A listener recently e-mailed me in complete exasperation over how to deal with the many mood swings of her teenage daughter. She wrote to me: “Where did my fun loving daughter disappear to? She practically vanished overnight and in return a complete stranger with a very unpleasant temperament has taken her place. Is this a phase or can I expect to never see my sweet baby girl ever again?”
If this sounds familiar, you probably have a teen living amongst you as well. It really is to be expected—a combination of a teen’s hormonal changes in combination with the scientific studies showing that the brain doesn’t mature and look like that of an adult until the early 20s can easily explain their fleeting attitudes and intense bouts of moodiness.
When my eight kids were all under the age of 10, people used to warn me that having that many kids so close in age meant my teenage experience was going to bring me to my knees. At one point, I did have five teens all at once yet I have to be honest, I thought it was far more difficult having a brood of babies and toddlers roaming around at one time than surviving, I mean living, with four or more teens. Currently, we have four teens in our mix, and I’m relying on the tried and true tips that guided me through my first three.
As the start to this post, I want to note it’s extremely important for parents to pay attention to their teen’s mood and make sure that there are no signs of serious depression beyond moodiness. Here is a link to an article that shares the difference between the two. Also See: 11 Little-Known signs of Depression
I thought I’d reach out to my oldest child, now 22, and ask her what she found most helpful as the “moody” teen dealing with her parents and siblings. We reminisced about this sometimes turbulent and even comical stage of teen development and have compiled the following 5 tips to help you deal with your moody teen.
Tip #1: Back Off
My daughter said that hands down the best way she was able to come out of her “moods” was when we gave her plenty of breathing room. This, however, is often the toughest thing for well-meaning parents to do. It’s our instinct to want to rush in and save our kids when they are feeling down, but truthfully, the best course of action can often be to back off. This let my daughter know that we believed she was capable of making good choices and that we had confidence in her judgment. And, she honestly tells me, sometimes all she wanted was just time to herself without her parents breathing down her neck. See Also: 5 Effective Ways to Connect With Your Teen
Tip #2: Be There When Needed
OK, so this is almost completely opposite of the first tip, but my now young adult said that although she often just needed her own space, she also craved knowing her dad and I were available to talk or just listen if that is what she needed. She recalled the time her prom date arrived and parked in the driveway and texted her to come outside and get in the car. She was mortified, horrified, and very disappointed. She ended up driving herself to the prom because she was so angry. Her biggest take away from that night (other than the fact she was astounded that he had his best friend in the back seat who had no date and was just going to tag along) was that I hugged her as she got into my minivan to drive herself and simply told her we loved her and that we’d be home all night if she wanted to come home and vent or talk or cry or scream. Sometimes we as parents need to do more listening than talking and try not to lecture or belittle her experience. Judgment will only alienate your teen, and she will not be as likely to come to you in the future.