Remember when your kid was all cute and cuddly? You’d drop them off at primary school, and get a lovely kiss goodbye and a ‘bye daddy’. It can be hard to recognise that bouncy little child being the same person as the grumpy teenager you live with today. A teenager’s moods can be infuriating, stressful and difficult to manage.
There are, however, valid reasons why your teenager is moody.
The changes to a teen’s brains and hormones
New connections between cells in the part of the brain which regulates behaviour occur at a high rate. White matter also grows in the areas of the brain where judgement, rationality and impulsiveness take place.
Therefore, teenagers may lack the ability to think before they speak, and act in ways which an adult would think twice about.
The sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone) also have a role to play in your child’s moods. To make matters worse, the THP hormone that will calm an adult down if they are stressed will make a teen feel more anxious. This reaction changes as a teenager approaches adulthood, but until then it will affect their moods.
The stress of being a teenager
For parents who have a myriad of responsibilities and problems to worry about on a daily basis, a teenager’s life can seem easy in comparison. However, the teenage years can be a confusing and worrying time. Along with body changes, young people are struggling to find their identity and place in the world. Teen friendships and first relationships can also be fraught with difficulties and stress.
What about anxiety and depression?
It can be tricky as a parent to tell when your teenager is experiencing normal teen moods, or if they are struggling with anxiety or depression. As a general rule of thumb, keep an eye on whether their mood lifts for clues. For example, if they have a very grumpy day but seem fine the rest of the week, it’s less likely to be a mental health problem at play.
If, however, they seem generally more unhappy than happy, and you notice other symptoms such as weight loss or gain, social withdrawal, sleep problems or talk of self harm or suicide, then consult your GP.
How to parent a tricky teenager
It can be difficult to parent a teen, walking the difficult tightrope of understanding what they’re going through, but still maintaining boundaries for behaviour. There will be days when being around your teenager will be hard. Trying to remember that they’re going through a change can help you both- you’re less likely to explode in response to the trying times. They need you to maintain a calm, steady presence.
Always be a willing ear if they want to talk; a helpful tactic for getting them to open up is having a chat in the car. Being side by side rather than face to face can make them feel more at ease.
Making clear boundaries can also help. While children don’t like rules, they know that if parents make them it’s because they care. As long as they are safe it’s healthy for teenagers to make mistakes and learn from them- keep the lines of communication and guidance strong.
Recognise that they may want more privacy and space and you may find they like to spend time alone in their rooms with the door shut. This is part of their growing independence and normal.
If you ever grow concerned for your child’s welfare however- perhaps around the use of alcohol, drugs, unprotected sex or if they’re being bullied- don’t be afraid to step in.
When the stress of parenting a teenager gets too much
Dealing with a moody, difficult teenager can test even the calmest of parents. Their behaviour can be infuriating, frustrating and even upsetting sometimes.
Be sure to take care of yourself to offset the stress. There are several ways you can do this, but making time to get some head space is one great tactic. Even half an hour spent on a hobby or getting some fresh air can help. If you know another dad to have a moan to then do so- getting the stress off your chest to someone else can work wonders. You can also come and chat to other parents on our friendly forum.