Good News for Parents of Moody Teens: It Will Pass

Adolescence is a season of life when teens experience intense emotions. In a real way, they are experiencing “new” adult-like emotions. Emotions like anxiety, worry, frustration, anger, inferiority, passion, and fear can occur with ferocious intensity. It will take time for teenagers to learn how to handle and manage these emotions.

One long-term study of adolescents provided some reassuring news for parents of moody teens. Researchers found that most mood swings will decline as teens get older.

“We found that early adolescence is the period of the greatest volatility, but adolescents gradually stabilize in their moods,” said Hans M. Koot, professor of developmental psychology at VU University Amsterdam and the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, a coauthor of the study. “An important message to teens, parents, and teachers is that temporary mood swings during early adolescence might actually be normal and aren’t necessarily a reason to worry.”

The study found that over adolescent years, teens’ moods of happiness, anger, and sadness became more stable. Anxiety was the only mood that did not align with the overall pattern of stabilization, fluctuating between seasons of more and less anxiety.

The researchers suggested that teens who continue to demonstrate extreme mood swings as they age may need to be monitored more closely, as the lack of mood stabilization may be an indicator of emotional, behavioral, and interpersonal problems.

In light of the research, parents should strive to be patient with their moody teen, trying not to overreact to their extreme mood swings, and instead, make the effort to help her or him to understand their emotions and to channel them in healthy ways.

Further, keep in mind that many teens learn best from their parents, not by lectures from mom or dad, but by example. So, parents can help provide emotional stability for their moody teen by being healthy role models of emotional stability and consistency. This provides opportunities for your teen to get an insider’s look at how to handle their emotions.

Also, it pays dividends to become a good listener. Parents can help their moody teen by providing a loving, emotional “safe place” that your teen needs to share and process their feelings. As Jim Burns has often said, “listening is the language of love.”

Finally, it’s important to remember that each teen is unique and may not undergo an “average” transition from normal teenage angst to a calmer early-adulthood. Some face emotional issues and challenges that may require a parent’s attention. If your teen continues to experience extreme mood swings as he or she gets older, don’t hesitate to seek an evaluation from a healthcare professional.

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Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, editor, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord Culture Blog also appears on Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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