Whether it’s a sulky mood or a fit of temper, the vicissitudes of teenage emotions can be hard on any parent. While behaviourists agree most mood swings are caused by an increase of hormones during adolescence, it’s never a good idea to ignore them for too long. Finding the right strategies to deal with these rocky patches without angst of your own, however, is not always easy.
- Don’t jump into the boxing ring.Try not to disagree,’ cautions David Elkind, PhD, author of The Hurried Child. ‘Don’t jump to say, ‘You don’t need friends like that,’ or ‘You don’t need to dress like other kids’.’ Listen with empathy.
- Get to grips with the teenage brain. According to ParentFurther.com, the prefrontal cortex in your teen’s brain is in stall mode during these moods. This results in more emotion, and less common sense.
- Take a drive. ‘One of the best times to talk with your teen is in the car,’ advises Dr William Hansen, PhD of WebMD.com. ‘You have a captive audience and no one has to make eye contact.’
- Try not to take it to heart. When your teen lashes out at you, it can reduce you to tears, anger or a sense of failure. ‘As hard as it is, try not to personalise your child’s behaviour,’ advises EmpoweringParents.com. ‘It makes it hard to be objective.’
- Practise H.A.L.T. Teens tend to be overly emotional when they’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired (H.A.L.T.). ‘Figure out which activities can be cut and make room for healthy sleep and food,’ says Hansen.
It’s important not to mistake the typical teen struggles of school, dating and friends, with depression, drug use or other disorders. Speak to a medical professional if you have concerns about your teen’s behaviour.
The best advice is to take a deep breath and ask calmly what’s going on your daughter or son’s life – most times, your teen just wants a sympathetic ear or shoulder. Don’t beat yourself up about what you’re doing wrong. ‘You’re probably doing a lot of things right,’ says ParentFurther.com. ‘You just can’t see the results yet.’