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It isn’t easy being the parent of a teenager. It can be hard to know where you stand. One moment, your child is all smiles, laughing and joking away, but then, all of a sudden, that smile has turned into a frown, or your teenager is angry. Parents will often ask themselves where this shift came from and if there’s anything that they can do to stop the mood swing. Then again, when that bedroom door is firmly shut, and your teenager does nothing but grunt when you speak to them, it can be very difficult to feel like you’re getting through to them.
All parents were teenagers once. And it’s most likely that you can remember this time yourself, all those feeling and thoughts rushing around in your body and mind. It might not be easy to be a teenager’s parent, but it certainly isn’t easy to be a teenager, too.
Let’s have a look at some of the reasons why your teenager can seem to be constantly blowing hot and cold.
Reasons for Teenage Mood Swings
Before we get onto the reasons for teenage mood swings, it’s important to point out that all teenagers are different. The situations that they might find themselves in are specific to them. The following reasons are the general ones that all teenagers experience.
That doesn’t mean that there might not be an underlying issue that is gnawing at your teenager – which could even be easy to solve. Understanding the reasons for teenage mood swings is important, but so is understanding your teenager, and you should make sure to sit down and talk to them about how they’re feeling.
Now, let’s have a look at some of the universal reasons for teenage mood swings:
• Hormones – Of course, we all know that during puberty the levels of hormones in our bodies fluctuate wildly. These huge shifts cause extreme physical reactions that lead to irritability, anger, and aggression, as well as apathy and depression. Hormones are not just responsible for the mood swings, but a lot of your child’s behavior will be because of these hormonal shifts. For example, if your teenager has suddenly become a daredevil, taking risks where they would not have in the past, then this recklessness is due to these hormonal shifts.
• Periods – The teenage years are when girls will start to have periods. This means that your teenage daughter will be suffering from Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, something that is scientifically proven to cause mood swings, as well as irritability and can, in some cases, lead to depressive symptoms. Teenage girls have not become acquainted with these feelings yet. That means that they are unable to recognize that what they’re going through is related to PMS. On top of PMS, young girls will have a lot going on physically and mentally, so the added pressure of PMS leads to even bigger mood swings.
• Changing Appearance – Have you ever looked at a photo of yourself as an adolescent and cringed? Perhaps you’ve made a knowing joke about how that period was the ‘awkward stage.’ The transformation of a child into an adult means a lot of physical changes. Certain body parts grow or alter before others. Everyone goes through this stage, regardless of how we looked when we were a child or how we look when we become adults. And teenagers are painfully aware of these changes. They study themselves in the mirror. They compare themselves to their friends, and they constantly question their physical appearance. Remember these questions: “Why am I so ugly?” and “Will I always look like this?” It’s these questions that your teenager is asking themselves every day. They’re self-conscious and sensitive. And that means that the slightest innocuous look or comment can set off a huge number of thoughts. It may also cause your teenager to want to hide themselves away in their bedroom.
• Not a Child, Not an Adult – Not only is this period an awkward stage because of how teenagers look, but also because of how they feel, and how they want to be perceived. As a teenager, you are transitioning from childhood to adulthood. You’re in that middle phase. At times, you want to be treated like an adult, respected as an adult, but then, perhaps, you also like the feeling of being vulnerable like a child or having fun. These desires constantly shift. As parents, it can be difficult to recognize how your child wants to be treated, as it can change so quickly. When your teenager wants to be treated like an adult but is instead spoken to like a child, it triggers a mood swing, just as a mood swing can be triggered by your teenager being treated like an adult when they just want to feel like a kid.
• A New Identity – Have you noticed your teenager has started to dress differently? Perhaps a completely new genre of music is being blasted out of their speakers? Your teenager is creating a new identity. It’s normal for teenagers to do this. But this identity is new. That makes it fragile. And anything that tests the fragility of this new identity can lead your teenager to become self-conscious or to feel slighted as if it’s the old version of them that’s being spoken to, not the new one. A mood swing is likely when this happens.
Tips for Dealing with a Moody Teenager
Every time a parent is on the receiving end of an eye roll or a slammed door, their patience is tested. But as a parent, your heart is in the right place, and you only want your child to be happy. If you follow these tips, then you’ll find it easier to deal with your teenager:
• Give Your Teenager Space – After your child makes a scathing comment or says something that hurts your feelings, the last thing you might want to do is to leave them in their room. But this is the best thing you can do. Your child needs time to reflect on what they have said and done. They also need time for their emotions and hormones to level out. Giving your teenager space will be something that they will appreciate. This goes for when they’re not experiencing a mood swing too. A teenager doesn’t want to feel coddled or pressured. They are irritable. But you shouldn’t think that you should leave your child alone completely. Your teenager must know you are there for them. A well-chosen sentence or two, so your child knows you’re there for them, will be very much appreciated.
• It’s Good to Talk – Talking to your teenager can help you understand them. As we have said, the reasons outlined in the previous section are the most common reasons for mood swings, but they aren’t all the reasons. Perhaps your child is having issues at school. Maybe they have a crush on someone who doesn’t like them. Talk to your child, but make sure that you focus on how your questions make them feel. The last thing you want is for your teenager to think you’re prying. Picking the time and place to chat is important. Your teenager won’t like the conversation to feel high-pressure or too organized. Try to make it as natural as possible, and if it’s clear that your teenager doesn’t want to talk, then don’t press. But if your teenager does talk, then listen, listen keenly to how they feel, what is on their mind, what’s important in their lives at the moment.
• Encourage Healthy Habits – If your child isn’t sleeping enough, isn’t eating right, and isn’t exercising, then all those hormonal shifts will be made even more extreme. Not only is a healthy sleep pattern great for teenagers, but it’s good for parents too, and if you’re eating right and sleeping enough, then you’ll be a better parent too. Exercise is a great outlet for teenagers. You should remember that your child is at the peak of their self-consciousness, so the idea of putting on a swimming costume might be horrifying to them, so make sure not to push your teenager into something they don’t want to do. But giving them an opportunity to exercise will certainly help them. When it comes to food, make sure that they’re not eating too much sugar or consuming too much caffeine, as both of these substances are proven to increase irritability, making the mood swings more extreme and more common.
When Should I Worry That My Teenager’s Mood Swings Aren’t Normal?
Sometimes mood swings are a symptom of something more serious. Usually, they aren’t, though. You need to follow the tips that we have just laid out before you start to worry. Your teenager might now be eating properly, in a good sleep regime, exercising, and you feel that you’re communicating well with them and understanding who they are right now.
But if this hasn’t done anything to alleviate the mood swings, then it might be time to consult a mental healthcare professional who deals with teenagers. You must also move onto this step if your child’s mood swings are extreme, with them acting out in ways that include self-harm or outward violence.
Now you’re in a better position to understand your teenager’s mood swings. The big thing to remember is that it’s normal. Every parent goes through this period at some point when their child is transitioning into an adult. And, actually, every parent has gone through this stage at one point themselves. Try to remember this. It’s key to empathize with your teenager, and understand how tricky it is physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Especially when you see a face and body in the mirror that you don’t recognize, or when your new identity is ignored by your family. As a parent, it’s important to encourage healthy habits in your teenager too, playing your part as much as possible, by making sure that there is healthy food in the fridge, and that energy drinks or other sugary, caffeine-rich drinks and foods aren’t readily available.
A good sleep regime will stabilize your teenager’s hormones as much as possible, and exercise will offer your teenager a good release for those hormones too. It’s a difficult time to be a parent, but it’s even more difficult for your teenager. There’s so much going on inside them, a lot of which is out of their control. Make sure that you’re there for your teenager and do all you can to understand why they’re acting out. And remember, your child won’t be a teenager forever!