Letting Your Teen Do That Hard Thing: 5 Ways to One Up Teen Anxiety

Parents often come to me asking for guidance with teen anxiety when their teen is facing an uncomfortable or challenging situation. Their teen suddenly wants to change class or stop doing an activity because they aren’t getting along with their peers, don’t enjoy the teacher, are falling behind or had something embarrassing happen etc.

In these situations, you then find yourself faced with a decision: ’do I help my teen fix this, or do I let them ride it out and face the challenge?’

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A while back, one of my kids was hanging out with a friend. They hit a car with their scooter. They freaked out and came back home. It was so obvious to me that something had happened.  Once we got the details, it was decided that they would go over to the house and let that person know what had happened. My kid felt so embarrassed and the thought of knocking on the door to admit the mistake and not knowing the outcome was super stressful. 

Part of me wanted to go with them, wanted to have the conversation for them, but I didn’t. It was hard not to step into rescue fix-it mode, my own anxiety flared up of what if the neighbour was rude to them, or judged my parenting decision. 

The desire to jump in and fix things for your teen may seem to be almost a reflex. Fixing the uncomfortable thing might feel like it’s setting your teen up for success, easing their anxiety and making things better. The thing is, oftentimes it isn’t what benefits them in the end. 

Allowing your teen to face challenging situations builds up their confidence and ability to figure things out- Read on to discover 5 Ways to One Up Teen Anxiety through the hard experiences.

In the end, the conversation with my neighbour went alright, and after a sigh of relief, my teen went on and had a great night with his friend….later on they even went back to the neighbors and brought over some cinnamon buns.  

Decreasing Teen Anxiety: Why Parents Want to Fix Hard Things

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As a parent, wanting to help your teen out in tough situations is natural. Learning when your help is supporting your teen’s growth and development vs. when it might be stunting that growth can be helpful to understand.

Of course there will be times when it is really helpful to step in as a parent and support your teen through a difficult situation (which we’ll talk about later). However, a lot of development opportunities come from naturally riding out something that is difficult and going through it. You may even get a lot of resistance from your teen when you try to step in and ‘fix’ difficult situations.

But why is it so tempting to jump in and resolve the problem for your teen!? Why is there often such a strong instinct to  fix problems – ex: talk to the teacher when they’re behind, let them drop that sports class, etc.?

I sometimes hear from parents “I don’t want my teen to struggle. I don’t want them to have a rough time.” I get it. It’s hard to see another person suffer. In particular if it’s someone you love very dearly. Your role when your teen was younger was based largely on protecting them and helping when needed. It can sometimes be hard to loosen that role and allow your teen to make mistakes, mess up, and face something difficult.

“I just want my teen to be happy” is another reason parents share for why they want to ‘rescue’ their teen from emotional or difficult experiences.  And of course you want your teen to feel joy and to have positive experiences in their life! In fact, it is really important for them. Something to keep in mind, though, is the importance of feeling all the emotions (including happiness). There is a broad range of them – excitement, boredom, anger, sadness, love, etc. I think if we experience the range, there can be a deeper appreciation for certain feelings and a knowing that they can get through the tougher ones.

Avoiding a fight or protesting from your teen can be another reason to enter into rescue mode; you want to avoid the stress of the ‘teen tantrum’. It seems easier to simply solve the problem; it isn’t worth it to push your teen through difficult situations. As a parent, you simply don’t want to face the argument.

I know there are lots of times with my own teen where I think to myself ‘do I stand my ground here? Or do I just let it slide?’ It can sometimes be tempting to make the problem go away ASAP!

Being judged on parenting decisions is something parents often don’t talk about, but societal pressures around parenting exist. The layers of- What would other parents think of me if my teen fails this class or loses their job? I don’t do it that way, am I doing it wrong? What does that say about me if I force my kid to stay with a teacher they can’t stand? How will this reflect on my parenting? It’s very challenging as a parent to face these judgments. Sometimes these are conscious thoughts and other times it is more in the subtext of how we parent. 

How Often Are You Rescuing From Teen Anxiety?

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If you often find yourself rescuing your teen – doing things like letting them drop their sports, cleaning up after them continuously, talking to their teachers when they struggle, bringing them a project they forgot, etc. – consider the message that sends. 

Sometimes, the message your teen takes in when they are being rescued (although unintentionally) is that they aren’t capable. They truly believe they can’t handle things; that they need someone else to do it for them.

By allowing teens to do their own thing instead, you’re giving them a different message – “you can handle difficult experiences, you’re resourceful, you can face hard situations.” And these are messages that you most likely want your teen to be carrying.

What kind of lessons are you teaching your teen around their capacity to handle hard things? Their ability to face challenges?

One Up Your Teen’s Anxiety – Make the Most of Difficult Situations

You can use conflict and undesirable situations as a way to help your teen build their capacity to handle them, build resilience, and manage their anxiety.

Here are 5 things you can do to support your teen’s growth through hard things:

  1. Allow your teen to make as many choices and decisions as possible – inside and outside the home.

Some areas for decision making:

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  • Making their school lunches 
  • Organizing their study schedule
  • Choice around clothes and fashion
  • Plan their own routines (e.g. bedtime)
  • Selecting their hobbies
  • Negotiating responsibilities and contributions in the house
  • Choosing a family activity 

You can give suggestions and guidance – but let them do the deciding. As they get older, you increase choice making opportunities. The more comfortable they get with choice making, the more confidence and resilience they build. They will have more experiences that send the message: “I can make decisions, and no matter what the outcome is I can handle it.”

Your teen may choose an outfit that someone at school comments on. Or maybe they’ll pack a lunch that is too small and come home hungry.

They will be okay. And they will learn about themselves and others from those experiences.

  1. Let your teen ride out the consequences

You don’t want your teen to fail everything of course, or to act like you don’t care what they do. Experiencing natural consequences is a way to build their resilience, so when things don’t go well or there is a negative experience they know they will be okay. They will know from experience that they can learn from mistakes and glean a lesson next time.

Let’s say they break their phone because of what you consider negligent behaviour (aka it finds itself underneath the dirty laundry piled on their bed and gets knocked off during a frantic phone search and rescue mission….just saying it could happen). The hard thing: they have to

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earn the money to fix it and go without in the interim. 

As a parent you can use natural consequences as an opportunity to reflect with your teen – here are some questions to consider:

  • What can they do differently next time? 
  • What are the expectations around the situation going forward? 
  • How can they handle a similar situation in the future?
  • What did they learn about themselves that might help them in the future? 
  • When might they need a little help?
  1. Find the areas where your teen shines and get them to do it as often as possible. If they enjoy sports or art, encourage them to join community activities. Or they have a passion for something, consider volunteering opportunities. Or maybe, your teen is drawn to social issues, get them to organize a rally or do something at their school. 

Having your teen dial into opportunities to highlight their strengths and develop new skills will build their confidence. Then, when things come up that they struggle with, it’ll be that much easier to tackle it.

  1. Let them know about your own failures. This is a really important piece of parenting when it comes to building resilience. Share with your teen times when you faced challenging things, did things outside of your comfort zone, failed, or made mistakes. Tell them what you did to get through it and what you learned. It’s good for your teen to see that you’ve messed up and survived.
  2. Challenge your teen to do something that scares them every day. I’ve known a few people to use this as a daily practice and it can be hard at first, and then transforms into something creative and kind of fun! 

Challenging yourself to do something that scares you every day, builds that belief that “I can do hard things!”. It also minimizes the acuity of anxiety, by creating new patterns in the brain that look a little less like: I feel anxiety- I can’t handle it- I avoid the situation or default it to someone else to handle it AND a lot more like: I feel anxiety- I take action- I can handle it- I keep doing things that I want and know I am capable.

They can truly start to see that most often, regardless of the outcome, they’ll be okay. It doesn’t have to be a huge scary thing – it can be things like talking to someone next to them, wearing something eccentric or fun, trying out for the volleyball team, etc.

When to Step In

If your teen is at risk of being seriously hurt – bullying, threats (physical, emotional, psychological), or harassment of any sort, you certainly want to step in. There will be times like this when parent support will be absolutely necessary.

If none of these serious things are on the table, then step back and allow your teen to figure things out on their own. You can let them know you’re there to talk to, validate their feelings, answer questions, or provide some guidance.

The Happiness Pill Program

As a teen life coach, I know it can take a lot of practice as parents to support your teen through their anxiety. A lot of questions and concerns come up along the way. It can be a heartbreaking, lonely journey to see your teen lose their confidence, motivation, and joy as anxiety ramps up. The urge to continue fixing it for them can be strong!

I created a 6-month coaching program for teens so they can not only survive the uncomfortable, difficult situations they experience with anxiety, but to thrive in their life. 

The parent component focuses on giving YOU the tools to navigate anxiety alongside your teen while building their resilience to create a life of joy and happiness! You have access to a community of parents like you and a place to gather tools and resources to ensure you are equipped with the very best for your teen.

Check out The Happiness Pill Program here. And when you’re ready to move your teen through anxiety and into joy, send us an email at info@pyramidpsychology.com


portrait of Chantal outside in a fieldChantal 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 Control Can Help Your Anxious Teen

I was listening to a podcast this week and they were talking about choice and control being such an important part in helping your anxious teen manage their anxiety. And it really is!

… Technically, control is an illusion; there is very little we can truly control. But, before I send you running into despair with that thought, let me tell you how you can help your teen (and yourself) learn how to manage that aspect of their mind – and create their own sense of control.

girl in orange sweater sitting behind a couch

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What is control for your anxious teen?

Having a sense of control for your teen is a big deal. It’s about having agency – choices, decision making power, actions, plans, etc. Such as things they truly have some say about.

Ever had your teen pushback when it comes to helping out around the house because you’ve “forced” them to do something they don’t like or feel like doing? If you’ve found yourself cleverly giving them options, like the time they complete the chore or which responsibility they’d like to take on, you might have noticed that resistance just fade away. Because, as soon as your brain sees choices and options, it reduces stress and anxiety around a circumstance. It also provides a sense of safety, knowing there is an action you can take- something to be done about it.

Think of when your teen is preparing for a presentation. There will be some things that aren’t in their control – their teacher’s expectations, parameters around the project rules, due date, etc.

Thus, encouraging agency and control for your anxious teen is about helping them see where they can control things… What are the elements of choice with their presentation? – the theme, who they can work with (if the teacher allows this), the time and effort they put in, the type of project delivery (creative, visual, digital), etc.

So, if your teen is experiencing social anxiety, worrying about being judged, or not liked, they can look at it like this: What is within their control? What situations they put themselves in? How they might respond? Or how often they want to challenge themselves, their perspective, their attitude, etc.

How is control related to your anxious teen?

young teen girl covering her face

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Anxiety happens when your teen believes their capacity to handle a situation is far smaller than the issue itself. It Minimizes your teen’s belief that they can handle difficult situations or the unknowns –  “I can’t handle meeting a new person” … “I can’t handle getting a bad grade”, etc.

Anxiety lives in the future, meaning a lot of the thoughts your teen has are thoughts and feelings about things that haven’t even happened yet. So it instills the uncertainty and “what ifs”. 

Therefore, creating control for your teen – showing them they have choice – is so important to counteract some of the effects of the anxious brain. If your teen has agency (choice, decision-making, actions, etc.) over their life it gives them a sense of control, which minimizes their anxiety. It reinforces the concept of, “this is my life and I can do something about this”.

Strategies for Control.

Hula Hoop

girl with hula hoop and explanations around her.

Photo from Canva

The Hula Hoop is an exercise for your anxious teen to see the control and choice they have.

Ask your teen to imagine a hula hoop all around them. Everything within the circle of the hula hoop are the things within their control; things they can change, take action on, etc. The things on the outside of your teen’s hula hoop are things they have very little influence or control over.

The more energy, time, thought and effort your teen puts into things on the outside of their hoop – the things they have little to no control over – the more it feeds the machine of their anxiety.

It is more effective for your teen to concentrate on what’s in their hula hoop – the things they have a say over, actions they can take, choices they can make, etc.

Because, mapping out a specific situation is something I often ask the teens I work with to do. I will ask them to draw an inner and outer circle and write out the things they feel are in and out of their control. It is a visual that often surprises teens. Teens will say things like “I didn’t see the things in my control”, “I didn’t realize how much I was overthinking on the things  I don’t have control over”, etc.

Thus, the  “I” or “my” stuff… I can control my thoughts – which thoughts I pay attention to- my opinions- my behaviours- these find themselves within the hula hoop. I get to choose my actions – what I am going to do (or not do) about this. I get to choose my attitude – which perspective or mindset am I going to have? My perspective. My opinion. Etc.

The stuff on the outside of the hula hoop is “other people stuff” – things others are doing that we can’t control. And then of course the usual things we have no say over – the weather, traffic, etc.

One thing that may come up for your teen is “I can’t control my feelings”. And yes, it’s true… Your teen can’t control feelings that bubble up for them. However, there is definitely a choice and say in terms of how they are going to react and respond to their feelings. They can choose what to do with them.

Is This True?

dark haired girl lying down on the grass

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Encourage your teen to take a moment and think about the truth behind their anxious thoughts. Guide them to find the truth behind the things their anxious brain is telling them.

So, your teen can ask themselves: “how true is this thing? What is the evidence of this thing you’re afraid of/anxious about? What’s the likelihood that this will actually happen?” Invite  your teen to ask themselves these questions to challenge the anxious brain a little bit.

You can also ask how your teen can respond to the situation. What can they do about it if the fear comes up?

Some of the anxious thoughts your teen may have are considered ‘Thinking Traps’ – thoughts that play tricks on them, bend the truth, or alter reality. You can get an in-depth understanding of these different types of thoughts – and what to do about it – with my blog article ‘Thought Distortions: You Have the Power to Choose Happiness

FEAR Acronym

The FEAR stands for False Evidence (and sometimes Emotions) Appearing Real. You can use it to remind your teen  that the anxious part of their brain has all kinds of things to say, and some of the time (a LOT of the time) those  fears are based in uncertainty. They are things that have a very small likelihood of happening. Or, if they do happen, are things your teen can do or say something about. 

Brian Clark wrote a great blog article on fear and anxiety using this acronym. You can read it here.

So, in addition to these tools, you can also find opportunities to build your teen’s sense of control, choice, autonomy, and agency.

Inspirit their capacity to handle stuff through small choices every day.  Allow them to make decisions around chores, organizing their homework, choices with friendship issues, contributing to the family, etc. Encourage them even if it ends up being a non desirable outcome . Because this shows them that they can make a mistake and still be okay. It builds resilience and helps them grab onto the belief that they are in control with decisions in their life.

So, the older your teen is the more you want to get them to do this. Thus, this is a great strand of development that’s so necessary for our kids, and reduces their anxiety.

The Happiness Pill Programthe happiness pill logo

Anxiety is hard on your teen (and can be for you too). It takes away energy and motivation, stops them from enjoying friends, family, activities, etc. As a parent, it can make you feel helpless.

I developed The Happiness Pill Program – a 6-month coaching program – to give both you and your teen hope. It gets your teen from a place of stress and anxiety to a place of contentment, motivation, and confidence.

We start by mapping out what your teen desires their life to look like, and how to get there – including communication with you. Then, we practice creating agency and control with weekly calls, for both you and your teen.

The Happiness Pill Program is a community of parents and teens going through the same thing as you!

Read all about it here. Email info@pyramidpsychology.com to register or ask any questions.

 


portrait of Chantal outside in a fieldChantal 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:

  • 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.

On top of this, teens have spent  the last year and half contending with  alternative forms of schooling in response to the pandemic – online, on and off in-person (with masks, shutdown sports, etc.), hybrid between online and in-person, etc. For some teens, this adds an extra layer of worry.

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If your teen spent the last year learning online , they may be wondering what it will be like to go back to school like “normal”. They may be thinking,  “Do I even want to go back in person??”

This year may be especially hard for teens if they struggle with social anxiety and enjoyed the online aspect of schooling. 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 it’s weird to not be wearing a mask?
  • What if we have to wear masks again?
  • What if things shutdown again? 
  • What if they do cohorts again and my friends aren’t in the same class as me?
  • 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

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. 

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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.s.

Anxiety Coping Skill #2 

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

    Photo by Firmbee.com on Unsplash

  • 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

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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.

 

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.

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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

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. 

The Teen Years are Here – Now What!?

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

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

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

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

What Does Breaking Away from Childhood Mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash

Breaking Away from Childhood Is A Celebration

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

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

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

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Taking Care of Yourself as a Parent in the Teen Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

How to Tell When A Teen’s Behaviours Are Concerning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Chantal 

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

family hike

Photo from Canva Pro

WHEN YOUR TEEN REFUSES TO JOIN IN

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

Photo from Canva Pro

You may ask yourself:

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

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

 

Photo from Canva Pro

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

​CREATE SPACE FOR COLLABORATION AND NEGOTIATION

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

How?

Photo from Canva Pro

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

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

Photo from Canva Pro

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

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

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

Love,
Chantal


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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

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

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

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

Photo by Sebastian Coman Photography on Unsplash

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

Photo by Chichi Onyekanne on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

10 REASONS WHY BEING YOURSELF IS BEST

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

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

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

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

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

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

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

Photo by Lucas Lenzi on Unsplash

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

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

Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash

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

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

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

Sincerely,

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

 


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

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

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

The Teen Vaping Culture: What do to when your teen is using e-cigarettes

This was a difficult post for me to write. I understand that teen experimentation is a normal part of development. On the other hand, I have read enough to understand that vaping is seriously addictive, especially when it’s a teen vaping. There are still a lot of unknowns in terms of the health consequences of its use.

Photo by CDC Unsplash

Perhaps you have found evidence that your teen is experimenting with vaping. Maybe it’s nicotine, maybe it’s marijuana. You confiscate the vapes, tell them about how dangerous it is, and even threaten to take them for a visit to your local coroner’s office for an educational experience of what real lungs look like after vaping. But instead of getting the results you’re wanting (for them to stop vaping), you get yelling, frustration, hiding their habit and even lying.

Here is tough to swallow news: if your teen doesn’t want to quit, there is no amount of yelling, consequences, or arguing that will make them quit. AND if anything, it may push them further into their use.

​But wait, don’t stop reading! There are things you can do to be an important part of their choice making for their health and future.

Teen Vaping: A Little About Why

The truth is that addictions are complex. Research tells us that the developing teen brain has an active dopamine release, peaking about midway through the teen years.

Why is this important to know?

Photo by Evan Dennis on Unsplash

Well, dopamine is your brain’s natural chemical linked to pleasure and reward. Why do you think a lot of that risk taking, impulsive, invincibility behaviour shows up during this time? Yep, dopamine! This increases the likelihood of teens experimenting and trying things that are “thrill seeking” which may include substances. Because the brain has this more active dopamine release, it does increase the addictive potential of substances during this time.

 

Teen Vaping: How You Can Help

Here are 5 things that you can bring to the table to help encourage your teen to make choices that bode for their health.

Photo by Jason Weingardt on Unsplash

1. What’s the Root – Digging Deeper
Teens just love when parents ask tons of questions (please pick up on sarcasm here). Understanding the root of their choice to vape is delicate work as a parent for sure.

Ask yourself what is driving me to want to help them? If you are spiraling out in fear of worse case scenarios, you will vibrate at that level in your conversations with them, which is going to shut things down pretty quickly. Whatever shows up for you is ok (no blame here), acknowledge it, name it, share it with your partner, therapist, or best friend, and then take a deep breath and put it on the shelf (I know this is not easy) before you have those conversations with your teen.

It can sometimes be helpful to start by normalizing the ups and downs of life. Try to be curious and come from a place of really wanting to understand what is going on for them and what it is that is leading them to vape. You might learn they are vaping because it helps with their anxiety, they may have lots of friends who are smoking and vaping, or they may be struggling to manage their stress.

Show the love by creating opportunities for your teen to feel safe to open up and discuss the issues and concerns they are dealing with.

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

2. Be Clear About your Expectations
It’s 100% ok to not be ok with vaping, smoking, drugs, and so on. The most important part of this message is your Why. Be clear that this choice will never be ok with you because they are important to you and you love them.

Be ultra clear on your limits around the behaviour (e.g. no vaping in home or car). Punishing and consequences are likely going to be counterproductive however,
you can try working with your teen to offer some incentives to help them support them to quit.

3. Learn About It
Get informed about nicotine addiction and the health consequences. You can share some of what you discover with your teen. Research does indicate that information on the long term health consequences is not that effective in reducing tobacco and nicotine use in young populations.

You will likely have more traction in sharing about the shorter term consequences that may have a social impact on your teen such as, wheezing during activities, bad breath, a chronic cough, inflamed gums, rotting teeth, no money, and so on. You can start with the effects on teeth here.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

4. Offer Supports
Keep the dialogue open with your teen. Check-in on their desire to quit. If they offer you a yes or a maybe, you can start supporting them by scheduling an appointment with your family doctor. Your doctor will most likely have some good resources and information to get things started. Share information about cessation programs. Try and find out beforehand if they are geared towards supporting teens. Smokefreeteen and Albertaquits are great resources for quitting supports.

5. Counselling
​Specialized cessation or addictions counsellors can support teens specifically on how to create a cessation plan, how to deal with cravings, and answer questions about substances. Other counsellors will have skills to explore the underlying issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress that may be leading to the vaping behaviour.

Knowledge is power here and working on staying close in your relationship with your teen will ensure that you are a part of the support team to make it easier to quit when they are ready.

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash

Practice your ABC’s –

  • Attentively listen
  • Boundaries
  • Connect

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

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

Photo from Canva Pro 

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

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

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


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

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

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

Do you trust your teen: talking parental controls

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

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

Ok.
Are you freaking out a bit?

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

  • Critical thinking
  • Responsibility
  • Choice making skills

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

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

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

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

Digital Citizenship

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

Photo by Creative Christians on Unsplash

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

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

Chris Zook goes into more detail on each on these here

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

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

Age Matters

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

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

Photo by Julia Coimbra on Unsplash

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

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

Photo by Michael Jeffery on Unsplash

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

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

Consider flexibility within the controls.

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

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

 


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

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

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

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