How can I help my teen with mood swings and anger?

Question

My 11 year old daughter will soon start her menstrual cycle and she is having mood swings, especially anger. Do you have any tips? I have asked her to take deep breaths when she feels anger welling up but it seems too overwhelming for her when she feels this emotion.


-D.G., Switzerland



Answer

Dear D.G.,


It can be challenging to have your daughter go through emotional upheavals at any age but especially in those younger, formative years. Remember that she is uncomfortable with the emotional changes within her and doesn't know how to manage them yet. Anger is a strong surge of energy within us that needs a release for more calmness to settle in.


One of the best pieces of advice I heard before having teenagers was, "Find a place where they can focus their energy, that way, they don't direct it toward you." This guidance worked flawlessly for me when raising pre-teens and teenagers. Often physical movement is helpful to move energy. Sometimes artistic expression, connection with animals or helping those in need can activate the heart feelings and also be a catalyst for transmuting big energy.


Tune into your daughter. What does she enjoy doing that expends energy? Find ways to support that aspect of her life.


Lastly, the more you can stay centered and non-attached during the mood swings, the better. Of course, this skill is easier said than done!


Blessings to you both on this part of your parenting path,

Rose


Dear D.G.,

When you are both calm you may also talk a bit about these changes, acknowledge her overwhelm and reassure your daughter that you're here for her and want to work together with her to help navigate this new challenge. Perhaps together you can brainstorm techniques she can use or reminders you can give in the moment to help her redirect her anger or upset. Taking a deep breath is one but there may be others that appeal more to your daughter like going for a run, drawing, reading or spending time outside.


Learning to use these tools in the moment can take practice. With some children we've come up with a code word or small gesture I can use to remind them to pause and use one of their calming techniques if I notice their energy is off. This could be particularly helpful with teens and preteens to avoid any social embarrassment or further conflict of saying something like "Just take a breath!" It allows them to redirect their awareness and make a choice without feeling told what to do.


As Rose suggested, make sure you are supporting yourself and have practices in place to help you keep your cool in the moment. Ultimately the only thing you can control in these moments is your own energy and reactions but cultivating this self-awareness and self-discipline can have a tremendous impact on those around you. Your daughter is still learning to self-regulate and needs your calmness and regulation to help her in these moments.

If your daughter is open to learning new calming tools and techniques (yoga, meditation, breathing etc.) you might even look for ways to learn and practice together as it could help you both. But if she isn't interested, don't push it. As Rose suggested, focus on whatever she does enjoy as a way to help her direct this excess energy and keep it uplifted.


With joy,

Erin