Holiday Stress & Presence for Families

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

 … Except that it is also a time that comes with a long list of things to do: presents to buy, recipes to perfect, family relationships and social commitments to navigate, creating a welcoming and festive home, and covid considerations as well. Even writing this list I am reminding myself of all the things I have yet to do before Christmas arrives!

I don’t know about you, but for myself, these high expectations and competing demands can cause stress. This stress comes from originally setting good intentions for the holiday season to be full of warmth, meaningful connections, and elevated spirits. However, things can get warped when you lose sight of what you find truly important.

Ironically, becoming stressed is completely counterproductive to these original intentions of presence and connection.

 

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With this in mind, here are five points of reflection for you and your family this holiday season:

1. Mindfulness Over the Holidays: Determine Your Priorities

What is important to you this holiday season? Recognizing the key points of the holiday can shift your focus away from things on your to-do list that aren’t a priority.

Here are some priorities that come to my mind or have been shared from clients:

  • Spending time with family and loved ones is more important than the setting.
  • Gift giving is a form of love during the holidays.
  • Hosting a family dinner and perfecting a new recipe is a source of holiday joy.
  • Slowing down for self-care is important over the holidays.
  • The holidays are a time to try new things and go on an adventure!

Whatever your priority is this season, know what it is for yourself and focus on that the most.

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2. Mindfulness Over the Holidays: Set Boundaries

Setting self-care boundaries is essential, especially during a busy season like Christmas where there are numerous events, opportunities, and expectations.

Take a moment to check in with yourself to make informed decisions about what is best for you and your loved ones. If you are “running on empty” and finding yourself stressed, tired, or easily frustrated, maybe the best choice is to sit one of the social engagements out and spend some time “filling up your tank”.

Think of a few strategies that work best for you when you are feeling stressed, whether that be time with others, time alone, a specific activity, exercise, etc. Whatever destressing looks like for you, go for it!

It can also be helpful to have a discussion around holiday expectations and preventing stress with your family.

 

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3. Mindfulness Over the Holidays: Watch Your Thoughts

Thoughts can be tricky and can easily affect your feelings and behaviours if you are not mindful of them.

Some thoughts I’ve heard come up over the holidays that won’t necessarily serve you include: thinking that the house needs to be spotless, food needs to be extravagant, every social event must be attended, or that every loved one should get an individualized, thoughtful gift so they know how much they are love, etc. These are thoughts that can cause stress for the whole family over the holidays!

Notice the word choice in these statements – needs, must, should, every, everyone – words like these lead to black-and-white thinking and can place a lot of pressure on a person. 

While none of these are bad things to want, you can change your thought process by altering your statements around these words. Some examples: “it would be nice if…” or, “I will try my best, but what I really value here is connection over cleanliness”.

This small shift can do wonders in reducing the stress experienced from high expectations.

Your teen daughter can learn how to shift her thoughts in presence, too. Our team has written a blog article on it for your pleasure here.

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4. Mindfulness Over the Holidays: Be Open to Different Ways of Doing Things

Just because something has always been a certain way does not mean it needs to continue to be that way.

If there are aspects of the holiday season that are causing you stress, consider other ways of doing things. Maybe that looks like a gift exchange or going to an event instead of buying gifts for each family member. Perhaps it looks like a potluck or ordering in instead of one or two people feeling pressure to host a big meal.

The sky is the limit!!

Better yet – what ideas do your kids or partner have for changing the routine? What a great family discussion!

 

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5. Mindfulness Over the Holidays: Be Present

Once you know your priorities, have healthy boundaries, and are intentional with the time you do have, it becomes easier to be present in whatever relationship or activity you are engaged in.

Worrying about whether or not everything will be perfect on Christmas day or meet everyone’s expectations will not have a significant impact on the outcome and will only drain your energy.

Let tomorrow worry about itself and try to find those silver linings in the moment.

 If you have a teen that struggles with anxiety over the holidays (perhaps perfectionism) and/or depression, you can download our free Anxiety Toolkit for Parents Raising Teens. It comes with 10 tools you can immediately begin implementing for your family this holiday season, as well as a series of mini webinars.

Our gift to you!

 

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And don’t forget that it is OK to need some extra support, at any time of the year. I offer therapy for teens and young adults, creating lifelong strategies to get through anxious times. You can find my availability and booking link here:

 

Book an Appointment

From all of us here at Pyramid Psychology, we wish you a happy holiday season!

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.

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.

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. 

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

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

Photo from Canva Pro

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. 

5 Secrets On Why You Want Your Teens To Care About Social Justice

I’ve been meeting the most amazing youth in my therapy practice. One of the things that really strikes me is the caring and passion they have for things they believe in.

Photo by Canva Pro

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

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

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

Photo by Canva Pro

 

Fostering Your Relationship With Your Teen

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

Foster Empathy

Photo by Canva

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

Photo by Canva Pro

Foster Identity and Confidence

 

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

Photo by Canva Pro

Foster Connection

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

Photo by Canva Pro

Foster Critical Thinking

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

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

Love,
Chantal

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


Chantal Côté (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. 

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