4 Tips for Parents to Manage Teen Behaviours

Teen behaviours, transitions and developments can be a tricky part of growing, existing and becoming, given that we experience the world, and the world experiences us in different ways. What might work for one, might not work for the other, just the same way we can be on different journeys at the same time. The key is to own it. Even with similar experiences it’s important to note that everyone’s outcome and what that experience means or looks like is unique and distinctive and therefore one’s willingness to understand or find meaning should be tailored to that specific individual and their unique experiences. Thus, not categorize or fit one’s lived experiences into a box. 

Given the diversified experiences and exposures we have as people, parents and even teenagers it is of paramount importance that we develop an understanding of what is behind the behaviours of teenagers – individuals who are slowly growing through their own transitions and working towards becoming young adults at some point.

Here are 3 tips and tricks that parents and teenagers can use in identifying and understanding the particular need behind a behaviour is:

Understanding Teen Behaviours Tip #1 – Develop A Sense Of Curiosity

What I mean by this is adapting yourself to understanding what might be going on or what you might be experiencing. For example, experiencing anxiety is not bad, we all experience anxiety at some point, but when it becomes a corner stone or is always in the forefront such that everything revolves around it, it would be key to be “curious” about what you might be experiencing. What could have triggered it? What is happening inside your body?  What would occur if you would sit with this experience of anxiety instead of trying to push it away? What is this (experience of anxiety) trying to inform me? What would help right now, is this a fact, feeling or a thought?  These are just some questions you can ask yourself as you develop a sense of curiosity around any mental health challenge or behaviour you might have. 

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Understanding Teen Behaviours Tip #2 = Using the S.T.O.P. Acronym:

I think at times as parents or even as teens we can get frustrated over an event, moment, experience we do not like, and end up doing something we might regret. This Dialectical Distress Tolerance Tool helps in grounding and being present in the moment. It also helps one develop an understanding of what might be going on. It has been useful for me and other individuals I have worked with, and I think it might be useful for you too. 

Understanding Teen Behaviours Tip #3 Cultivate An Open, Honest Space

Sometimes we get caught up in a behaviour or a child’s performance instead of appreciating who they are as individuals. As a result, children may shy away from being emotionally vulnerable or honest and rather “act out” if I may say or “shut down”. This can also be as a result of a child, or a teen feeling out of control and may not have resources or useful strategies to help better express themselves. It would be important to not praise a child solely on their outcome/ performance but their process. An example could be instead of just saying “well done on your test”, one could say, “you really took the time, put in effort alongside hard work to achieve your goal. It’s been really beautiful to watch, well done”.  This also helps children note that even in adversity or if struggling they have support and have some will power in them. Its paramount for teens to know that they are loved for who they are and not what they do. Cultivating a space where a child or a teenager can be open and honest allows room for growth, change and mistakes. Cultivating such a space also means respecting and upholding boundaries as well. Establishing a respectful and trusting relationship is key. 

Understanding Teen Behaviours Tip #4: Responsive vs Reactive

Last but not least let’s work on being more responsive than reactive. This ties into emotional intelligence. Here is a picture that could phrase what I mean more clearly.



I would also say that the use of language is important when trying to understand the needs behind a behaviour. Using diminishing language gets you or a teen nowhere. Using loving terms and language that is filled with humility and concern could help. One should avoid shaming or humiliating a child or a teen even when concerned. Rather see the child or teen as a whole person. A tip on how to go about this is, putting yourself in another person’s shoes, would you like the language, tone of voice being used? How would you respond? 

I would like to leave you with a quote, and I hope this sparks some reflective moments in you:

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Please know that you are not alone on your journey. Sometimes, getting an outside perspective can really help – particularly for your teen, who may  need a neutral sounding board to discover the needs behind their own behaviours. You can book a complimentary meet and greet session with me below, to discover if I would be a good fit to support your teen with 1:1 therapy.

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I am a registered social worker with a Bachelor of Social Work with a major in psychology from the university of the Western Cape, and a Master’s in Clinical Social Work specialization with individuals, families, and groups from the University of Calgary.

In my practice, I note the different intersectionalites that come into play, and I have adapted myself to understanding the effects thereof. I pride myself in working from a holistic and integrative approach using trauma-informed, anti-oppressive, and intersectional lenses in rendering services.

I am grounded by embracing my full humanness-being imperfectly perfect. My faith, family and friendships carry me through life and its happenings. I find being in nature very healing and so is savouring moments. When not working, I love to engage in some fitness, going on walks, journaling, catching up on Korean series, city adventures and reading for pleasure. I also believe in allowing my inner child come out sometimes through art, dancing, building sand castles you name it.

Supporting Teen Mental Health

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With May being Mental Health Awareness month, I’ve been reflecting on the progress we’ve made surrounding reducing stigma around teen mental health. When I was in high school, teen mental health wasn’t something openly discussed, even with close friends. Nowadays there are so many different avenues to discuss and digest content surrounding teen mental health, which is such an incredible shift to be a part of! The Canadian Government has recognized a need to share support avenues on this as well. You can take a look at their suggestions HERE.

After graduating from University and transitioning into the social services field,  I experienced a significant learning curve, particularly during my time working with at-risk youth. As this sparked my passion for working with youth and shaped me into the therapist I am today, I thought I’d share. 

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Early on in my time at the youth shelter, I became familiar with youth “acting out” for attention and the many different ways this could present. Sometimes acting out can involve a teen screaming, using very creative and colourful language, breaking belongings or damaging property. For parents and supporters, dealing with these behaviours can often be challenging and if they persist, they can be incredibly draining and even weigh on your own mental health. It can be difficult to know the right answer for how to deal with them effectively.

Some individuals argue that the solution is to ignore “acting out” for attention because it increases the likelihood of it continuing. However, I’ve observed that when teens “act out” in an undesirable way, it can mean that a need is not being met.

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If a teen is looking for attention and is ignored, the message they are receiving is that their feelings are too much, and they should suppress them. If we ignore, then the teen is taught that affection, connection, and attention are withheld in response to big emotions.

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Alternatively, holding space for these emotions gives teens the opportunity to process and work through them. This is how teens learn to process and regulate their emotions. They are learning to navigate the world around them by looking to their parents and other adult supporters to model these skills to them. You can learn more about talking to teens about mental health from my colleagues blog article: Normalizing Talking About Teen Mental Health.’


Sometimes, having a third party supporter that is not emotionally connected, can give your teen an outlet to understand and regulate their emotions. This skill is something I work with teens on regularly. I provide online 1:1 support for residents in Alberta, or in-person for Calgary, Alberta teens. Getting to know me and asking questions about therapy for teens doesn’t cost a thing. You can book a complimentary call with me HERE.

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Hi there! My name is Ally and I am a MA student therapist working with teens, parents, and young adults in Calgary, Alberta. I am passionate about helping others and one of the greatest honours of my life is being able to listen and hold space for other people’s stories. 

 When I am not working, I enjoy listening to music, spending time with family and friends, hiking, and indoor cycling. I love exploring new places with some of my favourites being Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Spain, Iceland, as well as Vancouver Island. 

 Calgary is home, but I will take any opportunity to travel!

Normalizing Talking About Teen Mental Health

Erasing the Stigma and Shame

When I think of mental health awareness month, I am reminded of how much progress has occurred over the last decades in normalizing mental health. Like physical health, it’s almost like we all have our own mental health to be mindful of or something! I am grateful for the increased curiosity, conversation, and connection.

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When I think of mental health awareness, my mind goes to how much stigma and shame used to surround mental health. We are by no means out of the woods, but the growing level of openness is something that I am inspired by. When we can talk about hard things and bring them to the light, we tend to notice threads of similarity across stories – we begin to realize that perhaps we are not as alone as we thought, or that others are struggling with some of the same things we are.

 My mind goes to human suffering, and how like some invisible disabilities or diseases, mental health concerns can be earth-changing for the individual but less obvious to the outside observer. My heart goes out to those who feel unseen, that they can not share, or are shrouded in silence.


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My mind goes to labelling, to social media, and to the youth I work with that are dear to my heart. I wonder how all the awareness, albeit bringing many wonderful things, has a hidden underbelly of confusion and struggles for a young population trying to find their identity. “Dr. Google” and social media influencers are not always right or helpful.  

My mind goes to finding that middle ground between normalizing mental health concerns but also establishing purpose and growth. Taken to the extreme, the downside of not talking about mental health is silent suffering and perhaps a desire to appear perfect. The extreme downside on the other end, however, is identifying so much with one’s mental health concern that their identity becomes “anxiety” or “depression” and that the label is an immutable fact. I see the hopelessness on both extremes.

 My mind goes to embracing variety and being open to new ideas. A movement does not need to be perfect for it to be good. I see mental health awareness as permission to open the door and turn the light on to take a look at ourselves.

At the end of the day, I see mental health awareness being rooted in a desire to help people live their best lives and to share their stories – the good and the messy. 

It’s a topic that needs constant awareness.  Last May I wrote a blog specifically about this, with many great tips on how to help them function, red flags to watch for and how to help as a parent.  Check out  How Are They Doing?

The Happiness Pill Program:

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A 4-month group program I designed specifically for teen girls experiencing struggles with perfectionism, anxiety, or depression. Teens get some 1:1 appointments on me for specific tools, as well as weekly calls with teens experiencing similar struggles as them. For parents, there are 8 group calls – the best part about these groups so far, has been the community the parents have built! You can read more about the program HEREit is available online for anyone in North America!



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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.