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

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

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

What is Self-Compassion?

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

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

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

Objections to Self-Compassion

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

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

I have heard things like:

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

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

Myths About Self-Compassion

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

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

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

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

2. Self compassion practices take a lot of time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Case for Self-Compassion for Teens Experiencing Depression

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

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

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

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

Self-Compassion Strategies

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

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

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

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

Email us to learn more, info@pyramidpsychology.com 

Love,

Chantal


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

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

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

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

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.

Photo by KOBU Agency on Unsplash

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:

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

*    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 themself to these unattainable standards, your teen’s self-esteem may start to suffer, and they are more likely to experience symptoms of depression.

*   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.

Photo by Luke Porter on Unsplash

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

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.

5 Ways to Help Your Daughter Through Teen Depression

Depression, or Major Depressive Disorder as it’s diagnosed, is on the rise in teen girls. According to the Pew Research Center, teen depression for girls increased by 66% between 2007 and 2017, with 1 in 5 girls experiencing at least one depressive episode.

There hasn’t been a lot of published data for 2020 – 2021 yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this number continues to rise. The impacts of the pandemic have been hard on everyone, particularly teen girls. Teens are in this important developmental stage of pulling away from their parents to assert independence (a key transition for adulthood!). They turn towards their friends and peers as an all important source of connection and finding their identity. Recently, these have become trickier to navigate. Stack on top of that, rising stress and you have a recipe for disaster. But let’s not leave it on this grim note – I want to send a message of hope – there are things that you do that help your teen rise above depression. There are things she can do to bring more joy and meaning to her life. 

Photo by Mark Decile on Unsplash

If your teen daughter is experiencing low moods most of the time (including anger, irritation, sadness, and numbness), isn’t acting like herself, is pulling away or losing interest in activities she usually enjoys, is struggling to socialize, and/or having trouble sleeping (either over or under sleeping) she may be experiencing depression.

In my years of practice,  I have developed a program – The Happiness Pill Program –  specifically to help your daughter through her  depression. Oftentimes, teens wish they could simply take a pill and fix their depression, but this is often not a long-term solution. The Happiness Pill Program will give your teen daughter the skill sets to get through depression, and step into the joyful, confident person she wishes to be. You can check it out HERE.

And to get you started right away, to support your teen daughter to shift beyond depression, here are 5 tips that you can share with your teen by:

  • Learning about them
  • Modeling them
  • Inviting them to try these out for themselves 

Teen Depression Tip #1: The Power of Thought

Our thoughts are incredibly powerful. Give this a try (thank you Amira Alvarez for this exercise!) Imagine someone you love deeply. Picture them in your mind doing something that makes you smile. Notice what happens in your body when you really imagine this person doing that thing that brings you pure joy. What did you notice? My heart feels full and expansive and a smile paints itself on my face. But that person is not in front of me doing that thing. This is not happening in real time, I am simply using my thoughts to shift my emotional state and the sensations in my body. 

Helping your teen daughter recognize that she has the ability to overcome difficult moments and switch things around is an impactful tool to take away the power of depressive thoughts. Invite  your teen daughter to start simply noticing her thoughts and being curious. You’re not telling her what to do with any of her thoughts. Instead, you are simply getting her to start checking in with herself when thoughts pop in.

 “Is this thought serving me, or blocking me?”. You can help them start to tell the difference between a helpful thought – one that empowers them to be the confident person they want to be, and respond to things in the way they desire to – and a thought that blocks them. A blocking thought is one that isn’t serving them. 

“What can I do with this thought instead?”

One exercise you can offer to help with thoughts that don’t serve your teen daughter is a ‘mental vacation’. This is a tool to unhook from a thought that is leading to low emotions and turning into a negative spiral of thoughts. She can (you can do this too!)  picture herself somewhere peaceful and safe, it can be somewhere she’s been, wants to go, or somewhere completely imaginary. Next, she can take a few moments to really imagine what it would be like there, with all of her senses – what can she See? Hear? Feel? Smell? Taste? 

One easy way to shift gears and create a break for herself. 

Teen Depression Tip #2: Self-Care Assessment

Self-care might bring up the staple image of bubble baths, candles and soothing music. This is great if that’s your vibe. Self-care is in fact sooo much more than that. The way I think of it, is any action (small, medium, or large) that you take that is one step above just surviving. It may not take you

Photo by kevin laminto on Unsplash

into thriving and that’s ok! 

Help your daughter, by getting clear for yourself on what some of your self-care rituals are. Do you have an amazing lotion that you use? What about reading quietly for a few minutes after everyone’s in bed? Do you invest in therapy or coaching? How about going to the gym or go out with a friend from time to time. It’s for you to decide what self-care is and what is a level up from just getting by. 

You can encourage your daughter to be curious about how she is taking care of herself, to look at things from a different angle. Bring awareness to it, and then ask how it impacts her.

Body movement is an especially neglected one that I like to bring awareness to in my sessions with teen girls. It’s an integral part of overall health. Your daughter can check in with herself by asking things like, “How am I taking care of myself physically? What’s my sleep like? How is my tech use impacting my physical health?” The key here is not to tell her what to do, instead have her come to her own reflections on how physical health behaviors are positively or negatively impacting.  

From there what action (small, medium, large) can she take to make an adjustment. This gives her the power to choose what she does next.

Teen Depression Tip #3: Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is the ability to be kind to one’s self,  and you can help grow this skill.

Teen girls tend to be harder on themselves than others (aren’t we all?). I find asking teen girls to imagine what they would tell their best friend in the same situation a good start to lead into self-compassion. “If  your best friend were struggling in the same way you are, how would you help them? What would you say to them? What support would you offer them?”.  They can then turn that around to themselves and see in what ways their response is similar or different to how they would respond to someone they care about. 

For many of us, the way we respond to ourselves is V-E-R-Y different,  often a lot more negative, than how we respond to others. Instead of the kindness and empathy you might offer to your best friend, you are thinking things like – “Why can’t I get this? Everyone’s judging me. I’m a failure”. Your daughter is probably experiencing something pretty similar or even more intense.

When she is in the headspace of “I’m a failure, I can’t do this, I keep messing up”, etc. it can be really hard to take action and move forward. Bringing awareness to this opens up a space for your daughter to start treating herself a  little more kindly. 

Teen Depression Tip #4: Being in the Now

If your teen daughter is going through depression, her nervous system is feeling it too. She might experience detachment, or a numbness; where there is a  lack of feeling, sensation, and/or emotion. She could be feeling cut off from the world, from herself, and her environment; a loss of connection.

Helping your daughter connect to the present moment by using grounding and mindfulness techniques can help to rewire the nervous system to a place where she’s more relaxed and calm – so she can feel safe in her body and connect to self, others, and environment.

Here are a few ways you can help your daughter feel more grounded:

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

  • 5 Finger Breathing
  • Box Breathing
  • Slow down the breath with one hand on your chest or stomach while you breathe in and out 
  • Taking a breath in and humming as you breathe out
  • 54321 Senses Exercise (noticing what you can see, hear, feel, smell, taste, etc.)
  • Placing feet on the floor and really noticing the pressure and sensations of your feet being connected to the ground
  • Placing hands on the wall and applying pressure. Noticing what it feels like
  • Taking a walk and combining the 54321 exercise
  • Rubbing your palms together to create some heat and slowly noticing as they cool off
  • A little cold exposure like washing hands in cold water, splashing face gently with cold water, etc. 

Teen Depression Tip #5: Highlighting Uniqueness

Last, but certainly not least, highlighting your daughter’s strengths, qualities, skills, and resources is a wonderful way to help them realize what makes them unique. And further to that, start taking actions that move them in the direction of who they actually want to be and how they want to show up. 

What is it that makes your daughter, her?  What characteristics or skills does she have? Which does she want to develop? What’s important to her (her values)?

If there are things your teen values, but feels she isn’t stepping up  in the way she wants to, how can she get there?

Highlighting strengths, qualities, characteristics, uniqueness, values, etc.  is really important because it can help them see and step into who they want to be; their most confident selves.

I like to use the character strengths exercise with teens to help bring awareness to their strengths, how they are playing out right now,  and which ones they would like to grow. 

I sincerely hope these tools have given you a place to start! Don’t forget to check out The Happiness Pill Program – I designed it to support you AND your teen daughter through this journey. You can also download your FREE Anxiety & Depression Toolkit for Parents along with our mini webinars, all free and delivered straight to your inbox! Download your copy HERE.

Tool Kit

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

Love,

Chantal


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. 

Keeping Teen Depression at Bay: 100 Ways to Boost Your Mood

If you are in Canada or anywhere in the Northern hemisphere, the change of season is in full swing – along with the increased likelihood of falling into depression. There are less daylight hours and gone are the freedoms of summer until next year. The stress of being back to school combined with the colder dark days hits hard for many teens.

This is not always the case, some of you might be welcoming the routine, knowing what to expect, and activities and things to keep you occupied. But if you have been finding yourself feeling a little more sad, irritated, angry, or stressed, or know you could easily slip into one of these, this article is for you.

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Be sure to scroll to the bottom to get your printable version of the 100 ways to boost your mood and keep depression at bay.

Get your printable PDF here: 100 Ways to Boost Your Mood – for Teen Girls. 

The weather change and back to school routine are just some reasons you might be feeling low. Sometimes you might not even be totally aware of what’s leading to that down feeling, but you know how hard it is to get motivated to do anything. It can seem impossible to want to take action even if you know those things will make you feel better. 

When I get in a slump, it can be really hard to do my workouts even if I know in my brain how good I  will feel afterwards. I’ve come to learn that oftentimes the more I’m resisting doing something, the more I really need to be doing that thing.   

Photo by Daniil Kuželev on Unsplash

Things can quickly spiral into that bummed out dark place. Like if you’re feeling more and more tired, your emotions might feel like they are rollercoasting or flatlining into numbness. The idea of picking yourself up and doing something to change how you feel can truly be a challenge, even down to showering, eating, reaching out to a friend, doing something fun or active, etc. 

And even though it might seem like turning around the Titanic when it comes to boosting your mood when you’re feeling depressed, there’s a reason why it’s so important to take action to lift your spirits. Because what you do is what gets set into your habits and what you think is what gets patterned into your brain. The brain loves the path of least resistance, so if you constantly give it low, sad, depressed, unmotivated energy and motions, that’s going to be your brain’s go to and what it will want to continue.

On the other hand, the more you give yourself that boost – doing and trying things that lift your mood – the more your brain and body are going to want to do those things, bringing more joy, love, excitement and contentment into your life.

It doesn’t mean you’re not ever going to feel sad, crappy, or depressed sometimes. It doesn’t mean it’s not going to be hard to get up and do that thing. However, I have compiled a list of 100 things that can help boost your mood out of feelings of depression. You can use this as a quick reference guide to go back to…

Pick 3-4 to try each week or pick your top 10 and do those consistently over this month. I really hope you will see a positive difference in your life!

  1. Move your body for 20 minutes today
  2. Hang out with someone you like
  3. Help someone out
  4. Get some more sleep – try a 20 minute nap or go to bed earlier for the next couple nights
  5. Eat something that has mood enhancing properties – like berries, bananas, nuts, etc.  
  6. Listen to something funny- funny video, song, podcast
  7. Call someone who makes you laugh 
  8. Smile- fake it til you make it – science that says boost serotonin and dopamine (feel good endorphins)

    Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash

  9. Think of something you are looking forward to in the next week/month/year
  10. Remember a happy memory
  11. Try a self-compassion exercise 
  12. Spend time cuddling with an animal
  13. Go for a drive and just take in sights
  14. Sign up for something new (class, webinar, activity, club at school, etc.)
  15. Volunteer – giving back makes us feel good.
  16. Dance
  17. Eat some chocolate – Go dark for this one.
  18. Create a bucket list or a list of things you’ve never done but would like to and choose one thing to go and do
  19. Go outdoors in nature
  20. Ask a friend to make plans for a future date
  21. Make a happy or mood lifting music playlist
  22. Take an amazing selfie
  23. Go back and do something that you used to enjoy when you were younger
  24. Go see a movie – preferably something inspiring or funny
  25. Read a book 
  26. Draw something
  27. Make art (paint, sculpting, collage, etc.)
  28. Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time (e.g. aunt, friend) and ask them about their day
  29. Write down some affirmations 
  30. Make your own list of mood boosting ideas
  31. Go shopping
  32. Put on your favourite outfit and go out
  33. Go to a party
  34. Organize or plan a party
  35. Play a sport
  36. Do something kind for someone else unexpectedly 
  37. Read poetry
  38. Write poetry
  39. Do something thrill seeking (e.g. roller coasters, mountain biking, ice climbing, cave diving, hot air balloon, etc.)
  40. Go to a pet store and pet the cutest furry fluffy critters you can find
  41. Write a letter to your future self
  42. Do a series of pushups, situps, squats and lunges for 90 seconds each
  43. Look in the mirror and say 3 nice things about yourself
  44. Get a spa treatment (e.g. massage, manicure, pedicure)
  45. Go to a laughter yoga class
  46. Go to a regular yoga class
  47. Do something a little extravagant (e.g. expensive dinner, rent a limo, wear something nice, splurge on something)
  48. Give/get a hug

    Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

  49. Snuggle a baby
  50. Play with a younger cousin/sibling
  51. Do something physically vigorous like a run or hike
  52. Offer yourself words of encouragement
  53. Go for ice cream or another delicious treat
  54. Give someone a compliment
  55. Make a list of things you’d things you like to do today and knock them off celebrating each one you get to
  56. Research your dream career
  57. Have a meal with people you enjoy
  58. Book a session with a therapist or teen life coach
  59. Play a game 
  60. Cook a nice meal
  61. Ask 3 people what they like about you
  62. Listen to inspiring videos
  63. Watch funny memes
  64. Make a video
  65. Set a 28 day challenge
  66. Go into a crystal shop and pick out one that speaks to you
  67. Journal your feelings, hopes, and dreams
  68. Use a mood tracking app everyday for the week
  69. Garden or do something that has you getting your hands dirty
  70. Read a book from your childhood
  71. Learn something new
  72. Run some stairs for 5 minutes
  73. Buy a inexpensive gift card to your favourite treat place and give it to the next person in line
  74. Start a gratitude journal/list 
  75. Download and start on an acts of kindness calendar
  76. Create a dance routine with a friend
  77. Write a song
  78. Make up the most outrageous touchdown celebration move
  79. Flip through a fashion magazine and snapshot your favourite outfits
  80. Find someone famous who looks like you 
  81. Check out this calendar to download all kinds of action calendars to boost happiness and download the app
  82. Watch a ted talk on happiness
  83. Clean out your closet or another space
  84. Show love to someone your care about
  85. Write a thank you letter to someone (you can send or not)
  86. Tackle a to do list
  87. Drink plenty of water

    Photo by quokkabottles on Unsplash

  88. Meditate
  89. Organize something
  90. Find, printout, write out quotes that you like and make them visible
  91. Scrapbook a favourite memory
  92. Sing
  93. Make a new friend
  94. Give something up 
  95. Try a new wellness app
  96. Play video games
  97. Write down a list of your strengths and qualities
  98. Create a vision board where you imagine your ideal self/ideal life- 
  99. Use mental vacation technique (imagine a favourite place- imaginary or real and take it in through all your senses – what you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste).
  100. Use your posture to boost confidence and mood.
Boost Your Mood

Love,
Chantal

 


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. 

Self Esteem: How to Help Your Teen Live Confidently

 

Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash

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

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

 

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Confidence Building

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

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

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

Care For Parents

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

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

Photo by Anna Earl on Unsplash

Contributing

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

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

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

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

Photo by Vana Ash on Unsplash

Constant Repetition of Affirmations

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

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

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

 

Photo by Kristin Wilson on Unsplash

Coping

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

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

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

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

Photo by Prudence Earl on Unsplash

Consider Lifestyle

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

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

Photo by Priscilla Du Preeze on Unsplash

Communication

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Chantal


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

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

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

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

SELF-INJURY AND SELF-HARM: WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR TEEN IS CUTTING

Many of the teens I work with have used self-harm as a coping behaviour. Teens might feel like their parents “don’t get it” and like it is the only coping mechanism that is providing some temporary relief. It can be terrifying for parents who discover this and feel unsure on how to help with their teens pain and suffering.

If you are a concerned parent of a teen who is self-harming, this blog will talk about the what’s, the why’s, and the how to help.

Photo by Greg Little: grummanaa5

WHAT IS SELF-INJURY AND SELF-HARM?

Self-harm and self-injury can be used interchangeably and they are behaviours such as cutting, hitting, scratching, pulling out hair, punching hard objects, etc. Any behaviour that causes injury to one’s body can be considered self-harm. This is different than participating in a high risk activity that may cause self-injury in that the purpose of self-harming behaviours is to cope with psychological pain and overwhelm. Cutting is one of most prevalent methods of self-harm in adolescents at this time.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

WHY DO PEOPLE SELF-HARM?

We know that self-harming behaviours are used as a coping method to deal with psychological pain and overwhelm. Sometimes parents will ask me, “is my teen doing this to get attention?”. Well the short answer is: Maybe. Not attention in the way of “look at me” but more so a cry for help or a way of saying “I’m really struggling right now”.

Other times, parents will wonder if their teen is trying to complete suicide. Most often suicide is not the desired outcome. Teens who are self-harming may also have thoughts of suicide, but the self-harming behaviour is not usually intended as a lethal means.

So then, why? Well most often self-harming behaviours are used as a way to get relief in managing psychological pain. Whether it is to numb, express, or release pain or a way of gaining a sense of control over emotional overwhelm, these are usually the reasons people turn to self-harm.

The problem with this type of coping is that it provides temporary relief, meaning the psychological pain and overwhelm come back, which keeps a person in a cycle of self-harm. Also, physiologically there is a release of neurotransmitters and endorphins that are linked to that sense of relief. The more a person engages in self-harming behaviours, the more the body habituates and people tend to need to do more of the behaviour in order to get the same physiological response.  This means higher risk in the behaviour, such as deeper or more cutting, and this can lead to dangerous outcomes and unwanted consequences (e.g. infection, scarring, etc.)

Photo by Jose A. Thompson on Unsplash

HOW YOU CAN HELP WHEN YOUR TEEN IS SELF-HARMING

The first thing is to take it seriously. The sooner you can respond with caring and empathy, the quicker you can turn around this coping strategy. If your teen is scraping their legs or rubbing themselves really hard in response to a situation, this still warrants your attention in a real way. You can help early on and avoid the behaviours from escalating into something worse. Responding with caring and empathy can include: 

  • Letting your teen know you have noticed the behaviour
  • Letting your teen know you are concerned
  • Letting your teen know they do not have to feel shame about this but it is important to get some help and get to the root
  • Letting your teen know you are there for them and want to help
  • Asking your teen about the behaviour
  • Asking your teen about what’s going on, their feelings, things they are struggling with, etc.

After that, come up with a plan (with your teen) to help them stay safe and reduce the risk of self-harm. Consider using the TTURN acronym to help TTURN things around. 

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

T – Tell a trusted adult 
(get your teen to name 3+ adults they can talk to if they have the urge to self-harm, e.g. parent, teacher, coach, relative, etc.)
T – Tag your triggers 
(ask about things, people, situations, and emotions that increase the urge to self-harm)
U – Up your self-care 
(get your teen to collab on a list of things they enjoy doing or people that bring them comfort, e.g. reading, listening to music, going for tea, hugs, doing their hair, exercising, hanging out with friends, etc.)
R – Replacement behaviours 
(understanding why your teen is using self-harming behaviours will help you come up with alternative behaviours that have less risky consequences. For example, if it is about numbing pain which releases endorphins, look at some behaviours that release endorphins such as, exercising, punching a pillow, eating dark chocolate, laughing, etc.)
N – Negotiating Harm Reduction 
(come up with ways to reduce the risk such as making sharp objects less accessible, having them pain or draw on the body parts instead of injuring, using rubber bands or ice instead of sharp objects, etc.)

Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels

Third, consider working with a therapist for additional support. The root cause of self-harming behaviours may be related to managing feelings such as anxiety, fear, stress, anger, depression etc. It may also be related to larger mental health concerns or a lack of coping tools and strategies. A therapist can work alongside your teen (and your family as needed) to help them develop other strategies and offer them a safe place to express their thoughts and emotions.

As a therapist myself, I can support you and your teen with creative sessions in person, via video, or walk and talk appointments. I use hands-on methods to support your teen to communicate through their self-harm. You can book a free consultation with me here.


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. 

When the World Feels Like its Falling Apart a Little (a lot!). Understanding Phases of Disaster Model and 6 Things You Can Do About It Today.

When I transitioned to working from home after the schools closed on March 16th of this year, I was feeling optimistic! I was thinking to myself- I will have quality time with my kids, get a good exercise routine going, see my clients virtually, and maintain a clean home.

Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash

Well that idealistic dream burst when I started to realize that triple duty; mom, teacher, and psychologist, within a 12-14 hour day is…..um…..ludicrous! It turns out I’m not alone and there is actually a fair bit of research on this whole responding to pandemics and crisis stuff. I’ve learned a lot over the last couple of weeks and I’d like to share one thing with you all that has helped me gain some perspective. ​

​It is called “The Phases of Disaster Response” or sometimes called “The Emotional Phases of a Disaster Response” and “Phases of Collective Trauma Response”. This model has helped me understand the ups and downs that my family and I have been experiencing as well as given me hope for what might come next.

As I am learning about this model and its 4 phases (heroic, disillusionment, rebuilding and restoration, and wiser living), I have also been considering different ways to cope. This is not a rigid model and everyone’s experience is unique so you may not follow the exact flow of what is described and that is OK!

THE 4 PHASES OF DISASTER RESPONSE

Heroic Phase – The heroic phase generally happens right after a disaster has hit.  A disaster such as a crisis or a pandemic. One of the main qualities is a rush of endorphins. It is like having a surge of energy where we take action almost automatically. We jump in, doing whatever we can to help. We can tend to hyperfocus on “necessary” tasks and be in “get it done” mode. This might look like planning schedules for school and work at home during the pandemic, making to do lists, buying lots of toilet paper, and tightening control over things we have a say in. Lists, routines, and planning are the name of the game.  We may feel resourceful and come up with creative ways to spend our days with self and family.

Photo by Esteban Lopez on Unsplash

Disillusionment Phase– This is where the endorphin train halts hard! We may notice constantly feeling exhausted, like a burnout of “this too much and there is nothing I can do to make it better”. This usually shows up as physical tiredness and lethargic feelings. It might be hard to get out of bed. Our emotions are running high. We might be feeling grief, stress, helplessness, frustrated, irritated, and these emotions might be wearing us down. Some people may experience different types of feeling like appreciation and gratitude for some of the changes. There can be a sense that there is nothing we can do to change what has happened and that there is no going back to the way it was.

Photo by Tonny Train on Unsplash

Turning– This is not a phase but lies between disillusionment and rebuild/restoration. This is usually described as coming to two truths- one where we acknowledge the loss and grief of the old normal and at the same time feel that there is still good in the world. There may be a balance in productive energy and rest/recovery. We might give ourselves permission to not know everything. We feel a sense of acceptance of some of the more negatively experienced emotions (sadness, confusion, anxiety, frustration, boredom, etc.) and know that there are still positive emotions to be experienced (joy, fun, excitement, gratitude, etc.).

We may miss things from our “normal life” like friends, teachers, routines, learning a certain way, and activities. We may also start to adjust to a “new normal” with new routines, different ways to connect with friends and family, etc.

Rebuilding and Restoration Phase – This phase is considered an action phase. It is one that is collective and collaborative. Families coming together, professionals, community, government, etc. Is it marked by a focus on the “best interest of the most people”. We may see that this phase strikes creativity and an invitation for many voices from the community. This phase takes time and we experience the ups and downs of grief with a sense of moving forward.

Wiser Living Phase – This phase occurs when communities are well into their “new normal”. Families and communities have considered measures and preparation to help with future experiences. There is an acknowledgement of what has changed for people in more permanent ways. There is an awareness of existential questioning and a recognition of our mortality. This phase is an oscillation between scars and healing.

6 THINGS YOU CAN START DOING RIGHT NOW TO COPE

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

1. Recognize this is a collective trauma response – Many of us have heard this or something like this “We are in this together”. As social creatures, knowing we are not alone and that everyone is impacted by this global experience is an important coping strategy. There are others who are badly wishing they could hang out with their friends, go outside, play on their sports teams, and not constantly be frightened of someone they love getting ill. ​

2. ​Have a sense of what phase you are in -If you identify where you most closely find yourself in this model, it can help you decide what you need next. For example, if you are in disillusionment, care and rest are so important as well as giving yourself permission to NOT do. Also, knowing where you are right now, might give you a sense of what might be ahead.

3. Everyone’s experience is unique – ​Know that this model is just a guideline. In some ways this might contradict my second point. It is important to recognize that this is one model with some good information and that our experiences are unique and may not follow a linear path. As a role model of mine often says, “take what fits and leave the rest”.

4. Start with safety (bottom up approach) – If we think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the very basic needs must be met before we can tend to other needs. Our physical needs are first, followed by safety, love and belonging, esteem, and finally self-actualization. Basically we need a roof over our head and food in our belly before we can “desire to be the most we can be”. Think about your physical needs and what you might be needing right now. Are you tired? Are you hungry? Are you staying somewhere that is not safe right now?

Two truths- One where we acknowledge the loss and grief of the old normal and at the same time know that there is still good and hope in the world.

Our nervous systems work the same way. If we start from the bottom-up, we can help kick in our parasympathetic (rest and relax) nervous system. This can help us feel calmer and manage moments that are overwhelming. Start with something simple, like finger breathing (tracing your breath on one hand using a finger from your other hand), finding 10 items in the space where you are that are the colour blue, imagining a calm place and tapping gently from side to side on your upper legs. The more you practice these types of tools, the more automatic they become.

5. Nourish yourself throughout the day -I feel like you can’t overdo this one. Find moments, even slivers, throughout your day that bring calm, well-being, laughter, inspiration, creativity, play, exercise, rest, and more each day. You can begin by focusing on one of those and peppering your day with activities that bring that into your life. If you choose laughter for example, Facetime someone who puts a smile on your face, watch a stand up comedy show, funny cat videos (are those still a thing?), or try not laughs, fake laugh for 10 seconds- and it shouldn’t take long before it becomes a real laugh. Let me tell you by experience it is super contagious to fake laugh, as my 12 year old said between giggles, “stop mom you’re being so weird!”.

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Unsplash

6. Know your village​ – Who are the people that you feel good around. Do they live in your home with you? Are they elsewhere? What is about them that makes them important to you? List those people, think about them, and think about ways you are connected to them right now. You might be meeting up on video games or during virtual games nights. You may be part of a WhatsApp or Marco Polo group. You might call them once in a while. You might sit down to a meal together every day. Be intentional about connecting to your village, to your people. ​

 


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. 

Anxious thoughts and feelings in the age of pandemics and uncertainty – How can we help our children and teens

Ok, I must admit when I pulled up to our local grocery store in the middle of a typical work day to find a full parking lot and checkouts with long lines, I started to feel a little uneasy. To add to my nerves were the empty aisles of canned goods and toilet paper and the hushed side conversations between couples and families on the current Covid 19 pandemic situation while shopping.

If you are reading this and beginning to feel slightly uncomfortable or nervous, you are not alone and this is a normal response to the fear of the unknown.

Times are uncertain, and information regarding this situation is changing rapidly. The thing is, and this might sound like a bold statement, times are always uncertain and things are always changing and transforming.

So why might this feel different?

Photo by visuals on Unsplash

Well for one, the amount of communication coming our way regarding this situation is intense and reaching many facets of our lives; politics, national sports, social media, global neighbours, and local communities. If we have the same messages on repeat coming at us from many sources, it begins to infiltrate- the psychology of panic.

It is like taking a hyper powerful microscope and pointing it right on the coronavirus- it will look quite dramatic and absolute from that lens. Historical peaks in flu season are typically December, February and March in North America, we know that other strains of coronavirus such as SARS and MERS have shown much higher mortality rates, and we know that focusing on basic hygiene practices can be effective ways to minimize the spread of viruses. This information however, may fall into the background during the panicked feelings under the hyper powerful microscope.

The best thing we may do is to zoom that microscope out, get a wider perspective, and use that larger understanding to guide us through yet another moment in time that has uncertainty.

Photo by Merakist on Unsplash

HOW DOES THIS TRANSLATE TO OUR KIDS AND HOW CAN WE SUPPORT THEM DURING THIS UNCERTAIN, CHANGING TIME?

​HERE ARE 7 IDEAS TO CONSIDER:

RESILIENCE AND ADAPTABILITY– Life is just this- it is uncertain and is in constant flux of change and transformation. Yet, we do not (for the most part) hyperfocus on the fact that we may get into an accident today or that a natural disaster may hit at any given moment. We manage, we tolerate, and we accept a certain amount of unknown to live. We share those traits of resilience with our children as well. We teach them the joy in playing together, the enjoyment of a good meal, the mundane of boring but necessary tasks, and the comfort in connecting with someone we love. All of this exists within the bigger scope of life’s uncertainty but the focus shifts, the attention is drawn elsewhere. Take a moment to highlight your child/teen’s resources and resilience to life’s general unknowns and how they are already handling it, they’ve got this and so do you!

things are always changing and transforming, so why might this feel different?

LIMITING ACCESS TO INFORMATION THAT WILL FUEL THE FIRE OF PANIC– Of course, having some information can be helpful to have a sense of preparedness and knowing how to respond. However, the is a point when the amount of information we and our children are receiving is not serving those purposes anymore and is simply sending us into a state of anxiety and alarm. Now there is no magic here in terms of how much information is too much.

Consider your child/teens age and their developmental stage. If they are 5, the information we will share with them will likely be a lot simpler and lot less than if they are 15. Consider their personality: is my teen someone who is naturally more anxious? Is my child someone who already worries about health matters? Is my child someone who just really isn’t phased by too much?  Consider your family values and what you believe young people should know and think about the current environment in which you live in.

In our case, being a family involved in different sports, the cancellations have been something we have had to address with our kids. You are the expert of your own family. Focus on providing truthful information, the minimum you need to help support your child and teen. Know that your conversation may have “I don’t knows” and unknowns with the possibility of giving more information if a child/teen is asking or it feels important to do so. You can always give more information, you can’t really take away information.

Photo by Markus Spiske – Unsplash

SHARING ACCURATE AND TRUTHFUL INFORMATION– Think about what kind of information you are sharing with your child/teen and how you are sharing this information. Where are you getting your information? Is it on the latest Facebook feed or from someone in the checkout line at the grocery store? Where are your children/teens getting their information and what are they hearing? Find sources that you feel are as accurate as possible and reputable. I am currently checking in with the Alberta Health Services page, the Government of Canada page, and I have checked the World Health Organization site. I appreciate places where I can find the most factual information and information on how we can respond to minimize the spread.

It’s also important to think about how we are sharing information with our kiddos. Try delivering information in a way that is consistent, calm, and honest. It’s ok to share some feelings of worry and uncertainty, but probably best to avoid panicked delivered message.

ROUTINES– When there are cancellations of sporting events, gatherings, hobbies, and in some cases school, life can quickly feel out of control. As parents, focus on ways that you can promote routine and predictability. If your children/teens are staying home from school, are there some basic school tasks  they can do for part of the day (reading, some math, working on an assignment)? Can you offer some time outside, some art making, or some scheduled meal times that provide routine?

If sports plans or events you were going to attend were cancelled, check-in with your child/teen and see what they might want to do instead. Would they still like to get some exercise, even if it’s taking the dog for a walk, or shooting some hoops with you at the local school. Consider how they continue to connect with their peers and provide opportunities for this to happen.

Photo by Christian Bowen on Unsplash

KEEP THE FUN GOING​- Life continues in the face of change and the unknown. Continue to encourage conversations outside of this topic. Share funny stories and experiences that keep positive emotions flowing. Continue to encourage fun and laughter. Create opportunities for excitement, joy, doing things they enjoy, and connections with others. You may not be going to public spaces in the same way at this time, but you could try playing board games, going outdoors (weather permitting), spending some time as a family, inviting a few friends over, etc.

INFORM CHILDREN/TEENS ON WHAT THEY CAN CONTROL– Letting young people know that they can be an important part of prevention and they can help and do their part can be very meaningful and supportive. Informing them about health hygiene practices like hand washing, coughing and sneezing “properly” into your ‘chicken wing’, and social distancing are all things children and teens can be active agents in.

Photo by CDC – Unsplash

HARNESS OPPORTUNITIES TO HELP OTHERS– In heightened moments of uncertainty, being able to help others and to feel part of a community can be important. Consider ideas that help your child/teen feel like they are part of a caring community. Maybe they are an advocate for handwashing at their school, maybe they are delivering a box of food to the doorstep of someone who is not feeling well, maybe they are the calm presence for someone who is feeling panicked.

There you have it.

​I’d like to take a moment to thank Renee Jain for providing some interview information on how to help young people manage anxiety regarding the coronavirus.


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.