your teen
  • Label your emotions (you can try using the feeling wheel below)Parenting Teens
  • Take care of your physical self (exercise, down time, sleep, nutrition)
  • Increase your positive emotions by thinking about and remembering something that makes you feel love/connected/awe/happiness etc.
  • Increase your positive emotions towards your teen by thinking of a time they did something that warms your heart
  • Express your thoughts and feelings by talking to a trusted friend or going to therapy
  • Create a meditation and/or mindfulness practice for yourself

The more you self-regulate, the more your teen benefits from it through your modelling, their natural co-regulation, and by creating more interactions that are calm and connected. 

Self-regulating your emotions also helps you to come to your teen with a clearer head. When you feel angry, anxious, or frustrated for instance, it’s harder to focus, think clearly, and think flexibly – your brain is quick to get on the defensive!

When you are able to feel more neutral it opens up space to really hear what’s going on for your teen. If they can tell you about their rough day at school or that test they’re really proud of, you build up their sense of “I matter and what I have to say matters”, as well as fostering a strong bond between you. 

Parenting with presence helps your teen learn how to take those emotional pauses. When you try (as much as possible) to respond instead of react to your emotions –  leading to more open- flowing conversations – you also encourage reflection and perspective taking for teens. If they can talk through the latest blow out with their friend or share with you the reasons they think they should be able to go to a party on Saturday night, you are really helping them hone in on some essential skills needed for adulthood.

It is a real investment in raising a cool adult who can handle their own inner experience while navigating different life experiences. 

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Parenting with Presence. How do I do it??

Here are a few ideas that let you know you are parenting with presence:

 

  1. You are trying your best to check in on your inner experience. You are practicing being aware of how you are feeling, what you are thinking, and you are actively managing your emotions. You are human- and teens are masters of pushing buttons, so sometimes your emotions manage you. Keep practicing and it will pay dividends.
  2. You are facing your FEARS. As a parent, it is so easy to go down the tunnel of worst case scenarios when it comes to your teen…. They will end up hurt, doing something terrible, or even worse yet.

    It is natural for you, as a parent, to want to do everything in your power to protect your offspring. Inevitably though, there is a process of letting go that needs to happen in order to allow your teen to step into their ability to handle various situations and make their own decisions.

    Parenting with presence asks of you to acknowledge those fears, those worst case scenarios, and to lovingly put them aside in favour of teaching your children values while allowing them to make mistakes, fail, and learn from their choices.

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  3. You keep in mind that you are raising adults. Your teen eventually is headed that way and these are foundational years that invite them to try adult roles in different areas of their life. As you keep the big picture in mind as much as possible, you are reminded that the end goal is to raise a capable, caring, compassionate adult who can live out their own experiences.
  4. You practice the good enough motto. You take the time to give yourself a pat on the back because you deserve that and you strive to do your best, knowing that parents are human and fallible meaning you also will sometimes fail and make mistakes, and that is ok.
  5. You are set on the gps on personal growth. Being a parent is a transformational journey. It tries and stretches you in unexpected ways. It can be a calling to learn more about yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, your hopes and dreams. It’s an ongoing process and there are different legs of the journey.
  6. Take a moment to imagine what you want to get out of this journey – what matters most to you – what expectations/beliefs/values you hold most dear. You don’t need to figure it all out right now – remember it’s a journey.

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Susan Stifelman shares five more tips for you HERE as well as some more information in a video interview HERE.

For more tips & tools on parenting a teen with anxiety, you can download your (free) Anxiety Toolkit for Parents Raising Teens below. You will receive a PDF with tools you can implement immediately, along with 7 mini webinars from the psychologists here at Pyramid Psychology (including myself).

Tool Kit

 


Teen Anxiety

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.

5 Ways Parents Can Cultivate Teen Happiness

I was listening to Dan Harris’ ‘Ten Percent Happier’ Podcast the other day, where he was talking with his guest Dachner Keltner  on fostering more happiness. I instantly got thinking about how the ideas that he shared, if applied to parenthood, could make a real difference in bringing more happiness into teens’ lives!

Teen Happiness – Remembering the “Awe Factor”

Picture walking on a grassy ridge that overlooks a large valley. The sun is breaking free from the few puffy white clouds in the sky, illuminating the valley below. The green peaks and valleys go as far as your eye can see. If you imagined this and felt a vast amazement kinda feeling, this is awe.

What do you notice when you think of feeling awe?

For me, I feel an expansiveness in my heart centre; a sensation of openness. My body feels good vibes, you know the warm, fuzzy, tingly kind. I get these feelings when I see my kids doing something they truly enjoy, watching a spectacular sunset, seeing the mountains in the horizon, to name a few. I’m so grateful for the feeling of awe- what brings you awe? 

When your teen does something that frustrates you (and they will!), or when they push back (they will do this too!) it is easy to jump into reactivity, or feel like you want to lay the hammer down. Often, this ends up in a head to head conflict and doesn’t solve the situation.

At one point, though, you probably felt awe in the presence of your daughter- perhaps she was itty bitty and gave you her first smile or when she took her first steps- read her first word. It might have been recently, responding to a situation in a way you admired –  an act of kindness, standing up for someone, etc.

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When you’re frustrated with your teen, try to think of them in those moments – the way you felt; the thoughts and sensations you experienced while in awe. Use these sensations as an anchor to hold onto when you feel frustrated, discouraged, or disappointed in her behaviour. Try it and see what happens! 

It’s harder to be reactive when you’re feeling lovey….and more lovey feelings translates to more Happiness. 

Teen Happiness – Play and Laughter

In Dan’s Podcast episode, he shared the importance of creating joy, play, and laughter in our lives. There are various elements that affect the way humour/play is perceived – cultural factors, gender nuances, past experiences, etc.

In the context of your relationship  with your teen, think about how you bring play and humour into the relationship. Do you read the room and drop in a playful tone, some lighthearted teasing, or joking and laughter? 

There’s a time to be serious no doubt, but consider how your tone influences the conversations with your teen. You can show lightheartedness through your actions and your words.

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It’s also a respectful approach to check-in with how your teen is perceiving the joking and playfulness that you bring into the relationship. 

A friend of mine gave my son an endearing nickname only a few days after he was born, and it stuck ever since! I recently became aware that when I use the nickname in front of his friends, they playfully poke fun at him about it. When I recognized this, I later asked my son how he felt about the nickname – and if he wanted some boundaries around when and where it was used?

It turns out, my son was totally fine with the nickname and I had nothing to worry about! However, asking your teen can increase their sense of connection to you while elevating their voice.

Bring lightheartedness and play into the conversation with your teen whenever you can, in a way that you both feel comfortable.

 

Teen Happiness – Gratitude

I talk a lot about gratitude –  appreciation and gratefulness of things, qualities, aspects, etc. Gratitude, from my perspective, can be a really great parenting tool to increase your teen’s happiness.

Acknowledge the things you are grateful for as a parent – recognize when your teen does something kind and share the special things you see in them. Notice when they’ve made an effort to do well, or try something new, etc. It doesn’t have to be a big deal! When there is a quiet moment just the two of you, point out a thing or two you’ve noticed recently.

You can also build in a more formal practice with your family, perhaps checking in around the dinner table each night (or any night you manage to gather around). There’s an acronym exercise called GLAD- where each family member takes a moment to name something for each of these letters:

Gratitude – acknowledge something you are grateful for and appreciate.

Learned – share one thing you learned today.

Accomplished – recognize one thing you accomplished during the day.

Delighted – name one thing that lit you up today.

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Creating this practice (or any that you find helpful) with your teen can create a positive mindshift and highlight things that bring happiness into your space. You can get some other ideas for family gratitude practices HERE.

Modelling gratitude and appreciation is a way for your teen to naturally build it into their own life. It probably drives my kids crazy (even though they don’t say it!), but I will often point out my gratitude for the majestic mountains on our drive into school. Or I’ll point out the beautiful sunrise, and notice the different shades of light and clouds. Sharing these moments of appreciation can help your teen appreciate things around them, too.

My colleague Jessa Tiemstra, wrote a really great article on gratitude last week, including the science behind why it improves happiness. Jessa also shares 10 ways you can increase gratitude in your teen’s life; exercises they –

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or you – can do on your own (instead of as a family). Read the article HERE.

Teen Happiness – Respectful Communication

There are various styles of parenting, all of which involve different ways of communicating with your teen. If you aren’t sure of your style, you can read about the four different ones in my blog article ‘Parenting Styles 101: Bridging the Gap of Communication With Your Teen’. The authoritative style of parenting – where you set the expectations for your family with room for collaboration, is a form of respectful communication that I really see fostering positive outcomes for  teens.

Communicating with your teen respectfully, in a way that allows them to share their thoughts, feelings, and opinions, elevates their voice and their confidence. There is a give and take in your relationship and this fosters autonomy, individuation, and the belief that they are capable.  Not only are these important developmental pieces for teens, but it increases their overall satisfaction in their lives, and therefore happiness.

When you’re speaking with your teen, it can be helpful to focus on the way you are communicating more so than the content. How you say something – the tone you use, the way you say things, your body language, the head space in which you do it etc., makes a deeper impact, sometimes even more than what is being said.

Here are three tips for conversing with your teen in a way that will increase happiness for the both of you:

  • If you’re feeling really emotionally fired up – which trust me, I understand! – give yourself some space. It’s okay to cool down and come back to a conversation another time.

  • Try to use “I” language as much as possible. “I” language expresses your experience as opposed to “YOU” language which can feel blaming, that they made you feel a certain way (and oh I know it can seem that this is very much the case sometimes- but the reality is our thoughts cause our emotions not others), or putting the other person quickly on defense mode

    So instead of saying, “you are making me so frustrated” you can try, “I am feeling frustrated with…”
  • Active listening – share back what your teen is saying with them. Check for accuracy… “It sounds like you’re feeling upset about how unfair this rule seems” or, “You seem sad about this decision”.

    Reflecting back to your teen isn’t about changing anyone’s opinion or perspective, but rather allowing your teen to feel heard and correct us if we’re not understanding it the way they intended.

And, yes this is a two-way street. The more you model respectful communication with your teen, the more you build the foundation for them to pick up those ways of communicating. 

Teen Happiness – Physical Touch

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Physical touch is one of the oldest modes of communication known to humans. In ways of increasing happiness, touch can represent celebration, encouragement, fun, and pleasure. 

While listening to Dan’s Podcast episode, I was fascinated by some of the research his guest had done on touch in high school basketball teams. The study looked at how much touch was happening – chest bumps, pats on the back, high fives, etc. The results of the study showed that the teams who had higher touch points in this kind of way did better overall.

Interesting, right? 

Adding touch and physical contact when you are interacting with your teen increases your social connection with them, and their level of happiness as a result. A teen I was working with recently described how great a head massage feels. Or, it can be as simple as sitting close together, high fives, or hugs! 

When you’re doing this, it’s important to consider welcome vs. unwelcome touch, as well as your teen’s personality – are they someone who generally enjoys touch? Are they comfortable with the physical contact you are making? Check in with them – make sure it’s okay to sit next to them, or offer a hug, etc. When the situation is feeling strained, your teen’s boundaries around touch may be different than when you are having a more connected interaction.

To recap how you as a parent can increase teen happiness you can focus on-

  1. Touch
  2. Respectful communication
  3. Gratitude
  4. Play
  5. The ‘awe factor’ 

You can make small, impactful changes in each area that will increase your teen’s happiness overall.

I recommend picking one or two areas to work on. Become aware of how things are in this area for you and your teen right now. Notice small differences in how your teen responds to you as you become intentional about your actions.

Happiness seems more complex today  than it was when I was growing up. Your teen has a lot more on their plate than we ever did – navigating the current world, the overload of stimuli and information online, the various stressors, the pandemic! There is so much going on, that it is normal for families to struggle with their teen’s happiness.

Tackling the elements above is not a “try it once and your teen is happy” fix, the same as prescribing a depression pill isn’t an immediate fix for your teen’s problems – despite the fact that many of the teens I work with mention that a pill would “fix” everything. Increasing your teen’s happiness involves giving yourself grace, and continuous growth for both parties. The Happiness Pill Program is a 6 month coaching program for you and your teen daughter specifically designed to collaborate with you and other parents, as you navigate through which tools will work best for your teen. Your daughter will create a map of the life that she wants to live, and will work to design that life alongside other teens – she’ll know she isn’t alone with her struggles. You will both have a working frame to build on for happiness, so your daughter can intrinsically create it for herself. 

When you’re ready to create a concrete plan for your daughter’s wellbeing, and want the support to follow that plan, you can book a free 20-minute call with me to discuss your options, including The Happiness Pill Program.


Chantal Côté

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

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.

Pyramid Psychology

Teen Happiness: The Science Behind Gratitude

Teen Happiness: The Science Behind Gratitude…. And Ways to Cultivate It! Gratitude is a term that has increased in popularity in recent years. Most of us have heard that gratitude is good, that we should practice it, and cultivate it … but what exactly is gratitude? How does teen gratitude relate to their happiness?

 

 

Teen Happiness: The Science Behind Gratitude

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Gratitude is the quality of being thankful, or a frame of mind that encourages us to pause, acknowledge, and reflect on the good things in life. Many of these good things can easily be taken for granted, whether that be other people, the ability to move and breathe, experiencing the five senses, or even having new opportunities and challenges in the future. Teen gratitude puts the brakes on autopilot mode and invites us to be present and appreciative.

With the growing interest in gratitude, researchers have delved into what the actual benefits of gratitude are. The benefits can be broken down into three categories: psychological, physical health, and relational.

Teen Happiness: The Science Behind Gratitude

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Teen Gratitude – Psychological Benefits

Research consistently shows that individuals with higher levels of gratitude are happier, have higher self-esteem and improved overall well-being. They tend to have greater optimism and hope for the future.

Gratitude also serves as a buffer for negative psychological experiences, as those high in gratitude are also less likely to struggle with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

Teen Gratitude – Physical Health Benefits

Peaceful and happy teen

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In terms of physical health benefits, people who practise gratitude tend to have lower blood pressure and are at a lower risk for burn-out. Improved sleep is an additional benefit correlated with gratitude.

Gratitude also changes the brain itself, with new neural networks developing and strengthening the more that gratitude is practised. The neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, typically associated with “feeling good”, are also released when gratitude is practised.

Teen Gratitude – Relational Benefits

The benefits of gratitude can extend beyond the grateful person and into their relationships. Expressing gratitude to others strengthens relationships and builds trust and connection. Even if gratitude is not verbally expressed, being grateful tends to increase social support and reduce feelings of loneliness.

The science is clear that there is a range of psychological, physical, and relational health benefits to gratitude, and the research is only growing. While there are numerous ways to cultivate gratitude, finding a way that works for you, your teen daughter, or your family is best.

Happy mother and Teen daughter

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Check out this PDF for ideas on how to boost your gratitude:

To begin creating gratitude in your teen daughter’s life today, download this free PDF: 10 Ways to Boost Gratitude (for Teens)

✅ Download ‘10 Ways to Boost Gratitude for Teens’ Here

 

I hope these ideas give you a place to start cultivating your own gratitude for you and your teen daughter! Don’t forget to check out The Happiness Pill Program – it’s designed to support you AND your teen daughter through the journey of happiness – giving you the tools to help your daughter find her joy, and your daughter the confidence to step out of anxiety and depression into happiness.

You can also download your FREE Anxiety & Depression Toolkit for Parents along with our mini webinars, all free and delivered straight to your inbox! Download your copy here: 

✅ Download Free Anxiety & Depression Toolkit Here

Email us with any questions, any time: info@pyramidpsychology.com

Love,

Jessa

 


Jessa

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.

Teen Happiness Helping Your Daughter Find Her Spark

Teen Happiness: Helping Your Daughter Find Her Spark

 

“Teen Happiness Helping Your Daughter Find Her Spark.” At the end of the day, you want your teen daughter to experience happiness in her life. Finding her spark is a way for her to create happiness. Her spark is what lights her up!

As a parent, there are ways you can encourage your daughter to discover her spark and increase its presence in her life.

First, let’s define what a spark is.

Teen Happiness – What Is a Spark?  

I’ve come across this concept over the last few years. Finding your spark is about discovering what speaks to you, what really matters to you. Your teen is her own, unique being – there will be things that she is passionate about, that will be different from what others care about. You might notice they are in direct contrast to yours- ever tried talking politics or social issues with a lit up 15 year old?!

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Picture your daughter’s spark as different strands of a rope – they are whole when they are intertwined together. One strand of your teen’s happiness spark is tangible, specific things – art, sports, favourite activities, physical objects, etc. Another strand includes qualities and values. Perhaps being kind to others is really important to your teen’s happiness, taking care of animals, or standing up for vulnerable populations. Many of the teens I work with are keenly aware and taking small and large actions to rally around LGBQT+ communities, our homeless populations, and others who don’t have access to basic resources.  

The third strand includes what your teen daughter strongly believes in. This can words to live by, important lyrics, quotes or mottos that move her. 

There are all sorts of components that are part of finding your daughter’s spark and increasing her level of happiness – being playful, or finding joy in making others smile, can be part of it too!

For me, creativity is an important part of my spark. Being a self-identified high achiever, I always want to be getting so much done; I get caught up in the daily grind to accomplish things. Even though I do find joy in these things – having my own business, doing well in my sports, etc. – not setting aside time for creativity is a disservice to myself. I feed my spark when I set aside time to get creative through art and writing, or when I dance and sing. I feel a great connection to my body and myself when I feed my spark. There is a hollowness when I’ve gone too long without getting creative.

When your daughter is living in alignment with her spark and behaving in ways that  are  connected to what’s important to her, that is when she is living her best life. Being in alignment with her spark will create more joy, passion, peace, and motivation in her life.

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Hannah Alper shares a wonderful perspective in her TedTalk on How to Find Your Spark.

Teen Happiness – Encouraging Your Teen to Find Their Spark

I have compiled a list of ways you can encourage your daughter to find her spark – I challenge you to take a look at the list for yourself, too!

  • Encourage her to try new things – Your teen daughter can get a feel for what she likes and doesn’t like by trying new things – school club, sports, animals, art, volunteering, etc. She can use the ‘rule in, rule out’ method – rule in what she does like, and rule out the things she doesn’t!

    If your teen has a tendency to feel anxious, there may be a hesitancy to try new things. However, it’s still important to encourage your teen to try. You can encourage trying something new in smaller steps – a one time thing before committing to it long-term, or giving it a try with a friend, etc.

    Photo by Canva

     

     

  • Connect with your parent peers –  This is for you. Be curious when you have the opportunity to chat with or meet other parents. Check in with what they are doing and trying with their teen daughters. What interesting things have they come across? What are they trying with their teens? This can give you connections and ideas for your own family.

Routines and rituals as a family – There are two types of routines, or rituals, you can create in your family that can help your teen daughter find her spark: routines that shed light on their uniqueness, and rituals that highlight gratitude and appreciation.

These routines can be very small, even something like changing how you ask about their day. Oftentimes we ask the regular questions – how was your day? What did you do? How was school? … Try asking a different question! It can be an opportunity to highlight something unique. A question I recently heard that you can ask instead: “how was it like to be in the lunchroom today?” This small shift can surprise them! Use routines like this to highlight what is unique about your teen’s responses, to hear more about what interests them, and highlight the qualities they possess.

Highlighting gratitude – the second type of ritual you can create in your family –  puts into focus what your teen cares about (their spark). If your teen often says they appreciate their friends, family, etc., (for example), then connection and relationships could be part of their spark.

Photo by Canva

 

A gratitude circle at dinner time, where each family member shares something they are grateful for is one great ritual to try this with. You want to create a way for your teen daughter to appreciate something about themselves that they love, or have family members highlight something about everyone. The key is to be intentional about highlighting gratitude and noticing the things your daughter is grateful for (these are likely strands to her spark).

Ask about and encourage interests + passions – Ask your teen daughter what interests her and be curious to hear what she has to say. Encourage her to become more involved in the hobby’s, causes, activities, etc. that she gravitates towards.

Photo by Canva

If your teen daughter is passionate about doing her makeup, be curious about that! Ask her why she enjoys it. What techniques is she learning? Be interested in who she idolizes in the makeup industry.

It doesn’t have to be makeup – your daughter could be into sports, politics, etc. Anything, really! All you have to do, is listen to what she’s talking about a lot, and get curious about it.

I was out and about with my teen son the other day, a cold day, and there was someone outside asking for some money. When I pulled some change out of my wallet, I dropped back some and only gave this person some of what I had. My son asked why I didn’t give all of it to the person, and I explained that I may see others who need money throughout the week, so I give a little to each.

A little while later, my son said ‘we need to do better’. When I asked him what he meant, he said giving homeless people little bits of money here and there isn’t solving the problem of homelessness… My son sharing this with me tells me this is something that speaks to him,  so I continued the conversation with him.

Your teen daughter may or may not have the solutions for what gives her a spark. But if she cares about it, that’s half the battle of happiness! So encourage her to talk about it! Express interest in the things she’s passionate about.

Photo by Canva

 

  • Find a camp or program –  Camps and similar programs are underrated. A parent and I were reminiscing about the camps they attended as a teen themselves – they dragged their feet, not wanting to go… But it always ended up being a great time, and created good memories.

    Camps are fun, playful, inviting, and explorative. They can really help your teen daughter find her gifts, strengths and joys. I’ve even worked with a lot of teens who have gone to camps and have wanted to become facilitators or leaders and support other teens going through it.

Pick one or two of these things, and give it a try! Encouraging your daughter to find her spark will go a long way with her happiness.

Spark Tools with The Happiness Pill Program

 

If your teen daughter is living her life with the above symptoms – feeling hopeless, struggling with her diet, difficulties coping or sleeping, experiencing a lack of motivation, etc. – it isn’t easy (for her, or the rest of your family). This is a heavy way to live some of the best years of her life!

The Happiness Pill Program is designed to give you and your daughter long-term tools and skills to find and keep her spark, while holding anxiety and depression at bay.

When you book a free consultation with me today, you will immediately feel relief. A weight will lift off your shoulders; you don’t have to walk this path alone!

If you don’t get the extra support right away, it’s another day – week, month – of struggling blindly through this with your teen daughter.

You don’t want to keep struggling. Neither does she.

Happiness Pill

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.

Pyramid Psychology Article

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness – for Teen Girls (and Parents too!) You know that feeling you get when you’re having a great time with your best friend or you’re doing something you love so much… that feeling of happiness? Well, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness when it comes to my own life and the world of the teen girls I work with. 

Oftentimes, they tell me how little they experience joy, motivation, excitement, contentment, peace, and happiness. Their lives are filled with stress, anxiety, pressure, sadness, and sometimes feeling nothing. The thought-feeling loops continue to feed each other, whether it’s sadness, anxiety or whatever they are experiencing. And it’s hard to break out of those cycles once they get started. As a parent looking from the outside-in, you might feel the urge to scoop them up in a great big hug and tell them it’s all going to be ok or shake them (gently) and say please snap out of it!

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Photo by Szilvia Basso on Unsplash. 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

I’ve decided this month to do some digging into this thing called happiness. I’m just chipping away at the tip of the iceberg and learning there is so much to this concept- What is happiness? Why do humans seek it? How much influence do we have over our own happiness? 

I’ll be going down the rabbit hole a few times this month, I’m sure. I’ve started my journey of rediscovering happiness by reading “The Happiness Project by Gretchin Rubin” and I’m taking the Science of Happiness course by Berkeley University of California. 

Research suggests that a person’s happiness is made up of things like their genes and circumstances, but up to 40% is determined by a person’s daily actions! So, in fact, your daughter (and you) have a lot of sway when it comes to your levels of happiness. I want to backtrack a minute because the definition of happiness and the interpretation of what that means can be so different for people- so for the purposes of this article, when I’m saying happiness, I’m thinking about her subjective interpretation of well-being (how good am I feeling right now and overall, how satisfied am I with my life).

Whether you’re a parent of a teen girl or you’re a teen, let’s get into some practical ways you can start bringing more happiness into your life:    

What makes me feel happiness? 

You are uniquely you. From your personality to your interests and strengths, you have your own unique profile. In order to bring more happiness into your life, a good place to start is to know what makes you happy. It will most likely change over time, you’ll add new things to your list and drop others. If you stop and think to answer that question, what comes to mind?

I asked myself and a few others in my life and these are just some of the ideas that came up – 

  • Hearing people laugh
  • Being near water
  • Learning new things
  • 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

    Photo by Liz Sanchez on Unsplash. 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

    Completing a goal or task

  • My daughter, best friend, partner, mom, dad, etc. 
  • My dog, cats, hamster, etc.
  • Gatherings with the people I love
  • Loud family dinners
  • Hiking
  • Reading 
  • Heavy blankets
  • Being in nature/outdoors
  • Watching my kid do their thing
  • Giving gifts to others
  • Good morning texts
  • Playing hockey
  • Smell of freshly fallen leaves
  • Receiving small gifts
  • A massage
  • Travelling with my sister
  • Listening to music
  • The sound of the ocean
  • Singing birds
  • Quality time with loved ones
  • Yoga
  • Cup of tea
  • Funny movies
  • An afternoon nap
  • Dancing

What’s on your list?

 

Happiness – See it, Feel it, Hear it, Taste it, Smell it

I’m a food person- like I can truly appreciate the most delectable meal and feel like I am in tastebud heaven. My mom makes the most amazing manicotti. Just writing about it reminds me of the  warm savoury tomato-cheese smell, the flavour explosion when I take a bite and the popping colour contrasts of the spinach, tomatoes, and pasta. In that moment and even now thinking about it, it puts a smile on my face.

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Photo by Florendia Vaidana on Unsplash. 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Some say happiness is found in the pleasures we experience in life. Whether it’s what you’re seeing, hearing, feeling, etc., paying attention to your world through your senses can turn the decibels up on your happiness. 

You can try this a couple of ways. First, try thinking of something you already know makes you happy. It might be something from the list you created above. Let’s say you pick being with your best friend. Try thinking of that person and the thing you might be doing together and imagine what you see in front of you. Imagine your best friend’s characteristics, what they are wearing, the space you are hanging out in, the colours and objects surrounding you. 

Ok now try imagining what you would hear, your best friend’s voice, their laughter, music or noise playing in the background, a familiar buzz of the place you’re hanging out in, etc. Do this with all of your senses and really experience that thing that makes you happy in full way. You can do this exercise at any moment to recall that great feeling and bring happiness into your present moment. You can also try this exercise while you’re doing the thing you enjoy and take a few seconds to check-in through each of your senses. 

The second exercise you can do to bring more happiness through your senses is to actively treat yourself to more pleasure. Think of things that are pleasing to each of your senses and include those as much as you can in your daily routine. Below are a few ideas for each sense.  

Visual/seeing

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Photo by Roman Melnychuk on Unsplash. 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

  • Decorate your room with your favourite words or colours
  • Wear clothing that appeals to you
  • Get outside in nature and look around
  • Read a book
  • Hang a new piece of art
  • Choose a new background for your phone/computer/tablet
  • Paint 

Feeling/touch

  • Pick out clothing that feels nice to the touch
  • Add some new bedding
  • Fidgets
  • Take a bath
  • Pet a soft animal
  • Get a massage/give yourself a massage
  • Dress extra cozy

Hearing/sound

  • Make/play a favourite upbeat playlist
  • Try sound dampening for a period of time
  • Listen or watch something funny
  • Listen to sounds of nature (e.g. waterfalls, rivers, animals, etc.)
  • Try autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR)

Smell

  • Bake/cook
  • Use essential oils 
  • Make a cup of hot chocolate
  • Hug your favourite person and give them a good sniff (I know sounds a little bizarre- but trust me)
  • Smell your favourite article of clothing
  • Use a really nice smelling shampoo
  • Think of the smells of nature you most enjoy
  • Remember smells from your childhood that remind you of happy memories
5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Photo by Canva. 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Taste

  • Bake/cook
  • Take your time when eating something you enjoy
  • Use flavoured gum or mints
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Experiment with new foods/drinks

Bringing happiness to the greatest number of people

Turns out when you do things for others it actually boosts your own happiness. It is kind of a mind over matter thing in some ways. If you’re grumbling and not really happy about doing the thing for the other person, likely you won’t get the happiness perks. But if you are doing something kind for someone else or you feel like you are contributing to someone else’s well-being in some way, you will also reap the benefits of increased happiness. Volunteering or joining a group that has the wellness of others in mind is a great way to do this. You can also look at singular acts, like making or getting a thoughtful gift for someone, helping someone with their chores, offering to lend a hand without being asked, asking someone about their day, sending someone a “I’m thinking of you” text, etc. It doesn’t have to a huge gesture, anything that adds to the happiness factor of another person, will count towards yours as well.  

Connection and Happiness

As a general rule, people are social beings. You benefit from feeling connected to others and it’s a pretty natural desire that most of us have. To take control of your happiness in this area, think about the current friendships and relationships you have. Who is a part of your inner circle? Do they have your back, lift you up, support you? 

You can think of the people in your world and put them into 3 basic categories – you have your toast, sweet milk, and your sour grapes. Looks like I’m making this about food again. Your toast people are kind of plain, neutral if you will. They are the people you might consider acquaintances, maybe you talk to them sometimes, maybe they are part of a larger friend group or a relative you don’t see that often, and you really don’t have a ton of positive or negative associations with them. You also have your sweet milk people. They are the people you most like in this world. They have your back, treat you well, support you, you enjoy their company most of the time, and you have positive feelings towards them. Then you have your sour grapes. They are the people that don’t treat you well, maybe they lie, break promises, backstab, bully, are two-faced, and overall when you think of them you are probably conflicted or feel pretty negative about them. 

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash. 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

In order to boost your happiness, you want to put time and energy into your sweet milk people. The more you focus on those relationships and making those a top priority the less room it leaves for sour grapes to spoil the day. Chances are you’ll also have many more moments of positive feelings when you’re with your sweet milks. Don’t have a lot of sweet milk people in your life?

Here are a few articles on how to meet new people:

Move your body to find happiness

I know, it probably doesn’t need to be said, sleep and exercise are good for you. You know this, I’m sure. Happiness is something that is felt in the body just as much as in your mind. You can use movement in your body to up your levels of happiness. Mercey Livingston wrote an article here on 4 ways exercise makes us happier and Dr.Debra Fulghum Bruce  writes about the chemical responses that happen in our body and how to consider the “right” movement for you.

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Teens in image used in article on this blog called, 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Whether you are dancing, running, doing yoga, skiing, walking, hiking, going to the gym, playing a sport, stretching, or standing in your power poses, physical movement is a great way to increase happiness. It’s important to start where you are and move from there. If you do very little movement throughout your day and you imagine yourself exercising each day, but that seems impossibly unmotivating, start small. Take your dog for a short walk, call a friend and walk through the mall or shoot on some basketball hoops, choose a beginner workout video and follow along, etc. Be kind to yourself through the process and watch as your happiness meter climbs.

 


Chantal Côté

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

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.

The Link Between Screen Time and Teen Depression

As a parent, it can be easy to question the amount of time your teen is spending on their phone and be curious about the impact on mental health. Research indicates a correlation between increased screen time and teen depression (Association of Screen Time and Depression in Adolescence), but the situation is not completely black and white. Understanding the role that technology plays in teens’ lives and the pros and cons can help inform family decisions around screen time.

Photo by KOBU Agency on Unsplash

Screen Time & Teen Depression: Factors to Consider

          There is a correlation between depression and screen time. It is true that excessive amounts of screen time can be a factor leading to depression, but teens who are struggling with depression are also likely to spend more time using technology as well (Association of Screen Time and Depression in Adolescence).

          The amount of time looking at screens is important to consider. Research indicates that both no screen time and too much screen time (usually defined as being over 6 hours per day) can have negative effects on a teen’s mental health and development. In contrast, screen time of around 2-4 hours a day is associated with cognitive and psychosocial benefits in the teenage years (Digital media: Promoting healthy screen use in school-aged children and adolescents)

          The content being viewed matters:

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

*    If your teenager is frequently looking at photoshopped images of Instagram influencers or celebrities, they often start to compare themselves to these perfect images and lifestyles. In comparing themself to these unattainable standards, your teen’s self-esteem may start to suffer, and they are more likely to experience symptoms of depression.

*   Technology can also be used for learning and exposure to new ideas and perspectives. School and homework are also increasingly online or require varying amounts of screen time. 

        Technology and screen time provides teenagers with a way to connect, which is especially important during the socially isolating times of Covid-19 restrictions. Social connection, whether in-person or online, is vital in the teenage years and significantly decreases the likelihood of depression (Strong friendships in adolescence may benefit mental health in the long run).

          Excessive time spent on screens means that your teen is being less physically active and may be missing out on other meaningful activities. Exercise is a significant protective factor against depression at any age (Keep your teen moving to reduce risk of depression).

          Using screens right before bedtime can also delay sleep and reduce total sleep time (Youth screen media habits and sleep: sleep-friendly screen-behavior recommendations for clinicians, educators, and parents). Sleep is especially important during the teenage years, and most teenagers are not getting enough sleep. Teens who do not get enough sleep are more likely to feel depressed (Teens and sleep: Why you need it and how to get enough).

Teen Depression: Making a Plan for Screen Time

In collaborating on a screen time plan, think about having screen-free times or zones and what that may look like. For example, maybe there is a family agreement that cellphones will be put away during dinner, or that cellphones will be turned off an hour before bedtime.

Educate your teen on the pros and cons of technology use. Help them develop a critical eye that questions the information they are reading and the images they are seeing. Online safety is another very important conversation to have.

Photo by Luke Porter on Unsplash

Role model what healthy technology use can look like, and encourage open and honest conversations with your teen. 

Consider incorporating more variety into the day or week, whether that be sports, a family walk, volunteering, or some other activity that encourages your teen to be present and engaged in the moment.

Use technology and screen time as a way to connect with your teen. Be curious about what they like about it and what they find meaningful or funny. If appropriate, maybe there is even a game to participate in together!

At the end of the day, each family needs to make their own decisions about screen time, knowing it will evolve as time goes,and find a way that best fits them. The key is to find a balance and to remember that screen time is neither all-good nor all-bad.

If you’re seeing your teen go through depression and are needing some support, my name is Jessa Tiemstra and I specialize in counselling for teen girls in Alberta, Canada. You can book a free consultation with me HERE.


Jessa is a counsellor that has recently completed her master of counselling degree through Athabasca University.

She is highly passionate about helping people become the best version of themselves and it is an honour for her to work alongside teens and their parents.

A few of her favourite things are spending time with her family, friends and pets, being in nature, cooking and eating delicious food. And also, she loves plants!

Once a month, she 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.

5 Ways to Help Your Daughter Through Teen Depression

Depression, or Major Depressive Disorder as it’s diagnosed, is on the rise in teen girls. According to the Pew Research Center, teen depression for girls increased by 66% between 2007 and 2017, with 1 in 5 girls experiencing at least one depressive episode.

There hasn’t been a lot of published data for 2020 – 2021 yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this number continues to rise. The impacts of the pandemic have been hard on everyone, particularly teen girls. Teens are in this important developmental stage of pulling away from their parents to assert independence (a key transition for adulthood!). They turn towards their friends and peers as an all important source of connection and finding their identity. Recently, these have become trickier to navigate. Stack on top of that, rising stress and you have a recipe for disaster. But let’s not leave it on this grim note – I want to send a message of hope – there are things that you do that help your teen rise above depression. There are things she can do to bring more joy and meaning to her life. 

Photo by Mark Decile on Unsplash

If your teen daughter is experiencing low moods most of the time (including anger, irritation, sadness, and numbness), isn’t acting like herself, is pulling away or losing interest in activities she usually enjoys, is struggling to socialize, and/or having trouble sleeping (either over or under sleeping) she may be experiencing depression.

In my years of practice,  I have developed a program – The Happiness Pill Program –  specifically to help your daughter through her  depression. Oftentimes, teens wish they could simply take a pill and fix their depression, but this is often not a long-term solution. The Happiness Pill Program will give your teen daughter the skill sets to get through depression, and step into the joyful, confident person she wishes to be. You can check it out HERE.

And to get you started right away, to support your teen daughter to shift beyond depression, here are 5 tips that you can share with your teen by:

  • Learning about them
  • Modeling them
  • Inviting them to try these out for themselves 

Teen Depression Tip #1: The Power of Thought

Our thoughts are incredibly powerful. Give this a try (thank you Amira Alvarez for this exercise!) Imagine someone you love deeply. Picture them in your mind doing something that makes you smile. Notice what happens in your body when you really imagine this person doing that thing that brings you pure joy. What did you notice? My heart feels full and expansive and a smile paints itself on my face. But that person is not in front of me doing that thing. This is not happening in real time, I am simply using my thoughts to shift my emotional state and the sensations in my body. 

Helping your teen daughter recognize that she has the ability to overcome difficult moments and switch things around is an impactful tool to take away the power of depressive thoughts. Invite  your teen daughter to start simply noticing her thoughts and being curious. You’re not telling her what to do with any of her thoughts. Instead, you are simply getting her to start checking in with herself when thoughts pop in.

 “Is this thought serving me, or blocking me?”. You can help them start to tell the difference between a helpful thought – one that empowers them to be the confident person they want to be, and respond to things in the way they desire to – and a thought that blocks them. A blocking thought is one that isn’t serving them. 

“What can I do with this thought instead?”

One exercise you can offer to help with thoughts that don’t serve your teen daughter is a ‘mental vacation’. This is a tool to unhook from a thought that is leading to low emotions and turning into a negative spiral of thoughts. She can (you can do this too!)  picture herself somewhere peaceful and safe, it can be somewhere she’s been, wants to go, or somewhere completely imaginary. Next, she can take a few moments to really imagine what it would be like there, with all of her senses – what can she See? Hear? Feel? Smell? Taste? 

One easy way to shift gears and create a break for herself. 

Teen Depression Tip #2: Self-Care Assessment

Self-care might bring up the staple image of bubble baths, candles and soothing music. This is great if that’s your vibe. Self-care is in fact sooo much more than that. The way I think of it, is any action (small, medium, or large) that you take that is one step above just surviving. It may not take you

Photo by kevin laminto on Unsplash

into thriving and that’s ok! 

Help your daughter, by getting clear for yourself on what some of your self-care rituals are. Do you have an amazing lotion that you use? What about reading quietly for a few minutes after everyone’s in bed? Do you invest in therapy or coaching? How about going to the gym or go out with a friend from time to time. It’s for you to decide what self-care is and what is a level up from just getting by. 

You can encourage your daughter to be curious about how she is taking care of herself, to look at things from a different angle. Bring awareness to it, and then ask how it impacts her.

Body movement is an especially neglected one that I like to bring awareness to in my sessions with teen girls. It’s an integral part of overall health. Your daughter can check in with herself by asking things like, “How am I taking care of myself physically? What’s my sleep like? How is my tech use impacting my physical health?” The key here is not to tell her what to do, instead have her come to her own reflections on how physical health behaviors are positively or negatively impacting.  

From there what action (small, medium, large) can she take to make an adjustment. This gives her the power to choose what she does next.

Teen Depression Tip #3: Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is the ability to be kind to one’s self,  and you can help grow this skill.

Teen girls tend to be harder on themselves than others (aren’t we all?). I find asking teen girls to imagine what they would tell their best friend in the same situation a good start to lead into self-compassion. “If  your best friend were struggling in the same way you are, how would you help them? What would you say to them? What support would you offer them?”.  They can then turn that around to themselves and see in what ways their response is similar or different to how they would respond to someone they care about. 

For many of us, the way we respond to ourselves is V-E-R-Y different,  often a lot more negative, than how we respond to others. Instead of the kindness and empathy you might offer to your best friend, you are thinking things like – “Why can’t I get this? Everyone’s judging me. I’m a failure”. Your daughter is probably experiencing something pretty similar or even more intense.

When she is in the headspace of “I’m a failure, I can’t do this, I keep messing up”, etc. it can be really hard to take action and move forward. Bringing awareness to this opens up a space for your daughter to start treating herself a  little more kindly. 

Teen Depression Tip #4: Being in the Now

If your teen daughter is going through depression, her nervous system is feeling it too. She might experience detachment, or a numbness; where there is a  lack of feeling, sensation, and/or emotion. She could be feeling cut off from the world, from herself, and her environment; a loss of connection.

Helping your daughter connect to the present moment by using grounding and mindfulness techniques can help to rewire the nervous system to a place where she’s more relaxed and calm – so she can feel safe in her body and connect to self, others, and environment.

Here are a few ways you can help your daughter feel more grounded:

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

  • 5 Finger Breathing
  • Box Breathing
  • Slow down the breath with one hand on your chest or stomach while you breathe in and out 
  • Taking a breath in and humming as you breathe out
  • 54321 Senses Exercise (noticing what you can see, hear, feel, smell, taste, etc.)
  • Placing feet on the floor and really noticing the pressure and sensations of your feet being connected to the ground
  • Placing hands on the wall and applying pressure. Noticing what it feels like
  • Taking a walk and combining the 54321 exercise
  • Rubbing your palms together to create some heat and slowly noticing as they cool off
  • A little cold exposure like washing hands in cold water, splashing face gently with cold water, etc. 

Teen Depression Tip #5: Highlighting Uniqueness

Last, but certainly not least, highlighting your daughter’s strengths, qualities, skills, and resources is a wonderful way to help them realize what makes them unique. And further to that, start taking actions that move them in the direction of who they actually want to be and how they want to show up. 

What is it that makes your daughter, her?  What characteristics or skills does she have? Which does she want to develop? What’s important to her (her values)?

If there are things your teen values, but feels she isn’t stepping up  in the way she wants to, how can she get there?

Highlighting strengths, qualities, characteristics, uniqueness, values, etc.  is really important because it can help them see and step into who they want to be; their most confident selves.

I like to use the character strengths exercise with teens to help bring awareness to their strengths, how they are playing out right now,  and which ones they would like to grow. 

I sincerely hope these tools have given you a place to start! Don’t forget to check out The Happiness Pill Program – I designed it to support you AND your teen daughter through this journey. You can also download your FREE Anxiety & Depression Toolkit for Parents along with our mini webinars, all free and delivered straight to your inbox! Download your copy HERE.

Tool Kit

Email us with any questions, any time: info@pyramidpsychology.com

Love,

Chantal


portrait of Chantal outside in a fieldChantal 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.