Six Ways to Support Your Teen with Social Anxiety Disorder

Did you know Social Anxiety Disorder is one of the most common anxiety disorders? According to Anxiety Canada, it affects between 7 – 13% of the population.

Teens with Social Anxiety Disorder have a persistent fear of being watched and/or negatively judged by others. These fears can arise in social situations themselves, or even when thinking about them.

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If your teen has already been diagnosed, or is experiencing early symptoms of social anxiety, this article is for you.

There are several components to symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder that you can look out for:

Physical: Sweating, shaking, heart racing, face turning red, nausea, muscle tightness, derealization.

Cognitive: Thinking thoughts such as “everyone is judging me”, “I look stupid”, “people can tell I am nervous and think I’m weird”, “everyone is going to notice and remember if I mess up”, etc.

Emotional: Feeling nervous, isolated, sad, frustrated, upset, helpless, and/or overwhelmed with anything to do with socializing (kids at school, meeting new people, making friends, co-workers, dating, etc.)

Behavioural: Avoidance, declining situations or events that cause anxiety, choosing to not participate in class or activities, getting upset or frustrated when a social situation is approaching, etc.

Common Situations When Social Anxiety Disorder May Affect Your Teen:

Social anxiety disorder is going to show up differently for everyone. However, there are several common situations your teen may experience it:     

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  • Public speaking, presentations, and oral examinations.
  •  Activities where performance may be evaluated, such as sports, creative expression, and recitals.
  • Unfamiliar settings or situations where there are a lot of new people.
  • Ordering food at a restaurant, talking to cashiers, talking to unfamiliar teachers, asking strangers for help, etc.
  • Participating in class discussions or group projects.
  • Meeting new people at school, or making friends.

Six Ways to Support Your Teen with Social Anxiety Disorder 

Social anxiety disorder can be overwhelming as a parent. Especially if you haven’t experienced it yourself and aren’t sure how to help your teen. Here are some ways you can support your teen with Social Anxiety Disorder:

1.      Knowledge is Power !

Providing your teen with greater insight into what may be going on, recommending mental health tools or strategies, and letting them know they are not alone can be invaluable. 

Understand for yourself and for your teen that Social Anxiety Disorder is relatively common and that there is hope for change.

Check out websites such as www.anxietycanada.com to access evidence-based resources and strategies. Encourage your teen to be curious and learn about their own experiences with social anxiety, including understanding their own triggers, sensations, and related outcomes.

2.     Be Supportive

Anyone who has ever felt anxious knows that it isn’t exactly a fun feeling and it can be isolating.

If you suspect your teen may be suffering with social anxiety, prioritize being a non-judgmental, empathetic support person in their life who genuinely wants to help.

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As fear of judgment can be high in teens with Social Anxiety Disorder, be extra mindful of how your own words and actions may come across.

  3.     Gradual Exposure

Symptoms of anxiety are often reduced by repeated exposure to the stimulus that causes the anxiety. Your teen’s heart and mind are probably screaming “run away!”  However, avoiding the cause of your teen’s anxiety tends to make it worse.

When supporting your teen with Social Anxiety Disorder, be sure to provide a lot of choice and gentle encouragement. Gradual exposure to social situations decreases symptoms of anxiety. The key is to pick situations where the anxiety does not overwhelm your teen, but ones where your teen feels mild to moderate anxiety and comes out the other side more self-aware and confident. 

4.       Target the Physical Symptoms

Anxiety can cause your teen’s body to become stressed, tight, and sore. Encouraging your teen to engage in progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, tai chi, or some other gentle, physical activity can do wonders in terms of reducing the physical experience of anxiety.

If you’re comfortable with it, these activities can even be done together or as a family!

You can try a guided progressive muscle relaxation exercise here.

5.      Target the Cognitive Factors

Anxiety has a way of making your teen’s thoughts and feelings feel like facts. If you hear your teen saying something along the lines of “something bad will happen” or “other people will have certain thoughts”, there is an excellent opportunity to be curious.

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Gently ask your teen how they know that something will happen (this is a cognitive distortion known as fortune telling, by the way!), or if there are any other possible outcomes or explanations. Often when these faulty thought patterns are called out it becomes easier to notice them when they reappear. 

6.        Outside Support

Social Anxiety Disorder is an isolating path to walk when you’re alone. Sometimes having an outside perspective that isn’t emotionally attached can be a helpful outlet for your teen’s emotions.

Seek support for yourself from other like-minded parents, Facebook groups with parents who also have teens with Social Anxiety Disorder, etc.

For your teen, a therapist or coach can provide an outside perspective to plan steps for when their anxiety arises. If you’re looking for one to one support for your teen, you can book a free consultation with me here. Our company also offers group coaching here. Email us any time with questions you may have, or blog topics you would like to see: info@pyramidpsychology.com.


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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decreasing Teen Anxiety: Why Parents Want to Fix Hard Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Often Are You Rescuing From Teen Anxiety?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some areas for decision making:

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

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

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

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

  1. Let your teen ride out the consequences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When to Step In

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

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

The Happiness Pill Program

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

How Control Can Help Your Anxious Teen

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

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

girl in orange sweater sitting behind a couch

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What is control for your anxious teen?

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

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

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

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

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

How is control related to your anxious teen?

young teen girl covering her face

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

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

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

Strategies for Control.

Hula Hoop

girl with hula hoop and explanations around her.

Photo from Canva

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is This True?

dark haired girl lying down on the grass

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

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

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

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

FEAR Acronym

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

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

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

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

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

The Happiness Pill Programthe happiness pill logo

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

Back to School Anxiety: Coping Skills for Your Teen

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

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

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

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

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

  • What if it’s really hard?
  • What if I’m behind?
  • What if it’s weird to not be wearing a mask?
  • What if we have to wear masks again?
  • What if things shutdown again? 
  • What if they do cohorts again and my friends aren’t in the same class as me?
  • What if I don’t like it?

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

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

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

Anxiety Coping Skill #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anxiety Coping Skill #2 

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

  • Favourite piece of jewelry

    Photo by Firmbee.com on Unsplash

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

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

Anxiety Coping Skill # 3

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

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

 

Anxiety Coping Skill # 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anxiety Coping Skill # 5

Photo by Prophsee Journals on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

Things to Make Note Of

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

What are they most stressed/worried about? 

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

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

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

Love,

Chantal 


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

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

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

The Teen Years are Here – Now What!?

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

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

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

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

What Does Breaking Away from Childhood Mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash

Breaking Away from Childhood Is A Celebration

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

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

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

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Taking Care of Yourself as a Parent in the Teen Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

How to Tell When A Teen’s Behaviours Are Concerning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Chantal 

 


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

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

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

My Teen Doesn’t Have A Lot of Friends – Should I Be Concerned?

I’ve had parents mention some concern about their teens only having 1 – 2 friends… Is this something to be concerned or worried about?

Having friends and changes in friendships are a very normal process for teens and their identity development – at different times we all have different people in our lives. Teens are going through that process right now, figuring out what type of people they want in their lives.

There are  some factors that may lean your teen towards wanting a small friend group. For example, if they are a little more introverted – or have introverted qualities – or maybe they feel most connected in close, intimate relationships.

I remember my middle school self – I got along well with a lot of my peers, but I really just had this one friend – she and I spent a ton of time together. She had this electric keyboard and we would hang out all weekend and write parody songs together. We had a blast! I just had the one close friend, really. And that was great for me.

So I think it depends on where your teen is at with having just one to two friends. If those two friendships are really close, good friendships, that makes a big difference.

Photo by Ana Municio on Unsplash

Questions to Ask

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself when it comes to your teen’s friendships:

  • Does our teen enjoy spending time with their friend(s)?
  • Is your teen saying or are you noticing behaviours indicating they may want more friends?
  • Do they seem satisficed with their friend groups?

Whether your teen has lots of friends or just a few, there are other elements that are more important.

Other Things At Play

It’s important to recognize if this is a preference thing, or if there is something else at play. 

Does your teen need to work on social skills? Confidence?

Consider how this might be getting in their way of making friends. If these skills are missing or underdeveloped, it can be really challenging for teens to make or keep friends.

It is important not to assume here. Ask your teen about their friend group – get to know how they see their friendships and what they value about them. In lending a curious ear, you may learn more about whether this is a preference, or their way of bei

ng, or if there are underlying difficulties or challenges that are preventing them from making more friends? If you discover your teen is really shy and strugglin

g to with talking to others, check out this blog I wrote just for them: How to Get Past The Shy: 4 Conversation Tips for Teens.

Something to Think About

One thing to consider is asking yourself if your concern is something that is coming from a projection of your experience growing up, or something you experienced as a teen. It can be helpful to practice a little self-reflection on your own friendships growing up and how that might impact the way you view your teen’s friendships. It might also lend itself to having empathy for your teen’s friendship woes as they come up. What were your friendships like? What were some things that were difficult with relationships?

Check-in with yourself and see if there’s a bit of parallel with your own experiences when you were younger.

Love,
Chantal


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

Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology – helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets.

To connect, send an email to info@pyramidpsychology.com


 

4 Conversation Tips for Teens: Getting Past the Shy

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

A lot of teens have been saying to me lately that they are unsure how to start up conversations with people or keep conversations going. If feeling shy is part of the issue, this blog article with conversation tips is for you!

Here are the four tips on how to better your conversations, meet people and feel more confident:

Conversation Tips #1: Pay Attention to Your Inner Critic/Voice

What is your self-talk saying to you? What labels does it give you? I’ve heard teens that I work with say ‘I’m shy, I’ll just screw up, I don’t know what to talk about, etc.” Pay attention to the messages your inner critic is saying about your ability to have conversations.

Once you have awareness of that, you can start to think about what your goal is when it comes to talking to others. What do you want to be able to do in your conversation with others? What would it be like to have a good conversation? 

Photo by Anne Nygard on Unsplash

Try the following ladder exercise to begin changing what your inner critic is saying and increase your confidence with conversations.

First, imagine someone who is really good at conversations – Is it someone you know? A friend or an adult in your life?  What do you notice about the way they have conversations? What are some things they are saying? What do you imagine their inner voice says to them about talking to others. Some examples of things they might be thinking or saying:  ‘I’m a people person, I have lots to say, I’m confident, I’ve got this, I’m good at talking to people, etc.’ 

Picture a ladder, with the top of the ladder representing your ideal thought about having conversations; the version of you that is great at talking to others is at the top of the ladder!

Take a look at that ladder and think about where your thoughts are right now – maybe they are somewhere in the middle or towards the bottom – and imagine each rung is one step closer to being a confident conversationalist.

There are two things needed to move up the ladder (picture needing both hands to climb a real ladder – you move your left hand up, and then your right, left, right, etc.) Your left hand is like your inner game; When you practice changing what your inner voice is saying, to more confident thoughts. Your right is the tactile game; actually going out and doing the talking/practicing.

Conversation Tips #2: Ask Questions or Share A Compliment

Some tactile tips that teens have shared with me are:

Tip #1 Ask a question (people generally like talking about themselves). Be curious about them! Asking open-ended questions is helpful here, which are questions that can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no” like Did you see that movie? Try instead, What movies have you watched lately? What did you like best about the book we read in class? How did you figure out the assignment today?

Tip #2 Compliment someone. It has to be an authentic, genuine compliment. Really faking it will be felt by the other person. But if you see something you like that someone is wearing or doing, it’s okay to say it. Something like “that’s a really cool t-shirt, did you buy it at ….? No? Where did you buy it?” 

Conversation Tips #3: Scroll Social Media for Topics to Talk About

Another thing I’m hearing teens say is that they don’t have anything interesting to say. This is where social media can be your sidekick! If you’re interested in specific topics like politics, social justice, sci-fi, fashion, exercise, environmentalism, etc., you can look them up and find information so you have things to chat about. It doesn’t matter what you’re drawn to, scrolling a bit can help you find things that interest you so you have something to bring to the conversation. You don’t have to know everything about it. Just a little.

If you’re still a little stuck, here are 120+ conversation starters by Cheeky Kid to get you started! Remembering just a few of these will be a helpful conversation tool to have in your back pocket.

Conversation Tips #4: Get Out of Your Head

Once you’ve worked on your inner critic and have some topics to discuss, you’ll be using your right hand on your ladder (remember that’s the tactile side) to practice real conversations.

Sometimes while we’re in a conversation we get stuck in our head. So we’re worried about what we’re going to say instead of listening to what the other person says. And often if we actually listen to the other person, that can be enough to get us to the next level.

Photo by Alex Quezada on Unsplash

If you’re in your head thinking “what am I going to say next, what am I going to say next” it can be a slippery slope.

Stop and listen. Be in the moment. Some ways you can stay present are:

  • Take a deep breath.
  • Push your feet against the ground and notice the feeling.
  • Focus on a physical feature of the person – look at their eyes or their lips for example.
  • Try out the mindful/being present exercises in this article by Positive Psychology to make being present a common part of your life.

 

If you love to read, I recommend checking out The Teen’s Guide to Social Skills: Practical Advice for Building Empathy, Self-Esteem, and Confidence.

And remember to BE YOU! There’s nobody quite like you. If you need a little reminder on why being you is the best way to be, you can read my article The Social Chameleon: 10 Reasons Why You Want to Be Yourself.

Love,
Chantal


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

Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology – helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets.


 

Fill Your Cup – The Importance of Taking Care of Yourself in Order to Take Care of Your Teen

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Being a parent can be one of the most rewarding roles a person can ever experience. It can also be draining, exhausting, and unusually confusing.

Parents of the teens I support will often say to me, “my teen is struggling with XYZ, and I know I am also struggling, BUT I don’t have time to deal with it right now.”

Photo by Rich Soul on Unsplash

Do you find yourself doing everything in your power to support your teen, finding that at the end of a very rough day, you’re exhausted? If you are juggling emails to teachers, counselling appointments, and emotional rollercoasters; it can be like having a second full time job.

How you take care of yourself will support you and your teen along the way to get through the tough times and relish in the great times. “You can’t pour from an empty cup”, is a message we need to hear over and over again as parents. The more you take the time to fill your cup, the more you can pour into your teen’s cup.

If it feels like everything is falling apart and you want a smoother, more fulfilling experience as the parent of a teen, ask yourself: What am I filling my cup with?

I think parenting will always have ups and downs, there isn’t a utopic vision to strive for. There are however guiding principles that can support you during these capricious years. Try filling your cup with the following:

Photo by JD Mason on Unsplash

Self – Care

If you are tempted to stop reading right now, chances are you are not practicing a lot of self-care, or are just over this catch phrase word. I encourage you to keep reading… Self-care is incredibly important as a parent because not only does it fill your cup, it models to your teen skills and behaviours that will build their resilience as they go out in the world.

Self-care can look many different ways and what works for one person may not for another. You may also notice some strategies that worked well for you in the past no longer fit the bill.

Think of self-care as putting your oxygen mask on first. If you invest in daily practices, you will be able to be the best parent you can be.

I sometimes hear from the parents I work with, “how do I find time for self-care?”. I suggest starting small and tacking it on to something you already do. When I started meditating and exercising in the morning a few years back, I started with a 1-minute meditation and 10 sit-ups. I tacked it onto brushing my teeth in the morning. As soon as I was done brushing my teeth, I did my little self-care routine. It quickly became a short and doable habit and eventually grew to be a more filling self-care practice that I now do every morning.

For self-care ideas check this and this out.

Photo by Tikkho Maciel on Unsplash

Inspiration

What inspires you? Where do you feel the most creative?

A creative brain cannot be a stressed brain at the same time. When we make time to tune into our creativity, it helps the brain start thinking outside the box.
This means thinking on your toes, the possibility of responding to things that come up between you and your teen differently, and looking at conflict and problem solving with a fresh perspective.

​So, go out in nature, pull out your camera or art materials and allow yourself to tune into that creative self as often as you can.

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

Supports

It truly does take a village. Having a support system in place can provide you a place to vent, lean on, and a shoulder to cry on when needed. Your natural support system may include relatives, friends, neighbors, significant others, roommates, and community (local and online).

You may ask yourself: Who has been instrumental in different points in my life? Who can I count on for help? Who are the people that have my back or are willing to go to bat for me?

Photo by Daniel Herron on Unsplash

Saying No

You might be thinking you already use “No” all the time with your teen. In fact, you may be really great at being clear around boundaries, rules, and expectations in your family. If so, this is amazing and worth acknowledging and celebrating for yourself.

​Saying no is about giving yourself permission to say no to overdoing it, overcommitting, and overexerting yourself thinking that is what it means to be a good parent. Take a moment to do a time inventory and take stock of things you may be able to release or let go of. In saying no to some things, you are saying a BIG yes to being your best self.

Photo by Thomas Evans on Unsplash

Turn Down The Radio

Our minds are always saying things to us. It can be like radio noise, at times playing in the background and other times blaring and drowning out all other things. When your radio noise is playing the ‘not good enough story‘ or the ‘unworthy story‘, it can be like a fog overshadowing every choice and decision you make as a parent.

Check-in with your radio noise. What is your mind saying to you? What are the thoughts that play on repeat? Turn down the radio noise that doesn’t serve you as a parent and as a person living your best life.

Next time you find yourself thinking that your struggle isn’t worth putting first, think again and ask yourself: What is one thing I can do to fill my cup today?

If handling your teen’s stress is an area you need support with, I am offering a Stress Busting Bootcamp for you and your teens – coming soon! Your teens will receive 28 days of texts with stress busting tools, while you will get four weekly webinars and a session with me. You can email me for details at 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.

Get Out Of My Life – What To Do When Your Teen-Parent Relationship Is Feeling Distant

I really enjoy reading. So much so that I have stacks piling up beside my bed of books I would love to read when I’ve got a minute. When I came across this title (still on my pile) Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall? by Anthony E. Wolf – I laughed and thought “oooh that’s a keeper”.

Photo by Canva

Once I’ve read this one, I’ll give more feedback on the content, but for now I have to say that I have heard a variance of this message from dozens of parents I work with: “my teen is distant”, “my teen doesn’t want to talk to me unless they need something”, or “whenever I ask her (him) about something they just get upset”. Sound familiar? You are not alone!

So if your teen is wanting to cut their hair a certain way, no longer liking the things you like, or is shutting you out of certain parts, you are in full swing individuation. Individuation leads to self-identity and independence and these are best nurtured by having warm, caring adults who are available to guide and let go. Parenting during individuation is like throwing a boomerang. Allowing them to get out there and make mistakes while learning who they are AND knowing they can and will come back for some of that love and safety.

So how do you throw the boomerang so that it will come back? I mean really how do you do that!? Because I had a boomerang as a child and I went to get it WAY more than it came back to me!!!

A better question is, how do you connect with your teen and give them space to grow their own self-identity?

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

Connecting On Their Terms

I’m not suggesting you stop everything at the drop of a hat and focus solely on your teenager when they request it. However, I am kind of suggesting you stop everything at the drop of a hat and focus solely on your teenager when they request it.

​It is important to take the time to really acknowledge and listen when your teen is engaging with you. If they have a friend problem they are struggling with or an issue at school that’s bothering them and they want to talk about it, possibly at that most inconvenient time for you, other things can probably wait. And if the thing absolutely can’t wait, bookmark the conversation with your teen and let them know how important it is for you by being really clear about when you will free up time just for them (as soon as possible).

Another way of connecting with teens on their terms is in taking a genuine interest in their stuff. What type of music are they listening to? Which streamers are they watching? Who are their friends? Which sports team are they rooting for? You don’t have to love what they love. Taking a genuine interest is about understanding what they are into and why they connect to these things. It will give you some insight into their values, beliefs, and world.

Photo by Bui Thanh Tam on Unsplash

Connecting Creatively

Finding creative ways to spend some time together is important. A parent shared with me that once a week their teen and them will each write down two things they enjoy doing and throw those options in a hat. They pull out one and that is the thing they do together that afternoon. Sometimes they are hiking and sometimes they are gaming together. Moments of connection can be specific times that are dedicated like this example and they can also be spontaneous in the moment interactions. Being genuinely interested and curious about their lives and asking questions that invite them to share snippets keep that connection going.

A mentor of mine once shared that asking a teen to complain about something is a great point of connection. I sometimes ask teens, “so who is the teacher that drives you the most crazy?” or “what is it that you are not liking at school right now?” I am certainly not an advocate of focusing solely on the struggle, but it is incredible how willing and open a person can be if given a chance to talk about things that are relevant to them.

Being creative about ways to create connection allows flexibility and more opportunities. If sitting down and having a heart to heart is out of the question, maybe a little teasing and laughter is the touchpoint or a car drive to get a treat.

Photo by Logan Weaver on Unsplash

Love On Them Always

At every opportunity, let your teen know they are loved. Individuation is about pulling away to form self-identity but it is not about shutting off the love valve. Even if your teen’s backtalk and eye rolls are not what you would call languages of love, they are human and still need love, warmth, and connection in their lives. I’m a fan of using the words “I love you”. I send my message of love to my kids with words, text messages, notes, etc.

You can also consider learning your teen’s love language. The work on the 5 Love Languages developed by Dr. Gary Chapman, helps people understand how they give and receive love with others. Understanding your teen’s love language and your own can help you foster a relationship with your teen that is connected.  You and your teen can do the quiz here.

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Communication and Conversations

When the boomerang comes back, there will be many opportunities to support and teach. Keep the flow of communication open and create opportunities to plant seeds for the future. Keeping the flow of communication open requires that you:

  • Listen. My friend shared with me the other day, “you’ve got two 2 ears and one mouth so that you can listen twice as much”
  • Respect their individuality. Be ok with differences and disagreements on thoughts, opinions, and feelings.
  • Be clear about expectations. Have clarity and discussions around family rules, behaviours, and limit setting.
  • Allow your teen to make mistakes. These are often the most precious teachable moments.
  • Help them problem solve and take responsibility.
  • Give them space and some privacy.

In the push-pull of the teen boomerang years, remember that you are still very much needed.

Where did you rebel in the name of individuation in your teen years?

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 Esteem: How to Help Your Teen Live Confidently

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.