Learn what’s normal and what’s not with your adolescent’s mood swings.
From the preteen beginnings of puberty to high school acting out, most adolescents experience wild mood swings as their bodies grow and change.
“Irritability is normal in teens, especially as they’re growing and maturing,” says Reuben Battley, MD, an adolescent medicine specialist at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health. “But when their reactions are out of proportion, or if parents are worried that something may not be right, it’s worth seeing their pediatrician.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and political tensions across the country have increased stress levels for everyone, but teens may be especially susceptible, as so much of their social lives have been curtailed.
“Teens are used to being social in school and around friends,” Dr. Battley says. “To have that abruptly taken away from them can take a toll. If you add increased anxiety to academic struggles while being alone, it can be a lot for teens to manage.”
Parents should also be on the lookout for changes in behavior that could indicate substance abuse.
“I always worry when drugs, alcohol or vaping are used to release stress or ‘blow off steam’ because that’s how addiction starts, because teens use these substances to change their moods,” Dr. Battley says.
Better ways to blow off stress can include:
- Arts and crafts
- Family activities
- Dr. Battley also suggests journaling and using free meditation resources online to help with regulating emotions.
But the most important thing parents can do is to simply encourage regular communication with their teens.
“Open communication can help you identify issues and help your child work through them,” Dr. Battley says. “It also gives them an outlet. For parents with teens, it’s important to be both an effective communicator and an effective listener. A healthy dialogue is so vital to their growth.”