If you’re a parent to a teen, you’ll know that their mood swings are confusing and draining. Know that it isn’t just your daughter/son, this is normal for all teenagers. Teens are new to the surge of emotions that can come with the increase of hormones during puberty. Do not be in a rush to go directly into “discipline mode”. Punishing the “bad mood” out of your teen just won’t work and can hurt your relationship and her self-confidence. So what can you do?
This week let’s explore new research into understanding adolescents so you can have better tools (and more patience) to raise happy, healthy teenagers.
The Link between Brain Development & Teenage Mood Swings
Because the brain reaches 90% of its full size by age six, it was thought that it had also reached almost full development. Researchers have recently discovered that the brain continues to grow and develop through adolescence. The grey matter on the outer part of the brain thickens over time with this process peaking at age 11 in females and age 12 in males, and then the brain tissue begins a remodeling process to improve efficiency. One of the last areas to go through this process is the prefrontal cortex; the area responsible for judgment, self-control, and planning. This means that while adolescents have very strong emotions and passions. They don’t have the mechanisms in place to control these emotions. This is one reasons behind teenage mood swings.
Physical Changes Affect Teens Psychologically
Another biological factor is that this is when the body starts producing sex hormones as well as going through a major growth spurt. The physical changes that adolescents experience cause them to feel strange, awkward, and perhaps confused, and this affects their sense of confidence. Because of this, they may strike out or become angry when they experience conflicting moods.
Emotional Maturity & Dealing with Pressures
Adolescents have not yet developed the ability to deal with the pressures, frustrations, and anxieties of adult life. As their lives become more complicated and challenging, they don’t have the built-in coping mechanisms that grown-ups have developed, so they are prone to react emotionally to situations.
Here are a few tips you can use to help your teenager learn to control or deal with his/her mood swings:
1. Allow your adolescents to wait out the mood. If they need a good cry or to just pace around their room, give them their privacy to do it. Offer comfort and let your adolescents know you’re there if they need to talk, but don’t pressure them into talking when they don’t want to.
2. Don’t take their mood swings personally. Don’t let their moods alienate you from them. It’s important to remember that you must react in the more mature manner and always forgive your kids and keep your heart open to them.
3. Encourage your adolescents to identify what is happening. Help them recognize the signs of their moods, so they know what’s happening. Let them know that they’re not alone, and that this happens to all of us when we are young.
4. Encourage your adolescent to take preventative steps though exercise and being creative. Exercise helps releases endorphins into the blood stream. These chemicals can help to regulate mood and ease frustration. Encourage creativity; painting, drawing, writing, or building something can help an adolescent to express their emotions in a healthy way.
5. Give them room and allow them to be miserable or sad for a period. Of course you will need to watch them to be sure they don’t get so depressed they might harm themselves, but don’t deny them the right to be sad or to need time alone. We all need to be able to feel the full range of human emotions.
6. Look for moments when they may be willing to talk. Take advantage of these times to relate to them what you went through at the same age.
7. Never let your teen’s bad mood cause you to react in anger.
8. Stay firm where behavior is concerned. While you cannot dictate how they feel, you can help control how they react to their feelings. Don’t allow a bad mood to mean disrespect of you or other elders. Also, don’t allow them to be hurtful to siblings. If this happens, you must demand that they apologize.
9. Support a healthy lifestyle in your home. Getting enough rest, exercise, and eating right helps balance our moods. This is also an opportunity for you to model the appropriate behavior.
10. Teach your adolescent coping skills. When she is calm, use role-play and show them how to count back from 10, go for a walk or listen to music. Modeling these appropriate behaviors when you are in a bad mood will help your adolescent be better prepared.