Mood swings and strong emotions are common during adolescence for a few different reasons. First, teens are navigating the tricky road from childhood to adulthood. Secondly, hormone surges are common in both boys and girls who are going through puberty. Finally, as much as teens want to be independent, there are many things that they simply cannot do yet, such as manage all of their own finances, live alone, and make all of their own rules, and this can be frustrating. Add some drama with friends who are going through the same types of difficulties, and you have a recipe for a tumultuous few years as the parent of a teenager. The good news is that there are steps you and your adolescent can take to help balance those teen emotions. Read on to learn about seven of them.
1. Get Enough Sleep
Teenagers are notoriously sleep-deprived, and not being well-rested can lead to trouble controlling teen emotions. Most people have had the experience of feeling on edge and upset for little reason after a sleepless night. With many adolescents staying up late and having to wake up early for school, it’s no wonder that this chronic sleep-deprivation eventually takes its toll in a big way. Encourage your teen to get nine hours of sleep per night, which is about the amount recommended for adolescents. This will likely mean that they need to go to bed earlier than they are used to in order to get in that shut-eye before the alarm goes off.
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a high-carb, high-sugar, high-fat diet makes all of us feel groggy, tired, and slow. At the same time, not eating enough can induce feelings that are sometimes described as “hangry.” Both of these nutrition mistakes can cause your teen’s emotions to be all over the place. Ask your teen to take a good look at what he or she is eating and to try to minimize junk food while maximizing foods like fruits, veggies, lean protein and dairy, and whole grains. This might take some assistance and planning on your part if your teen is used to going through the school lunch line and picking up a slice of pizza, then stopping at a burger joint on the way home.
3. Don’t Overschedule Time
Many teens wake up early for school, then have sports or theater practice, then might go to work at a part-time job, only to come home to do homework before falling asleep sometime around (or after!) midnight. Weekends might be similarly busy with work, chores, outings with friends, extracurricular activities, and socializing on social media or playing video games. While it’s great to keep busy, being too overscheduled can cause your teen to become cranky and overwhelmed. Talk to your teen about his or her schedule and where they can cut back if needed.
4. Exercise Daily
You already know that exercise is great for heart and lung health and can lower the risk of developing cancer, diabetes, and other serious health problems. Did you know that regular exercise is also important for good mental health? Daily exercise staves off stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which can cause severe mood swings, irritability, sadness, anger, and other emotional issues. See if your teen can take a PE class or join a sport that practices regularly. Another great option to help control teen emotions is to simply go for a 30-minute walk each day. Make it a family affair!
5. Learn Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques can help your adolescent calm down and get his or her teen emotions under control. You’ve heard the advice to breathe and count to 10; it turns out that it is a great method for lowering the blood pressure and the heart rate. These physical changes tell your brain that it can calm down, which, in turn, leads to a calming of the emotions. You can encourage your teen to try slow, deep breaths. Another good technique is grounding: Focus on the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and textures around you. Guided meditation or yoga can also help.
6. Encourage Keeping a Journal For Teen Emotions
Writing down worries, disappointments, and even happy events can help your teen channel his or her strong feelings into something productive. Your teen might enjoy writing down the best and the worst thing that happened each day, for example, or if he or she is feeling angry or sad, they might feel better after filling a page or two with the details of what happened and how it made them feel. Another great option is to keep a gratitude journal.This can be a running list or a descriptive paragraph of things that your teen is thankful for. It can help them stay in a more positive frame of mind.
7. Talk to a Trusted Adult
While all parents would like to be the one their teens go to for advice and help when needed, the truth is that many adolescents hide some of their troubles from mom and dad. Still, it is good for them to have someone to talk to. Tell your teen to feel free to seek counsel from a favorite teacher or coach, an aunt or uncle, a family friend, their doctor, a therapist, or another trustworthy adult. Try not to feel hurt if your teen chooses to go to someone else rather than you; when young people have strong feelings, they might not want their parents to worry or they might be afraid of disappointing their parents. As long as they are able to open up to someone trustworthy, they will still gain the tools to get through difficult situations.
Helping your adolescent to balance his or her teen emotions can be a challenge, but the work will pay off as they enter adulthood with coping mechanisms and a healthy view of the world under their belts. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a counselor or your family doctor for tips on how to best help your teen navigate this transition from childhood to adulthood.