The doctor is in: Teenager mood swings

What are some tactics to help my teenager with mood swings? How can I be there without being overbearing? 

You may notice it’s common to witness quick shifts in your adolescent’s mood and be on the receiving end of countless sighs and eye rolls. Due to hormonal fluctuations and their developing brains, teens often have trouble regulating their moods which can lead to problematic behaviors and attitudes at home. As a parent, it can often be difficult to know how to support your teen without further contributing to their mood symptoms. 

How can I support my teen without being overbearing? 

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One of your greatest priorities is ensuring your child’s happiness, safety and health. It can be difficult to know how to best support your child when they are going through a difficult time, and they may not be willing to share their thoughts and feelings. Below are some strategies to encourage conversations around mood symptoms:

  • Asking simple questions, such as, “Can you tell me more about how you’re feeling?” is a great way to start the dialogue regarding emotions.
  • Encourage coping by asking your teen, “what can I do to help you?” or “what do you need from me?” Asking open-ended questions opens the door for communication and allows your teen to inform you how they can feel supported or help them think of ways to support themselves.
  • Create a safe space for your teen to experience their emotions. Emotions are natural but regulating them is a skill we need to learn. A judgement-free space encourages development of healthy coping skills.
  • Regular sleep patterns and eating behaviors are important to encourage improved management of mood symptoms. Simple changes like reducing screen time at night and having a regular bedtime and nutrition can improve their ability to cope with mood symptoms.
  • Remain calm. It is important to recognize when you are becoming dysregulated and pause the conversation until you and your teen can converse in a manner that is productive. Tabling the conversation when you are struggling to remain calm encourages and teaches healthy coping skills.

When should I seek professional help? 

Mood swings can be an indicator that your child may be struggling with a mood disorder. You should consider seeking professional help if your child is experiencing any of the following symptoms.

  • Reports extreme depression, fear, anxiety, or anger toward self
  • Feels unable to control behaviors related to mood symptoms
  • Has new symptoms or current symptoms that are getting worse
  • Shows behavior that concerns friends, family or teachers, and others express concern about this behavior
  • Mood symptoms impact school performance 

It’s important to remember that you know your teen best, and if you notice anything that just “doesn’t seem right,” it’s worth exploring your options. Involving a professional can help you and your child learn to cope with their mood symptoms. Should you wish to meet with a provider, contact the Lois and John Orr Family Behavioral Health Center at 330-543-5015 for an intake with a mental health professional.

— Allyson Weldon, Ph.D., and Krista L. Caldwell, Ph.D.

Photos provided by Akron Children’s Hospital