As the parent of a teen, you might have prepared for this. Sometimes, teenager-hood can resemble toddlerhood in the sense that teens, like toddlers, can go rapidly from happy to sad, calm to angry, or tearful to laughing. When you are in the midst of witnessing your adolescent’s mood swings, however, you might wonder whether they are normal. The good news is that yes, most teenage moodiness is a very normal part of the transition from childhood to adulthood. Occasionally, however, it can signal an issue that requires evaluation by a professional. Read on to find out how to tell the difference and how to help your teen cope with mood swings.
Why Are Teens Moody?
If you remember back to when your teenager was a toddler, you know that little ones get moody out of frustration. There is so much that a two-year-old wants to do that he or she is simply not capable of yet. They can’t communicate well and they are susceptible to the hazards that go along with being tired, hungry, bored, or sick, so the only way they know to react is to pitch a fit.
Your teen can communicate, but frustration and physical discomforts are still factors. They’re too old to do some of the things they enjoyed as a younger child but too young to do some of the things that adults can do. In addition, a teenager has responsibilities that they might find difficult: They need to keep their grades up, perform well in their extracurricular activities, do chores well, manage any drama that comes up regarding their friends, and so on. Teens don’t have all of the skills that most adults have to manage these pressures, and the result can be a blowup at what seems like no provocation.
In addition, your teenager is dealing with waves of hormones and the anticipation of getting on on his or her own as an adult. It’s perfectly normal and natural that their moods go up and down, and in most cases, it’s just a matter of time until they are on a more even keel.
Moodiness and Mental Health Issues
With that being said, there are some mental health issues that can cause more moodiness than is normal. Depression, anxiety, and some disorders such as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD) can lead to more pronounced mood swings. If you notice these symptoms, it’s worth taking your teen to his or her primary care physician for a mental health screening; if anything comes of it, they will be referred to a mental health care specialist.
- Chronic anxiety or sadness that lasts more than a week or that interferes with daily life.
- Isolating him- or herself and not wanting to spend time with family members or friends.
- Skipping school or drastic drops in grades.
- Eating or sleeping much more or much less than usual.
- Aggression, defiance, blatant disobedience.
- Substance use or abuse.
- No longer caring about personal hygiene.
- Seeing or hearing things that others do not.
- Going from extremely giddy to extremely depressed, particularly if this pattern is repeated.
Mood Swings and Physical Health Issues
Just as hormone levels can affect moods, sometimes physical disorders can make your teen more angry, sad, or moody than usual. Some vitamin deficiencies, for example, can make your adolescent feel very discouraged, overwhelmed, and exhausted. Hormonal conditions can also cause issues with behavior and moods. Testosterone surges in boys can be the culprit behind aggression, and hormone spikes in girls can cause pre-menstrual syndrome, which can include drastic mood swings. These issues can be treated, so contact your teen’s doctor.
In addition, sleep deficiency, a poor diet, and substance use can cause mood swings, so check on your teen’s lifestyle if you are concerned.
Helping Your Teen Deal With Moodiness
For run-of-the-mill moodiness, your teen can take some steps to better manage his or her emotions and behaviors.
First, encourage him or her to get enough sleep, exercise, and healthy food. Ask them to cut down on caffeine and sugar, as both of those can cause energy crashes leading to mood swings. You might need to enforce a bedtime (cutting off the wifi at a certain time often works) or ask them to walk the dog or help in the garden to get them physically active.
Also, talk to your teen about implementing some relaxation exercises when they feel their anger level rising. They can try deep breathing or writing in a journal. Listening to music or watching a funny movie can help, too.
Finally, make sure that he or she has some unstructured time to do whatever they want. Many teenagers are overwhelmed by responsibilities and obligations; keep in mind that they are still growing up and need time to read for pleasure, kick back with friends, or just daydream.
Keeping Yourself on an Even Keel
Keeping yourself calm is equally as important as helping your teen. It can be very frustrating to calmly parent an adolescent who is slamming doors one minute and crying the next. Here are a few strategies for keeping yourself calm so that you can be supportive for your teen.
First, remind yourself that they are going through a normal developmental phase and that they will be through it soon. This alone can help you stay balanced.
Use some relaxation methods yourself: Writing down your feelings in a journal can help, as can counting to 10 and taking deep breaths.
Reach out to other parents of teens; knowing that you are all going through the same thing can help all of you parent more effectively.
Finally, remember to enjoy your teenager. Yes, they can be trying sometimes, but enjoy the young adult they are becoming and feel proud that you have almost finished getting them through childhood and on their way to being a productive and independent adult. Take time to laugh, spend time together, and talk about anything and everything. The way you parent through the teen years can lay a strong foundation for a good relationship through your child’s adulthood.