All teens are moody, but as a parent how can you help them out of it? If you can accept that their moods are a part of a “rite of passage” and not a personal affront to you as a parent, you are in a better position to help. As a parent, you have to be able to tolerate a few hours or days (not weeks) of brooding and sulking without getting on your teen’s case for being a downer. Stepping in their shoes and realizing just how difficult it is to be a teenager will help you empathize and be patient. Let’s face it, if you had to manage school demands, maintain positive friendships, figure out the mysteries of romance while simultaneously developing your identity, you’d be a moody mess!!
So here are a few tips to weather the storm (until it passes) and preserve the “goodness” you love about your child. You won’t be able to rescue them, but you’ll be able to stand by their side:
1. Let them know that you understand just how hard this time is by saying, “I know this is such a wonderful and yet really difficult time because there is just so much going on!”
2. Rather than asking your teen constantly what’s wrong, randomly check in on them (not too frequently) and ask if they need anything. Be prepared- they may act annoyed but secretly they will feel cared for and loved.
3. Surprise your teen with small tokens of consideration that let them know you care (For example, bring them a cup of hot chocolate while studying, praise them for something minor yet meaningful –i.e., thanks for putting away your clothes, get them a favorite book/magazine, etc.).
4. Ask them if they want to talk and you just LISTEN. Give them the gift of your attention by making space for them to talk. Surely your teen will say something that will spark an urge to say something, offer advice, clarify a point of view, etc. Let the urge pass and just LISTEN. Ask if they want FEEDBACK. If not, relay that you have confidence in their ability to resolve the situation fairly. Remember, most of their stressful interactions will pass, so don’t worry too much.
Please note there is a big difference between moodiness and clinical depression, which can’t be ignored or expected to pass without intervention. If your teen appears irritable, sad or hopeless for a period of two weeks or more, shows significant changes in eating, hygiene, or sleeping, isolates him or herself from friends and family, and/or expresses thoughts of self-harm, promptly seek an evaluation from a mental health professional, experienced with adolescent mental health issues. Your teen doesn’t need to suffer–there are very effective treatments (teen counseling, family counseling, medication for teens) to alleviate teen depression and help your child thrive.