By Dr. Michelle Alvarez, Consulting Educator
I have noticed many mood swings in my 12-year-old daughter this year. They started toward the end of sixth grade and are continuing stronger and more frequently this year in seventh grade. It seems like her personality has changed so drastically. Her bad mood seems to linger longer and longer. Her focus is more on boys and gossip. Nothing I say seems to get her out of her moods. How can I help her during these emotionally challenged times and relate to her at her level?
Let's start with the fact that mood swings in teens (and I am considering 12 an early teen) can be very normal. It is a time of physical and emotional changes. Changes experienced during the teen years include physical, cognitive, and social development as outlined in the following articles on Adolescent growth and development from Virginia State University and WebMD.
Recent studies have been done on the causes of mood swings in teens. This Science Central article discusses what causes these mood swings.
As with any behaviors that concern you it is important to rule out any medical cause first. Talking to your pediatrician or family doctor would be the first place to start. The next step is to talk to either student services personnel at school (e.g., school social worker, school psychologist or school counselor) or community- based therapists such as social workers to help both you and your daughter address the disruption in daily life that the mood swings are causing and rule out any other causes.
In the meantime, what you can do is note if there are any patterns to the mood swings or precipitating events. Mood charts are available online and can be filled out by you or your daughter. Ideally your daughter would fill it out to help both you and your physician/therapist see the pattern of mood changes. Here is a mood chart you might want to try.
You can help your daughter by encouraging her to have healthy eating habits, to exercise and get enough sleep at night. Finally, talk openly with your daughter about her moods and work with her to try strategies to help her cope with her moods and record what works. This list will allow her to pick strategies that work when she needs them and assist school personnel, friends and relatives in supporting her during her most difficult moments.