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Teen Mood Swings

Parents have been navigating teen mood swings since the creation of man.

Generations of moms and dads have been plagued by the hormonal roller coaster of their teens’ mood swings and attitudes. No fun.

I am no exception.

Many have heard me share about navigating my adopted son’s volatile behaviors.

It was our family’s brutal journey with him that led me to a life completely shattered.  And then God rebuilding me into a completely different parent and teacher.

For more about our story through adoption and special needs, start here.

parenting teen girls, mood swings, moms. daughters

My tween and teen girls- Lots of teen mood swings

However, it is not only my son who needs support with his mood swings.

Like generations of girls before her, my oldest daughter eventually morphed into a young lady.  While she is generally a very respectful girl, she is still a teen.

Hormones come with the territory.  We adult women suffer from the occasional hormonal rage.

Mom mood swings are real.  Yikes!!  Am I right?

So understandably, my girl and her younger sister experience teen mood swings and meltdowns every once in awhile.

No big deal.  Right?

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Teen Mood Swings And Parenting

Mexican food and Moods

Let me share a story with you.

About a year ago, I took my girls out on a dinner date.  Of course, we all agreed on Mexican.

Who doesn’t love chips and salsa?

The date was supposed to be just my middle daughter and me.

However, at the last minute my oldest begged to join us.  Middle graciously agreed that Big Sis could tag along on our date night.

Fast forward about an hour.

We had enjoyed our chips, salsa, queso, nachos and a burrito.  (I have to clarify that we shared.  Just sayin.)

Lots of silly conversations.  It was a success…

Until…It wasn’t.

Teen Moodiness to Meltdowns in 30 Seconds Flat

In what seemed like a thirty second window of time, my oldest daughter shifted.  She was suddenly sucked into the cyclone of teen mood swings.

Her face changed… she was no longer laughing at my stories about how Aunty Jamie used to be obsessed with Davy Jones from The Monkees

Anyone else remember The Monkees on Nickelodeon after school?

“Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees!”

“Daydream believer and a homecoming queen…”

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Nobody cares?

Ok… apparently my cousins, my sisters and I had strange taste in entertainment.  We still had tons of fun growing up.

Back to the story.

My girls had been asking questions about my life as a kid and we were having fun and laughing.

So it took me off guard when my oldest suddenly shut down.

I’m full & about to meltdown

We were chomping down on our chips and salsa when she began complaining about “being full” and wanting me to drive her home.

I asked her what was wrong.

Classic teen response,

“Nothing.”

Pushing her further, (I knew she wasn’t telling me the truth), she responded with,

“I’m just tired.”

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Mom Mindset & Mood Swings

‘Oh! That’s how she is going to play it. Great!’

Frustration was beginning to creep up into my voice as the possibilities ran through my head.

My initial reaction was to become a little P.O.ed at her.  See the shift?  I am just as guilty of my own meltdowns when things don’t go my way.

That’s for another post.

‘Great!  After she begged her little sister to jump in on our scheduled date night… she gets what she wanted.  She got her yummy Mexican food and now she is done with us.’

Does anyone see what was happening with me? We will get back to that.

Let’s be real… teens do have a knack for being just a little ego-centric. I couldn’t have been that off in my assessment of her new shift in attitude.  Right?

Disappointment started to rise up in me.  Deep down I feared that my daughter’s mood swing might possibly ruin her sister’s date night.

Teen moodiness and meltdown is no excuse for mine

As the adult I had to make a decision.

My initial impulse was to lay into her about ruining her little sister’s date time and being a bit selfish.

But I didn’t. Not this time.

In the past, I likely would have pointed out her self-centered motives, her attitude and mood swing.

My oldest errs on the side of taking too much responsibility for others’ reactions and responses.

Because of this, she would have likely shut down and apologized profusely before I finished even speaking.  Sadly, that typical response would have likely satisfied me at one point in time.

I mean, who doesn’t appreciate it when anyone takes responsibility for their actions?

An apology would have been a satisfactory response.  Not always.

In this case, I could have slammed a door on our relationship.  Even if just temporarily.

Fortunately, this is not how the interaction went down. Praise God!

By God’s mercy, I have learned a lot over these past several years navigating my son.

God has taught me so much more than just how to handle a special needs kid meltdown.

I’ve learned how to navigate relational conflict.  Period.

Teen Mood Swings as Information

My daughter was having her own version of a meltdown. 

I know what to do when one of my cubs has a meltdown.

No, it wasn’t a drop-down kicking and screaming meltdown that the whole restaurant was privy to.

However, it was my teenage daughter’s (lite) version.

Mom’s parenting growth mindset

So I made a mental pivot from the perspective that told me she was being willfully selfish.

My mind had to drop the deep-rooted belief that all outward behavior is willful and intentionally ugly.

Fortunately, my mindset shift opened my eyes to see so much more behind the behavior.  I thought to myself, 

“Something just happened. She had a thought or something just came to mind and she is responding. Let me investigate.”

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4 Steps to look Behind the Behavior: My Teen’s Meltdown

Enter in the Four Steps to Capture & Influence Your Child’s Heart, Beliefs & Behavior.

The reality is this.  After all the drama and the hell we went through with our son, God has allowed me to completely reframe my parenting.

Ultimately, this has impacted my response to outward behavior.

In my book, Behind the Behavior: 4 Steps to Capture & Influence Your Child’s Heart Beliefs & Behavior, I outline the four steps.

It started with my son when he was throwing meltdowns and tantrums.

In that moment with my girl I realized that is exactly what I needed to do with her.

So, here goes.

Step 1: Relationship

I looked directly at my girly and made eye contact.

Step 2: Provide Emotional Vocabulary & Reflect

“Hey, What happened, Sweet Girl?  You went from happy and laughing to ‘shut down’.  What are you thinking?  You look like you are feeling sad.”

Step 3: Provide Physical Input

I rocked her in my arms like a baby.  No.  That totally did not happen.

Step 4: Shift Attention & Distract

No.  Didn’t have to do this one either.

In a nutshell, I walked through steps 1 and 2.   I connected with her through relationship.  Then I offered her an emotional vocabulary and reflected back what I saw.

Suddenly, everything changed.

The Result

Her defensive wall of perceived teenage mood swing crumbled almost immediately.

My girl opened up to us.

“I just heard a song that reminded me of Grandma,”

She managed to confess as she held back tears.

Mom had passed suddenly about 9 months prior.  My girl had been struggling terribly with her grief.

Her sudden change of mood had nothing to do with selfishly “using” her sister and me for Mexican food.

My perception of her shift in attitude was actually sadness.

Had I engaged her through a more traditional lens which simply looks at outward socially unacceptable behaviors as problems to be eradicated, I would have blown it big time.

I would have missed out on an opportunity to be my daughter’s safe place of refuge.  It could have been a lost opportunity to be her trusted ally who ultimately points her to Jesus.

Praise the Lord that I didn’t jump to conclusions.  Praise Him that I have learned so much through this journey with my son.

Meltdowns Don’t Cease Simply Because We Age

The reality is that we all have meltdowns… ALL.OF.US.  Adults and children alike.

Adults lose it all the time.

Grown-up meltdowns simply “look” different from teen and toddler meltdowns.  Hopefully?  Maybe?

We moms blow it daily, right?

Have you snapped at your child or hubby because you have reached the end of your rope?

I know I do.

Meltdown.

There is no judgement in this.  We are all just human beings living in a broken world.

Meltdowns simply appear differently depending upon the variables. We will all have tantrums and mood swings until the day we die.

However, there is incredible grace for us all.

Whether a toddler tantrum, an elementary-age explosion, or a teen mood swing, we need to offer grace.

Let’s equip our children to work through the tough thoughts and big emotions that lead to harder behavior.

Then watch them smile and say, “Thank you, Mom.”

Eventually.  Hopefully?

Be encouraged, Friend.

Grab a free copy of the Behind the Behavior Cheat Sheet and begin to reframe your relationship with your child.  Toddler to teen.

We are in this together!

christian mom support, special needs mom