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. 

The Social Chameleon: 10 Reasons Why You Want to Be Yourself

A teen was saying the other day how they were tired of changing their personality to match their friend group – they said “it’s hard to be yourself”. Have you ever thought, “if I act like myself how will people react?” and “what if they judge me? Changing your personality or the way you behave in order to make friends and fit in will likely leave you in inner chaos and feeling completely dissatisfied.

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

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

10 REASONS WHY BEING YOURSELF IS BEST

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

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

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

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

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

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

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

Photo by Lucas Lenzi on Unsplash

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

8. Dust Yourself Off – Part II of boosting your confidence. I don’t want to sugarcoat things so I am going to say that sometimes acting like yourself might feel like a total bust or a failure. If that happens, know that failure is something that everyone experiences and it also boosts your confidence. How you handle failure is the key. So, if being yourself means you lose a friend, gaining a new true friend is now a possibility. If being yourself means you stop participating in a certain group, finding a new group who like the same things will now be an option.

Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash

9. Discover Your Hobbies – Changing yourself to fit others molds is kind of like sitting on the sidelines instead of being in the game. If you commit to being yourself, you will start to find things that you enjoy and get to do those.

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

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

Sincerely,

​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. 

Teen Attitude – How much of it is typical and what can be “corrected”?

The snarky No’s and endless attitude of living with teen attitude can be hurtful and hard to take some days. What if you have 3 teens or 5 for that matter! If you are looking to survive the teen years, while hanging on to the great things in your relationship, read on:

Don’t take it personally– Don’t Read this when you are arguing with your teen because otherwise you will skip this post altogether.  The eye rolls, attitude, sarcasm, testing limits, it’s pretty much all typical and expected. **Note I didn’t say easy.

Some parents have asked me if they should let their teen know they don’t appreciate the tone or the behaviours. For the most part, I recommend letting it be and deciding which are the battles worth fighting for. I think you can bring it up if you are saying it from a neutral place (so maybe the next day). There may be a chance that they hear that and think twice next time, but that’s a bonus, not the goal.

Self-Care for youYou are the adult and you have more experience and more access to your fully wired brain (most of the time). The more you take the time to care for yourself, the more you are able to let things roll off your back and it pays off for everyone. I have a pretty non-negotiable morning routine that includes meditation and a workout to help me be more even keeled throughout the day. What do you do ?

Photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash

Practice your ABC’s –

  • Attentively listen
  • Boundaries
  • Connect

Even when there is teen attitude going on, hear their concerns, ask about them and really listen. Stick to your boundaries. You are going to have some hard No’s based on your values and beliefs as a parent. If you are coming from a place of love they are important to have. Above all, connect. Let them know you hear the suck and the struggle.

Know all of this is part of an important developmental milestone – Teens develop important skills like cooperation, problem solving, and negotiation by essentially acting out to some degree. For better or worse, you are the identified safe ground to try out these skills – including teen attitude. To get the thinking brain at work here you can try a paraphrase once in a while, “so what I heard you say is everyone you play games with is fine with being cursed at and talked down to”.

Photo from Canva Pro 

Allow yourself thinking time– When your teen is throwing their teen attitude around, it’s ok to say “we are not having this discussion right now with us being so angry”. It’s ok to walk away (maybe not storm away) and come back to things, even if it’s the next day. Don’t ever let nagging cause you to cave on things that you have a hard line on.

Keep these in mind to help you shift your perspective and know your teen may be having a hard not giving you a hard time. Let the weight drop off you like sandbags and embrace self-love as a parent choosing to show

​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. 

Do you trust your teen: talking parental controls

You know those apps that allow you to block, see and track your teens digital usage?

I’ve heard from many teens that parental controls feel restrictive and kinda disrespectful. Teens are bright and find creative ways to get around or disable these tools.

Ok.
Are you freaking out a bit?

It’s simply not a clear cut answer of whether or not parents should use parental controls on devices. What it boils down to are your intentions and how your decisions are supporting your teen to develop-

  • Critical thinking
  • Responsibility
  • Choice making skills

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

If you want to have a respectful relationship with your teen, even if they won’t like all your decisions, let’s dive into this parental control idea.

Imagine this analogy: When you go tobogganing (living in Canada here, thinking of snow!) you will see kids with snow pants, no snow pants, helmets, no helmets, some taking insane jumps and others sliding down cautiously.

Internet safety is a part of parenting to help teach your kids the behaviours you think will line them up for safety and success just like any other potentially dangerous activity.

Digital Citizenship

Online communities are like in person communities in that there are responsibilities social norms and folks that behave in all kinds of ways. 

Photo by Creative Christians on Unsplash

Educating your teen on digital citizenship starts with You. Understand the 7 key areas:

  • Empathy
  • How the Internet works
  • Understanding user data
  • Practicing digital literacy
  • Acknowledging the digital divide
  • Practicing digital wellness
  • Securing digital devices

Chris Zook goes into more detail on each on these here

​By having conversations with your teen (yes multiple conversations ) about the online world, you are building trust, responsibility and their ability to make informed choices.

And listen they’re gonna mess up because that’s how humans discover, learn and grow in this world.

Age Matters

Conversations on how to use the internet safely need to begin as soon as your kiddos start using technology. Now of course, what you will say to a 4-year old is going to be completely different then talking to your 13-year old.

Talk to your teens about what they are seeing, who they are interacting with, and what is catching their attention online. This is a huge insight into their world and what is important to them right now.

Photo by Julia Coimbra on Unsplash

Ask yourself, “what’s my intention?” If it’s to block all potentially disturbing content and track your teen’s online behaviours, you may see this backfiring on developing a respectful relationship with them.

Perhaps you are in a situation where parental monitoring is a big challenge right now? You have your specific reasons for considering parental controls.

Photo by Michael Jeffery on Unsplash

It is so important that you consider what actions you are going to take to continue building trust and develop your teen’s ability to make smart choices and take responsibility.

Talk to them about why you are making internet use decisions and be prepared to hear their concerns. Help them by connecting your reasoning to their hopes and goals (e.g. if they wanna get good grades, sleep and reduced tech use before bed will help them reach this).

Consider flexibility within the controls.

No matter what decision you make, you will Stay in your teen’s squad if you approach it relationship first.

​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. 

How to Connect With Your Teen So They Feel Understood

When my kids do something pretty outrageous, my first urge is yell- “what were you thinking?!?!”

It’s a work in progress, I take a lot of deep breaths, and repeat my 3 mantrasI still often default to – what were they thinking ?!

Connecting with your teens can be hard, especially if you are met with sarcasm, mean words, and attitude that would pierce even the hardest of heart shells.

Photo by Kevin Lehtla on Unsplash

What’s Going On With Their Brain

Tween and teen brains are undergoing many different developmental changes and their identities are forming. Their limbic system (emotion centre, reward, pleasure, and motivation) is ON and their pre-frontal system (rational, impulse control, decision making) is still wiring.

This means youth are much more prone to interpret body language, tone, and words as judgmental and self-focused. You might say “Oh, new shirt?” and it may be received as “you look bad” or “I’m noticing all of your imperfections”.

This can make it hard to say the right thing or not have a 40 foot wall suddenly appear between the two of you.

If you want to flip some of those interactions and connect with your teen, even though you are tired and don’t need another thing for your brain to take in, here is a no-brainer I have found super helpful.

I stick to these 3 mantras to guide me:

  1. I want to understand
  2. I am listening with empathy
  3. I may not like it, but we can get to that

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

I Want To Understand

I follow the L.I.S.T.E.N acronym: Listen, Inquire, Self-Regulate, Tone, Empathy, No advice giving. I want to understand is about 100% curiosity and trying to understand as best you can their experience. It’s not an interrogation. It’s not a solution giveaway. This is a great way to get your teen to build their reflective and awareness skills. There will be opportunities for advice, guidance and coaching, but to start off with, using LISTEN can really help open up that dialogue.

I am Listening With Empathy

I already said empathy I know, but this one deserves its own mantra. The definition of empathy, courtesy of Brené Brown is “to be nonjudgmental, understand another person’s feelings, and to communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings”.

When all I want to do is give the solution, explain my stance, or just tell them to stop, these are my red flags that I am not listening with empathy. I pause and reset and authentically say something from a place of empathy like, “that sounds really hard”, “I know it doesn’t seem fair”, “I can’t imagine…”.

​It’s a game changer.

Photo by Canva

I May Not Like It, But We Can Get To That

Some things will be hard to listen to! There are going to be times when you will have to clarify expectations, help them navigate safety in situations, and give some helpful suggestions. “But We can get to that” reminds me that I always want to start with the first two mantras.

You can always come back to things that are important in another conversation. Your relationship with your teen and the conversations that go with it are not a One Shot Deal.

If you follow these 3 mantras you are sure to feel more connected to your teen and stay a support in their squad.

​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.