The Teenage Years
Teenage is a susceptible age & these years are the most crucial years of your child’s journey. Teenage years influence how they will shape up as an adult. Therefore as parents, we have to be extremely careful while handling their fears, anxieties and stress. Even a small mistake from our side will move the needle for our young adult towards the better or worse. The hormonal shifts that occur during puberty & the various developmental changes in their brains just add to the already complicated process. These may lead to extreme mood swings like irritation, depressions, anxiety or the complete opposite in some cases. There is no rule book on how to manage mood swings in teens. As a parent, we have to find our comfort zone as we know our child best. But there are certainly some basic to do’s which create an environment for a healthy conversation.
How to Manage Mood Swings in Teens – 7 Useful Tips
I have two daughters, one in mid-teens and the other early teens. As a mother in her pre-menopausal stage, there are multiple people with mood swings in the same house; therefore, the situation can be hilarious or disastrous at the same time. But then you realise that it’s better to manage your teen’s moods than yours to maintain sanity. So here are my tried & tested 7 Useful Tips.
- Make Time
A teen ranting can take anywhere between 5 minutes to 2 hours depending upon various factors. It is influenced by how stressed he/she is as per his/her interpretation of the gravity of the problem. Therefore before you even broach the topic please make sure that you have time on your hand. You should give them your full & undivided attention. Finish that call or that task on hand; otherwise, you will have double guilt of not managing your task or your teen.
2. Probe unobtrusively
So many times, my teen will come & tell me that she is upset. But she can’t or does not want to share the reason with me. This is the most helpless situation for the parent as you don’t know in what direction you should start to counsel. As a mom, so many thoughts flash across my mind in a second. Is it her studies, her workout, her friends, or did I do or say something or did not do or say something I was supposed to. In such a situation, please gear up as you may need to probe quite a lot till you get them to share anything with you.
I prefer not to keep on pestering. But I do try to come back to it later if the first few times did not work. Sometimes the teens need space to sort their thoughts and feelings & find a solution themselves. While this should be encouraged, it’s essential to reassure them that you are always there for them to share anything they want. In my case, most of the times, either my daughter is able to sort the issue herself or comes back after a few minutes, hours & even days to reach out for help and advice.
3. Listen & Observe
Sometimes your teen only wants you to lend an ear to listen while he/she goes through his/her speech. This outburst can be full of emotions like anger, sadness, remorse or fear. The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand; we listen to reply. I reiterate- Listen & observe without interruption and without being judgemental. Resist the urge to give solutions immediately. Your teen may be saying or behaving in a certain way, but his body language & the underlying emotion may be totally different from what is apparent. As a parent, we should be able to isolate that emotion and work on that. This will ensure that the behaviour changes and does not repeat.
4. Encourage a Solution Approach
Now that we have hopefully isolated the underlying problem, we need to work on the solution. Sometimes it may be just the hormones playing up while other times there may be a genuine issue. In both cases, we should encourage the teen to suggest a solution he/she thinks will help solve the current problem on hand. Remember we are not only looking at managing the teen mood swings now but also helping them prepare for a similar situation in future.
Teenage years are also a good learning ground and will shape their behaviour as an adult. When a teen suggests a solution, there is a sense of ownership to take it through. This is also an opportunity to share our life anecdotes with similar undertones so that they feel that they are not the only ones singled out by destiny. But a word of caution here, let’s not be preachy as it will immediately put off the teen and he/she will become defensive.
5. Time Out
Let’s accept this. Today’s teens have a stressful life as they live in what I call the “VUCA” World-Volatile, Uncertain, Complex & Ambiguous.
V- VOLATILE -Liable to display rapid changes of emotion depending on whether the internet speed is acceptable or they have the expected “Likes” on the social media posts
U- UNCERTAIN of what they want to do or where their priorities lie. These change every day due to the exposure to social media, influencers, and friends & of course the ever-cautious parents
C- COMPLEX as a result of a plethora of choices to follow, from clothes to career to numerous online challenges.. with social media dictating how one should eat sleep dress and most importantly live our lives. Terms like Cyber Bullying, FOMO, Body-Shaming & Imposter Syndrome are things happening in our world & maybe closer to home.
A- AMBIGUOUS because we as parents are still transitioning from the morals of yesterday to the realities of today. Therefore even we are not sure what is right or wrong thus confusing & stressing out our teens. Maybe that’s why kids want precision in what they read, hear & expect – they don’t like that moral ambiguity.
Teens of today need a Time Out and indulge in activities that elevate their mood. These can be physical exercises like cycling, swimming, walking, dancing etc. Or some hobbies like playing an instrument, painting or even time-off with friends. It’s a known fact exercise promotes chemicals in the brains, the so-called feel-good chemicals endorphins, which are released throughout the body. These chemicals reduce anxiety and depressed mood. Pursuing a hobby can help an individual alleviate stress and support in managing mood swings. Therefore encourage your teens to have these time outs to rejuvenate them & discover their inner potential. If nothing else they will get some new material for their social media posts.
6. Keep talking
It is vital to keep the communication channel open with your teen irrespective of their moods. Some days they may just answer in monosyllables while other days the conversation may consume the entire dinner time. But the good thing is they are communicating.
Let the teens talk and share their feelings & reactions, whether it’s their daily routines or their pet peeves. These can be regarding their school, friends, sibling, current affairs, just anything. These conversations are essential insights into how they are processing information in their minds & reacting. I call this form of parenting “Reverse Parenting”. Reverse Parenting gives us an insight into what values, morals & traits our kids have picked up from the ecosystem, including us. Their conversations, reactions, decisions & judgements reflect these and are fundamental building blocks of their character & will help them survive or even thrive in this VUCA world. To learn more about this & the VUCA world refer to Powerful Parenting That Will Make Your Teen Soar.
This one is for us parents and frequent introspection aids in this process of managing our teens’ mood swings. Hopefully, our teen’s mood swings are temporary, and we both will survive and overcome this. But in some cases, you may see a pattern or specific triggers which make these mood swings more pronounced.
If your teen is emulating some behaviours that they have seen around them, then it’s time to introspect and relook at our behaviour patterns. Things like mobile habits, eating habits, disrespectful behaviour, jealously, insecurity etc are top of the list. A child is like a sponge that absorbs both positive and negative energies around her during her growing up years. These energies convert into behaviours and attitudes during the teenage years. And if not corrected, some of them may become a part of an individual’s personality as an adult. So stop now and make a course correction for yourself before you go out and help your teen. As rightly said by W.E.B DuBois “Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.”
On a concluding note, I have personally enjoyed all stages of parenthood till now, and teenage is no different. There are those stressful days where I think I am up against a wall. But these are well compensated by the bear hugs and kisses I get in return on a good day. I am reliving my teenage years with my girls and learning new things with them. I share their fears, their anxieties, their joys and sometimes their secrets. And in return, if I have to spend a few sleepless nights, that’s not a bad bargain – it’s part of mom’s job.
So buckle up and enjoy this roller coaster ride.. You will not regret it a bit!!
Rippy Gauba is a mom of 2 teens who has taken a sabbatical from her 22 years of corporate life & now indulging in her passions which includes spending quality time with her family, painting and blogging. She writes on Mindset, Motivation & Management Tips which impact our lives as an individual, as a parent and as a working professional. She believes that these nuggets can create Ripples of change & that’s her intention.