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

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

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

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

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

Would you agree?

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

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

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

7 Questions to Ask About Teen Friendships

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

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

Teen Friendships Question #1: Can I be myself?

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

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

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

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

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

Teen Friendships Question #4: Do we fight fair?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

Love,
Chantal

 


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

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

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

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

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

  

Learning From Our Feelings 

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

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

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The Guest House

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

— Jellaludin Rumi,

Feelings Don’t Last That Long

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Temporary. Impermanent. Not forever.

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

​Consider asking the following questions of your feelings:

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

Box Journaling

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


Chantal Côté

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

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

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

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

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

The Link Between Screen Time and Teen Depression

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

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Screen Time & Teen Depression: Factors to Consider

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

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

          The content being viewed matters:

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

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

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

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

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

Teen Depression: Making a Plan for Screen Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

4 Ways To Tell If Teen Therapy Is Right For You

Is teen therapy right for your teen?

Your teen is blowing up and locking themselves in their bathroom for hours. You notice their motivation is at 0%, their mood is really low, and they are either telling you about their problems or keeping a tight lid on the struggle.

Photo by wocintechchat on Unsplash.

You are concerned about their body image, self-esteem, friendships, anxiety and negative thoughts.

You are noticing behaviours that are freaking you out… 

Know that a lot of this is normal.

However, normal doesn’t mean easy and it doesn’t mean it can’t change.

If you’re in a hurry, you can catch the four factors in deciding if teen therapy is right for your teen, in this short video from our Founder, Psychologist & Teen Coach Chantal Côté here:

 

Here are four ways to tell if teen therapy is right for you:

1. Teen Therapy Factor #1: Current Supports

Take a look at their natural supports. Who does your teen have in their life that they can open up and talk to? That can be you, another relative, a teacher or a coach –

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think of adults in their life that are natural supports they may look up to. Also consider people their age, a group of friends, or a club they may be part of; other teens they can talk to, have fun with, etc.If you’ve checked off a few of the people listed above, that’s a really good thing!

If you’re struggling to think of people your teen can trust and feel safe around, that’s a really good sign that teen therapy would be super beneficial.

Two of our team members here at Pyramid Psychology are currently taking on new clients. Alberta, Canada residents can book a free 20-minute session with Chip Bvindi or Jessa Tiemstra here:

 

Book A Free Consultation

 

2. Teen Therapy Factor #2: Concurrent Stressors

Consider what your teen’s current stressors are. Of course, every teen will have some level of stress all the time! But really take a look at things a little deeper. Are there significant changes happening in your teen’s life right now? Think about things like family life, school, friendships, relationships, gender, identity, sexuality,

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body image, self image in general, etc. Is there something going on in one of these areas that’s adding stress to your teen? Is something making things a little more complicated for them?

If you said ‘yes’ to any of the possible stressors above, this is an indication that teen therapy is a good resource for your teen.

You can book a free consultation with Jessa Tiemstra or Chipo Bvindi here:

Book A Free Consultation

 

3. Teen Therapy Factor #3: How Much The Problem Is Disrupting Daily Functioning

Are the stressors your teen is facing affecting their daily life? Here are three indications that your teen’s daily life is being affected:

  • Your teen struggling to get out of bed in the morning.
  • You hear your teen crying themselves to sleep most nights (or they tell you about it).
  • Your teen is engaging in maladaptive behaviours, like constantly being on their phone or pulling away from reality.

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If these things are happening regularly for your teen, it is an urgent sign that connecting them with someone else (1:1 therapy) is very important.

If, however, your teen is experiencing these things only from time to time, it may be part of regular stress.

If you’re not sure how often “time to time” is, and how often it would be considered an issue, book a free consultation with Chipo Bvindi or Jessa Tiemstra and we will ensure 1:1 therapy is the best option for your teen:

Book A Free Consultation

 

Teen Therapy Factor #4: Current Coping Strategies

Last, but not least, taking a look at your teen’s coping strategies can help determine if they are needing extra support, or if they already have what they need to handle their stressors independently. Does your teen have activities they like to do that fills their time and lifts their mood when they are struggling? Looking at how connected your teen is to community is helpful here too – are they part of a group or organization they can reach out to, that connects them to others, and makes them feel good + safe? Does your teen have things they turn to in times of stress, like movement or art? Think about how connected your teen is to their emotions – can they name their emotions and name what they need to help? Does your teen take action when they are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, or depressed? Or

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do they let their emotions drag them down?

If you read the above paragraph and have listed several coping strategies your teen utilizes on a regular basis, they are likely well on their way to independently handling their stressors!

If you noticed your teen could use some more support in this area, it’s a good idea to reach out to one of our therapists. One of the things Jessa Tiemstra and Chipo Bvindi work to do in their sessions, is discovering what coping skills your teen already possesses, and then build on these skills with personalized strategies.

Book A Free Consultation

 

Here is a little information on the therapists we currently have available to support your teen:

Jessa Tiemstra

Hi there! My name is Jessa.

I am a provisional psychologist working with teens, parents, and young adults in Calgary, Alberta. I am passionate about helping people become the best version of themselves and am truly honoured to work in this field.

When I am not working, I have a range of interests that keep me busy. I love animals and have a dog and a cat that both like a lot of attention (both tri-coloured and fluffy!) I also enjoy plants, being outside, cooking, baking, crafty activities, going for walks, and video games.

I love spending time with family and friends but am an introvert at heart so quieter nights at home are good too.

I have called Calgary home for most of my life and love living here. Being a provisional psychologist lets me invest back into a place I am proud to call home.

You can book a free 20-minute call to get to know Jessa here:

Book A Free Consultation

Chipo Bvindi

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Hello there!

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.

You can book a free 20-minute call to get to know Chipo here:

Book A Free Consultation

 

In Conclusion

In summary, there are several factors to consider when looking at teen therapy as a resource for your stressed out teen. To gauge how important reaching out to a therapist is, look at these four areas:

  1. Current supports
  2. Concurrent stressors
  3. How much the problem(s) is disrupting daily functioning
  4. Current coping strategies

 

Remember, consultations with our team are complimentary. Our primary goal as a team is to be a resource for your teen to discover themselves, build their confidence, and develop strategies that will create independence in the future.

You can get started with your free consultation HERE. We also have a complimentary Anxiety Toolkit for Parents Raising Teen Girls, which is a PDF with 10 different tools you can immediately begin implementing to help with stress. You can download your copy here:

FREE Anxiety Toolkit

4 Ways to Handle Teen Communication

Earlier this month my colleague here at Pyramid Psychology, shared 3 ways to respond to teen behaviours. (If you missed out on her blog, you can read it here: 3 Ways to Respond to Teen Behaviours). One of the things she reminds us of, is that you can’t read your teen’s mind – no matter how much you wish to! In fact, the teenage years may feel reminiscent of the terrible two’s when toddlers are pushing boundaries and “throwing tantrums.”

 

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Here are four ways to navigate teen communication when challenging behaviours arise:

  1.     Approach the conversation when both parties are calm: Take a deep breath and keep an open mind. Remember: behaviour seeks to meet a need.

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  2.     Listen: Be curious about what’s going on for your teen. Allow them to speak without interruption. If they feel judged, criticized, or that something needs to be fixed, or corrected, defences go up and the conversation may shut down or explode. 
  3.     Validate their feelings: Although instinct is to solve their problem or minimise their concerns in hopes of helping them, use empathetic statements to show you understand, for example, “I’m sorry you’re going through this, “That sounds really tough,” “I can see you’re going through a lot right now, “wow, that sounds difficult.”

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  4.     Communicate boundaries: It’s important that when discussing boundaries, they’re clearly stated and an explanation is provided. The DEARMAN skill can be used to help communicate our needs and boundaries while maintaining a healthy relationship. Here is what the acronym stands for:  

Describe the current situation using the facts. Tell your teen what you’re responding to. 

Express your feelings about the situation. Don’t assume your teen can mind read! 

Assert yourself by asking for what you want. 

Reinforce by explaining the positive effects. Avoid blaming or insulting. 

Mindful to keep the focus on your goals and the present rather than past experiences. 

Appear confident and avoid being confrontational. 

Negotiate. Offer and ask for other solutions to the problem. It’s important to work together to have both individuals’ needs met. 

 

Knowing how to best respond in these tricky situations is incredibly helpful, however, the interactions that take place outside of them are important as well. These interactions offer opportunities to both connect and develop important emotion regulation skills. The Gottman Method proposes the idea of an “emotional piggy bank,” which every person has. When your teen is thanked, affirmed, or given time or affection, a “deposit” is made in their emotional piggy bank. However, a negative interaction like a demand, fight, or nagging, takes place, a “withdrawal is made from their emotional bank. The goal is to have more “deposits” or positive interactions than “withdrawals” or negative interactions/demands. You can learn more about this method on our blog: Emotional Bank Account: Your Relationship with Your Teen.

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Regardless of which tools you choose to use, remember that communication is an ongoing process. You will have good days, and bad days. It is also important to provide your teen with outside resources to communicate with, particularly resources that are not emotionally attached to the outcome. Two of my colleagues are currently accepting new clients for 1:1 therapy. You can meet them here:

Jessa Tiemstra

Hi there! My name is Jessa.

I am a provisional psychologist working with teens, parents, and young adults in Calgary, Alberta. I am passionate about helping people become the best version of themselves and am truly honoured to work in this field.

When I am not working, I have a range of interests that keep me busy. I love animals and have a dog and a cat that both like a lot of attention (both tri-coloured and fluffy!) I also enjoy plants, being outside, cooking, baking, crafty activities, going for walks, and video games.

I love spending time with family and friends but am an introvert at heart so quieter nights at home are good too.

I have called Calgary home for most of my life and love living here. Being a provisional psychologist lets me invest back into a place I am proud to call home.

You can book a free 20-minute call to get to know Jessa here:

Book a free 20 min call 

Chipo Bvindi

Photo by Canva

Hello there!

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.

You can book a free 20-minute call to get to know Chipo here:

Book a free 20 min call

 


 

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!

3 Ways to Respond To Teen Behaviours

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

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

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

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

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

Responding to Teen Behaviours Category #1: Self-Awareness

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

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

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

 

 

Responding to Teen Behaviours Category #2: Skill Development

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

Potential unmet need #1: Need to be supported

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

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

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Potential unmet need #2: Need for peace

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

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

 Potential unmet need #3: Need for independence and choice

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

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

Responding to Teen Behaviours Category #3: Communication

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

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

Book a Free Consultation

 

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

 



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

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

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

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

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

5 Tips To Learning WHY Teens Behave The Way They Do (Teen Behaviours)

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If your first reaction to your teen’s undesirable behaviour(s) is frustration and stress – this blog article is for you!

This month we are talking to teen girls and their parents about teen behaviours. We want to help you get curious about behaviour in a way that is going to make your parent-teen journey smooth-er sailing. 

When your teen yells, giving you side eye while storming up to their room and slamming their bedroom door where they are surely either flipping you the bird or maybe destroying your hard earned stuff, the last thing you want to do is be curious about the why. I get it. But, what’s underneath our teen’s behaviour tells an important story. It’s like figuring out the Rubik’s cube or solving a Japanese Puzzle Box. 

Eureka! 

Getting curious about your daughter’s teen behaviour can help you:

  • Get out of that stuck feeling of not knowing what to do or where to go from here 
  • Bring more peace to resolving conflict 
  • Regulate your emotions by bringing online the more analytical, reasoning part of the brain
  • Diffuse situations before they escalate
  • Be more creative in exploring options and resolutions

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The first thing to understand is that Behaviour seeks to meet a need. All behaviour is a response to an unmet need. Believe it or not, your teen fighting you on chores and constantly staying up past their bedtime is actually trying to accomplish something. Now, your teen is most likely not thinking, 

“I need more choice and autonomy,  so I’m going to argue with my mom about the chores they want me to do”.

It’s a little more subtle than that.  

Think of it as an iceberg- the part of the iceberg on the surface is the What. 

What you see, what they are doing, what is happening. 

Everything beneath the surface leads to the what. Things underneath the surface are often unknown to you and sometimes even unknown to your daughter’s conscious thought. Things like thoughts, beliefs, assumptions, perceptions, feelings, and needs are all underneath the surface. The behaviour you see is a combination of all of this and their available skills to take action on what they need. 

What does this actually look like in real life? 

 

Here’s an example. You struggle with your teen to get her to go to school. She outright refuses some days. (Tip of the iceberg).

Thoughts, assumptions, beliefs, perceptions– “people don’t really like me”, “they think I’m weird”, “if I stay home things will be better” (underneath the iceberg)

Feelings– worried, stressed, hopeless, embarrassed (underneath the iceberg)

Needs– connection, safety, security, inclusion, peace (underneath the iceberg)

Now you see the tip of the iceberg has a little more to it. In fact, you might have noticed yourself softening with empathy and compassion for this teen. Or, maybe not quite yet, but you’re considering. 

(For more examples and tips like this, give us a follow on Facebook or Instagram).

Teen Behaviours: Common Needs That Precede the Behaviour

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Here are a few important needs of behaviours:

  • Acceptance
  • Appreciation
  • Communication
  • Inclusion
  • Love
  • Respect/self-respect
  • To know and be known
  • Be understood
  • Rest/sleep
  • Movement/exercise
  • Presence
  • Joy
  • Humor
  • Peace
  • Inspiration
  • Choice
  • Freedom
  • Independence
  • Challenge
  • Growth
  • Hope
  • Self-expression
  • To matter

If  you want an even more thorough list, check out the Needs Inventory from The Center for Nonviolent Communication.

Another way of looking at needs is to consider them at different levels. Maslow’s Hierarchy represents this using a pyramid. At the base are the most basic needs and as you climb the pyramid the needs become more existential – and important nevertheless. 

So, how do you, a parent of a teenage daughter, figure out what she needs? Unlike the crying baby who prompts you into non-verbal detective work, your teen can be a collaborative partner in this discovery.  

Teen Behaviours: 5 Tips To Discover The Need (With Your Teen):

Understanding Teen Behaviours Tip #1: Ask questions to understand her perspective (help me understand why you want to stay up later? What’s important about going to that party? What’s your perspective on what happened? What do you think it means when she said that?

Understanding Teen Behaviours Tip #2: Play out the scenario like you are reading a case file from the CSI squad and it is now your turn to do a little profiling- e.g. Teen opposes you on everything. If you say left, she says right. Her political and social views are complete opposites of yours and she doesn’t have a problem letting you know that your beliefs are wrong. Need profiling- maybe a need for self-expression, autonomy, to be known, stimulation, discovery, etc.

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Understanding Teen Behaviours Tip #3:  magician never reveals their secrets, but perhaps will show you a trick or two. Let your teen know you notice the behaviour and are trying to grasp the bigger picture in support of them (and you). “I’ve noticed you run off to your bedroom right after school for a while instead of getting to your homework and chores that we’ve asked you to do. I’m thinking maybe you are needing some rest after school? I could be wrong, but can we talk about it and find a solution that works for everyone?”

Understanding Teen Behaviours Tip #4: Put yourself in her shoes. Empathy can be a great way to discover needs. You don’t need to totally relate to the situation at hand (maybe you’ve never had a snapstreak you didn’t want to give up!), but if you can relate to the feeling that’s where you can discover the need. E.g. I’ve felt annoyed before- I needed some space. I’ve felt left out before- I needed connection. 

Understanding Teen Behaviours Tip #5: Ask your wise council. Talking it through with someone can help give perspective and insights that you may not have considered before. Whether it’s your partner, your pastor, your therapist, or your wise gal pal, – lean in and see what more heads come up with. 

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You can collaborate further with your teen, by introducing a third party support person to talk it out with them. Your teen daughter can sometimes find it easier to go through ideas, or share her emotions, with someone who isn’t immediately connected to her – a safe space. At Pyramid Psychology, we have a team of skilled therapists who can help guide your teen through this conversation. You can book a free consultation with anyone on our team HERE.

Book a free teen therapy consultation

 

Stay tuned for our next blog where we walk you through what to do once you better understand the need. 

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.

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.

Book an Appointment


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.