You knew that adolescence came with hormonal shifts. Maybe you’d heard the horror stories from friends or relatives. And perhaps you even thought you were prepared for the challenge.
But, let’s be real. Can anything really prepare you to cope with your sweet child transforming into a moody teenager? One minute they're laughing with friends and the next they are screaming at you from the other room.
As a parent, it’s challenging to watch your child struggle to regulate their emotions and experiences. It’s even more challenging when they push you away or close the door in your face. Let’s get into how you can cope and support them during this tumultuous time.
Don’t Take It Personally
Adolescence is hard. From peer pressure to academic stress to trying to establish your identity, teenagers often feel overwhelmed by all these expectations. As a result, they tend to lash out on the people closest to them.
That doesn’t mean you’re necessarily doing anything wrong. Often, it just means your child needs some space, and they want to work things out on their own. Adolescence is a critical time where your child starts forming meaningful relationships with their friends. Therefore, it’s entirely age-appropriate for them to want to spend less time with you.
It's their experiences with peers that help get them ready to launch into adulthood. Allow them time with their friends, even when it seems their friends are the cause of so much of their tumultuous behavior. Your teen needs to learn how to negotiate the ups and downs, and social rules, all on their own.
Aim To Stay Consistent
Teenagers often want to test boundaries, both at home and in other settings. That’s because they’re exploring freedom - they want to see and feel the world without their parents holding their hands.
This phenomenon can be frustrating for parents. On the one hand, you want them to be happy and engaged in life. But on the other hand, it’s normal to feel concerned about their safety.
Parents often become highly reactive to their child’s emotions and attitudes. They may set extreme limits one day, only to disregard them the next. Additionally, many parents struggle to present a united front for their children, which can make it easier for teenagers to manipulate one parent into getting what they want.
As hard as it may be, consistency is one of the best gifts you can give your children. Talk to your partner about setting reasonable expectations and rules. Agree to back each other in front of your children.
Finally, aim to remain calm and even-keeled during your interactions, even if you feel upset. When you do set boundaries, be clear and explicit about your expectations- and actually follow through with them.
Listen To Your Child
Parents don’t like to see their children in pain. Usually, they’re quick to try and solve the problem with solutions or advice.
But if your moody teenager is reaching out to you, focus on listening rather than finding solutions. Listen and practice being as nonjudgmental as you can be. Try and imagine yourself in their shoes- after all, you were also a teenager once.
Many children want to talk to their parents about their feelings. However, if they experience you as rejecting or dismissive, they might shut down altogether. Instead, be open and curious.
Most of all, don’t punish them for having feelings. For example, it’s not helpful to say, There’s no reason to be sad about that! This kind of statement completely invalidates your child’s experience.
Instead, consider reframing such a statement to, That does sound hard, honey! Why do you think that situation is making you feel so sad? The reframe offers validation and allows your child the chance to tell you more about what’s going on.
Don’t Dismiss Their Mental Health
While teenage moodiness is normal, teenage mental illness impacts one in six adolescents ages 10-19. Furthermore, among teenagers, suicide is the third leading cause of death.
Unfortunately, both parents and society are often quick to label mental health symptoms as a fleeting phase. They associate it with the hormonal shifts associated with adolescence. While some feelings can pass, mental illness is chronic and pervasive. Often, symptoms first emerge in adolescence, but they can worsen over time.
Some significant warning signs to look out for include:
Sudden changes in academic or athletic interest or performance
Significant appetite or weight changes
Major personality shifts
Symptoms of self-harm or discussions related to suicide
Abandonment of social support
Paranoid or bizarre thinking
While none of these symptoms guarantee mental illness, you should pay attention to them. Consider asking your child directly if they’re interested in seeking therapy. You might be surprised at their willingness to reach out for support.
Loving Your Moody Teenager
If raising children is hard, raising a moody teenager can sometimes feel impossible. At times, you may feel resentful and depleted. That’s okay. Remember that this is only a short period in everyone’s lives.
At Elevate Counseling, we specialize in helping both teenagers and parents with their mental health. If you’re ready to feel more fulfilled in your life, we’re ready to help you.