Are you feeling frustrated because of your teen’s frequent moody behavior? Are you unsure on how to handle your teen’s moody behavior? To help understand common mistakes parents make when dealing with their teen’s moody behavior and what a parent can do to handle their teen’s moody behavior, I have interviewed therapist Dr. Jennica Jenkins.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I have a bachelors degree in elementary education, a master’s degree in educational counseling and a PPS credential. I completed my doctorate in psychology from CCU Santa Ana in 2005. I have combined my clinical psychology and educational counseling experience to help teens and young adults achieve life-success at both home and school. I founded TeensforHumanity TM a youth violence prevention organization and I was honored on the “Wall of Tolerance” at the National Civil Rights Museum. In 2006, my husband and I relocated to Sacramento, California where I have resumed my work as a teen intervention counselor.”
What are common mistakes parents make when dealing with their teen’s moody behavior?
“First of all I think it’s good to know as a parent that teenage moodiness is a normal part of adolescence. Any time a child is transitioning into a new stage of development the child will exhibit mood and behavior changes. For example when a toddler transitions to childhood they call it the terrible twos angry meltdowns, tantrums, and unsolicited crying spells are expected. The same types of behaviors are expected when young people transition into young adulthood. You can call it the “terrible teens” if you wish. However mood and behavior changes during this time are as developmentally appropriate as zits and insomnia.
A common mistake many parents make is when they lose sight of the relational balance they experience more difficulty in dealing with their teen’s negative moods. I advise parents to find a middle place when enduring the ups and downs of adolescence. I also commiserate that it is a very difficult task to remain emotionally consistent and available.
There is a balance between over attachment and total disconnect. When parents are too involved they begin feeling completely responsible to fix another person’s mood. Oppositely there is extreme disconnection, feeling no empathy for another person’s experience. Parents of teens get into trouble when they find themselves at either end of this emotionally charged spectrum.”
What type of impact can those mistakes have on the parent teen relationship?
“It is easy for parents to fall into the trap of feeling responsible to “fix” their teen’s mood. Ask any parent and they want their child to “be happy”. However over involvement is often resented and increase conflict. When parents meddle in a natural process, it can stunt the teen’s emotional growth. One task in adolescence is to gain personal independence. That independence is best achieved when a teen can get up and out of a pity party on all on their own. A key to resiliency is the ability to move on from disappointment.
Some parents prone to avoiding conflict or who have been deeply hurt by their surly teen’s behavior choose to disengage. At first it is a protective measure but then these parents can be unavailable to their adolescent when they are truly needed. A key lesson to learn in building lasting relationships is to stay connected amidst conflict. Immature relationships often sever all connections when there is conflict. Teens will push parents out because they are immature. Wise parents will weather the storm to stay connected even when it hurts.
I’ve heard of parents buying expensive gifts, allowing undeserved freedoms, and undoing necessary discipline just to get their teen out of a bad mood. These are terrible mistakes. Part of why teens are moody is because they feel insecure about their world. When parents overwhelm their teen with gifts and freedoms they are not ready it increases feelings of anxiety within the teen.”
How can a parent handle their teen’s moody behavior?
“Going back to the idea of balance is very important for parents to remember. Parents need to stay stable, consistent, and emotionally connected when their teen has changing moods.
Over involvement communicates that the teen is validated in their faulty belief that how I feel is how the world really is A teen can give up and make horrid decisions based on a feeling. Parents need to not operate in this belief system but offer loving logic. I advise parents to get out of emotional roller coaster car, but stand at the landing and offer support and consistency as their teen glides by.
Total emotional disconnect communicates that yes, the teen’s faulty belief that abandonment is expected and the world is a cruel emotionless place. This often will increase hopelessness and depressive symptoms. A lonely disconnected teen can make some desperate moves to get their parent’s emotional attention, be it negative or positive. So I advise parents to put on their armor and go into battle reaching in with love and logical consistency even though their teen may be hurling hurtful attacks at them.”
What type of professional help is available for a parent who is having a difficult time handling their teen’s moody behavior?
“Love and Logic parenting is an excellent resource. Teen parenting groups are often available in larger communities. I advise parents to elicit the advice of high school level school counselors and psychologists. They are usually very in tune with teens and local community issues.
Personal therapy is very important for parents who have difficulty with staying in the middle of the spectrum mentioned above. Sometimes adult children of alcoholics, survivors of domestic violence, and parents who have lost their own identity to the role of “parent” have a very hard time at setting the boundaries their teen needs. If a parent has trouble with emotional stability then they need to steady up their inner selves in therapy so they will be able to guide their moody teen.
When a parent realizes that they cannot connect and their teen has crossed from moody to depressed for more than two weeks, they need to have the teen evaluated by a pediatrician or psychologist.”
Thank you Dr. Jenkins for doing the interview on how a parent can handle their teen’s moody behavior. For more information on Dr. Jenkins or her work you can check out her website at http://jennicajenkins.com/.
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