How to Deal With Teen Mood Swings

Written by Pam MS, NCSP | Fact checked by Psychology Dictionary staff 

Of all of the parenting things that you can deal with, one of the most difficult is teen mood swings. Teens can be up one minute and down the next, with no real rhyme or reason to it. They can be risky, rude, overdramatic and completely baffling to the adults around them. But the important thing to remember is that they are still children who need guidance and understanding, they are just stuck between a child's way and an adult's way of expressing themselves. Here are some solutions for helping to get more on your teen's emotional wavelength, and to help them find more adult ways to cope when the feelings arise:

Some Science for Understanding
A teen's brain is a powder keg for emotional volatility. As their body begins to sexually mature, huge floods of hormones wash through the body, causing aggression, depression and other strong emotions. These hormones, unbalanced, have been known to require the use of pharmaceutical antidepressants and antipsychotics in adults. Their effects on teens can clearly be seen as well. A second part of the equation is a change in brain wiring that begins in the teen years and completes around age 26. Essentially, the "should I be doing this?" part of the brain is disconnected from the rest of the brain, which is a big part of the reason for risky decisions made in teens. It can also lead to poor judgement in how to express these strong emotions.

Giving Compassion
Though teen moods are often very frustrating, it is important to communicate with them when they are displaying them. The message they need to hear is that their feelings are okay, but some of the choices they may make to express them are not. Model good behavior and expect it, but when asking for good behavior, don't ignore the painful feelings behind the mood swing. Talk about what's going on with them, and discuss what better choices you could have made.

Teaching Skills
Finally, you can teach your teen some tools to help them control their moods. Exercise and outdoor walks in a natural setting are both known to calm a bad or mercurial mood. Meditation can also calm things. Being open about feelings helps. Helping your child to develop a positive view of him or herself will help curb mood swings based on jealousy and resentment. Demonstrate patience and talking out your feelings. Discuss what better ways might be possible to express problems. Leave yourself open every day for some quiet down time with your kids that will allow them to come to you. Even something small like making them cook or wash dishes with you minus the cell phone can be enough.

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