By Elizabeth Farnsworth, MD, PhD, Pediatrician
Teenage moods are a popular topic in tv shows, social media parenting groups, and even comedies. The quick fluctuation from happy to sad, excited to mad seems baffling to adults, many of whom do not remember being this difficult as teens.
While these mood changes in adolescents are frustrating, they are an important part of development and progression to adulthood. Teenagers could also be having a difficult time navigating these changes as they try to find their place in society. The crucial point is for parents to understand what is normal and what may require further evaluation.
Normal adolescent behavior/ mood changes include:
- Caring a lot about what their peers think. This can lead to some anxiety in general as teenagers attempt to fit in with their friends.
- Turning to peers for advice rather than to adults/ parents. This helps develop communication, but may also result in making poor choices. Many teens may still turn to a trusted adult to get an opinion regardless of whether or not they follow the advice.
- A desire to be alone a times. In spite of this they should still participate in family activities.
- Sudden changes in mood, seemingly over-reacting to a situation through strong emotions, apparent lack of common sense, but otherwise content most days.
What is not normal?
- Angry, depressed, anxious most days.
- Sudden change in character, for example loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities or extreme risk-taking.
- Sleeping more than normal. Adolescents need about 8-10 hours of sleep a night, and many teenagers make up for late nights and early waking by sleeping in during weekends.
- Great anxiety to the point of being unable to leave the house or participate in activities with peers and others.
- Severely restricting diet or eating a lot more than usual. Teenagers do also have growth spurts, and may go through periods of eating more then level back to their usual diet.
- Secretive behavior, totally shutting family and others out of their lives.
- Harming themselves or expressing the desire to harm themselves or others.
How can parents help?
– Make a point to talk with them often about their lives, dreams, ambitions, even if they do not seem to want to. Listen to what they have to say, whether or not it may seem frivolous to you. It shows them that you care.
– Support your teenager in their interests, including attending or volunteering on their sports teams, clubs, events, interests etc, even when they’re not being friendly or amenable.
– Read up on common issues that affect children their age and talk to them about their experiences.
– Have family rules and stick to them. They may annoy an adolescent, but they do have a desire for boundaries, and they appreciate having them.
Please note that the above is not comprehensive. If you believe that your teen is hurting himself or has plans to harm herself or others, or is abusing substances, or if you are otherwise concerned, please discuss with your child’s pediatrician. Annual well visits with a pediatrician will help your teen develop rapport with them and could be a source of an additional trusted adult for him or her.
Some good resources for parents of adolescents are:
About Elizabeth Farnsworth, MD, PhD
Dr. Farnsworth joined the Great Falls Clinic in 2019 and is among the newer healthcare providers in the State of Montana. She works alongside Drs. Colleen Marron and Nancy Maynard in Pediatrics at the Great Falls Clinic main location. Dr. Farnsworth specializes in pediatric services including general pediatrics, developmental and behavioral medicine, preventative medicine, and in-office procedures. Dr. Farnsworth also has a special interest in patient education, global health and providing healthcare to underserved communities. She is currently accepting new patients at the Clinic Main Campus, 1400 29th Street South, Great Falls. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 406-454-2171.