My Teenager is So Moody!
“I hate my life!” “I have the best friends!” “I am never talking to her again!”
Have you ever heard this kind of talk from your teenager? One minute things seem to be going great and the next minute life is a disaster. I frequently hear teens (and some parents) call other teens bipolar. Are they?
Bipolar disorder (which used to be called manic depression) has been on the rise but moody behavior does not mean your teenager has bipolar disorder. All teens (and all people) have mood swings to some extent. We (as adults and parents) need to remember that hormones are raging during the teen years. This is a new experience for them. Think back to when puberty really kicked in for you and you might see why your child is actually the way he is.
I say he is because mood swings effect boys too. We often attribute moodiness to “that time of the month” but that is only part of it. Yes, girls do tend to be more emotional or moody while on their period but boys have changing hormones too. It is often more difficult for a boy to express his feelings (as a society we still foolishly look down on this behavior too often) and that may cause some boys to act out in aggressive ways. That is deemed more appropriate, although still inappropriate, behavior. Makes sense, right?!
So how can we help?
First, give all your teens some alone time when moody. Encourage them to engage in a relaxing activity (relaxing to them!). This could be something he does in his room like reading, listening to music, and writing. Or something physical, like a solo sport or exercise. We need to help our teens understand that when they are in a bad mood, that is okay as long as they are not bothering anyone else or doing something harmful.
Second, if you teen has acted out inappropriately talk to them about it ONCE THEY’VE CALMED DOWN! I stress waiting till they calm down because no one is rational when upset. The conversation will not go well.
Third, talk to your kid regularly. That’s it. Just talk!
Lastly, not to end similarly to how I ended by last blog, but if you check out the National Institute of Mental Health’s website on bipolar disorder and are concerned that your teen’s behavior fit the symptoms instead of just “regular” moodiness, please seek support. Typically, people cannot manage bipolar disorder without medication so he would need to see a psychiatrist. Once stabilized, a therapist could then help your teen learn some coping skills and ways to gain back skills that he might have missed.
Do All Kids Have ADHD?
“Sit still!” “Pay attention!” “Keep your hands to yourself!”
These might be common phrases your children hear. For some it may be because they have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), for others it is because they are kids. While it is true that ADHD has increased in the population (due to numerous causes), it is also true that we are quick to diagnose.
Here are a few things to remember:
Kids are supposed to move around a lot. We should encourage them to learn how to sit still, pay attention, and keep their hands to themselves but we should also give them plenty of time to move around, act goofy, and use their hands in play. Google Brain Gym for some great exercises a kid (or anyone) can do when they feel antsy but are not able to go out and play.
Trauma can look like ADHD. If a kid has experienced a trauma in her life, she may have difficulty concentrating, inattention, anger outburst, act impulsive, and be impatient. It is important to have a child screened by a professional-a psychiatrist or psychologist are best. Make sure you give them a complete history of the child and they are looking at all areas of the child’s life. It is important to have the correct diagnosis so treatment can be correct.
Think about how long you can go without moving from a seat. I frequently see other adults standing during a lecture because it is uncomfortable to sit for so long. Are we allowing our children the same thing? My own daughter frequently eats while standing up. Our rule is as long as she still eats over the table she can stand.
Lastly, if your child is diagnosed with ADHD please seek support on ways to help the child from a counselor or psychologist. Mediation can be, and often is, vital but the child also needs to learn some skills to help her overcome some of her behaviors. She will have to work a little harder than a child without ADHD but success is very possible!
Stefanie F. Pisarkiewicz, LPC
Experience and information from a counselor and mother- sharing her two cents on children and teens.