How to survive your teen’s mood swings
You thought toddler tantrums were tough, but the roller coaster of emotions your teenager unleashes can leave your head spinning. They may start the day off happy, then they’re sad, angry and frustrated, and by the end of the day, they’re back to being happy. Who knows what you’re going to get, right? Adolescent medicine specialist Michael Guyton, MD, explained why this is normal.
“Teenagers and young adults are wired differently than younger kids and adults,” he said. “Their brains are built to react to the environment around them because that’s how they build experience. And that reaction, unfortunately, isn’t always predictable. This can be frustrating for parents, but it’s incredibly frustrating for kids as well because they don’t know exactly what to do with all that emotion.”
So, what should parents do? Dr. Guyton offered some tips:
Don’t put your adult brain on your teen. They can’t respond as you would to a situation. They respond based on how their brain is built – an unbridled reaction – so they can learn from that experience.
Ask questions. Kids are going to have a lot of unpredictable moods and attitudes. One way to navigate these moods is to ask questions. But instead of asking them what they did today or how school was, ask them how they felt today. It can be an insightful question. Then tell them how you felt. This presents a more engaging type of conversation.
Be clear on expectations. Write down a list of rules and put it up somewhere so there’s never any question about them. Teens are concrete thinkers, so they respond best to knowing exactly what you’re saying. As much as they hem and haw about it, teenagers thrive with boundaries.
Be willing to negotiate when appropriate. Writing down the boundaries and rules can be helpful, but this is also a great time to explore the life skill of negotiation. There are some things that aren’t negotiable, such as going to school. But when it’s appropriate, don’t be afraid to negotiate to get a little bit of buy-in from your teen. This is a skill adults use every day. The teenage years are a great time to learn how to negotiate successfully and safely with a parent’s guidance.
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