Has your formerly easy-going kid turned into Jekyll and Hyde? Circle of Moms member Nicole H. describes it well: "...from angel to demon in 3 seconds flat!... We understand it's partly hormonal but wonder if there is more going on."
From highs to lows in no seconds flat, your teen's mood swings can make it seem like you're talking to a different person from one minute to the next. Here's how moms in our communities suggest dealing with moody kids.
1. Acknowledge the Role of Hormones
It's likely that hormonal changes are at least partly to blame for your adolescent's moodiness and irritability. You can't slow that wild ride, but you can ease it by teaching your child what's happening to her body and how to recognize the impact of those hormonal shifts.
Shanna M. has two daughters, 11 and 13, and she's found that this kind of recognition helped them a lot: "We talk a lot about why they are having the mood swings, and trying to teach them to recognize that the reason is hormonal has really helped them learn how to control it. The more they are able to learn about how their bodies deal with things, the easier it has gotten."
2. Give Them Space
Teens can sling some pretty bad energy at anyone in their path when the mood strikes. What can you do to curb the onslaught of emotions? One strategy that worked for Mary R. was to give her daughters "download days"; when they were emotional she allowed them to be alone so they could work through it rather than take it out on everyone around them: "it is important to spend time alone and relaxing through whatever comes up... tears, anger, etc., and not to dump them on other people where the energy just gets focused right back to you."
Michelle M. also recommends giving your child ways to reflect and deal with intense emotions, away from siblings. Not only does she tell her daughter — nicely — that she needs to calm down and go to her room when her emotions get heated ("I don't allow her siblings to bother her and if she needs to lock the door I let her lock it."), she encourages her to write about what she's feeling and going through: "If she doesn't already have a journal or diary then I would recommend getting one."
3. Use The Good Times To Your Advantage
Can you successfully reason with an emotional, moody teenager? Not likely. As Circle of Moms member Marjorie M. points out, one good thing about mood 'swings' is that they do swing: "A swing goes back and forth so at one point she will be in a good mood and another time a not-so-good mood. Sometimes you can handle things better when she is in a good mood time and talk about her actions etc. when she is in a more reasonable state of mind."
If you can wait it out, a talk will be more helpful once things have calmed down. Marjorie goes on to share how she helped her girls with coping techniques: "If she thinks she has figured it out she will be more apt to handle her moods in a more self controlled manner... Respect her intelligence and respect her right to feel sad, angry, crabby. What do you do when you feel moody? Teach her some of your coping tools. Moods are feelings. The real problems are when the feelings become actions. Teach her to control her actions with her intelligence, not her moods. Be an example in this."
4. Encourage Healthy Habits
Hormones aren't the only physical contributor to psychological mood swings. Emotions tend to get worse, for anyone, when you are fatigued or eating poorly, so helping your teen take good care of her body can help ease moodiness. As Andrea C. explains, "You need to make sure your daughter is getting enough fruit, vegetables and nuts, [plus] plenty of water and sleep."
5. Let Another Adult Help
If you're having trouble communicating with your teen about her irritable behavior, don't be surprised. Kids often don't want to listen to or talk to mom about sensitive or personal topics like puberty. Laura C. found that her teen liked "sounding off" to a trusted adult who was not her mother. She recommends enlisting the ears and shoulders of aunts or other adult family members: "time out with other adult [females] who have the same values as you is a good thing... because [teens] never really listen to their parents."
6. Get Professional Help
Moms are unanimous on this point: if a teen is self-harming or harming others, a parent needs to get help, and right away. "When we run into a problem that we can't deal/help with we see our family counselor. I think every family should have one," says Angela C. in response to a mom whose 13-year-old daughter's moodiness is getting worse and worse, adding, "Take suicide attempts and temper tantrums very seriously... it sounds like she is crying out for help. Definitely take your daughter to a counselor, she needs to talk to someone other than you. It is our job as parents to observe and protect our children. That never stops, no matter the age of the child."
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