Perhaps you’ve heard from ‘You don’t understand me?’ to ‘Why can’t you just stop going on at me and leave me alone!’ all before and are wondering if it’s normal. Well, to reassure you …. it is but your teenager’s mood swings can affect the whole family and they can be a source of huge distress, anger and frustration for everyone.
Adolescence is a complex period of transition and change and mood swings are all part of the process of growing up. Your teenager suddenly becomes concerned about their identity, and begins to feel the pressures of school, exams and fitting in with their peers. They begin to worry about their appearance far more, their friendships and how people outside the family perceive them and these are just some of the things that preoccupy your teenager.
Add to this, the ebb and flow of their changing and spinning hormones and you get a very volatile mixture of happy, personable and outgoing one day, morose, depressed and sullen the next but the key thing is for you to stay grounded, centred and calm regardless of your teenagers mood.
Easier said than done some days but essential in the long run!
Remember to not take it personally !
If your teen is having a bad day, you and the rest of your family are the safest and the most available target for their frustration and anger.
Try not to take it to heart. Blaming you can be an easy way out for your teen who may be having a tough time. But by showing empathy and tolerance and by being available to just listen to some of their feelings often helps your teenager feel understood.
Be sensitive to when they want to chat things through and be flexible in sitting down and listening even when you’re tired or busy as it will build many wonderful bridges between you.
Always remember to press an imaginary pause button (like on your DVD) and to take a literal step back as this distances you from the heated moment and try not to overreact. Arguing back, shouting or criticising only makes things worse.
You may feel incredibly angry or frustrated but avoid rising to the bait. Imagine yourself as an anchor on the bottom of a deep ocean. Deeply grounded and firm in the sand as your teenager is bobbing about out of emotional control at the top of the water – flaying about.
Take some deep slow breaths and imagine a cool breeze blowing over your face calming you down and let the situation blow over the top of your head.
When you feel calm and when your teen has calmed down discuss what happened and how you felt later. Strike while the iron is cold!
A useful strategy to use is:
• When you …..
• I feel
• I would like …….
Is there something bothering your teen?
Sometimes there really is more to it than the just the “moody” moment. So find out whether there is possibly something more behind your teen’s snappiness and short fuse? Could they be worried or pressured about something? Ask if there is something troubling them gently and chose your moment carefully. If they want to talk to you about it, make it clear that you are always willing to listen without judgement, nagging or heavy handed advice.
Remember that teenagers can be very secretive and withdrawn, so don’t feel rejected if they don’t want to open up to you. Take time out naturally together to chat, go shopping or take the dog out for a walk and let the conversation flow naturally and easily without pressure.
The family is a natural, safe and easy target for letting off steam, as your teenager knows you will still love and accept them even if they lose their temper with you. And it’s very likely that outside of the family, your teenager controls their temper and moods and is far more easy-going and pleasant.
But be clear on your own boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable to you at home, as children of all ages need to know their boundaries. It’s not unreasonable to expect them to exert some control over their moods and temper at home and don’t fall into the trap of excusing and accepting everything because you’ve got a hormonal teenager in your house.
Explain the effect that their moods are having on the rest of the family as your maturing teenager may not be fully aware of the impact they are having on everyone. Explain and be clear, that although you understand their situation, they are still part of the family and if they shout, snap or swear, it makes the atmosphere unpleasant for everyone. State what you find acceptable and be unwavering on those values and be clear on your expectations. Say that you expect them to show more control over their emotions now they are maturing and to not lose their temper so easily.
As kids become more assertive, confident and confrontational it’s a natural reaction to match the behaviour and to become more assertive, more confrontational and more controlling but that is where, in my opinion things can go wrong.
It’s about NOT matching that behaviour, it’s about recognising what’s happening and trying the new strategies and techniques of negotiating, discussing, and talking – the time for telling is over.
• What changes can I make this week to stay grounded, centred and in control of myself?
• What will be the benefits to myself, my relationship with my teenager and the rest of the family if I remember to make these small changes?
• What small steps can I take this week to build bridges between myself and my teen?
• What one new strategy could I try this week?
• What can I remember to do if it all goes pear shaped to keep the bigger long term view of our relationship?
• How can we all relax a little more this week – what can we do together to make us all laugh?