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Managing adolescent mood swings

You may remember from your own childhood that the teenage years and moodiness seem to go hand-in-hand.

Introduction

When your child starts puberty, you may notice that their moods seem more changeable or that they are more frequently sad or angry.

Thankfully, we know that the fluctuations in hormones and teenage mood swings don’t last forever. As your child grows and develops, their hormones and moods will eventually settle back down. During this time, however, there are a number of things you can do to support your child through their moody teenage years. If you have concerns about your child’s behaviour or mood swings, it can be a good idea to speak to your doctor. For more information, go to Behavioural and Emotional Changes.

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There are a number of reasons for why your child may be feeling this way including:

  • fluctuations and surges in hormones that are released during puberty
  • changes to your child’s body
  • changes in relationship dynamics as your child grows up
  • changes to your child’s appearance
  • changes to your child’s identity

As you can imagine, all of these changes can leave your child feeling overwhelmed and confused, which can result in mood swings and some challenging behaviours. This is particularly the case if they don’t understand what is happening to their body, or have difficulty communicating how they feel.

Strategies for you to try

Talk about it

Talking to your child about the changes that are happening to their body can help them to understand why they are having all these different feelings. It is important to emphasise that having these feelings is a normal part of growing up and that it won’t last forever. For tips on how to talk to your child about puberty changes go to Body Changes.

Acknowledge your child’s feelings

While it can be tempting to think about your child’s emotions as general teenage moodiness, the feelings your child is experiencing are real, even if they aren’t always rational.

A good way of showing your child that you understand them and are there to help them is to acknowledge their feelings. You can do this using their preferred communication style. For example, if your child is upset, you could say ‘I can see you’re upset. Is there anything I can do to help?’ You could also use a feelings board, where your child can point to the emotion they are feeling. For information on supporting your child to recognise their emotions go to Identifying How I Feel.

Self-soothing

Self-soothing activities can be a great way for your child to learn how to manage their emotions. This can include:

  • breathing techniques
  • holding something that they can squeeze to release tension
  • listening to music or white noise
  • visualising their favourite place

You can also create a self-soothe box filled with things that help to calm your child. This can include:

  • sensory items like play-doh, bubbles or soft fabrics
  • stories or picture books that your child connects with
  • pictures or photos of your child’s favourite places or memories

Re-directing your child to their self-soothing box or activity can help your child to manage their emotion and de-escalate the situation. Check out some of the resources listed below for helpful self-soothing activities.

Have room for flexibility

It can be helpful to have some flexibility built into your child’s daily routine. This can mean that if your child is having a particularly difficult day you can adjust some of the things they need to do that day and make space for quiet time or a soothing activity.

Take care of yourself

Supporting a moody teenager can be tough! Make sure you to take time to look after yourself and take notice of your own feelings. Making time for yourself to relax, watch a TV show or exercise not only helps maintain your mental health but also models to your child that everyone needs time out and it is important to respect that. For other suggestions, go to Self-Care.

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Introduction to puberty for girls
Managing adolescent mood swings

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