Cranky and snippy one moment, chirpy and happy the next. You might have encountered these moments with your child.
Just like the weather…
Parents of kids who are going through middle childhood, usually between the ages of nine to 11, can attest to these mood swings. Most of the time, it is a normal phase that children go through. They undergo several developmental stages that may contribute to these changing moods.
The puberty period is an exciting, albeit challenging part of growing up. Tweens experience a lot of changes not only in their physical appearance but also with how they think and feel. These changes contribute to the seesaw of emotions that they feel, resulting in the mood pendulum that sometimes blows hot and other times, cold.
Decoding these mood swings can be tricky. There are various factors that are behind these shifting emotions like hormonal and physical changes. Your child’s social environment and current circumstances or situations such as family conflict, peer pressure, or school demands can also trigger mood swings. A busy schedule, lack of rest or sleep, and stress can also lead to your child’s fluctuating temperament.
While they are part of the growing-up phase, mood swings that last for over two weeks and which considerably change several key areas in your child’s life may be a cause for concern.
Prolonged mood swings and significant changes in your child’s behavior, feelings, and thoughts must be taken note of. If you notice these signs in your child, it is best to seek professional psychological services. This will greatly help in getting the right information and guidance on how to best address the situation.
Your child’s moods will change from time to time, so here are some tips that may help you deal with these better:
1. Be aware
First of all, you need to be aware of how your child is in general. You need to be observant about the changes that your child may be going through. Outward appearances and behavior will clue you in if your child is already starting on the puberty adventure. There are developmental milestones that you should expect especially when they hit the age of nine, onwards.
Remember, though, that while there are typical behaviors that you can expect at each developmental stage, each child is unique. It is your responsibility to be attuned to your child and know whether the behavior he or she is expressing is within normal limits or has drastically changed.
Mood swings are normal if they happen from time to time, but be wary if they become prolonged and start to upset the normal balance of your child’s life. You can always go to a reputable family counselor if you need parenting tips or guidance.
2. Be encouraging
When your child is in a good mood, be generous with praise. Commend the good behavior.
The middle childhood stage is the time when your child is learning how to think and act independently from you. Allow your child to think for him or herself. Give your child enough space to explore his or her budding judgment abilities. This does not mean that you will leave your kid completely unguided. Of course, you should still be available to provide guidance, an ear to listen, or a shoulder to lean on.
Also, be encouraging when it comes to pursuing healthy habits or a fit lifestyle. If your child is experiencing mood swings because of exhaustion, be there to gently remind him or her to observe healthy eating and sleeping habits.
3. Be clear
While you are slowly extending the leash you have on your child, you should also be clear about boundaries, expectations, and rules.
Let your child know that while you give him or her your trust, he or she must also know that there are still lines that shouldn’t be crossed. Be clear that these rules are present not to limit their abilities or capacity but to instill good values such as discipline, mindfulness, and respect. Children must know that their moods are not an excuse to break the rules or a ticket out of doing what is expected of them.
Setting realistic expectations is also crucial, so you both know what to expect from each other. For example, you may allow your daughter to join a sleepover on the premise that she must first finish her homework. It could also be something like letting your son join a skateboarding club as long as he is able to maintain good grades in school.
4. Be involved
One way to also be able to manage your child’s moods is to be involved in their life. This does not mean that you will be there to nag them at every waking moment. Instead, it is letting your child know that you are there should he or she need someone to talk to or just be with.
Take time to be present during important events in your child’s life. In fact, create quality pockets of moments together and make the ordinary extraordinary. This doesn’t require you spending money or taking your child to spectacular destinations.
Just spending precious moments like gardening together, watching their favorite movies, cooking, or eating dinner as a family can already assure your child that he or she has a loving and supportive home.
5. Be understanding
If your child is having a bad mood, don’t jump right in and try to fix it. Allow your kid some time to calm down and give him or her some alone time to process his or her thoughts and feelings.
Once your child gets over the bad mood, then you can slowly come into the picture and calmly listen to him or her. You can then help your child understand what it is he or she is going through, the thoughts that may be swirling in his or her head, or the feelings he or she is confused about.
Just like the weather
Your tween’s moods might be as fickle as the weather nowadays but know that it may blow off as he or she grows. Just be there to be a supportive parent who knows when to listen and when to lend a helping hand.
But if you think that your child’s moods are getting out of control, do not hesitate to call or visit a registered psychologist or a family counselor.
Dr Gemma Gladstone is an endorsed clinical psychologist and certified schema therapist, supervisor and trainer. Along with Justine Corry, she is co-director of the Good Mood Clinic in Sydney and has 24 years of experience within mental health.
To learn more about Dr. Gladstone and her clinic, visit www.goodmood.com.au/
This is a guest post written by another author as part of an offer made through the American Psychological Association Supercharge Your Presence Series. All opinions and claims are those of the author. If you are interested in publishing a guest post, contact me to get started!– Kyler Shumway, PsyD