Adolescence can be an emotional rollercoaster, not just for kids but for parents too. Decoding baffling behaviors, addressing developmental needs, and offering the right support can be challenging, but with the right resources, families can not only survive the teenage years, they can thrive.

For many families, adolescence can be a stormy season. Hormones, high school, and first heartaches can make life confusing, even to the most cool-headed kid. It isn’t just tough on teens though, it can be a trying time for parents too.

Learning to decode baffling new behaviors, determining when to offer support and when to step back, how to resolve conflicts, and the best way to respond to signs of trouble can be overwhelming and frustrating. It can leave moms, dads, and caregivers with an awful lot of questions.

Why is My Teen So Moody?

Growing up isn’t exactly easy. Dr. Ester Cole, a psychologist, author, and teacher who treats school-age children and youth, understands the transition to teen-dom to be a major cognitive, physical, psychological, and social undertaking. She points to the many major changes occurring in adolescents:

  • Attaining emotional independence
  • Preparing for choice-making and the future
  • Establishing new friendships and social contacts
  • Building values and morals, and
  • Gradually accepting one’s changing physique and sexual role.

In other words, your child has a pretty intimidating growth-related to-do list. Cole goes on to explain, “These tasks are a tall order for youngsters who broaden their understanding, knowledge, values, and interests — while coping with their own confusion, transitions, and expectations of others in their lives.”

While these radical changes may not account for all the door slamming and eye rolling, these changes may be responsible for more than a few extra feelings.

How Can I Help?

Knocking on that firmly shut, not-so inviting bedroom door might seem like a fool’s errand to a parent or guardian, but offering support and understanding may be critical in addressing your child’s developmental needs. Cole points to drives like increased autonomy, positive communications, a clear value system, a sense of competence, and the opportunity to test personal beliefs and make choices, as some of the longings children may experience during adolescence.

Providing affirmation and encouragement, granting trust and exercising patience, are all ways a parent may foster personal growth and create a positive environment.

Though it may not be easy to keep calm and parent on through the ups and downs, a healthy relationship with you may have a big impact on the decisions your child makes. A 2015 study published in the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience showed that increases in positive parent-child relationships contribute to declines in adolescent risk-taking. Who knows? Being in-tune with your teen may mean you don’t need to hide the car keys.

What If It’s More Than Just Moodiness?

Moodiness may be normal for some adolescents, but an unusual behavior could signal a more serious issue.

Moodiness may be normal for some adolescents, but an unusual behavior could signal a more serious issue. According to the 2015 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, one-third (34%) of students indicated a moderate-to-serious levels of psychological distress, and one-in-seven (14%) reported their levels to be serious. As a parent, it can be difficult to distinguish between the usual teenage ennui and a potential symptom of a larger problem. Dr. Cole advises that if your child is “uncharacteristically withdrawn, or unusually preoccupied” it may be time to seek extra support.

Where Can I Find Support?

Proper diagnosis and treatment may be extremely effective in managing the symptoms of mental illness. One study cited by the Canadian Mental Health Association showed that, with help, up to 80% of people who suffer from depression are able to return to their regular daily activities.

To start, Cole recommends “Consulting with the mental health professionals at your child’s school, including the School Support Team.” An SST is a task force made up of teachers and staff who design plans and systems to help any student who may be struggling in the school environment. In addition, your family physician may also be able to place a referral to an accredited psychologist or specialist.

For more information on support children through the tumultuous teen years and beyond, check out Cole’s, “Understanding Young Adolescents.” For parent and caregiver education, free resources such as the ABCs of Mental Health and The Psychology Foundation of Canada’s Stress Strategies also provide information on various disorders, treatments, and tools.

When the moods swing and the manners march out the door, parenting through puberty can seem near impossible but with a little understanding, support, and patience, both you and your child can ride out the storm together.

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