Humans experience a spectrum of emotions every day, but teenagers are a whole different ballpark. They can experience happiness and anger within seconds apart. But it’s also par for the course. They are transitioning from children to adults at the peak of their puberty. So, they deserve and need empathy. Yet, we also know it can be challenging for you, so in this article, we’ll share how to deal with a moody teenager to make the household happier for everyone.
Moodiness or Depression: How to Tell the Difference?
A lot happens during adolescence. Your teenagers experience emotionally and physically tumultuous changes to their hormones, body, social environment, and brain. But unfortunately, as a caregiver, it can be overwhelming to know if their mood changes are common or if it’s something more serious like depression. To clear up the confusion, pay attention to these three key areas;
Severity. Symptoms of teen depression are far more severe than typical pubertal changes;
- Mood; Anger, sadness, irritability
- Behaviors: Sleep disturbances, changes in eating, withdrawing from loved ones, acting out, trouble concentrating, using drugs or alcohol, poor school performance
- Thoughts and feelings; Profound insecurities, low self-esteem, loneliness, loss of interest, worthlessness or guilt, suicidal thoughts
- Unexplained pain, hallucinations
Duration. Observe if your teenager shows noticeable mood changes or behaviors lasting longer than two weeks.
Domains. If you’re noticing the above symptoms in several areas of their functioning, like home, school, and within their social groups, it may indicate a depressive disorder.
How to Deal with a Moody Teenager: 8 Tips for Parents
1. Don’t take it personally
When your teenager enters puberty, it can completely catch you off guard. And by default, you might take their moodiness personally. But their anger isn’t about you. And the more you analyze the situation from a third-party perspective, you’ll see that their statements and actions are a surprise for them too! They don’t wake up every morning with a sneaky vendetta to make your life miserable. Instead, they are experiencing severe physical and emotional changes and trying to discover how to manage all of the intensity. It’s a lot for them.
2. Provide space for independence
It may be a tough truth to handle, but your teenagers are entering adulthood. And this means they need and require more independence. Yet, with their pubertal changes, they may not go about it the way you’d like. For example, they might challenge your no’s, limits, and boundaries. But they are on a quest for autonomy. So, loosen the reigns a bit, and allow them to blossom without the need to control. If not, they might act out even further.
3. Encourage positive coping mechanisms
They may want to stay in their room all day, glued to their devices, but encourage physical movement, mindfulness activities, and meditation. All three will elevate their mood, energy levels, and brain health. Furthermore, these activities provide positive coping mechanisms they can take into adulthood. For example, if they experience an obstacle as an adult, the seeds you’re planting will grow into their ability to bounce back quicker, regulate their emotions, and find solutions.
4. Empathize instead of reacting
The best way on how to deal with a moody teenager is to calm your reactions. And while this isn’t always easy, especially with all the slammed doors, back talk, and fiery emotions, it’s better to take a deep breath and provide empathy, love, and compassion. For example, instead of yelling, provide affection, or ask how you can help. This testament to your emotional regulation will model positive coping behaviors and allow them the necessary space to spew and manage what they’re experiencing.
5. Remember what’s happening
Of course, it’s not pleasant to experience their mood swings firsthand, but it can be far worse for your teen. They’re experiencing hormonal surges that change how they experience, cope, and see the world. Even the tiniest thing can spark severe anger, and they can’t always control how they react. So, remind yourself to take a step back and give them love. And while it’s not a free pass for them to be cruel without accountability, it’s also not kind or helpful for you to be punitive. In fact, how you handle or dismiss their emotions (a common parenting mistake) can lead to behavioral problems, mood disorders, and other lifelong consequences.
6. Listen to them
You may think you always know what’s best, but your lectures and scolding can provide more harm than good. In fact, it’s better to listen to their opinions, thoughts, and feelings without dismissing them. By providing this space to come to you with pure respect, understanding, and compassion, they will learn how to regulate and build emotional resiliency. It will also allow opportunities to discuss contributing factors worsening their moods, like school, peers, or something happening at home. Remember, it’s not always hormones.
7. Establish good sleep hygiene
According to research, 73% of high school students do not get the sleep they need. On top of this, their circadian rhythms and hormones change during puberty, making them want to stay up later and sleep in the mornings. Therefore, they’re navigating all of these intense changes coupled with their daily responsibilities sleep deprived. So, establish good sleep hygiene, take the electronics away at least one hour before bed, and prioritize deep sleep. It will do wonders for their health, both emotionally and physically, and their academic performance.
8. Surprise them
What is their love language? Food, sweet treats, a shopping day, comedy? Often, throwing a little surprise into the mix can lighten the intensity and brighten their mood. For example, get creative and leave their favorite dessert on their seat when you pick them up from school. Or make their favorite comfort food, draw a bubble bath or leave a small gift on their bed. These acts of love go a long way for your teen, even if they don’t respond with gratitude.
When to Seek Help
Life as a teen is not easy. They are going through significant pubertal changes, all while discovering who they are and juggling many responsibilities. But if your teenager is exhibiting significant and noticeable mood and behavioral changes for more than two weeks, speak with a mental health professional. At the same time, talk to them about your worries. Listen objectively, provide empathy, and offer support. And while knowing how to deal with a moody teenager is not an easy process for either of you, following these tips will strengthen your growing relationship and help ease the overwhelm.
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