- Try looking back: Take some time to reflect back on your adolescent years. Try to remember some of the overwhelming emotions and feelings of inadequacy you experienced. Although much is the same, today’s adolescent faces complicated situations and pressures we never thought possible.
- Find support: One of the most helpful things you can do for yourself and your teen is to connect with other parents who are in the same position. You will feel better once you know you are not alone in this struggle and that your teen’s mood swings are typical adolescent development.
- Consider brain development: Although hormones get blamed for most of the moodiness adolescents experience, new scientific evidence proves that brain development plays a very important role. The last area of the brain to develop (in the early 20’s) is the frontal lobe where impulse control, judgment, and decision-making lie. The brain has yet to catch up with their changing bodies.
- Teach your teen to journal: Your teen cannot always justify his emotional reactions or tell you why he feels the way he does. Encourage him to keep a private daily journal. This will enable him to release some of his emotional overload and stress in a safe productive way. It can be done easily on the computer and protected with a password to ensure privacy.
- Be accessible: Let your teen know you are available to talk. Do more listening than talking and try not to lecture or belittle his experience. Judgment will only alienate your teen and he will not be as likely to come to you in the future.
- Don’t take it personally: Keep your cool and don’t overreact to your teen’s tone of voice or words. Calmly remind him to get respect he must show respect. Teach him the importance of an apology and don’t hesitate to give one yourself if you need to.
- Give plenty of space: Oftentimes parents want to rush in and do everything possible to help their teen through a dilemma. The best course of action may be to step back and let him figure things out for himself. This lets him know you believe he can make appropriate choices and that you have confidence in his judgment. Praise him when things turn out well.
- Watch for serious behavior changes: Although mood swings are typical don’t overlook prolonged depression, erratic behavior, failing grades, or suspected substance abuse. Be prepared to seek out professional help if needed.
Remember that your moody teen just wants to be loved, valued, and given the opportunity to grow as their own person. Support them and be understanding of their turbulent emotions and don’t expect to have them on your side all the time!