Popular at school

Being Popular At School: 3 Questions for Teen Girls

Being Popular At School: 3 Questions for Teen Girls

Popular at school

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Being popular at school, having anxiety about friendships, and uncertainty about the school year are topics that keep coming up with the teen girls I work with. It brings to mind a quote that has been churning in my mind recently. A quote you have likely heard!

““Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”.

 Although some sources credit the saying to Dr. Seuss, there is a disagreement over whom the original author was, with some believing it was actually Bernard Baruch. Regardless of the original authorship, I find the quote to be insightful and relevant to the teen girls I have the honour of working with (and pretty relevant to anyone, really!).

I know friendships and popularity at school are on the minds of teen girls because questions such as  “will I be with my friends?”, “what if no one likes me?”, and “what if I am not popular at school, or what if I am never popular?” are common in the therapy room. These questions shine a light on the underlying human condition to socialise and feel accepted, which, while more acute in the teenage years, is not just a “teenage thing”. I have yet to meet a person who did not long for at least some human connection, to be seen and heard, or to be liked, and similarly, who did not have a fear or at least dislike of rejection.

The relative strength of these factors vary, but in one form or another, are ubiquitous in us humans. Humans are social beings, so it makes a lot of sense why back-to-school fears about friendships and fitting in are so common.

But…just because it’s common, doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Note: If anxiety around friendships is common for you, here is a free Anxiety Toolkit that includes 10 exercises and various free videos to help you master it:

Anxiety Toolkit

Being Popular At School: 3 Questions For Teen Girls

For teens that are worried about being popular at school, have anxiety about friendships, or a fear of not being liked, I often ask them a series of questions:

Being Popular At School Question #1: Let’s imagine for a minute that everyone liked you, what kind of world would that be?

 Most teen girls that I talk to conclude that a world like that “would be terrible”. In terms of reasons why, they say that in such a world, a person would always be changing to meet the interests of others and not be true to themselves, or they would have no boundaries or may not be standing up for what they know to be right.

Being Popular At School Question #2: Is there anything more important than being liked?

When given a chance to think about this question, many of the teen girls I work with have identified a number of things more important than being liked.

From the teen girls themselves, here are some of the reasons they commonly share are more important than being liked:

  • Being true to oneself
  • Standing up for what is right
  • Standing up for friends or family
  • Having healthy relationships
  • Being kind

Being Popular At School Question #3: Is it more important for other people to like us, or for us to like (or at least respect) ourselves?

This question is best asked last, because after exploring the previous questions, most teen girls tell me it is more important to be true to who they are and to like themselves rather than have the approval of others.

Usually, at this point in the conversation, the issue of being liked or not doesn’t feel as huge or scary of a problem as at the start.

Are some of those feelings and questions still there? Of course! But the question of being liked or popular becomes less of an identity-defining, terrifying issue.

Our team has also developed 7 questions you can ask yourself to ensure the friendships you have are good ones. You can access them in our blog article here:

Teen Friendships: 7 Questions to Decide If They Are Good Ones

This brings us back to the quote: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”… It’s not that those people who mind “don’t matter”, but that they shouldn’t have the power or influence to dictate who you are or change your sense of worth or morality.

Do you love learning and are super into school? Awesome!

Or do you find joy in video games, anime, or make-up? Amazing!

Or maybe your spark is in sports, music, art, or volunteering? Astounding!

You befriend the new kid at school even though they dress “uncool”? Awe-inspiring.

The reality is that everyone is different, and not everyone is going to click or jive together. And that’s okay. Perhaps instead of trying to be liked, you can find the things that are more important to you and take steps towards those hopes. Hope for you may be respecting and appreciating diversity, both for others and for ourselves. Or, it could be growing in greater self-respect and self-love.

The key to ask yourself is this:

What is so important to you that it doesn’t matter if others mind?

You can access support through our free Anxiety Toolkit (for anyone), or 1:1 sessions with me (Alberta residents only).

1:1 sessions with me include a complimentary 20-minute consultation to ensure we are a good fit. If you have benefits, they are also eligible for reimbursements.

You can book your free consultation here:

Book Your Free Consultation

 

Love,

Jessa Tiemstra

Provisional Psychologist servicing teen girls and young adults.

 

 


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 Friendships: 7 Questions to Decide If They Are Good Ones

Teen Friendships: 7 Questions to Decide If They Are Good Ones

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

How is back-to-school going, and the teen friendships that come with it?

There are a plethora of things to think about: What are your teachers going to be like? Are you in the same classes as your friends? Did you get the elective you wanted? Will you be able to stay motivated and keep your grades up this year? What are you going to wear on the first day? and… Will that giant stress pimple that decided to show up two days ago disappear from your forehead before the first day?!

That’s a lot to think about. I hope you’re managing ok. As a teen girl, I had mixed feelings about the start of school each year. I was always looking forward to hanging out with my friends, couldn’t wait to get a few new pieces of clothing, and I had a bit of a thing for nice stationary. In fact, a lot of a thing- I even got a job at Staples because of it! I also felt kind of stressed. All this stuff can pile up in your brain, but there’s one that can really make or break a school year and that is TEEN FRIENDSHIPS.

Would you agree?

I mean I’m not saying teen friendships are the only thing to worry about of course. And I’m not saying you should measure your happiness based on your friendships this school year. Let’s be honest, friends are human…. So they can be fickle, moody, change their tastes, change their minds, and well um…. Change just in general.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn says “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with” and someone else once said “show me your friends and I’ll show you your future”. Although you aren’t totally defined and influenced by only 5 people in your life, there is some truth to these statements.

Think about friends who start to kind of dress alike. Best friends who like the same music, watch some of the same shows, laugh at the same kind of humour, back up the same social movements. It’s great to have people who get you. Teen friendships that have your back.

7 Questions to Ask About Teen Friendships

I want to share with you 7 questions that you can ask yourself as a bit of a litmus test to help you see if your current friendships are solid.

(Note: These questions were Inspired by a fun quiz on Kids Help Phone).

Teen Friendships Question #1: Can I be myself?

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If you can speak openly and honestly and really feel like you are being You around your friend(s) – this is a good sign. If you need to change or filter out a lot of what you’d like to say, you are probably not able to be your real self around this person. This is a red flag.

Teen Friendships Question #2: Do we listen to what each other has to say?

Listening includes not interrupting, hearing what matters to each person, leaving the judgy comments out so you actually feel like it’s ok to share things that are important to you. It’s not a 50/50 split most of the time, but if you feel like you are not being heard and that what you have to say doesn’t matter, pay attention to this.

Teen Friendships Question #3: Do I feel appreciated? Do I appreciate them?

Are there things about your friend that you really like? If you find yourself cheering them on to succeed in things and they are doing the same for you, that sounds like a solid friendship. On the other hand, if you spend a lot of time feeling jealous and resentful for things going their way or if it’s the other way around- caution- this may not be the best friendship for you

Teen Friendships Question #4: Do we fight fair?

Friends don’t always get along. That’s the nature of relationships. When you are disagreeing or in a conflict with your friend, do you take some time to think it

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through? Do you talk it out? Do you cool off and speak up for yourself and allow your friend to do the same? If so, these are the conflict resolution skills of a good friendship. Do you say hurtful things to their face or behind their back? Do you spread rumours? Attack them on social media? Not the best friendship patterns emerging here.

Teen Friendships Question #5: Can I be honest and trusting?

It’s ok to not like the same things or see eye to eye on everything. If you can share a different perspective and trust that your friend will still be a friend, this is good news. If you tread lightly because you fear being the centre of gossip or outcasted from the group or have become a Yes person to appease, it might be time to rethink this friendship.

Teen Friendships Question #6: Are we there for each other?

You don’t have to share all your secrets with your friend(s), but it is important to have someone who wants to help and be there for you when you’re having a tough time. Likewise, if you want to help and be there for them, even if you don’t always know how and what to say- this is definitely good friendship territory. If your friend seems annoyed any time you bring something up that has a smidge of problem to it or you find yourself not caring that much what happens to them when they’re struggling- this might be get-out-of-the-friendship territory. Here’s another thing to consider- if your friendship is one-sided, where you (or the other person)

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feels like they’re putting in way more effort than the other one, that’s not usually the best situation for a solid friendship.

Teen Friendships Question #7: Do we have fun together?

Yes, because it is about Karaoking badly and inventing song lyrics about your classmates and putting food on each other’s faces for a game of guess what your “beauty mask” is made of….. Or not….maybe that was just me. It is about having fun. If this is a resounding YES. Keep having fun with this friend. If it is all drama all the time or just a one show pony of sadness, arguing, boredom, etc. It may be time to let this one go.

How did the litmus test go? Are your friends keepers?? You can also use this as a way of vetting new friends as you get to know them. Having great friendships, even if they don’t last forever, or become your ultimate best friend, makes a world of difference in having a great life and funny stories to tell.

Until next time.

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.

How to Combat Anxiety – Part 4 of 4 Miniseries – Practical Ideas to Settle and Soothe- Visualization and Imagery

How can we use imagery and visualization to settle and soothe our minds and bodies from anxious, fearful, and negative thoughts?

Let’s continue the conversation on how to let our body and mind know, “thanks for keeping me on alert but I’m ok right now and I’ve got this”.

I wanted to be outdoors when recording, although I did sacrifice sound and video quality to some degree, I decided to go with it. Being outdoors is definitely my happy place and whenever I use guided imagery or visualization, some elements of nature always make their way in. Visualizing nature might also work for you or you might have some other things that really connect when it comes to using your imagination as a resource.

whenever I use guided imagery or visualization, some elements of nature always make their way in.

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What is visualization and imagery?
​Imagery or visualization involves using your imagination to help put your body and mind in a different state. In most cases, it is used to help create a more relaxed state but it can also help with things like focus and performance.

Imagining has the power to change brain activity

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Our brains are pretty amazing. Connecting with our imagination and our thoughts is something that people are very interested in and that scientists have been increasingly researching especially in the fields of athleticism and mindfulness.

 

​after an 8-week meditation program, the amygdala (brain’s smoke alarm) was less activated when exposed to emotional content

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Research studying the brain of those who meditate or practice mindfulness on a regular basis have shown that brain activity changes during meditation. What’s even more interesting is that the changes that take place during meditation are maintained even when participants are not meditating. One study using FMRI (takes pictures of the brain and records brain activity) found that after an eight week meditation based program, the amygdala (our brain’s smoke alarm) was less activated when exposed to emotional content.

Why do we care to know this?!?!

​Well the amygdala is like the brain’s smoke alarm, it alongside with other brain structures, take the stimulus we receive in the world and helps our brain (and body) decide what to make of it- is this a threat? Is this enjoyable? Do I need to freak out right now? So if research on the brain is telling us that our amygdala activation is changing that is important to a society that has more recently been living in the crux of perpetual anxiety. It means we can play an active role in helping ourselves out when it comes to upsetting thoughts and feelings and our response.

The thing is that the emotions of fear and anxiety are based in the memory of something that was scary or in the anticipation that something terrible might happen which, “triggers a habitual fear response…… even if there is no actual present-moment threat”.

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The take away- it is VERY good to have a brain and body that can respond to threat when we are in ACTUAL danger AND it is even better if we can help that brain and body to become super efficient at sifting through what is actually a threat and what is not.

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Another way that imagery and visualization has been researched is in the realm of athletics. Imagining doing an activity, like a sport, prior to actually doing the activity can help our brain remember the neural pathways needed for that physical activityAthletes can use imagery and visualization to improve physical performance and to perform under pressure- Amazing!

So that’s pretty cool and speaks to the power of visualization and imagery, but before I digress any further let me bring us back to using visualization and imagery to settle and soothe our minds and bodies when we are flooded with anxious, fearful, or negative thoughts and feelings.

What I like to use when it comes to settling and soothing the mind and the body are visualizations such as containment, safe place or safe state imagery. The reason I like these in particular is because I find they are very effective at kicking in the parasympathetic system (rest and relax) and I can access them any time.

Container Visualization
This visualization focuses on creating some imagery of a container or vessel of sorts that can hold upsetting, painful, or difficult thoughts and feelings until you are ready to come back to them. This is great for in the moment settling of the mind and body. The idea here is that you can use your imagination to put difficult thoughts and feelings “on the shelf” temporarily to be able to focus again or continue on with your day, but that you can come back to them when you feel supported to do so.

​Here is an example of a guided visualization that is about 7 minutes long.

Safe Place Visualization
Safe place visualization can be a great tool to respond to overwhelming moments. Sometimes the idea of a safe place may be difficult for a person to imagine. In particular if your experiences hold trauma or spaces that generally felt unsafe. I will always invite clients to consider that the space may be one they’ve been before, one they imagine they want to go to one day, or perhaps it is a completely imagery place. At the end of a safe place visualization, you can also imagine a word or phrase that might help bring your mind and body back to this more relaxed and settled state at another time. An alternative is to take a few moments after the visualization to draw, paint, or write about the place. This can help it to stay with us in a meaningful way  to come back to at another time, if that feels like an option.

it is very good to have a brain and body that can respond to threat when we are in ACTUAL danger AND it is even better if we can help that brain and body to become super efficient at sifting through what is actually a threat and what is not.

A note on making it more meaningful-
Introducing and using visualization and imagery to help settle your mind and body comes with a few considerations. In my experience, they can be very effective as a one off. If you are needing something in the moment and don’t plan on using it again, it is ok to access this practice once and you may see that it is quite helpful.

Saying that, I think the more you practice, the more benefit you will get from it. Just like in those studies looking at the effects of meditation and imagery for athletics on the brain, the more we activate certain parts of the brain, the more efficient our brain becomes at lighting those areas up.

There may be some scripts that work better for you than others. There are lots of videos, books, blogs, apps and websites that offer so many different types of visualization and imagery scripts. Some are specific to theme, timing, or for specific areas of life (sports performance, addictions, anxiety, stress, etc). I would really encourage you to look at some different options and see what fits for you. On that note, the voice and the pace of guided visualizations are unique. Have a listen to the first few seconds of some guided visualizations and if you don’t like the voice or something is just not sitting well for you, try something different!

Here are some resources to consider checking out:
https://psychcentral.com/lib/imagery-basic-relaxation-script/
https://www.innerhealthstudio.com/imagery-and-visualization.html
https://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/
https://www.developgoodhabits.com/best-mindfulness-apps/
https://www.mirecc.va.gov/cih-visn2/Documents/Patient_Education_Handouts/Visualization_Guided_Imagery_2013.pdf

 

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If you found this post helpful, spread it by emailing to a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook.

Happy imaginings!


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

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

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

How to Combat Anxiety – Part 3 of 4 Miniseries – Practical Ideas to Settle and Sooth Breathing

Part 3 is all about breathing. Breathing is essential to human life and we all do it, but we each have a unique rhythm.

How can you use breathing to cope with anxious and unhelpful thoughts?

How does breathing let your body know, “thanks for being on alert, but I’m ok right now and I’ve got this”?

​Read on my friends.

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Our breath pattern changes depending on what we are doing and how we are doing. If we are exercising, for example, our breath will deepen and speed up in order to get more oxygen to our muscle groups. When we are sleeping, our breath generally slows down to respond to our state of rest.

Our breathing is also linked to our emotions. When we are scared or really stressed our breathing can become rapid and shallow, preparing us to fight, freeze, or flee. When we are relaxed, for example during a meditation or enjoying a good book, our breathing slows in response.

​Breathing may seem automatic and for a lot of things it is, but the really cool thing  is that we can adjust our breathing to settle and soothe our system on purpose.

This kicks in our parasympathetic system which is our ‘rest and relax’ system, the opposite system that kicks in when we are under stress.

One important note about breathing- everyone’s breathing pattern is unique to them! Although breathing instructions and breathing exercises may encourage you to take breaths in certain ways, it is really about what is an option for you at that moment. In going over some of the ideas in this blog and video, please keep in mind that whatever kind of breathing is available for you today- is ok!

For example, people who have experienced a lot of trauma sometimes tend to have shallower breaths, so if a breathing exercise or instruction is inviting you to take deep breaths that can actually be quite activating and overwhelming. It’s about listening to our body and well…..learning to listen to our body.

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Breathing in through my nose? Through my mouth?

Again listening to yourself and what’s possible in that moment. It can be helpful to breathe in through your nose when trying breathing patterns that are designed to help kick in the parasympathetic system, but it doesn’t have to be that way- so just keep that in mind.

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If you have allergies (Oh do I know hay fever season!) or a cold and it’s a matter of mouth breathing- then go with that! When I’m practicing breathing patterns to relax, I generally tend to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth but again, whatever is an option for you.

There are different types of breathing strategies that can be used and using simple reminders and cues can help guide the breath. 

Finger breathing– tracing your breath using your hand as a guide. What I usually do is take an in breath (breathe in) when tracing the outside of my first finger (perhaps your thumb), pause or hold at the top, and then take an out breath (breathe out) as you trace the other side of that same finger. Just keep that pattern as you trace out the entire hand. The added bonus is that the touch of you tracing your fingers can add some extra focus and soothing.

Shape breathing– If you have something to write with and write on handy, draw out a shape of your choice, any shape will do. Then you can use your writing tool (pencil, pen, sharpie, lipstick- you can be creative here!) and trace over the shape you’ve drawn and have your breath mirror that shape. For example, if you choose to draw a rectangle, you will trace over one line and breathe in, trace over the next line and take a pause, trace over the next line and breathe out. Trace over the shape until you’ve taken a few breaths (I like to do between 5-10)

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Being aware and noticing your breath– Simply bringing some focus and attention to your breath and where you notice it the most. For some folks that might be more in the chest, for some it may be more in the stomach area. The invitation is to place your hand on that area (your chest, your stomach, or both) and just take a moment to notice as it rises and falls with your breath. Notice your hand(s) as they go up and down with your breath. Repeat for a few breaths.

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Imagery or object breathing (feather breathing, candle breathing, flower breathing)- While bringing an image to mind, use that to guide your breath. Let’s take the feather breathing example. You can have an actual feather for this idea or you can just pretend you have a feather handy. Place the feather in your hand and as take your in breath and out breath, trying to make the feather move. Same thing with the candle breathing- imagine you have a candle in front of you and as you breathe in and out, you are moving the flame of the candle, but not blowing the candle out. This helps to control and bring awareness to the breath.

If you found this post helpful, spread it by emailing to a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks! Also, be sure to come back and check out Part IV, where I’ll be talking about using visualization and imagery to combat anxiety.

Breathe on! 


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. 

Back to School Anxiety: Coping Skills for Your Teen

If you’re noticing your teen is a little edgy lately or seems less than keen to talk about school they may be struggling with ‘back to school anxiety’. The usual pre-jitters and mix of excitement and nervousness of going back to school could be prompting thoughts like these for your teen:

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  • Who will I be in class with?
  • What if I get that teacher again?
  • I can’t wait to see my friends again!
  • I hope I will get good grades.

This year may be especially hard for teens if they struggle with social anxiety and enjoyed the online aspect of schooling again this year. On top of the regular ‘back to school’ worries, your teen may  be thinking:

  • What if it’s really hard?
  • What if I’m behind?
  • What if we have to wear masks again?
  • What if things shutdown again? 
  • What if I don’t like it?

Sometimes teens don’t have an exact grasp on the specific thoughts but their worries  manifest physically. You might notice complaints of physical symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, general flu like symptoms with no illness related causes, etc. You may also notice changes in behaviours – more irritability, sleep disruptions, etc. 

Worries about going back to school – especially this year – are to be expected…. BUT that doesn’t mean your teen has to white knuckle through it. 

Here are five anxiety coping strategies you can implement to help your teen transition back to class as smoothly as possible:

Anxiety Coping Skill #1

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Breathing can be a secret weapon for your teen. Dialling into their breathing can help activate their rest and relax system (parasympathetic nervous system). This sets off a domino effect of calming. 

There are various breathing techniques you can try. Sheryl Ankrom, MS, LCPC shares eight different breathing exercises you can try here. Square breathing, or 4×4 breathing is one I find works well, and can be done anywhere anytime – including on the way to the school, in the hallways, and even in class. The Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto shares a really great video on how to do this exercise here.

Whichever exercise your teen chooses, I recommend going through it at least 4 times to allow their nervous system to catch up.

Breathing exercises aren’t for everyone. If your teen can’t focus on their breathing, or doesn’t enjoy it – try having them focus on some of their other senses. Here are a few ways they can do that:

  • Look around the room and (in their mind) name objects they can see
  • Pick a colour and try and spot it as much as possible
  • Listen for sounds near or far
  • Name one thing from all 5 senses – something they can see, hear, smell, feel and taste

The key is to bring awareness to the present moment and be less hyper focused on the anxiety.

Anxiety Coping Skill #2 

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We all have objects in our lives that immediately bring comfort. They serve as relaxation prompts. It can be helpful for your teen to have an object like this with them as they begin the new school year. Here are some ideas, or things I have seen work well:

  • Favourite piece of jewelry
  • Extra comfy sweater
  • Stone/crystal around their neck, or tucked in their bag
  • A note/quote/message on their phone
  • Putty
  • Favourite playlist on their phone (if permitted)
  • Doodle a small heart on a knuckle
  • Fidget ring around their finger

Having something that reminds your teen of comfort and calm will cause their brain to put out some chill alpha waves.

Anxiety Coping Skill # 3

Encourage your teen to find at least one person they can rely on that has got their back – a coping buddy. They can have more than one of course! It might be a teacher, guidance counsellor, friend, sibling, etc. Someone they can seek out and connect with when needed. This person can provide a nice distraction, or some comfort.

If your teen really can’t think of anyone that is accessible at  school, see if you can find someone remote who can be available for a call or text during an anxious moment – you, their auntie, etc.

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Anxiety Coping Skill # 4

Use the F.E.A.R. technique. This stands for False Evidence (or Emotions) Appearing Real.

Anxiety can trick your teen’s mind to make them believe they are small and incapable in the face of the problem or thing they fear. The F.E.A.R technique is a way to bring balance in the other direction – with anxiety being small and your teen being big and capable.

Step One: Identify the worry (fear) – e.g. ‘I’m worried that I won’t be in the same class as any of my friends.”

Step Two: Dig deeper – what would happen if your friends weren’t in your class? What’s anxiety telling you? – e.g. ‘I will have no one to talk to all year. I will be lonely.’

Step Three: Flip it around – what could you do if your friends aren’t in your class? How could you respond? How could you solve this? – e.g. ‘Could be a total loner and not talk to anyone all year, 

I guess I could make new friends, I could find my friends during breaks, I could join a club or something at lunch, I could ask to be switched classes, I could talk to the person sitting next to me, etc.’

This technique gives the worry clear words and takes your teen down that FEAR acronym. It lets them know that even if the scary thing does happen, they have a lot of control and choice to do something about it! 

Anxiety Coping Skill # 5

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Create a plan and a routine so your teen knows what to expect. It is helpful to focus on what is in your teen’s power to control (their routine) and what is not.

A routine for school starts the night before – with a good amount of sleep, taking time to relax before bed, etc. Encourage your teen to include some things in their routine they enjoy.

You can also help your teen plan ahead for when they get to school – who will they meet up with? Do they know which classes they are in? What time does school start and end?

Having a plan around things that your teen can actually control (e.g. their responses, behaviours, what thoughts they tend to, etc.) can help quell some of that anxiety. 

Things to Make Note Of:

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Your teen is not alone in their anxiety – going back to school can be an anxiety-inducing experience in ‘normal’ times. Never mind the times we are in now! Let them know they are not the only ones. Ask them about their back to school thoughts.

What are they most stressed/worried about? 

Another thing you can do is focus on the things they are looking forward to. Get them to pay  attention to the friends they may get to see again, the school club they will join, etc. 

Anxiety can be a big deal but it doesn’t have to take over yours or your teen’s life – Share this blog with a parent of a teen and spread the support! 

The Happiness Pill Program is a 6-month teen life coaching program that supports teens to shift beyond anxiety, depression, and overwhelm and into confidently living the life they want by providing ongoing support. There is a built-in parent program and community to support you, too. Get on the path to freedom from teen anxiety here.

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. 

How to Combat Anxiety – Part 2 of 4 Miniseries – Practical Ideas and Tips to Help Settle and Soothe the Mind and Body

USING OUR SENSES

Our brain processes the world through our senses- what we see, feel, hear, smell, and taste. How we think, dream, and how our memories are stored are all encoded through our senses (e.g. imagining the sound of someone’s voice, smelling cookies and remembering a time you baked cookies with your favourite aunt, dreaming of a familiar place or person). Bringing awareness to our senses can be a powerful tool to help us cope with anxious and negative thoughts and feelings.

We can use our senses to tune into the present moment and to our current environment, which can help our mind and body settle

By doing this, we help bring our prefrontal cortex (reasoning and logic part of the brain) online and tune into the “now”. This can be something that can be really helpful if we are feeling upset, overwhelmed or just overly activated as it can help us to settle and soothe our mind and body.

What are some ideas you can try to bring awareness to your senses?
The 54321 strategy
This strategy uses a countdown using each of your senses. The most commonly known way that I know of practicing this strategy is going through each sense and pairing it with a number. For example, using your sense of sight, name 5 things you can see in your current environment right now.

***You can name things aloud if you want but you can also name them in your head, both can be effective!

Next, name 4 things you can feel right now. For this one, consider internal and external feelings. Internal feeling like “I’m worried, I’m stressed, I’m tired” and external feelings like “I can feel my feet on the ground” or “I can feel the back of legs on the chair”.

Next, name 3 things you can hear right now. Next, name 2 things you can smell right now. Sometimes smell can be a little bit tricky, if that is your experience, perhaps you can access the smell of your clothes or your hair or even just the smell of the air.

Lastly, name 1 thing you can taste right now. I like to use a variation on this one and I often invite teens to say one statement that lets them know they are going to be ok in some way, for example “I am ok”, “I will get through this”, “I’ve got this”., “I am going to be ok”.

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54321 Variation
Another way to try this strategy is to use the countdown idea and this time honing in on some of the senses that are generally more accessible. I mean senses that are a little easier to access for most people for example, our sense of sight, touch/feel, and hearing. This time you would begin a countdown that is naming things like this: 5 things you can see right now, 5 things you can feel right now, 5 things you can hear right now. Next, name 4 things you can see right now, 4 things you can feel right now, 4 things you can hear right now. Next, name 3 things you can see right now…… well you get the point and you would continue until you get to naming 1 of each of the senses. This variation can be helpful if you are needing a little extra time to get your “thinking brain” back online.

The insight timer blog also has an article on the 54321 strategy, a variation called the HALT technique, and an audio clip with a guide 54321 exercise.

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Tuning into one specific sense 
In this strategy you choose a specific sense to focus on and you can give yourself a few different challenges. One example of this is a hearing challenge, where you name as many things as you can hear in 10 or 20 seconds.

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Another strategy is distance hearing, where you begin by noticing sounds you can hear as a part of you (inside) such as your breathing or your stomach noises (especially if lunch time is approaching!). Next, you distance your hearing and name sounds (things, people, animals, etc.) you can hear around you and nearby. Next, you distance your hearing even more and challenge yourself to  name sounds you can hear in the next room or further until you can’t notice any new sounds.

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Another idea using our sense of sight is spot a colour. You start by choosing a colour and naming as many things as you can that are the selected colour or a close variation of that colour. You can lengthen this exercise by repeating it using every colour of the rainbow. I particularly like this one in an outdoor setting, especially in fall or spring when a variety of colours are available to us.

Our sense of smell is another option. If there are smells that you experience as comforting or soothing (for me that would cinnamon or the smell of a warm pot of homemade spaghetti sauce- yes I like food!), perhaps you can have those smells accessible for you. Now, having the smell of homemade spaghetti sauce on hand is not super practical, but if there are other scents like lavender, rosewater, peppermint, citrus, or a blend of essential oils, it is much easier to work with.

Some people will use roll on scent sticks or lava bead bracelets with a few drops of a soothing scent. If you find the smell of your laundry soap of shampoo, you can use your clothes or hair, and take some sniffs of those. I would add one point of caution around our sense of smell-  smell is highly linked to memory, so I would advise testing out a smell before you use it in a situation where you are upset and are trying to settle and soothe.

If you found this post helpful, spread it by emailing to a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks! Also, be sure to come back and check out Part III, where I’ll be talking about using breathing to combat 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. 

How to Combat Anxiety – Part 1 of 4 Miniseries – Practical Ideas and Tips to Help Settle and Soothe the Mind and Body

Welcome to the first part of a 4 mini series on how to combat anxiety. Combat might sound a little harsh or not quite the way you view your relationship with anxiety. What I mean by this is how to let your body and your mind know, “thank you for keeping me on alert, but I’ve got some ideas and strategies, I’m ok, and I’ve got this right now”.

I’m writing with teen anxiety in mind, but these ideas can be useful for anyone!

Here’s a video in case that works better for your style.

The next four video/blog combinations in this series will describe some practical ideas and strategies that can help settle and soothe your body and your mind when you are experiencing a flood of anxious or distressing thoughts.

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Today, I will be laying out the framework that I’m using to understand how anxious and distressing thoughts impact us and what it is that we can do about it.

​I won’t be talking about thinking patterns or thought (cognitive) processes in this series – I will mainly focus on things that you can use “in the moment” to start to settle and soothe your mind and your body. Some of the ideas and tips will cover using our breath, our senses, our imagination, and our bodies to basically bring on-line our systems that are most relaxed-based.

I have been working from the framework of Compassion Focused Therapy. Some of the folks in this field are: Paul Gilbert, Deborah LeeKristin NeffPaul Tirsch, just to name a few. All of these folks have done some great work in the compassion focused realm and I think they do a good job at explaining how anxious thoughts, trauma, and different systems impact us in different ways.

THREE CIRCLE MODEL

​The model I specifically like is the three circle model because it describes three systems that we experience that affect our mind and our bodies. The first system is the threat system and this system is designed to protect us and keep us safe from danger.   ​It is a really important system if our goal is to stay alive. When this system is activated, it is often associated with feelings of anxiety, anger, disgust, sadness and shame. The model talks about different hormones and endorphins that are released in different systems.

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​The next system is the drive system. This system is linked to motivation and desire. This system kicks in if we are trying to achieve a goal, accomplish a task or moving towards something or someone we desire. This system often leads to feelings of excitement, drive, motivation, and joy. The related hormones with this system are primarily dopamine and serotonin, which are associated with pleasure, reward, and feel good sensations.

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The third system is the soothe system. This system is thought to be one that is often underdeveloped or not as large as the other systems, in particular if you are someone who often experiences anxious or distressing thoughts or if you are someone who often feels shame or guilt. This system kicks in and leads us to feel content, calm, safe and soothed. The related hormone linked to this system is oxytocin.

The soothe system is the one that compassion focused therapies encourage us to develop and grow as a way to support when we are experiencing threat system feelings and are not in fact in immediate danger. Compassion focused therapy also teaches about balance of the systems and getting to know which of our systems is more developed, understanding how it is serving us (helpful vs. harmful), and considering room to develop one of the other systems to better support us.

I like this model because it talks about these systems as ones that exist globally, in all humans. They also talk about it from the framework of it being not a matter of choice, but rather these are the systems we are born with, they are systems that exist in us, and they have specific roles and purposes. There is a reason each system is wired the way it is and they can serve us quite well in different circumstances. They language used is “it is not your fault”.

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Now, in saying it’s not our fault leaves room for compassion and understanding, but another important point is that we still have a lot of ability to cultivate, grow, and develop certain systems. I like this because it’s saying: “yes we have this hardwiring to respond to certain things and this can serve us well and sometimes it can get in the way, but we have the ability to make some changes in that”.

​We can train our brain and help guide it to respond in ways that might be more helpful rather than harmful.

If you found this post helpful, spread it by emailing to a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks! Also, be sure to come back and check out Part II, where I’ll be talking about using our 5 senses to combat 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. 

Feelings As Visitors: How To Welcome All Feelings Even The “Bad” Ones

  

Learning From Our Feelings 

Ok today we’re writing about tricky feelings, those feelings that are difficult to experience, those that are pleasant, and feelings in general. I want to highlight that our relationship with our feelings is pretty important and if we learn to approach feelings with curiosity rather than resistance and judgement, we may find that we can cope much better. 

​I’ve decided to start by sharing a poem that I find quite profound and helpful in how I experience feelings. I like this poem for many different reasons, but mainly because, for me, it talks about how we can have a relationship with feelings and experience feelings in a way that isn’t scary. If we spend less time trying to avoid or deny a feeling and more time listening and learning about it,  the experience may be easier to have and may teach us something.

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The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,

Feelings Don’t Last That Long

 

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Learning and listening to our feelings may open the door to opportunities, as Rumi said, and the reality is feelings don’t necessarily last as long as we think. Feelings come and go and are constantly changing, but we may tend to perceive them as lasting a long time or not lasting long enough.

I saw a post on social media that shared a picture with two lines. The top line symbolized
How long we think a feeling is going to last.

Beneath it was another line that symbolized
How long a feeling actually lasts.

​What it showed is typically we anticipate that tricky feelings are going to be more intense, last much longer, or be more scary than they actually are. It’s important for me to say that feelings are legitimate and some feelings are very difficult and painful to experience. YES, this is true and this is the human condition. Even those feelings don’t continually happen, we kind of tend to bob in and out of them in the mix of all our other experiences.

So this topic is about how to deal with tricky feelings and feelings that are difficult to have.

​In our society, we are kind of taught to do a couple things with feelings.

One of them is to chase or gather a feeling that we really love. Say for example the feeling of happiness, excitement or joy. We’re always striving to have that feeling and have lots of that feeling, you know like the pursuit of happiness. In this case there is often a scarcity mentality, like there is just never enough of that feel good emotion. We can also become concerned about moments we are not feeling those more positive feelings, sending us on a futile hunt.

Another thing that we’re taught is not let ‘bad feelings’ in or to avoid, deny, or change them. There seems to be messages of shame around experiencing certain emotions that are perceived as negative like anger, sadness, anxiety, boredom, etc.

If we learn to approach feelings with curiosity rather than resistance and judgement, we may find that we can cope much better.

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If you imagine yourself as a little person inside a house and you think about feelings as visitors or guests, there are some that we openly invite in,

“Oh yes, come on in and take up all the space you need”, feelings like happiness, joy,  peace, or calm.

Then there are other feelings like sadness, pain, or anxiety that we decide “I don’t want to have this feeling” so we slam the door in their face.

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The thing is these guests, the feelings, don’t just go away like that. They are quite persistent that they have something to share with you, and will just keep trying to find a way to get in. Those feelings end up kind of sticking around a lot longer than they need to, which can cause problems.

Thinking of feelings as guests or visitors, like Rumi wrote about and another book I will share with you, allows us to interact with them in a very curious way instead of being scared or reluctant to experience feelings, even if it’s one we think may not be great to have around.

The book ‘Visiting Feelings’ by Lauren Rubenstein is a great resource. It has beautiful artwork and a poetic tone to the writing. This book invites people to consider what a feeling might look like, sound like, feel like, and takes a curious approach to feelings.

I really wanted you to take a moment to sit with that possibility. Feelings as visitors, as guests.

Temporary. Impermanent. Not forever.

They will not last forever: good, bad, or terrible. I want to invite you to think about the different feelings you experience everyday and approach them with curiosity rather than judgement.

​Consider asking the following questions of your feelings:

What does this feeling want me to know? What does it need right now? What is one thing I can do to learn more about it? Can I journal, draw, talk to someone about it, build it with clay, splatter paint to represent it, blast music that sounds like it?

Box Journaling

 

If you’re onboard with this idea of feelings as visitors or at least onboard with trying it out, I would invite you to try a journaling exercise. There are so many ways to journal and I am going to share one as I was inspired by Carla Sonheim, who shared this in a webinar.

Ok in reviewing my video above, I chuckled because I don’t quite know my left from my right, but rest assured the concept of box journaling is legitimate. I like box journaling because it combines free flowing ideas and creativity, as well as, some structure and idea prompting so that you can come away with an idea or an action to take that might be helpful.

For box journaling you will need a sheet of paper and a black marker (you can use a pen or pencil also). If you have pencil crayons or coloured markers, you can also use those. Start out by drawing a large box on your paper. You will then be dividing the box into 5 sections.

Section one: ​Draw a horizontal line under the top line of the box (creating its own little box within the larger box) and this is where you will put the date and you can add where you were when you journaled.

Section two and three: Underneath the horizontal box create two vertical boxes. These will take about two thirds of the page. The one on the left is the largest and the one on the right is slimmer. The left box is where you will put your free writing. The slimmer panel box on the right is where you will grab ideas from the free write and create a list of themes, ideas, key phrases, action items, etc.

Section four and five: Underneath the section 2/3 boxes you will create two smaller boxes that are about equal in size. They will take up the rest of the space on the paper. The box on the left will be for a drawing. This can be a squiggle, scribble, symbol, stick figure, or any kind of image that helps represent something about your writing or how you are feeling in that moment. The last box on the right is a miscellaneous box. You can continue some free writing here, continue your image, paste a quote, add an affirmation or word that inspires you, etc. You get to decide what goes here.

 

Box journaling can take as much or as little time as you have. If you only have 10 minutes, spend 5 minutes on the free write journaling and the rest in the other sections. If you have a little longer, give yourself at least 5-10 minutes to free write and then a few minutes with each of the other sections.

There’s an idea of what you can do to start to be curious about feelings. Consider for yourself, what are some other things you can do to invite feelings in and learn more about them while they are visiting?

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


Chantal Côté

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

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

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

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

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

The Link Between Screen Time and Teen Depression

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

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Screen Time & Teen Depression: Factors to Consider

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

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

          The content being viewed matters:

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

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

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

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

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

Teen Depression: Making a Plan for Screen Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

3 Ways to Respond To Teen Behaviours

What to do once you understand the need driving teen behaviours?

If you ask me, trying to understand why the behaviour is occurring is the hard part, especially when there may be tears, yelling, walking away, or whatever your teen’s favourite way to show that something isn’t quite right is.

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Your mind may not automatically go to “Hmm… my daughter is having another meltdown before piano lessons… she must be expressing a need to have more choice or to be understood!” But understanding this why, or at least potential whys, can open up so many doors for communication, relationship-building, or for your daughter to be known and supported in decision making. If you’re currently unsure why your teen is acting in certain ways, you can read Chantal Côté ’s blog article: 5 Tips to Learning WHY Teens Behave the Way They Do (Teen Behaviours)’.

Once you have a potential why (or two), it is important to check in with your teen when she is in a calmer state. You may say something along the lines of “I wonder if you are resisting piano lessons so much because you feel you didn’t get a say in the matter?” Your teen may immediately jump to agree, or perhaps she has another idea as simple as not having time to eat a snack before the lesson or the piano lesson conflicting with another activity your teen is interested in. Checking in, being curious, and collaborating on the why together is incredibly important, because you both need to agree on the actual why for the “what” to be relevant and helpful.

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There are three general categories that immediately come to mind when I think about potential courses of action once the why is understood. These include self-awareness, skill development, and communication.

Responding to Teen Behaviours Category #1: Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is a big one. Sometimes it can be hard for your teen to understand why they are feeling the way they are or acting the way they do. Taking time to slow things down, to become comfortable with some discomfort, and to use both their thoughts and emotions to guide our actions are all key aspects of self-awareness.

As a parent, simple check-ins can help develop your teen’s self-awareness. Playful questions like “if your mood was the weather, what kind of day would it be?” can get your teen thinking about their internal experience. Using other less-direct strategies like looking at a feelings wheel together, watching Inside Out, or even taking online personality or love language quizzes can be useful tools in encouraging greater self-awareness.

Below is a feelings wheel, which shares not only the emotions your teen may be feeling, but the needs that could be behind the emotion as well. (If you would like a free printable version, email our team at info@pyramidpsychology.com).

 

 

Responding to Teen Behaviours Category #2: Skill Development

Depending on what the need is, sometimes there is a real opportunity for skill development. Let’s use the case of your teen not completing her homework as an example:

Potential unmet need #1: Need to be supported

In this case, a teen may be avoiding completing her homework due to not understanding the material and feeling anxious about the potential of being negatively judged.

A potential “what”: re-affirm your teen that you love her no matter what and that effort is more important than the outcome. In a case like this, your teen may benefit from some quality time, words of affirmation, or a break from the feelings of anxiety or inadequacy – maybe something completely fun and different like trying pottery, a paint night, or getting out to the mountains. Relevant skill development here includes greater self-awareness, communication, and a willingness to be authentic.

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Potential unmet need #2: Need for peace

In this second scenario, your teen may be struggling to complete her homework due to an unmet need for peace. Maybe there is a lot happening at your home, maybe your teen is a little on the messy side, or maybe your teen does not have a quiet place to complete her work.

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A potential “what”: find a quiet place with fewer distractions in your home to help your teen focus. If a consequence is appropriate for your teen not completing her homework, cleaning out a space could be a relevant consequence to meet that need for more peace. Helping other family members understand to keep the volume level down may be helpful as well. Relevant skill development includes aspects like self-advocacy, self-discipline, and organisational skills.

 Potential unmet need #3: Need for independence and choice

As another example, your teen may be choosing not to complete her homework due to a sense of not having enough independence or choice. I have met a few teens who are a little on the rebellious side and tend to push back against any loss of freedom, real or imagined.

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A potential “what” –  have an open and honest conversation with your teen about what areas are appropriate to have choice in and what areas are not. Teens need to go to school, and part of that is completing homework and assignments. However, there may be some room for choice about how and when to do the homework, such as after dinner instead of right after school. Relevant skill development may include completing tasks even when you do not want to and understanding relevant consequences, both good and bad, of personal choices.

Responding to Teen Behaviours Category #3: Communication

Help your teen understand that you are not a mind reader, and that communication is key to everyone’s wellbeing. My wonderful colleague Ally will be writing on this topic for next week’s blog!

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Discussing things such as the feelings wheel, self awareness, and needs behind behaviours, are what 1:1 therapy is all about for your teen. Having a neutral person they can let out their emotions to, and then safely discuss what’s going on behind the emotion, is important. You can book a free consultation to learn more about therapy for teens, here:

Book a Free Consultation

 

You can also discover more tips for parents around teen behaviours with another one of our team’s blogs: 4 Tips for Parents to Manage Teen Behaviours’.

 



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.