Supporting Your Teen with Anxiety: Parenting with Presence

Is parenting with presence something you intentionally think about?

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

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

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

First off, what is parenting with presence?

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

 

What parenting with presence is NOT

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

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Parenting with presence is MORE LIKE: 

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

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

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Ok, silly experiment over!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Parenting with Presence. How do I do it??

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tool Kit

 


Teen Anxiety

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

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

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

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

5 Ways Parents Can Cultivate Teen Happiness

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

Teen Happiness – Remembering the “Awe Factor”

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

What do you notice when you think of feeling awe?

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

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

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

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

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

Teen Happiness – Play and Laughter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Teen Happiness – Gratitude

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

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

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

Gratitude – acknowledge something you are grateful for and appreciate.

Learned – share one thing you learned today.

Accomplished – recognize one thing you accomplished during the day.

Delighted – name one thing that lit you up today.

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

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

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

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

Teen Happiness – Respectful Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teen Happiness – Physical Touch

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

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

Interesting, right? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chantal Côté

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

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

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

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

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

Pyramid Psychology

Teen Happiness: The Science Behind Gratitude

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

 

 

Teen Happiness: The Science Behind Gratitude

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

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

Teen Happiness: The Science Behind Gratitude

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Teen Gratitude – Psychological Benefits

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

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

Teen Gratitude – Physical Health Benefits

Peaceful and happy teen

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

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

Teen Gratitude – Relational Benefits

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

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

Happy mother and Teen daughter

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

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

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

 

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

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

✅ Download Free Anxiety & Depression Toolkit Here

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

Love,

Jessa

 


Jessa

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

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

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

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

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

Teen Happiness Helping Your Daughter Find Her Spark

Teen Happiness: Helping Your Daughter Find Her Spark

 

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

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

First, let’s define what a spark is.

Teen Happiness – What Is a Spark?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teen Happiness – Encouraging Your Teen to Find Their Spark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Canva

 

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

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

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

Spark Tools with The Happiness Pill Program

 

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

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

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

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

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

Happiness Pill

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

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

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

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

Pyramid Psychology Article

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

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

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

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

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

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

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

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

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

What makes me feel happiness? 

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

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

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

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

    Completing a goal or task

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

What’s on your list?

 

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

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

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

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

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

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

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

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

Visual/seeing

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

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

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

Feeling/touch

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

Hearing/sound

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

Smell

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

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

Taste

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

Bringing happiness to the greatest number of people

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

Connection and Happiness

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

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

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

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

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

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

Move your body to find happiness

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

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

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

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

 


Chantal Côté

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

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

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

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

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

Self-Compassion: How Caring Can Stop Teen Depression in It’s Tracks

Whether you are a teen struggling with depression or a parent supporting your teen daughter through depression, suffering is likely a familiar concept. I work with dozens of teens whose feelings of pain, sadness, hopelessness, numbness and helplessness are a consistent repertoire. The way you and your daughter handle these painful thoughts and feelings probably ranges from trying to express your inner experience outwardly to diving deep into distraction. 

One of the approaches that can offer you and your daughter a way of handling the pain of depression is teen self-compassion.  This article shares more on how self-compassion can support you both and start to lift the fog of depression.

What is Self-Compassion?

One of the simplest ways I’ve found to understand self-compassion is to think of it as offering yourself the kindness and caring that you might offer a close friend or loved one. Self-compassion is equally valuable for support people, the ones caring for teens with depression (e.g. mothers, fathers, relatives, etc), as it is for teens experiencing depression.

As a parent, you’ve probably heard of the importance of putting your oxygen mask on first, in order to best help your child. Besides being explicit instructions on an aircraft, its generalization to the parenting experience is on point. If your teen daughter is experiencing depression, in order to be there for her for the long haul, you’ll want to ensure you’re in a good place, filling your cup consistently, so you avoid burnout or even spiraling into your own mental health issues.

Teen self-compassion is valuable for teens suffering with depression. Depression clouds your thinking. Your daughter probably has many thoughts similar to  “I’m wrong, I’m bad, I’ve done something wrong, something to upset someone else, etc.” and feeling lots of guilt and shame. The thoughts are harsh and critical and impact what they say and do. Self-compassion can really help teens take a step back from these thoughts and feelings and open more space for hope and self love.

Objections to Self-Compassion

Most teens I work with don’t outright say “I don’t want to try this self-compassion thing”. The resistance to buying into trying a little self-compassion is usually a little more subtle. 

Kristin Neff, self-compassion researcher and leader, talks more about the objections to self-compassion here.

I have heard things like:

  1. It sounds like a poor me pity party.
  2. Of course I wouldn’t talk that way to a friend. It’s just different because I’ve always talked to myself this way, I’m used to it.
  3. I don’t even know where to start to be kind towards myself.
  4. It feels weird.
  5. I don’t have time for that. By the end of the night I’m so exhausted (….being there for my daughter, worrying about her, etc.).

You can take a moment to check-in with yourself. Whether you’re a support person or a teen struggling with depression, what justifications, reasons, excuses does your brain come up with to resist the idea of self-compassion?  Are any of these objections above relatable? Recognizing your objections towards the idea of self-compassion is the first step in allowing it to work for you.

Myths About Self-Compassion

1. Self-Compassion is a “poor me pity party”.

Self-compassion is so much more. It’s not at all about pitying yourself or thinking your situation is worse or better than someone else’s. Stewing in your suffering is not self-compassion.

It is about acknowledging your humanity and being human means that we will all experience suffering at some point. Everyone experiences difficult things and you are not alone. It’s hard to be in pain. Taking those moments to acknowledge how hard it is to be suffering and then offering yourself some caring and kindness is what self-compassion is all about.

You might ask yourself…”What is something caring I can do for myself like encouraging words or actions I can take to get myself moving in a direction that is more supportive for me or my daughter?”

2. Self compassion practices take a lot of time.

Self-compassion practices have a lot of variety. Some practices take as little as a few seconds. It can be something as simple as placing a heart on your heart and taking a couple breaths while recognizing this is a tough moment. This sucks. This is hard right now. 

You can also choose practices that are more in depth and require more reflection. There are many different practices; there’s something for everyone.

3. If I’m focusing on myself then I’m neglecting others.

If you’re a support person you might think that by focusing on self-compassion, you’re not there for your daughter and what she needs right now. If you’re a teen experiencing depression, you might think that by focusing on yourself, you can’t be there for others who need you and that leads to more guilt and shame and bad feelings. 

Offering yourself kindness and caring actually creates more room to be there for and with others. The more I am harsh on myself or criticize myself, the more energy I’m actually spending on myself and my own problems- thinking about my troubles, difficulties, etc. So when you are unkind to yourself, you actually spend a lot more time thinking about yourself. 

When you practice self-compassion it leads to  possibilities such as problem solving, more love and joy, room for compassion towards others, and so much more. The more your cup is filled, the more freely you can give to others without being totally encumbered by your own thoughts and feelings.

A Case for Self-Compassion for Parents and Support People for Teens

As a parent supporting someone who is experiencing depression, you already know how much energy is required of you. It is taxing on your emotional, mental, psychological and physical energy reserves. It can quickly weigh you down. Of course you do this from a place of love and caring. A large part of you doesn’t hesitate for a moment to stay up late watching over your daughter or answering those panicked text messages throughout the day. It is important to realize that there are consequences to being present for someone with mental illness, and the impact can be mitigated. 

Self-compassion cares for those energy reserves ensuring you can show up to support while maintaining your own wellness. Self-compassion shows, models, and teaches your daughter that if you tend to yourself in a kind and caring way, you can actually propel yourself on a journey of wellness. 

Self-compassion can also be a way to relay important values to your daughter, about how to prioritize wellness and look after herself, in relation to herself and others. In practicing self-compassion, you put wellness as a priority while unconditionally loving others and loving yourself.

A Case for Self-Compassion for Teens Experiencing Depression

The inner critic, aka self-dialogue or negative self-talk can be so harsh… So mean! When you’re experiencing depression, the thoughts you have about yourself and how you behave are usually quite critical. It continues the spiral of depression.

Self-compassion is a way of offering yourself something completely different. Imagine that your brain and all the thoughts you have are like actors on a stage. People have so many thoughts each day, research says 6000+….that’s a lot of actors on stage lol. Some of those thoughts are heavy, harsh, and critical. Some are more neutral, random, even encouraging. Imagine all those actors of your mind on stage, all available for you to notice.

Now hopefully that doesn’t feel too overwhelming. You also have this part of your brain that you can call your observing self or noticing self or mindful self, that is like a spotlight director. This part of your brain shines the spotlight down on a certain actor (thought) and highlights it. The thing is, we can get kind of stuck on certain thoughts, leading us to feel kind of rotten about ourselves.

Self-compassion allows you to move that spotlight a little, focusing on some of these other actors. By recognizing this part of being human, you can also take stock in the fact that you can shine your spotlight on thoughts about things you are grateful for, appreciate, or even admire in yourself/others, shifting that focus and offering yourself a different way of treating yourself.

Self-Compassion Strategies

So if I have even slightly peaked your interest in giving self-compassion a try, here are a few of my clients’ favourites. Try them out and let me know what you think!

  1. Self-compassion break.
  2. Thinking from the perspective of what would say to a good friend or how you would  respond to a good friend.
  3. Compassionate friend visualization.

Next month, we are focusing on joy and happiness… Which reminds me of our signature teen life coaching program for teen girls – The Happiness Pill Program. The key to unlocking happiness in your life is within you already and you have the power to activate it. I’ve designed the program to have some 1:1 and group parts. Group can seem intimidating at first, and I get it- so I focus on creating a safe, relaxed environment for you (teen girls) to feel welcome so you get the full benefits of the group experience: 

  • Knowing you are not alone 
  • Feeling like people your age (not just an adult) get it
  • Connecting to a supportive group of peers 
  • More heads are better than one  ideas and strategies to try
  • Helping others out by showing up and sharing some of your experiences 

Email us to learn more, info@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.

Get Out Of My Life – What To Do When Your Teen-Parent Relationship Is Feeling Distant

I really enjoy reading. So much so that I have stacks piling up beside my bed of books I would love to read when I’ve got a minute. When I came across this title (still on my pile) Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall? by Anthony E. Wolf – I laughed and thought “oooh that’s a keeper”.

Photo by Canva

Once I’ve read this one, I’ll give more feedback on the content, but for now I have to say that I have heard a variance of this message from dozens of parents I work with: “my teen is distant”, “my teen doesn’t want to talk to me unless they need something”, or “whenever I ask her (him) about something they just get upset”. Sound familiar? You are not alone!

So if your teen is wanting to cut their hair a certain way, no longer liking the things you like, or is shutting you out of certain parts, you are in full swing individuation. Individuation leads to self-identity and independence and these are best nurtured by having warm, caring adults who are available to guide and let go. Parenting during individuation is like throwing a boomerang. Allowing them to get out there and make mistakes while learning who they are AND knowing they can and will come back for some of that love and safety.

So how do you throw the boomerang so that it will come back? I mean really how do you do that!? Because I had a boomerang as a child and I went to get it WAY more than it came back to me!!!

A better question is, how do you connect with your teen and give them space to grow their own self-identity?

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

Connecting On Their Terms

I’m not suggesting you stop everything at the drop of a hat and focus solely on your teenager when they request it. However, I am kind of suggesting you stop everything at the drop of a hat and focus solely on your teenager when they request it.

​It is important to take the time to really acknowledge and listen when your teen is engaging with you. If they have a friend problem they are struggling with or an issue at school that’s bothering them and they want to talk about it, possibly at that most inconvenient time for you, other things can probably wait. And if the thing absolutely can’t wait, bookmark the conversation with your teen and let them know how important it is for you by being really clear about when you will free up time just for them (as soon as possible).

Another way of connecting with teens on their terms is in taking a genuine interest in their stuff. What type of music are they listening to? Which streamers are they watching? Who are their friends? Which sports team are they rooting for? You don’t have to love what they love. Taking a genuine interest is about understanding what they are into and why they connect to these things. It will give you some insight into their values, beliefs, and world.

Photo by Bui Thanh Tam on Unsplash

Connecting Creatively

Finding creative ways to spend some time together is important. A parent shared with me that once a week their teen and them will each write down two things they enjoy doing and throw those options in a hat. They pull out one and that is the thing they do together that afternoon. Sometimes they are hiking and sometimes they are gaming together. Moments of connection can be specific times that are dedicated like this example and they can also be spontaneous in the moment interactions. Being genuinely interested and curious about their lives and asking questions that invite them to share snippets keep that connection going.

A mentor of mine once shared that asking a teen to complain about something is a great point of connection. I sometimes ask teens, “so who is the teacher that drives you the most crazy?” or “what is it that you are not liking at school right now?” I am certainly not an advocate of focusing solely on the struggle, but it is incredible how willing and open a person can be if given a chance to talk about things that are relevant to them.

Being creative about ways to create connection allows flexibility and more opportunities. If sitting down and having a heart to heart is out of the question, maybe a little teasing and laughter is the touchpoint or a car drive to get a treat.

Photo by Logan Weaver on Unsplash

Love On Them Always

At every opportunity, let your teen know they are loved. Individuation is about pulling away to form self-identity but it is not about shutting off the love valve. Even if your teen’s backtalk and eye rolls are not what you would call languages of love, they are human and still need love, warmth, and connection in their lives. I’m a fan of using the words “I love you”. I send my message of love to my kids with words, text messages, notes, etc.

You can also consider learning your teen’s love language. The work on the 5 Love Languages developed by Dr. Gary Chapman, helps people understand how they give and receive love with others. Understanding your teen’s love language and your own can help you foster a relationship with your teen that is connected.  You and your teen can do the quiz here.

Photo by Martins Zemlickis on Unsplash

Communication and Conversations

When the boomerang comes back, there will be many opportunities to support and teach. Keep the flow of communication open and create opportunities to plant seeds for the future. Keeping the flow of communication open requires that you:

  • Listen. My friend shared with me the other day, “you’ve got two 2 ears and one mouth so that you can listen twice as much”
  • Respect their individuality. Be ok with differences and disagreements on thoughts, opinions, and feelings.
  • Be clear about expectations. Have clarity and discussions around family rules, behaviours, and limit setting.
  • Allow your teen to make mistakes. These are often the most precious teachable moments.
  • Help them problem solve and take responsibility.
  • Give them space and some privacy.

In the push-pull of the teen boomerang years, remember that you are still very much needed.

Where did you rebel in the name of individuation in your teen years?

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.

Self Esteem: How to Help Your Teen Live Confidently

 

Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash

The other day a parent was saying how their 15 year old had no self-esteem and the parent was at a loss on how to help. Trying to support your teen who is struggling with their self-worth and thoughts that they are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, strong enough, can feel like sand that just keeps slipping through your fingers. No matter what you do it seems, those self-defeating messages weight more on the scale of self-esteem.

Being a teen has ups and downs. There are moments when they may be feeling so aware and unsure of themselves and there are moments when they shine bright (or at least see glimmers). If you have a teen who is struggling with self-esteem (and didn’t we all as teens!) and you want to know how to support them, even if you’ve tried so many things already, check out the 7C’s:

 

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Confidence Building

Being part of something that helps build confidence gives teens a chance to practice, practice, practice. The more a teen can take risks in the sense of stretching themselves in their self-esteem and experiencing success (and some failure) the more progress they will make in the self-esteem department.

​What does that look like? It could be being a part of a community group like cadets, girl guides, strong girls or Glow groupsIt could be participating in a boxing, martial arts, or soccer class. Find some things that your teen is interested in, even if it’s just a teeny bit at first, and give those opportunities a try.

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Care For Parents

Don’t underestimate the need to care for yourself. It is hard to be a parent of a teen. You’ve got this! Make sure you have people and resources that empower you such as other parent-friends, on-line communities, parenting coaches, therapists, etc.

​You don’t have to figure this all out on your own. There is something to be said about more heads are better than one. I have found over and over again that in conversations with other parents, I learn about resources and ideas that I may have never stumbled across in isolation.

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Contributing

Being part of something and feeling a sense of belonging is key to the human experience. It is particularly important to guide during childhood and into the teen years.

​Volunteering and giving are incredible ways to build self-esteem and self-worth. Teens feel like they are part of something that makes a difference. It also grows their empathy, helps them gain some perspective on their own lives, learn new skills, and connect with others.

You can look for volunteering opportunities in your neighbourhood through your community center, through the school, through a local faith based community, or a local volunteer hub.

You can start here and here if you’re in Alberta.

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Constant Repetition of Affirmations

What we sow grows. Paying attention and shining some light on the positive qualities can help the brain start to notice those more. Humans have this thing called negativity bias, which evolved as a survival part of the brain. It notices the “bad”, the danger first over the “good” non-threatening stuff. This is great to keep us alive and protect us from danger… It’s not that great for our self-esteem.

A parent shared with me that they ask their teen to share 3 things they’ve done well that day and this strategy, although weird at first, has helped their teen’s self-esteem soar.

As a parent you can aim to notice, say or even write down the good things you observe that happen each day. Invite your teen to practice this as well.

 

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Coping

Help your teen figure out what kind of coping skills and strategies work for them. Some strategies may change over time, while others will stand the test of time.

Consider self-care practices like things that help them feel good (e.g. being in nature, spending time with friends,  reading, cooking some yummy food, etc.) Consider coping strategies for difficult moments (e.g. shape breathing, 5 senses exercise, using humour, talking to someone, etc.)

I have a free Mental Health Book for teens available with several different coping techniques your teen can try out for themselves. I can email you a copy! Sign up on my website to receive your copy.

Finally, consider hobbies. What kinds of things does your teen do or can they try that might build new skills, be fun, and provide an opportunity to flip the switch from feeling down to feeling happy? (E.g. cooking,  painting, photography,  sport, drawing, etc.)

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Consider Lifestyle

Taking inventory on lifestyle can be a great way to find things to take action on right away towards building self-esteem. Consider things like what sleep is looking like, stress, nutrition, down time and exercise.

It doesn’t need to be an overhaul, but try targeting one of these areas together and making small, achievable changes that will make a real difference. I started adding more fruits and veggies to each meal instead of processed sugars and it significantly changed my moods. Try checking out some of these resources:

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Communication

Being able to effectively communicate builds self-esteem and confidence.  If your teen struggles to express themselves, whether that’s to talk to new people, ask for help, advocate at school,  or manage conflict with peers and family members, this is probably an indicator of self-esteem issues. Modeling communication skills can be a good place to start.

Child Mind Institute writes about communicating with your teen and shares some great tips like validating their feelings,  showing trust, and tuning in to your own emotions as ways to have a healthy and trusting parent-teen relationship.

Another part of communication is supporting your teens to become more confident and more capable in their communication. Check out my blog on bullying that covers a piece on building assertiveness skills.

Empowering your teen to take action to building their self-esteem and confidence will pay off in dividends as they navigate the ups and downs of this time in their lives. In your supportive and loving way, you will benefit from that heartwarming feeling as you see their self-esteem improve.

If you want to talk more about supporting your teen with their self-esteem, reach out to me for your free 20 minute consultation call 403.812.1716

Love,
Chantal


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

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

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

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

Everything You Need To Know About School Transitions

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Whether you are jumping up to junior high, have just moved to a new school, or are preparing to start the world of “adulting”, school transitions are no joke. They are the epitome of change and stretching yourself into a world of unknown. 

When I was in grade 8, my dad got a job in a different city. Our family moved in the middle of the year. I still remember the feeling of walking into class on that first day at a new school, wearing my new floral bodysuit (yeah they were cool then) and feeling like I was going to throw up. My long time best friend says to me she remembers how pale I was that morning, “almost translucent”. That’s about how I felt. If I could have disappeared that day, I would have. The first few weeks were pretty rough and I spent a lot of time crying in the bathroom. But then things slowly got better. I started to make friends. I started to settle in. And those horrifying first few weeks didn’t feel as big and terrible anymore. 

It wasn’t all bad. I made some amazing friends, laughed a lot, and found some things I was good at. Best of all, I got through this thing that was really tough for me and I survived and that helped build my confidence in knowing I could handle some tough things. 

If you are in a transition year or you have just started at a new school, and your brain is freaking out, here are some strategies that will make things smoother. I’ve broken it down into 4 categories- Elementary to Junior High, Junior to Senior high (or High School), Grade 12 is almost over, and just moved to a new school.

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Elementary To Junior High

This one can be a doozy. Not only are you typically going to a new school, but you also have to contend with class changes, combination locks, no more recess, and starting as the youngest in the pecking order of your new school.

On top of that, your body is rapidly hitting you with hormone and physical changes. So fun! … Not really.

First off, the bad news. Research tells us that many students transitioning from elementary to junior high experience a drop in their self-esteem and grades as well as an increase in anxiety and school absences. You may have fears around bullying or getting lost as you get used to the school and how everything works. Then there’s how to make friends, fitting in, and how to get all your work done. It’s a lot of change. A LOT.

The good news. You are not alone and these are really normal responses. The even better news: there are things you can do to help this change feel easier.

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1. Make a friend (the good kind). Find someone who likes some of the things you do or who is part of a club or group that you are also in. Maybe it’s someone who sits next to you in class and seems kind. Not sure how to make friends? Click here for some ideas! I like to start with asking questions about them and the things they like, smiling, or giving a sincere compliment to break the ice.

2. Join a group or club. At the time of writing this blog, this part may be tricky because a lot of programs are on hold. If your school has a club or a group that meets up at lunch and you are even remotely curious, join! What have you got to lose? You may learn that you really like something new and will probably make a friend or two. If there aren’t any clubs, consider starting one (e.g. drama club, mindfulness, craft, social change, just to name a few).

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3. Size up the teachers and find some you can trust. I know there are some teachers out there that seem like they are out to make you suffer, but there are others that really care and want to know about you and your life. Find those that you click with and make a point to talk to them on a regular basis.

4. Practice using a lock ahead of time. Believe it or not, figuring how to open a combination lock is one of students’ top fears when transitioning to junior high. Ask your parents to buy you a lock and start practicing. It will be one less thing for you to worry about on your first day of grade 7.

5. Visit your junior high before you start. Ask your parent(s) to set up an opportunity for you to visit the school and meet with staff. Your school may already be offering something like this.

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6. Pick your options as soon as possible. You will likely have some option classes that will give you a chance to learn some new skills. As soon as you can, pick your favourite options to make it more likely that you will get those. Then you will have something to look forward to in those moments where everything is feeling a bit scary and awkward.

7. Watch some junior high movies (Warning, movies are not always an accurate picture of the junior high experience, so take everything with a grain of salt and maybe a couple laughs or tears). Here are a few examples:
a) Max Keeble’s Big Move
b) Akeelah and the Bee
c) Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life
d) Diary of a Wimpy Kid
e) 8th grade

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8. Talk to your parents about school. Let them know what you like and don’t like. They were grade 7 students once upon a time (Parents, if you’re reading this, give your teen some time to complain about the things they aren’t loving and share about the things they are).

9. Have a hobby or after school thing. Again at the time of writing this, it may be a bit tricky to have these things going. Be a part of something you enjoy and have connections to others (e.g. sports, art, girl guides, etc.)

10. Get to know your school counsellor. Most junior highs have a school counsellor. They can be a great resource to check in with and help you solve problems. Think of them as a bit of a coach or a guide that is there for you when you need.

Here is an extra read if being forgetful of new things is something you’re worried about.

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Junior High to High School

Things can get dicey here and in a way feel familiar (oh good ole grade 7 transition all over again, but not really!) High school brings new stressors and pressures to achieve school success, more academic demands trying to balance responsibilities like work and school, a lot more exposure to drugs, alcohol, sex, and dating, and starting to think about your future.

That’s a mouthful and it’s a complex web of social, psychological, and emotional experiences to navigate

Parents, there are a couple articles you can read on this here and here

Teens, p
ull out your road map because this journey requires a little bit of guidance along the way:

 1. Brush up on your social skills. You will have tons of new experiences in high school and some repeat experiences. It is good to know how to say ‘No’, how to start a conversation, how to act at a party, and how to navigate relationships and sex issues. Check out this checklist (thank you www.learningforapurpose.com!) and see how comfortable you are in these 50 different social skills for teens.

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2. Know your supports. Who are the adults in your life that you can talk to? Who are the people your age you can talk to? Where can you look for the answers to some of your questions? Having an idea of where to go for support can be super helpful.

3. Make a friend. Find someone who likes some of the things you do or who is part of a club, sports team or group that you are also in, or maybe someone who sits next to you in your biology class and seems kind. Not sure how to make friends? Check this out.

4. Class choices. Plan ahead, talk to your parent(s), teachers, and school counsellor before starting high school and map out your class choices. You may have a plan of what you want to do later on or have no clue. Plan to leave as many doors open as you can without causing unsurmountable stress.

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5. Go to the high school beforehand. Oftentimes there will be tours or open house events at various high schools. Go to a few and compare your options. Get a feel for the school, the staff, and the programs they offer.

6. Get involved. Try out for the school sports team or join a club at school. This can help you connect with like-minded people and build your confidence.

7. Give yourself a pep talk yourself. It can be easy to get caught up in the “high school is hard” nightmare. Adults in your life may commiserate with you in “high school being the worst years of my life”. That isn’t always the case and it doesn’t need to be the case. You get to decide what to make of these years. Give yourself a pep talk and encourage yourself to make the most of this time and know that you’ve got this… One day at a time.

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8. Connect with the school counsellor. The school counsellor can be a really helpful resource to talk about now problems, future problems, or just to check-in. They can be a wealth of knowledge so take advantage of their availability.

9. Master your study skills. Get really good at figuring out what works for you. Block specific times for studying. Have a usual space to do work. Find accountability and study buddies. There are many strategies, so start honing in on the ones that work best for you​!

10. Get to know You. This time in your life is all about gaining independence from the nest (your family) and a process called individuation (who am I?) Take time to learn about yourself, what you like, don’t like, what kind of people you want to surround yourself with, your dreams and hopes, talents and skills, etc. Give yourself opportunities to try new things and take some risks (maybe not the dangerous might kill you kind) to help you better get to know yourself. Check out this article I wrote on all the reasons why being You, is the best thing to be!

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High School is Almost Over

When high school is coming to a close it can mark a really significant period in a teen’s life. This is where adulting comes into play and some people say it is like stepping into the real world. Students nowadays have options like taking a gap year, going to post-secondary (college, university, trade school), or entering the workforce. There are a lot of options and it can sometimes feel overwhelming. The next 10 ideas are going to help you know what steps to take.

You may also want to check out “Race to Nowhere, a documentary (2010) that was created to get our society to start critically thinking and challenging our current thoughts around how we teach our young generations to prepare for success.

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1. Self-care. There are more responsibilities, loads of new experiences and more big decisions to make, so “filling your bucket” is important. Take social media breaks, get outdoors, spend time with the important people in your life, practice gratitude, and take regular breaks.

2. Advocacy. Be aware of your learning style, your strengths and needs when it comes to learning. Being able to advocate for yourself becomes more important as you increase your independence. As you prepare to advocate for yourself, run your script past a trusted adult or a friend first to help with the process.

3. Get all the freebies. Attend orientations and seminars whenever you can. It will give you an opportunity to see what it is like on various campuses you are considering. Scope out campus websites and maybe attend some free events on campus before you select your post-secondary institution to really get a feel for things.

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4. Talk to adults about adulting. It can be helpful to ask questions and learn about what it’s like after high school from those that are living it. Caution – don’t let that hold you back from your own dreams and ideas about life after high school. Some ways of doing this are through job shadowing opportunities, volunteering, talking to the adults in your life, talking to a career counsellor, etc.

5. Have fun. This is a special time in life where there are so many opportunities. Embrace the independence and the experiences that can be fun and adventurous.

6. Grow. As you complete high and move towards the next step in your journey, there will be moments when you will find yourself thinking- “Oh I don’t know how to do that” or “I don’t know how to manage this.” One thing Luki Danukarjanto writes in their blog to try is adding the word YET to some of these thoughts as a way of adding possibility and compassion to your mind as you grow into new experiences. E.g. Oh I don’t know how to do that yet. I’m not sure how to manage this yet. Sounds different right?!

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7. Time audit. This can be a great exercise to do as you go into any transition. Try grabbing some markers. Imagine that each represents 1 hour of your day. Give yourself 24 markers and break it down into the different things that you do. Having a visual and seeing how many hours you spend at school, with friends, doing your hobby, sleeping, etc. can be a real eye opener and guide to where you might want to make some changes.

 8. Friend audit. The transition between high school and the next chapter can be a great opportunity to appreciate and deepen the important friendships in your life, to let go of some friendships that are not really supporting you, and to develop some new ones.

9. Contribute. Spend some time volunteering or helping out in some way in your community or at your post-secondary school. It feels good to contribute to a cause you care about it and feel like you’re a part of something bigger. It can also be a great place to meet new people and may open some doors for your future.

10. Gather your team. Figure out who is going to be a part of your support team- parents, counsellors, coaches, mentors, friends, etc.

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Just Moved To A New School

When it comes to moving to a new school midyear, most of the strategies above can apply to help you. Take it one day at a time. Give yourself some encouragement, some yet statements (I haven’t made any friends yet), and some time to get settled. It will get better. And if it doesn’t, there are always choices and options.

Share this with someone you know who is about to make a school transition.

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.

The Pandemic is Making Teens Sad: What To Do About It

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So many parents have been saying to me lately, “my teen is just really sad” and “my teen just doesn’t have any motivation”. Their lives have been flipped upside down with the lack of social interaction with friends, group programs and sports teams on hold, constant changes happening in their schools and here in Calgary contending with a lockdown. It is not an easy time for anyone, let alone teens who are developmentally wired to be seeking independence from their families and social engagement with their peers. To add to this, we are in a time of mass communication and teens are fed information at lightning speed on all kinds of topics and important issues that their developing brains somehow need to make sense of.

There are many things at play that are impacting how teens are navigating and coping with the current state of things. I am just skimming the surface. This is not the first generation to face massive changes and hardship.

We are in a time of opportunity; the opportunity to look at how to help teens learn new ways to cope with what is going on in their world and learn how to surf the waves instead of drowning. If you are ready to seize this opportunity, here are a few ideas that you can try.

 

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Grief and Loss

As 2020 winds down, I am aware of such a level of grief and loss of the way things used to be. Although some days, my hope remains that things might go back to being how they were, I also recognize there will be changes that are here to stay. Acknowledging the losses felt by teens over these past months can help put those sad feelings into context. Along with the sadness is probably some anger, numbness, confusion, anxiety, and so on. Teens have experienced losses in all areas of their lives throughout the pandemic. Loss of school structures that were familiar, loss of face to face time with friends, loss of group interactions, loss of a sense of control and predictability, loss of some of their independence, loss of some future plans and dreams, just to name a few.

What you can do: Acknowledge the losses. Let your teen know you see the suck. Create some space to allow your teen to share about what’s been hardest for them or what they miss the most.

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Self Compassion

In moments of suffering and hardship,  being kind and caring towards ourselves, the way we would be with a close friend, can be a powerful coping tool. Studies, like this one, that focus on teens and self-compassion have found it to be a strong predictor of health, achievement, social connections, optimism, positive affect, and overall life satisfaction.

​On the other hand, these studies have also found that practicing self-compassion reduces feelings of depression and anxiety, rumination, cognitive distortion (inaccurate thinking), social anxiety, fear of judgement, internet addiction, and goal avoidance. 

Self-compassion is not about strictly having good feelings or feeling sorry for yourself. It is based in good will towards yourself and being supportive through the suffering and human experience.

What you can do: Try a few self-compassion exercises yourself and share with your teen the ones that were supportive for you or the ones that you think might be easiest for them to try. Here are a couple places to start looking: ​

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Seeing Through the Weeds

It is super important not to gloss over the suffering and hardship part. Acknowledging and offering some empathy (putting yourself in their shoes) is the first step for sure. Saying that, if you are only looking at the weeds, it is easy to get caught and stay there. The next step is to help teens see through the weeds and grow some of their coping skills. The more resources your teen accesses, the better they are able to pull themselves out of those difficult moments of thoughts and feelings. The trick here is practice, practice, practice and repeat. It is like learning to play an instrument or riding a bike, you have to really practice and you need to do it often to get better.

The other thing is to use strategies that work for them and go with those. Each person will have their go to tools and they will change with time, so it is a great idea to often try new ones and kind of do a spring cleaning of mental health strategies.

What you can do: Do a little inventory of coping strategies to get through tough moments. I like to use ESD as an acronym for my resources. If you and your teen use this tool – it’s interesting to notice which category you have more and less of.

​Challenge yourself to find 5 (or more) in each.

– Express – Journaling or writing down feeling and thoughts, making a mood playlist, writing a poem, exercise, writing a letter to my future self, talking to friends

S – Settle or Soothe – Gratitude practice: write 3 things I’m grateful for every day, walking my dog, making an inspirational or relaxing playlist, getting outdoors, taking a bubble bath, snuggling with a pet and soft blanket 

D – Distract – Doing something for others, hanging out with friends (virtually I guess), watching videos, skating, exercise, setting a goal

If you and your teen want to learn more about how to cope with difficult thoughts and feelings, follow me on Instagram @therapywithchantal for weekly tips, ideas and resources.


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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