Adolescent and Couples Counselor, Yshai Boussi, LPC, stopped by to share his tips for how to manage a moody teenager. You'll find the tips on his blog.
Tips to Help your Moody Teen
1. Don't take it personally. It's really hard to hear your own child say "I hate you" or "you're a terrible parent". During these intense moments your teen is experiencing overwhelming emotions that he can't manage. Unloading on you in this way has more to with how much you mean to him and how hurt he feels by the loss of connection to you.
2. Make sure there's enough structure. Some need more and some less, but all teens need structure and routine in their life or they begin to feel confused and anxious. If you're feeling uncertain or confused about family routines and expectations, your teen likely feels the same. If structure doesn't come natural to you or you're not used to it, it can be hard to start. Don't be afraid to ask for help from others.
3. Reconsider your approach. Your current approach may be ideal with certain types of kids, just not yours. You may need to do some things differently. Examples may include letting some things go, being more firm and/or consistent, being more organized, modifying your schedule or finding more effective ways to communicate by changing your tone, slowing down or utilizing other mediums like texts, email or written notes.
4. Learn to let things go. If she calls you a bitch under her breath on the way to her room, or you find yourself going round and round in a pointless debate or argument, the best thing you can do is let it go. This can be very very difficult because our teens know how to rope us in. We're human so our feelings, ego and pride can get hurt. Despite this, we have to work on practicing restraint.
5. Take responsibility for your own moods. If you're having trouble managing your emotions and moods, own it, take responsibility to your teen, and get help if you need it. If your teen sees you taking responsibility and making real changes in this area, he's much more likely to follow through himself. If you don't then you'll lose precious credibility with your teen.
6. Make sure she's engaged with friends, family and activities. Being engaged with prosocial friends, family and activities is perhaps the best buffer against stress and negative moods. Down time is important but too much of it can lead to perseverating and dwelling on negative feelings and thoughts. This can also happen when hanging out with other people who are negative and moody.
7. Let them save face. Don't try to be right. Avoid any statement that sound like "I told you so" You probably are right about many things however your teen needs to feel autonomy over his outcomes and decisions. So if your teen's grades are finally improving after cutting back on video games and staying organized (two things you've been harping on for a long time), give him credit for the change and tell him you're proud.
8. Scratch your plans if they aren't working. If you've made up a consequence or rule that you now believe was a bad idea, don't hesitate to go back to the drawing board. While it's not good to be doing this on a regular basis, changing course is much better than stubbornly sticking with something that clearly isn't working for your teen or you. If you do this, be open and honest with your teen about it. This will give you an opportunity to model flexibility and thoughtfulness.
9. Consider that your teen may be depressed. Depression is a serious illness that can be difficult to detect in teens, left unaddressed, depression in adolescence is likely to become a much more difficult problem to resolve in adulthood. Key warning signs are a combination of over or under eating, too much or too little sleep, negative comments about themselves, feeling hopeless, not able to concentrate and excessive irritability. If you notice at least two of these symptoms, get help from a therapist that understands teens as soon as possible.