Dealing with Mood Swings in Adolescents

Mood swings in adolescents can be explained by the transformation that young people go through. Learn more in today's article.
Dealing with Mood Swings in Adolescents
Sharon Capeluto

Written and verified by the psychologist Sharon Capeluto.

Last update: 05 April, 2023

The sudden mood swings of adolescents often baffle parents. It only takes a few minutes for young people to go from joy to sadness or from frustration to pride. The emotional instability characteristic of this period impacts family coexistence and installs a quota of general discomfort that’s sometimes difficult to remove.

You may be looking for strategies to deal with your teenager’s mood swings. If that’s the case, you’re right where you need to be.

Understanding mood swings in adolescents

Adolescence is all about transformation. At this stage of life, stability, constancy, and serenity become less frequent. We’re talking about a time of profound processes of change at the physical, psychological, and hormonal levels.

In turn, these changes inaugurate a new – and still ambiguous – way of thinking about the world, about bonds, and about themselves. Teens try to find their own identity by exploring new ways of relating and experiencing novel situations.

While all this may be perceived with enthusiasm and interest, in some ways, it’s also overwhelming, resulting in abrupt mood swings in adolescents. In other words, they feel very different emotions in a short period of time.

Learn how to deal with mood swings in adolescents

Such sudden mood swings can cause confusion and discomfort not only in adolescents but also in the people around them. Parents often witness their mood swings, which they often interpret as illogical and disproportionate. Here are some ideas on how to handle this situation successfully.

A father feeling angry about his teenage daughter's mood swings.
Many adults feel unable to cope with the emotional instability of adolescents, which can lead to confusion and anger.

1. Remember that adolescence doesn’t last forever

You should know that abrupt mood swings are natural during adolescence. Significant transformations in their body, mind, and social environment are more than enough reasons for mood swings.

Therefore, it’s important to understand that your child’s mood swings make sense. However, remembering that adolescence doesn’t last forever may be a relief. It’ll give you a sense that emotional stability is likely to come along with maturity.

2. Actively listen and be supportive

Keep in mind that reacting in a reactive and impulsive manner could aggravate the situation. It’s understandable that their mood swings make you feel helpless and annoyed. However, it’s essential to know that if you resort to shouting or get angry with them because of their moodiness, it won’t help them calm down at all.

Your teenager must deal with a lot of worries, so they need your understanding and empathy. Therefore, it’s best to approach them and offer them a safe space for dialogue so they can talk about what they feel and think.

If they’re not aware of the reasons that make them change their mood so suddenly, you can guide them through questions such as the following: Are you worried about something that happened at school? Do you feel some kind of pressure or demand that makes you uneasy? Is there something about yourself that makes you uncomfortable? This way, together, you can reflect on the situation and look for possible solutions.

3. Offer emotional regulation tools

You can help them find healthy ways to channel their emotions and engage in self-care practices. The simple question, “What do you need right now to feel better?” may provide options to help them achieve peace of mind. Maybe you need to take a walk, play a sport, or talk to a friend on the phone. Or maybe they need to listen to music or write in a journal.

It’s important for your child to discover his own ways to manage his mood swings. That way, the next time he gets upset, he can turn to some calming activities.

4. Set limits, but respect their needs

Yes, setting limits is necessary. It’s important to set clear rules regarding their behavior at home in order to make having a pleasant family life possible. It’s true that the rest of the cohabitants don’t have to tolerate mistreatment because of the adolescents’ mood swings. Besides, they need to know that they can’t do or say whatever they want. Therefore, when setting limits, it’s important to do so firmly but not without flexibility.

However, it’s essential to respect the time and needs of adolescents. In certain cases, it’s advisable to let the situation pass and allow them to find a safe space to go through an intense emotional moment. If they need time alone in their room, it’s key to respect their privacy.

Improving family coexistence

In summary, mood swings in adolescents are to be expected and can be caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. Therefore, it’s important that the accompanying adults adopt an empathetic and understanding posture, although not entirely permissive.

It’s key to accept that not every day will be happy or easy at home, but that it’s important to provide emotional regulation strategies to adolescent children. This will have a double benefit: On the one hand, they’ll feel better and, on the other hand, family coexistence will be more pleasant.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Poncela, A. M. F. (2014). Adolescencia, crecimiento emocional, proceso familiar y expresiones humorísticas. Educar50(2), 445-466.
  • Toro, V., & de Adolescentes, E. (2012). Por qué cambia tanto el humor de mi hijo adolescente.
  • Vélez, M. D. C. D., & Blanco, D. M. L. (2018). Las relaciones de convivencia familiar y su impacto en la formación de valores de los adolescentes. Revista Pertinencia Académica. ISSN 2588-1019, (6), 133-150.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.