Monitoring You Kid’s Teenage Mood Swings & Knowing When To Step In To Help

teenage mood swings

As the parent of an adolescent, you’re probably well acquainted with teenage mood swings. One minute your child is calmly eating dinner with the family which is supposed to be a positive influence on their emotional well-being. The next, they erupt in tears or anger. You rack your short-term memory to see if you can figure out what set them off – this time.

Scenes like this can be a fairly common occurrence in households with teens. And while it’s easy to expect all adolescents will have mood swings, monitoring your child’s mood swings can help  you judge how much support s/he needs in dealing with them.

During the teen years your child will undergo tremendous physical, mental and emotional changes. It’s a lot for them (and you) to handle.

Because there is so much going on in the teen years, it can be helpful to know what’s important to know when it comes to teenage mood swings and other factors that may impact them. Here are the key things to which you may want to pay attention:



  • Mood changesYes, your kid will experience teenage mood swings, but the frequency and “volume” of them are what need your careful attention – this is how normal emotional states are distinguished from disorders.I find “volume” to be a helpful tool for parents to recognize when something is more serious. Consider the loudness of your teen’s mood changes from whispering to chattering to yelling or screaming.Mood changes that fall into the whispering category are ones that your child will most likely be able to handle on his own. The chattering type of changes might be ones your child can handle on his own but letting him know you are available if he wants to chat about what is going on could be a good idea. If your kid’s teenage mood swings are of the yelling or screaming variety, it is definitely time for you to step in.


  • Signs of isolation

Everyone needs at least a little alone time now and again. If your teen is occasionally avoiding activities and people he used to enjoy, it is important to take note. If your teen is consistently choosing to isolate himself, it is time to step in.


  • School performance

Your teen’s brain is growing at a pace on par with an infant’s. She is creating gray matter at an astounding rate and her brain is deciding which portions of it to keep and which neural pathways to prune based on what she is using.

One way to make sure your teen’s is using her gray matter effectively is to monitor her scholastic performance. Poor or declining performance is often associated with increased moodiness due to other factors which could include anxiety, depression, and/or substance abuse.


  • Irritability

While frequent mood swings can be a hallmark of normal adolescent development, periods of intense irritability, defensiveness, or anger are worth paying more attention to. While teen angst is a normal part of this evolving developmental stage, persistent anger or sullenness can be a sign of a more serious mood issue.


  • Frequency of physical ailmentsWith all the physical changes your kid is experiencing, it is normal for her to experience little ailments now and again which will impact how he behaves. However, if he has persistent headaches or digestive distress, these can indicate something else is at play.


  • Appetite changes

Like with adult mood disorders, appetite changes (in either direction) can be a concerning situation that can signal a worsening mood issue. If your teen is noticeably losing or gaining weight, pay attention to what might be causing it, and if you aren’t sure, gently ask her about what’s going on.


  • Screen and media timeWhat’s best at getting our teens’ attention isn’t best for their well-being, according to Center for Humane Technology.Teens may not see know what’s happening as they spend more and more time with their devices, but they are certainly feeling it. Dr. Jean Twenge, a generational trends researcher, took a provocative look a whether smartphones had ruined a generation.What she found was that as the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone surpassed 50% in 2012, the rates of teen anxiety, depression and suicide also began their steep climb.Monitoring and setting limits on the amount of time your teen spends with her screens and media and how that impacts her teenage mood swings is a smart move.


Hopefully, what you notice after reading through this list is that staying connected with and listening to your teen is critical. Your interaction with him is the only way you know how he is doing and whether his teenage mood swings require you to step in and provide him additional support in learning how to cope with what she is facing. It will also help you know if what she is facing is a more serious issue.


Looking for more help with parenting and anxiety? Check out my book, Hack Your Anxiety, sign-up for my free mini-ecourse to help you hack anxiety’s most common challenges, or subscribe to my newsletter.

Photo by Ehimetalor Unuabona on Unsplash

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD


  1. Kenzy Turner on November 28, 2019 at 12:31 am

    Spot on! I found this really helpful. Thanks for sharing!