The Teen Years are Here – Now What!?

You might notice your teen pulling away, not wanting to spend as much time with you, and who certainly would rather be on their phone than attend most family events.These are the teen years,a time when your teen is breaking away from childhood and experimenting with adulthood. It is a significant time for them and for you as a parent, as you adjust to someone who is pushing away one minute – and wanting a hug the next.

It is a difficult – but a very important – milestone to manage.

Lisa Damour (PhD Psychologist)shares a lot on what is going on during this important developmental phase and how to handle it, in her book: Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions’. I highly recommend ordering a copy! 

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

What Does Breaking Away from Childhood Mean?

Breaking away from childhood – the teen years – is this idea of testing out different roles and aspects of adulthood. Almost like they are testing the waters of being an adult without diving in; a safer space to experiment. Your teen will be jumping back and forth between their new experiences, and their childlike demeanour.

I noticed this juxtaposition a lot on a recent vacation with my own teenage son. Usually, my son is very peer orientated. He wants to be with friends All. The. Time. When we were on vacation with no friends, my son wanted to spend a lot of time playing basketball with us every day, even showing physical affection, and playing games with his younger brother. But then later on, he was talking about dating and being in relationships and retreating to the trailer to be by   himself.

This is part of trying out adult roles, while being connected to aspects of childhood. 

Testing out adulthood could be anything for your teen, from sudden changes in fashion – hair, makeup, crop tops, etc. to no longer wanting to spend time with you. Your teen may want to spend most of their time in their room, but then occasionally still enjoy a day of baking with you, like they used to.

When friends are around, there may be a lot more eye rolling, or attitude – “mom, you don’t know anything!” type of behaviour. There’s a lot more pushing you away; you might see  a different side to your teen  when it’s just the two of you.

For the most part, you are held at arm’s length from their life and inner experiences… But when something goes off the rails (fight with friend, relationship ending, etc.) they’ll come to you and ask for advice, or want a hug. This is the flipping back and forth.

Dr. Damour uses the analogy of a swimming pool to explain the concept of breaking away from childhood in  the teen years, a playground image came to my mind – a very similar concept. 

Picture a playground, with the outer border  outlining  the park. In the middle  are the  play structures. The border – or outer edges – represent you as the parent. This is where your teen starts as a child, and then enters the playground. The play structures inside represent  all the different things and experiences they are trying out as they move into adulthood.

Younger children wouldn’t go far from that outer perimeter without having an adult nearby. But as teens, they can’t wait to leave the perimeter – a LOT! They want to be in there playing, trying things out. They want to explore their identity, experiment with new activities, and build different types of relationships.

As a parent, you are on the sidelines a lot of the time – you don’t necessarily know everything that is going on, thoughts, inner experiences etc. And they aren’t keen on sharing… But they will come back to the perimeter if they need a break from all that playground excitement.

When the tire swing makes them dizzy, they will come back to you – the perimeter – to sit for a minute. This is when you might have a moment of opening up a little bit, a sharing of their experience. Your teen may want a hug or a snuggle. They may even want to spend some time with you again…

The outer perimeter of the playground is their safe zone – you are their safe space.

It can be tempting for you to try and keep your teen close to the perimeter. To want things to go back to the way they used to be. But your teen wants to be in the playground , on the structures. That’s where they need to be in order to grow.

It can hurt and feel lonely as a parent to see them run  back off into their own space and take off into the world.

Know that it is very important that your teen has you there at the perimeter to be solid and keep them safe when they need it. For your teen to know they have a safe place to go when they are tired of climbing on the playground.

Understanding how important your role on the perimeter is, can be helpful to get you through this phase.

Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash

Breaking Away from Childhood Is A Celebration

The role you play during the teen years is very important because they need to know they have support. They need to feel safe while they are breaking away from childhood.

The more I understand this process personally, the more I find myself being present in the moments when my teen is on the perimeter of the playground. I recognize how important it is to be there when my son needs a breather from the play structures, from trying new things. It feels empowering for me as a parent to know I am doing what I need to do to move him into healthy adulthood. And yes, at times a bit sad also.

So remember, when your teen doesn’t want to participate, is giving attitude, or would rather be with their friends – it is positive for their development. They are moving towards an important milestone, with you as a safety net. Breaking away from childhood is normal. And it is worth celebrating as a parent.

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Taking Care of Yourself as a Parent in the Teen Years

Although it is a reason to celebrate, the process of breaking away from childhood can feel lonely and hurtful. Your teen may push you away, say mean things, give attitude, etc. You can feel rejected. This is especially true if you had a strong bond with them as a child. Just because this process is normal, doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. There might  be moments of loss, and even grief for you. There could also be a deep need to understand the change within yourself.

Taking care of yourself throughout this process is very important. Understanding what’s going on is a helpful first step. You will also need ways to get your own nurturing. This can be through other adult relationships in your life, like your co-parent, another parent friend or being part of  a community of parents. Being around others who are going through similar things will help you feel less isolated; you are not alone in the struggle. The Happiness Pill Program is a community I am building for you, as well as for your teen during this time. You can check it out here.

This developmental milestone is a time of shifting your focus from constantly being needed by your child, to having some space to recognize your own needs. Yes, your teens still need you, but not in the same continuous way they did when they were little. I encourage you to spend time connecting with things you love and enjoy that fill you up. Find activities or hobbies that were impossible to do when your teen was young and needed you physically all the time. You might see there is  space for new interests!  Not only are you taking care of yourself, but you’re modeling self-care for your teen as they experiment in the adult world.

Setting clear expectations for when your teen is pushing back and experimenting with boundaries is also a key part to taking care of yourself as a parent. Just because your teen needs you at the perimeter of the playground, does not mean you’re a doormat. They cannot walk all over you and treat you any way they like. Sometimes this can be tricky as a parent! Your teen may finally be wanting to spend time with you, and it may feel like telling them something they’ve said was hurtful will blow up and cause a big conflict. But it is absolutely okay to set those expectations – in fact, it will help them learn relationship boundaries that will carry into adulthood!

It is also okay to come back to something your teen has said or done, at a later time. To talk to them the next day and say “hey, what you said last night really hurt me. Let’s think about that choice in language next time.” Or letting them know ‘we don’t name call in this family’ etc.

Setting these boundaries can be emphasized,  if you have the luxury of being in a two-parent (or multi-parent) family, in the following way- Having someone  back you up a little when your teen says mean or inappropriate things. Another adult to say things like “ don’t talk to your mother like that, she deserves your respect just like anyone else”, and reiterate your expectations.

Even if you don’t have a two-person system in your family, it is still important to have clear boundaries and expectations. And to take breaks to care for yourself as the parent. 

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

How to Tell When A Teen’s Behaviours Are Concerning

While breaking away from childhood is a very normal developmental phase, Dr. Damour talks a lot about extremes being a sign of concern.

If your teen isn’t showing any signs of breaking away, it can be concerning – no attitude, push-back or boundary setting, etc. If your teen is constantly  people pleasing, with very little attitude or experimenting with new things, something may be preventing them from breaking from childhood. Being highly anxious to try new things on the play structures, can impede their development.

If your teen is on the other end of the spectrum – constantly in the zone of adult-like behaviour –  it is also something to pay attention to. If your teen is constantly participating in risky behaviours, completely cutting you out, never reverting back to childhood moments, always pushing boundaries, etc., they are showing signs that something concerning is going on. 

Of course, crossing the line with behaviours will be different for everyone based on family rules, values, and expectations. But if your teen is harming themselves or others, it’s important to pay attention. This is a sign that you may need to guide their experiences. 

It’s important to note that teens aren’t consciously pushing back or giving attitude with the thought of “I’m test driving adulthood”, but as parents understanding the context of these behaviors can help you  guide them in terms of  behaviours that are going to help them transition into adult life.

As mentioned earlier, having a community with other parents – knowing you aren’t alone – is crucial for you. Part of The Happiness Pill program is a weekly community call with other parents who know exactly what you’re going through. It is there to bridge the gap in communication between you and your teen. There is guidance along the way, touching base on all the important components of breaking away from childhood.

Check it out here. Or book a strategy call (free) with Chantal to see if the program is something for you.

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. 

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Parenting Styles 101: Bridging the Gap of Communication with Your Teen

Is there a gap in communication between you and your teen? If you ever feel like you and your teen are speaking completely different languages which leads to tension and arguing, you are not alone. Understanding the various parenting styles – and which you lean towards – is a great place to start bridging that gap and strengthening the bond between the two of you!

Diana Baumrind, a psychologist in the 60’s, researched younger kids and their attachment with their parents. She looked for different patterns and behaviours that developed over time. She was highly focused on  the parent-child relationship. From this research, Baumrind  coined three different parenting styles. In the 80’s the research continued and a fourth parenting style was added.

The four parenting styles are: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and unengaged/neglectful.

Parenting Styles on A Continuum

Before we dive into each of the parenting styles below, it can be helpful to recognize that they are on a continuum rather than definitively either this style or that style. You may recognize yourself in more than one of the styles. There are two continuums, the first is for warmth/responsiveness, and the second is for high vs. low levels of demand. See the photo below:

parenting styles psychologist in calgary alberta teen psychologist authoritarian authoritative permissive uninvolved

In terms of academic success, mental health, and emotional wellbeing, studies consistently indicate that children and teens do best with more authoritative parenting styles. The neglectful parenting style has shown to be the worst for them.

With that being said, there are values to all parenting styles, as well as consequences for each. It is important for me to acknowledge each parenting style without judgement and the hope that knowing more about this will allow you to make the best decisions for your family and their well being..

You will very likely discover your dominating parenting style, as well as other parenting styles you recognize using (a secondary style if you will). With an open mind, you may even see ways you want to shift your style!

The Four Parenting Styles

Authoritarian Parenting Style

parenting styles teen therapist in calgary alberta psychologist for teens

Photo from Canva Pro

Referring back to the image above, this style of parenting shows a high level of demand, and a low level of warmth.

There is a power differential between you and your teen – with you being in charge at the top, and your teen being at the bottom…You are the authority. The boss.

Something you might say to your teen is “because I said so”; there is very little room for negotiation, or having your teen weigh in on expectations or consequences. (It doesn’t mean you don’t care, just that what you say goes).

You are driven to have your teen do well in certain areas – to behave well, succeed academically, meet goals, etc. There is structure in your home, with a lot of rules; your expectations are clear. Emotions aren’t addressed or talked about a lot, and punishment is a strategy used readily.

Remember the continuum – you may notice sometimes you parent with the authoritarian parenting style, and maybe not other times. It isn’t necessarily ‘this’ or ‘that’ style.

Authoritative Parenting Style (Balanced or Engaged)

If your dominant parenting style is authoritative, your relationship with your teen involves a lot of warmth, AND there is a high demand from them. The power differential in this parenting style is still one with you being the caretaker, or the one in charge. However the gap between you and your teen is smaller. There is flexibility in their role.

parenting styles therapist in calgary alberta psychologist for teens coach for teens

Photo from Canva Pro

You have clear expectations and standards for your teen’s behaviours around respect, school, academics, etc. Something you may say to your teen is “let’s talk about it” – there is room for negotiation. You have built a ‘give and take’ style of communication with your teen.

So for example if you have the expectation that xyz chores must be completed after school, and then they can go out with their friends. Your teen would feel comfortable coming to you and asking if they can do the chores when they get back, or maybe partially complete them before going. There could be a conversation around this expectation.

In contrast, this conversation likely wouldn’t occur at all in the authoritarian style of parenting.

 

Permissive Parenting Style

You parent with a permissive style of parenting if there is a lot of warmth, and not a lot of demand.

parenting styles therapist in calgary alberta psychologist for teens coach for teens

Photo from Canva Pro

There are not very many rules in your home… The rules you do have in place may not be clear, and

are not often enforced. You avoid conflict with your teen whenever possible.

Avoiding conflict whenever possible and making your teen as happy as you can are important to you. You are indulgent with requests from your teen, for items, when they want to go out with friends, etc.

Your expectations for how your teen will contribute (academics, household responsibilities etc. are relatively low).

Using the same example with the chores above, your teen will most likely go out with their friends and do their chores later.. You sometimes end up doing the chores yourself, to avoid conflict. Or, they slide by altogether- maybe they don’t even have official chores to do.

Uninvolved Parenting Style (Disengaged/Neglectful)

The uninvolved parenting style involves little to no warmth, and very low demand.

parenting styles therapist in calgary alberta psychologist for teens coach for teens

Photo from Canva Pro

As a parent with this parenting style, you are not really engaged or interested in your teen; your teen fends for themselves. This could be from a variety of reasons – your own childhood, trauma, a heavy workload, competing priorities etc. Whatever the reason, you do not have a lot of time for your teen.

 

If your teen were to get invited out with friends, they would simply go without telling you. They most likely don’t have chores to worry about at all. Or, if they do, it is because you are absent.

It is important to note that while all parenting styles do have value, the uninvolved parenting style shows the worst outcomes for teens and their development – their emotional well being and mental health.

Using Your Parenting Style to Communicate with Your Teen

As you read through the four parenting styles, where did you find yourself on each continuum? Did you notice a dominant one or a secondary style of parenting you turn to?

Understanding your parenting style can help you see how it affects communication with your teen. If you are more authoritarian, your teen may not be very open to discussing what’s going on in their world and how they are feeling. If you are more permissive, your teen may treat you like more of a friend, giving you all the details on what’s up and also some of the treatment that seems reserved for friendships. If you are more authoritative, your teen may be asking a lot of

calgary psychologist teen therapist in calgary alberta pyramid pscyhology chantal cote parenting styles

Photo from Canva Pro

questions and looking to negotiate boundaries often.

If you’re unsure (or you just like doing online quizzes) here is a quiz you can do to get an idea of your dominant parenting style. In this quiz, Micheal Popkin uses the terms Autocratic (closely related to Authoritarian), Permissive, and Active (closely related to Authoritative).

Of course, this is one part of the equation. At the end of the day, your teen has their own personality and temperament and will respond to parenting styles differently. Some teens may respond better to parents who are more authoritarian while others may thrive more with more permissive parenting. Even though research tells us the best outcomes seem to be linked to authoritative engaged parenting, each child is different.

Once you’ve pinpointed your go-to parenting style, you can start thinking about the strengths in your parenting. What are the things you are doing well as a parent? – Does your teen know what to expect, are you caring and engaged, , do you stop at the drop of a hat when your teen has something important to talk about, etc. These are all attributes that bridge the gap between you and your teen, and it is thanks to your parenting style!

pyramid psychology therapist for teens teen coaching parenting styles psychologist in calgary alberta

Your Parenting Style History

Consider how you were raised – what parenting style did you see as you were growing up? How do you think that impacted you?

Some parents will repeat how they were parented, and others will do the opposite…Think about what values you hold onto from your parents’ parenting styles, and which you’ve let go of. What are your reasons for holding on or letting go?

Your Teen’s Response to Your Parenting Style

You can use the idea of parenting styles to parent with intention.

Once you know the what and why of your parenting style you can give some thought to how your teen is responding to your parenting style. Although the authoritative parenting style is associated with positive outcomes , every teen is different. You can ask yourself- when does my teen respond best to me (no you can’t say never!)? And, when does my teen respond the worst, almost a guaranteed shutdown or argument?

Then, look at your areas of vulnerability; things you want to work on. For me, I lean close to the authoritative parenting

style, but I can also be quite permissive – there is a lot of indulging and warmth with my kids…. There are some beautiful things with that; my relationship with them is really strong. But I can see when I have indulged too much. And I

recognize that my kids both ask for/expect a lot of things.

If you are looking for some ideas to support your communication with your teen, The Happiness Pill Program is a deep-dive program designed to bridge communication between parents and teens, just like you. It is a 6-month program with ongoing support for you to dive into your parenting and find ways to help things flow for your family. There is also support for your teen to develop communication skills, decrease anxiety & depression, and increase confidence. Check it out here.

Do not hesitate to reach out if you have questions! I am also accepting questions to be answered in my weekly blog article.

Email any time: info@pyramidpsychology.com

 


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

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

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

7 Ways to Parent Teens Successfully

It is a different ball game in today’s world to parent teens successfully. This generation of teens face a lot of different stressors and pressures than previous generations.

With technology and social media, teens are connected to a much larger world. They are privy to a lot more stimulus and information, including exposure to worldwide issues, and at a much  earlier age! I’m pretty sure I was wearing classically “uncool” sweatpants (don’t get me wrong, sweatpants can be cool nowadays) and running around playing make-believe until I was at least 11 or 12. There is a lot of pressure for teens on how they show up in the world – as a social advocate, through body/self image expectations, popularity contests (think likes on social media) etc.

Photo by Amy Treasure on Unsplash

That translates to it being  a really challenging time for you as a parent to navigate these dicey waters.

It’s important to acknowledge the challenges when it comes to parenting teens successfully, with our fellow parents and non-parents, to create supportive communities, and talk about the shifts that have happened in parenting throughout the generations. Of course every family/situation is different, but there has been an overall shift to a more authoritative (aka sometimes called balanced) parenting style. This kind of parenting is one with a lot more discussion around things, instead of authoritarian (it’s “my way or the highway”) or passive/permissive (the kids are the boss or do their own thing). You can read a brief definition of some of the parenting styles here.

Many more parents today are wanting to be quite engaged and involved in their parenting, and that’s a wonderful thing! There is an emphasis on making the relationship with your teen a top priority… and if that speaks to you, it may mean pivoting , and learning new skills and approaches. 

Here are  7 ways you can parent successfully while putting the relationship first: 

 

Parent Teens Successfully: Listen and Seek to Understand

I hear from teens on a daily basis: “my parents don’t get it. They don’t understand me, and they never will.” etc. While part of this is normal – all teens at some point feel their parents don’t understand them – it is also really indicative that parents need to reconsider their way of  listening. 

You probably have a lot of advice and wisdom to impart to your teen; experiences to share, and values you want to instill in them. These things are all important! However, the real impact is when you can step back and be a listener more than a talker. When you  listen most of the time,  and add in wisdom just a little bit of the time, the impact is far greater.

 

Photo by Bence Halmosi on Unsplash

Parent Teens Successfully: Get to Know Your Teen as A Person

Get really curious about who your teen is! Ask them what they like or enjoy. Ask their opinion on things (I have yet to meet a teen who doesn’t want to share their opinion). What kind of passions do they have? Which hobbies interest them? What doesn’t interest them? Which are the things they dream of doing one day?

You want to create opportunities for quality time to truly get to know your teen as a person. 

Buuuut, you’ll need to be careful not to leave them feeling badgered. I know I get caught in the ‘one too many questions’ with my teen… I think the conversation is going great, and then I ask one more question and I get an eye roll, an “I don’t know”, or a “nothing”, said with attitude. That tells me I asked too many questions! Oh well, I can always try again next time.

You can also get curious by getting to know the books and movies your teen is into. Take an interest and read/watch them yourself; ask them things that will get their perspective, it’s a wonderful peak at who they are.

There are 100 questions you can ask your teen in this article – just remember not to ask them all at once!

 

Parent Teens Successfully: Have a Go – To Venting Place

It is not easy to be a parent and the pay sucks! It is trying on your emotions, and even your own thoughts. A normal part of parenting is to sometimes think things like “I don’t know what to do… they are driving me $%@* crazy…..I don’t know what to say any more.”

It’s Important to have somewhere to go, or someone to talk to; a venting person. This allows you to have a safe space where you can say the things that could be harmful if you said them directly to your teen… I’m not suggesting that you put on a fake facade to your teens and then smack talk them to your friend… But things like “they are driving me crazy! They’re so lazy and won’t clean up after themselves!” are good things to vent to a friend or another parent that will ‘get it’, instead of saying it to your teen.

9 Reasons Every Mom Needs a Venting Buddy is a really great resource that dives into the amazing things venting does for you as a parent; it’s more than getting some complaints off your chest!

 

Parent Teens Successfully: 70/30 Rule

This is about giving yourself some compassion to not get things ‘right’ all the time; 100% spot on. Set an expectation, or a goal, for yourself as a parent to try and get things ‘right’ 70% of the time, instead of all the time

You’re  going to mess up at some point, say the wrong thing….lose your temper. You might even say something really mean. It’s all okay, as long as you’re leading with love, curiosity, and kindness a lot of the time. Leading in this way 70% (80% would be superstar status!) of the time gives you some leeway when you do mess up. It allows you to go back and apologize, to let your teen know you didn’t handle it the way you wanted to, and move on from there- remember the emotional bank account blog? (Going back and apologizing can be really powerful)!

Don’t shame or blame yourself every time you make a mistake. Instead, think about what you can do next time, how you can clean it up, etc.

Photo by Baylee Gramling on Unsplash

Parent Teens Successfully: Modelling

You can be a powerful influencer for your teen by modelling the behaviours and values you want to see. Things like respectful communication, talking openly about thoughts and feelings, self-care, choosing healthy relationships, etc.

You can model respectful communication by talking to your teen in a calm, respectful, caring tone… This doesn’t mean you’ll receive the calmness back all of the time (or even most of the time) from your teen, but it will allow them to see that it’s a possibility; that it can be done that way. You can show your teen how to have a healthy body image, by practicing things that demonstrate you’re caring for your mental health and that you love your body. For more tips on modelling, this is a really great article: Parents: Role Models and Positive Influences for Parents.

(Check out our upcoming Body Image Workshop for Teens if your teen is needing more help in that area specifically. Information for parents is also included).

 

Photo by Eye of Ebony on Unsplash

 

Parent Teens Successfully: Positive Discipline

Positive discipline is using consequences, expectations and rules as a way of teaching rather than punishing. On an unconscious level, punishments or consequences can have the intention of ‘hurting’ your teen in a way; showing them what it feels like, or ‘getting them back’.

Imagine your teen breaks curfew – instead of punishing, ask yourself “what can I teach here? What lesson would I want them to learn?” Discipline can be an opportunity to teach the importance of safety and communication. Going forward, you can set an earlier curfew, no outings for a period of time, or require more check-ins the next time they go out.

For key points around positive discipline, check out this PDF.

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

Parent Teens Successfully: Let Love Lead

Put the relationship first. No matter what happens. At the end of the day, that’s what’s important.

You want your teen to know they are important to you, that their safety matters, and that they have your support if things go wrong. For example, If your teen is experimenting with alcohol (even though you rrrreally didn’t want them to), you want them to know they can call you if things go awry. Or when it comes to apologizing – letting your teen know you’ve made a mistake, and building that trust with them, is more important than the need to be right all the time.

When you’re communicating with your teen, ask yourself “when I say (or do) this, am I saying/giving them the message that they matter? Am I telling them that this relationship is important to me?” Take an inventory of what sending that message looks like.

This comes up for me a lot when I think of situations with my own teen when I want to nitpick – like  when he comes home  on time, but full of sassy attitude. It would be so easy to nitpick about the attitude! But when I  stop and think – is it more important for me to stop the sass, or can I put the relationship first? Instead of nit picking, I can start a conversation – “How was your night? You seem a little off – is there something you want to talk about?”…..or ignore the sass and notice the timely entrance. 

Implementing these 7 ways to parent your teen successfully is a work in progress. Don’t forget the compassion part, and remember to find joy in the journey!

 

The Happiness Pill Program

I have created a program called The Happiness Pill Program that is designed to bridge the gap between you and your teen, so you can really begin to put your relationship first. The program focuses on a one on one approach where you as a parent will learn to communicate and collaborate with your teen from a better common ground. 

After we have begun that work, your teen and I will create a road map of their wishes, goals, and dreams, and the steps to get there. I will be giving them the tools throughout the 6-month program (through group coaching) to navigate bumps on the road, decrease anxiety, increase confidence, build better relationships, love themselves, and ultimately create their own happiness.

All while checking in with you so you can continue to build a strong bond with your teen on their journey to end overwhelm and depression.

You can go to my website below for more details here, or email us at info@pyramidpsychology.com to get on the waiting list.

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. 

My Teen Doesn’t Have A Lot of Friends – Should I Be Concerned?

I’ve had parents mention some concern about their teens only having 1 – 2 friends… Is this something to be concerned or worried about?

Having friends and changes in friendships are a very normal process for teens and their identity development – at different times we all have different people in our lives. Teens are going through that process right now, figuring out what type of people they want in their lives.

There are  some factors that may lean your teen towards wanting a small friend group. For example, if they are a little more introverted – or have introverted qualities – or maybe they feel most connected in close, intimate relationships.

I remember my middle school self – I got along well with a lot of my peers, but I really just had this one friend – she and I spent a ton of time together. She had this electric keyboard and we would hang out all weekend and write parody songs together. We had a blast! I just had the one close friend, really. And that was great for me.

So I think it depends on where your teen is at with having just one to two friends. If those two friendships are really close, good friendships, that makes a big difference.

Photo by Ana Municio on Unsplash

Questions to Ask

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself when it comes to your teen’s friendships:

  • Does our teen enjoy spending time with their friend(s)?
  • Is your teen saying or are you noticing behaviours indicating they may want more friends?
  • Do they seem satisficed with their friend groups?

Whether your teen has lots of friends or just a few, there are other elements that are more important.

Other Things At Play

It’s important to recognize if this is a preference thing, or if there is something else at play. 

Does your teen need to work on social skills? Confidence?

Consider how this might be getting in their way of making friends. If these skills are missing or underdeveloped, it can be really challenging for teens to make or keep friends.

It is important not to assume here. Ask your teen about their friend group – get to know how they see their friendships and what they value about them. In lending a curious ear, you may learn more about whether this is a preference, or their way of bei

ng, or if there are underlying difficulties or challenges that are preventing them from making more friends? If you discover your teen is really shy and strugglin

g to with talking to others, check out this blog I wrote just for them: How to Get Past The Shy: 4 Conversation Tips for Teens.

Something to Think About

One thing to consider is asking yourself if your concern is something that is coming from a projection of your experience growing up, or something you experienced as a teen. It can be helpful to practice a little self-reflection on your own friendships growing up and how that might impact the way you view your teen’s friendships. It might also lend itself to having empathy for your teen’s friendship woes as they come up. What were your friendships like? What were some things that were difficult with relationships?

Check-in with yourself and see if there’s a bit of parallel with your own experiences when you were younger.

Love,
Chantal


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

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

To connect, send an email to info@pyramidpsychology.com


 

Family Bonding Time – What To Do When Your Teen Refuses To Join

The other day a parent was sharing that their 15 year old daughter refuses to go hiking with the family on weekends; she is missing out on family bonding. Sometimes forced to go, her mood puts a damper on the hike. Recently, they were planning to take a family holiday and their teen was saying she didn’t want to go and would make it miserable for everyone the entire time.

The thought of arguing the whole time with your teen  or having them mope around in straight up objection to being there can sound painful as a parent.  You may be tempted to just abandon ship and let them stay behind so at least one of you can enjoy the adventure.

Although teens are developing independence, and that comes with a level of pushback and push away, I am still going to make a case for “dragging” them along on these family moments in the name of memories, experiences, and bonding.

family hike

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WHEN YOUR TEEN REFUSES TO JOIN IN

Ultimately you get to make the call that fits best for your family. I would invite you to consider your reasons for proposing family time. For me, family time is an opportunity to connect and get to know each other outside of the stresses and routines of the daily grind. It’s also an opportunity to invite us to try new things and discover likes and dislikes. The truth is, often times when my teen is in refusal, it works out to be a pretty good time in the end.

Photo from Canva Pro

You may ask yourself:

  • Why do I think family time is important?
  • What values do I hope to share and instill in my children?
  • What do I hope my children will remember most about their childhood?
  • How do I think these experiences might impact our relationship?

I know I used hiking and holidays as the example up top – but it doesn’t have to be something that requires many resources or time. Family time can be games night, walks in the park, drive-in movie night, shooting hoops together (I do this lovingly and terribly!), etc. It all counts.

 

Photo from Canva Pro

Your teen may see this as time that could be spent with friends or something that pulls them away from things they enjoy (like being on their phone). There is some truth to this and it can be helpful to acknowledge it. You may approach this lovingly with expectations. Start by understanding the refusal – What are their reasons for not wanting to do the thing? Acknowledge their reasons – “so you’d rather be hanging out with your friends, I know how important they are to you.” Lovingly state your expectation – “I love you and want to make sure we have some time doing things as a family, we are all going to try this hike on Saturday – I hope you can make the best of it”. 

​CREATE SPACE FOR COLLABORATION AND NEGOTIATION

Whatever the refusal is, there can be an opportunity for your teen to feel heard and for you as a family to come up with ideas that work for everyone (most of the time). The time you invest in this process is a part of helping your teen develop communication and perspective taking skills and it can strengthen your bond and relationship.

How?

Photo from Canva Pro

Well if your daughter says “I don’t want to go hiking, I hate walking that long!”. Acknowledge the refusal. See if you can come up with some ideas to collaborate and negotiate on the family bonding activity  – maybe it’s a shorter family hike, maybe afterwards there is a relaxing reward like stopping for a cold bevie or ice cream, maybe you leave earlier for the hike to get home early enough for her to relax with her friends afterwards, etc.  

Know that their refusal is a part of the parent-child dynamic. Teens are exploring boundaries and pushing against them. When you’re in the midst of it, it can feel infuriating – know that this is essential to their development and you are that special person that is helping them along the way. As difficult as it may be sometimes, trying to remind yourself that this is normal and healthy development that is going to get them to be independent functioning adults can help you keep perspective. 

Photo from Canva Pro

When your teen is refusing and letting their opinion be known by way of their mood- it can be so easy to get swept up in the emotions. Remember your hula hoop – this is something I’ve been really working on lately. Your hula hoop is everything that is within your control; the things you have choice around. Everything that is outside of your hula hoop is outside of your control.

The way your teen behaves during the family activity – outside of your hula hoop. Your response, thoughts, perspective? All within your hula hoop. You get to choose whether their negativity is going to take you down or if you want to take the high road. You allow somebody or something to ruin something for you – not them.

I’d love to hear what is a part of your family bonding time – send me an email so we can compile an awesome list to share with our community of parents – chantal@pyramidpsychology.com

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. 

Everything You Need to Know About Therapy – On and Off the Couch

Can you picture yourself walking in your favourite park, sun shining down on your face, picture perfect trees against a vast blue sky backdrop?

What if this was your counselling session?

Photo by Priscilla De Preeze on Unsplash

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

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

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

Photo by Priscilla De Preeze on Unsplash

Walk and Talk Sessions

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

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

This kind of therapy can be great if:
– You are intimidated by the idea of sitting face to face with someone and talking about vulnerable topics
– You like to move
– You like being outdoors
– You have good conversations with others while walking

 

Photo on Canva Premium

Movement produces endorphins and other natural chemicals that help boost our mood. So the combination of being able to talk about your struggles while moving can be a natural way to help thoughts, feelings, and experiences transform from the inside out. Even paying attention to the speed of walk or the pace can help bring awareness to your teen’s experience and their ability to make choices that are right for them.

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

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

 

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Expressive Arts

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

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

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

I have trained for some time in expressive arts and the really humbling part is that in order to learn you need to do it. So I have tried many different ways of being creative, some which I love, some which I learn so much, and some that I won’t use that much in the future.

Photo by Etty Fidele on Unsplash

If a teen is interested in using expressive arts, we talk about it at first and discuss how it can be used occasionally during sessions as an additional way to process thoughts, feelings, experiences OR that it can be used as the main technique. It’s important for us to find the right fit. I also start off by getting to know the teen’s type of creativity they feel most comfortable with. Teens have said to me it’s been helpful to know the art is not graded and there is no expected outcome. The art making process is just as important as the product (the thing you create).

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

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

 

Photo on Canva Premium

 

Virtual Sessions

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

Virtual sessions are not for everyone and here are a few things for your teen to consider:

  • Is my home a space safe?
  • Is it quiet and distraction free?
  • Am I ok meeting someone in 2D?
  • Am I virtually tapped out?
  • What are the pros and cons of this type of therapy for me?

Photo on Canva Premium

On the Couch

Meeting face to face in a specific office space has its advantages. It is a container for therapeutic work. The space is dedicated for this and once a teen leaves, they metaphorically leave some of that tough stuff in that space. Having a consistent  familiar space to meet can also help with that feeling of comfort and safety. Knowing all you need to do is show up and the space will be there, unchanging, and familiar can alleviate additional stress. Talking with someone face to face can help add things like non-verbal cues (e.g. body language) which gives another bit of information.

Your teen’s choice on how they want to work with their therapist is part of growing their self-esteem and confidence. You can always mix things up also and have some off the couch and some on the couch sessions – making the process of building bulletproof mindsets as creative as they want it to be!

Love,
Chantal

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

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


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 Miracle of Teen Feelings

This could apply to all humans really, but my passion and purpose are all about helping teen girls build bulletproof mindsets and believe in themselves, so I’m writing for you today.

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

 

Photo by Orkun Azap on Unsplash

 

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

Here are 5 things you must know about feelings:

Photo by Ilya Shishikhin

1. UNDERSTANDING THE EMOTION:
​THOUGHT-BEHAVIOUR LINK

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

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

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

 

Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

2. NAME IT TO TAME IT

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

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

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

 

3. OBSERVE YOUR FEELINGS

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

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

Being able to observe your feelings and taking a step back can give you a whole new perspective. It is like standing outside of the aquarium and looking in. All of the sea life is still there (your thoughts and feelings), but you can now look at it with curiosity instead of overwhelm. It often opens up the possibility of choice on what you want to do and how you want to respond when you are observing your feelings.

Photo by Silas Hao on Unsplash

 

One exercise that can help you practice observing your feelings is an exercise introduced by Daniel Siegel, called SIFT. You divide a piece of paper into 4 (see below) and take 1-2 minutes to write or list anything you notice. Start with sensations and work your way through.

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

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

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

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

4. YOUR BODY CAN SOMETIMES FOOL YOU

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

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

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

 

Photo by Evelyn Paris on Unsplash

 

5. THE POWER OF FLOW

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

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

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

Photo by Seyedeh Hamideh Kazemi on Unsplash

I love this translated poem, written by Rumi –

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

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

Love,

Chantal

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

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

 


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. 

10 Ways to Survive the Holidays with Your Bestie During a Pandemic

I was taking a socially distanced walk with one of my best friends the other day and I felt so grateful to see her in person, hear her voice, and laugh and complain about life – especially during the holidays –  with one of my favourite people in the world.

It got me thinking about friendships and how important it is to connect with friends and people who bring us up, especially in your teen years! Friends can be the anchors that help you get through everything. They can be the fuel that encourages you to go for it. They can be the rock that is there for you, kind, genuine, trusting, and loving you just the way you are.  With a lot of the country going into some form of lockdown over the holidays, those moments of being together and hanging out with friends are going to be trickier to have.

Photo by Harold Wijnholds on Unsplash

Here are 10 ideas on how you can get through the holiday season with your besties this year (in no particular order):

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

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

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

4. Enjoy the Snow – Skiing, snowboarding, sledding, skating… Getting out there in the snow gives you some face to face
Chantal

Photo By Nicolas Gras on Unsplash

5. Gaming Together – Need I say more?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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. 

Encouraging Good Grades: How to support your teen’s grades during a pandemic

A parent was saying the other day that they wanted to motivate their teen’s grades in a positive way, and they were asking if they should be punishing them for bad grades and how often to check on their school work.

With the current conditions and restrictions of the pandemic, your teen’s grades may be struggling more than ever. Academic success is hard. As a parent, watching your teen struggle with motivation and success can be really difficult. Your mind might go to that place of seeing failure in their academics as something that will screw up their future and lead to lost opportunities, leaving you stressed out and fearful.

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

If you want to support your teen to succeed in their school achievements, but don’t want it to be an uphill battle, here are a few questions to consider: 

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

If you do choose to implement consequences, it is much more effective to curb the behaviour and not the grade. For example, if your teen wants to do their homework in their room and this is leading to distraction and incomplete work, you can remove the privilege of doing homework in their room to curb the behaviour of distraction. If your teen is on-line for hours and not getting their work done, you can remove the privilege of screen time until a set amount of school work is completed. By curbing the behaviour, you foster opportunities to increase effort and skills such as organization and time management skills, that are useful for life. Punishment and consequences will not build those skills – see more in question 3.

Photo by Sebastian Coman Photography on Unsplash

2. Should I reward my teen for good grades?
Along the same wavelength as punishing, rewarding is much more effective when it corresponds to the behaviour. In this case, it’s the behaviour you hope to see your teen master such as, effort, focus, engagement, planning, and preparing. Communicating your expectations around accomplishments is very important. Be specific and goal oriented, where it is clear and achievable for your teen. Clear and Achievable😊. Instead of the expectation “I want you to get a minimum of X in all your subjects”, you might have something like, ‘I want you to read every night for 1 hour” or “I want all homework complete prior to free time”. Praise the efforts when you see them. You may also have incentives in place for some specific accomplishments. Again, I would focus on the behaviours over the actual grade. If going out for ice cream or their favourite latte is the incentive, acknowledge the effort and the prioritizing of their time that you saw over the actual grade.

Photo by Chichi Onyekanne on Unsplash

3. How can I help my teen achieve academic success?
Part of this is the bigger picture stuff. Consider the value you hold around the grades. What does this represent for you? Values drive people to believe things, so take some time to reflect on what your values are around the good grades- e.g. lifelong learning , education, contribution, success, status, etc. Share those with your teens. Teens still rely on parents for guidance, modeling, and making sense of the world.

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

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

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

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

 


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. 

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