Teen mood swings and hormones can be hard to handle. That might be the understatement of the year. Of all the ages and stages of child development the teenage years can be the hardest. One moment your teen is engaging and strong willed and they have clearcut ideas and opinions and they can carry on great conversations with you on topics like social justice and politics. And then the very next day they are slamming doors, shrugging at every thing you say, seemingly incapable of more than one word answers.
Parenting teens is a Jekyll and Hyde experience. You never know which one will show up at breakfast or after school. But teen mood swings and erratic behaviour are all part of growing up. So what do you do? How do you as a parent help? And when do you step back and let them have space?
What is Happening?
Moodiness in teens can often be chalked up to hormones and the fact that they are transitioning to the next stage of life. So many decisions for teens to make that affect their future and successes. It can be an exciting and stressful time for them too. There’s a lot of push and pull happening. They want to leave home for university or college, but they haven’t got it all figured out yet. One day they are yelling: “I can’t wait to leave.” The next day crying on your shoulder over relationships or school drama. Trust me this is my house every time I ask about homework or request that they pick up their clothes.
A lot of pressure is put upon teens, and they are at a place in life where they are going through many radical changes. Let’s be honest they are also testing you right now. This means mood swings, which are difficult to cope with for many parents.
How can you cope with teen mood swings?
It can seem like the slightest of things can set your teen off. Teens spend a lot of time at that unpredictable stage. They may be more sensitive now than ever, and it can seem like you need to tiptoe around some days. Their moods can be difficult to deal with. I have often said it’s like dealing with a toddler on hormones.
While it feels like your teen is being difficult on purpose, most of the time they really aren’t. He or she is finding his or her path at a time when they probably don’t feel extremely in control. In addition, your teen is looking to gain independence, which means he or she may be trying to create space between themselves and you, their parents.
Skip the Lecture
Okay, so your precious little boy or girl has turned into a bear overnight and can seem unbearable. You just want to yell at your child, lecture him or her and tell them how good they’ve got it. It can be infuriating and seem like your teen is nothing but disrespectful. Do not lecture because they will tune out, incapable of hearing it. Eye rolls and arguments later you are not helping with that so skip it. If you need to discuss something afterwards circle back when everyone is calm and touch on it. I sometimes text things calmly even a day later. A simple I love you goes a long way even by text. Hours later I might also say here’s a study on vaping and why it’s not good for you.
It’s Nothing Personal
Sometimes it feels extremely personal when they are completely aggravated and loud or disrespectful. You may take it as a personal slight, and become enraged with the mood swings. However, rest assured that the teen mood swings have no bearing on your parenting skills or how he or she feels about you. Try to remember it’s not you. It’s them. In all likelihood, your child needs you now more than ever. Your teen needs you to understand. Let them rant, let them cry, let them explore their feelings. It is what every teen goes through and it is normal.
The Teen Job
Teens will test you. That’s their job description and part of what they are supposed to be doing right now. So remember it’s not personal and it’s also par for the course. Then tell yourself – This is normal. This is their job right now and also it is a hard job for both of you. They are testing their parents to see if you give up on them or of the rules change. My favourite video about this is this one from Josh Shipp comparing teenage years to riding a roller coaster.
It can be trying, and a great test of patience. The mood swings can be unrelenting leaving you feeling like ripping your hair out. Cranky teens are not much fun to be around, but they are not having fun either. They have a lot to deal with, and your patience is important. Allow them to express their feelings. Know that they are not directly aimed towards you, no matter what they may say. Whilst your teen is feeling moody he or she is likely to thrash all kinds of hurtful words about, but know they don’t mean much. It is a difficult time; give your teen patience and understanding. When my kids are really agitated and lashing out sometimes I try to remind myself that wow if she’s behaving like that then she must really be feeling out of control right now. Other times I totally fail at that, but I try.
Do Your Own Self Talk
From the time they were small and aggravated me with some absurd behaviour, I’d do self talk and that calmed me down. In fact I have always found that I can’t parent from a place where I am as escalated as they are. Listen that doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes forget and get irate. But this works for me. I remind myself I am the adult. My mantra – “I’m the adult here.” That rarely fails to help me remember who is in charge and that I am more than capable of handling the outbursts.
Be gentle with your teen
Your teen might be aggravating to a point, but remember that he or she is not being moody at you, even though it feels that way. Rise above it. Be gentle with him or her and give the same love, care and understanding that you always have. Do not engage with the mood swings; instead allow your teen to cool off before speaking to him or her. Treat your teen as you normally would, and continue being kind. This allows him or her to know that you are there for him or her, through good times and bad. Your teen needs to know that you are there and still the parent.
Give your teen space
Teens need space and privacy. While in the past you may have been close and shared a lot of time together, your teen now needs their own space to reflect, and consider the future. Sometimes time is needed to collect thoughts, and sometimes he or she just wants to be left to his or her own devices. Respect your teen’s wishes and allow them to have their own space when needed. It is important for them to get that time alone, invading their privacy and insisting they spend time with family can only frustrate them when they want to be alone.
Teens need reassurance and love to be able to stay emotionally and mentally well through the challenging teen years. Keep your teens confidence levels boosted and make them happy by spending time with them when they show interest. Are they extremely into the arts? Find an exhibit or a concert and suggest you go together. Do they love shopping? Take a weekend together and go shopping. Go see a movie. You might need to be creative about how you ask sometimes. I am thinking about seeing the Dali exhibit at the ROM this weekend. I’d love company. Or I can’t wait to see the next Halloween movie, but your sister is too young for it and I don’t want to go alone.
Sports or Arts
Find ways to be together still and enjoy the moments spent together no matter how brief. Keep the time together positive and happy. In our family we do ski trips and we go skiing locally too. Luckily both of my teens love this sport and will spend time together with us skiing and riding the chairlifts whenever possible. That creates a perfect opportunity to connect and talk in a no pressure atmosphere.
Mental health is not a joke and needs to be taken seriously at this stage. Too many teens are depressed, or anxious and way too many are attempting or committing suicide. Ask yourself if these teen mood swings seem appropriate for the age and stage or if they are explosive 24/7. If they are withdrawn you need to plug in supports too. Trust your gut and then also remember to ask them how things are going often. My teens often want to talk at weird times and on their own terms. Listen without judgement when possible.
Teen Mood Swings are Part of the Territory
I am no fan of teen mood swings. They try every single thread of patience that I have some days. But, instead of fighting sometimes it’s better to just take a bit of a step back, remain patient and avoid getting caught up in their moods. Your teen needs your love and understanding and a big hug, even though he or she is likely to push you off. Showing acts of love can help boost their spirit and remind them how special they are.