8 Ways to Handle Your Teen’s Mood Swings with Grace

Britt Mooney

Contributing Writer
Published Jun 05, 2024
8 Ways to Handle Your Teen’s Mood Swings with Grace

For parents of teens, the situation unfolds regularly. The teen overreacts to an event or a statement, and these extreme mood swings suddenly plunge the whole household into chaos.

In recent years, particularly since COVID and social media’s growing usage, there’s been a significant rise in anxiety, depression, and mood disorders among teenagers. As an example, the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25% during the first year of the pandemic, per the World Health Organization.

This increase in mood disorders results in even more teen outbursts and mood swings in households. Parents feel attacked, clueless, or even hopeless regarding how to deal with these extreme behaviors. Christian mothers and fathers seek to respond to their children in ways that communicate love and faith. But how?

Here are eight ways to handle your teen’s mood swings with grace.

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mother and teenage daughter talking while holding hands

1. Remember the Parent and Child Roles

To begin with, we must remember we are the parents, and they are the children. As adults, we are responsible for modeling appropriate reactions and responses, understanding that our teenagers are still learning these skills. Colossians 3:21 advises, “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” Parents should maintain a nurturing and supportive environment to foster children’s positive growth.

Between hormones and extreme physical and emotional changes, teens deal with a perspective of constant and fast development, which seems like chaos to them. They face challenges making new friends, maintaining friendships, taking on new responsibilities at home and school, and more. These alone cause issues. The past decade or more has added smartphones and the COVID pandemic, where many kids felt isolated and stressed with constant insecurity regarding lockdowns and closing schools. These areas should give them a sense of security.

Within this chaos, our teens need parents to respond in ways that assert security, care, and affirmation. As parents, we deal with our issues, so we must be intentional about remembering to be a stable influence in their lives. Our responses, detailed below, should be designed to provide this stability as much as possible.

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angry father shouting at apathetic son, how to handle teenage behavior

2. Don’t React Emotionally

When our teens experience mood swings and their chaos overflows into the household through various behaviors, parents can feel the temptation to react emotionally. Teens make extreme statements and attack people around them. Parents are human, so they want to respond in the same way. Yet, when parents do, they only add to the chaos, fear, and aggression.

When parents remain calm and composed, we provide a stable environment that helps our teenagers feel safe and supported. Proverbs 15:1 states, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Rather than responding with heightened emotions, which escalates the situation, this verse reveals the power of a gentle response.

When our teenagers display mood swings, taking a step back and managing our emotions before responding is crucial. Deep breathing or taking a moment to collect our thoughts can help us maintain a calm demeanor. By modeling self-control, we teach our teens how to handle their emotions constructively. For the teen, their mood swings feel like an emergency, but our calm demeanor at least communicates how they can trust and begin moving through other strategies.

If we respond out of control, we allow the teen to dictate our emotions, which won’t help teens feel safe, secure, or loved, even if they desire the drama. Staying calm and intentional allows us to respond in love.

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asian mother holding teenage child's hands, handling teenage behavior

3. Respond in Love

Now that we have a handle on our emotions, we can begin gracefully processing emotions and problems with our teens. Jesus continually expressed God as Father, and through our inclusion in Christ, the Son, we have him as a loving Father. As Christian parents, we should endeavor to respond in God’s love. God forgives us and seeks the best for us in this life and eternally. He brings us comfort and compassion as he leads us into transformation.

When we approach our teenagers with empathy and compassion, we help them feel understood and supported. Ephesians 4:2 encourages, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” This verse further highlights the importance of patience and gentleness, crucial in navigating adolescence’s emotional ups and downs.

When our teen experiences a mood swing, we should acknowledge their emotions without dismissing or minimizing them. Saying things like, “I can see you're frustrated right now,” or “It sounds like you're feeling scared about this,” validates their feelings and shows that we care. This affirmation helps them feel seen and heard, which can diffuse tension and open the door to more constructive conversations.

Offering reassurance and solutions, when appropriate, can further support them. For example, saying, “I’m here for you, and we can work through this together,” reassures them that they are not alone in their struggles. After this affirmation, we start asking questions to understand further.

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father and teenage son talking, handling teenage behavior

4. Ask Questions

Asking constructive questions does wonders. When our teens experience mood swings, they deal with fear and anger. These emotions shut down the thinking parts of the brain. Asking questions to seek understanding reactivates our reasoning, especially in affirming ways. These aren’t accusing questions like, “How can you be so stupid?” but asking things like, “What’s making you feel frustrated or afraid?” Part of asking questions includes actively listening.

This approach helps us understand their feelings and provides the support they need. Proverbs 18:13 advises, “To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.” When our teen exhibits a mood swing, asking open-ended questions can encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings. Questions like, “Can you tell me what's bothering you?” or “How can I help you right now?” show that we are genuinely interested in understanding their perspective. This inquiry helps us gather more information about the root cause of their distress and demonstrates our willingness to support them.

Active listening is crucial. It involves giving our full attention, maintaining eye contact, and responding empathetically. Active listening fosters a sense of safety and trust, making it easier for our teens to open up about their feelings. This approach helps de-escalate mood swings and strengthens our relationship with our teens, promoting open communication and mutual respect.

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father talking to son

5. Pick Your Battles

Teens make mistakes since they’re growing up and still learning about the world. How we respond to these mistakes helps our teens understand values and what’s important in life.

Handling our teen’s mood swings with grace involves picking your battles wisely. This strategy helps maintain a peaceful home environment and focuses on addressing the most important issues. Proverbs 17:14 advises, “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam, so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” We should use wisdom to avoid unnecessary conflicts.

Teens experience intense emotions and can often overreact to minor issues. As parents, it’s essential to discern which issues are worth addressing and which can be overlooked. For example, while enforcing rules about safety and respect is important, minor infractions or differences in personal style may not warrant confrontation. This approach prevents constant power struggles and fosters a more harmonious relationship.

By picking our battles, we can focus on guiding our teens through significant issues, such as their moral development, safety, and education. When we reserve our interventions for these critical areas, our teens are more likely to take our concerns seriously. They understand that when we address an issue, it’s because it truly matters.

Additionally, choosing not to engage in every conflict allows our teens to learn problem-solving and emotional regulation skills. They gain the space to navigate minor challenges independently, building resilience and independence.

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father and son playing with football

6. Encourage Healthy Outlets

More than ever, our teens need guidance to healthy outlets for frustration, fear, and anger. Many teens and adults attempt to find relief through smartphones and social media, but these often become the cause of anxiety instead of calming us.

Handling our teen’s mood swings gracefully involves encouraging healthy outlets for their frustration, fear, anger, and other intense emotions. Providing constructive ways for teens to express and manage their feelings helps them develop emotional resilience and better coping mechanisms. Ephesians 4:26 advises, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” The Bible teaches us how unhealthy emotions damage us and lead us to destructive behavior if not addressed healthily.

Encouraging physical activities like sports or exercise can be an excellent outlet for pent-up energy and emotions. Running, swimming or team sports help release endorphins and reduce stress. Creative pursuits, such as drawing, writing, or playing a musical instrument, also provide a constructive way for teens to channel their emotions and express themselves.

Prayer, praise, and worship can enhance mental health by reducing stress, fostering a sense of community, and promoting a positive outlook. Engaging in these spiritual practices lowers anxiety and depression levels, improves emotional resilience, and creates a sense of peace and purpose, contributing to overall well-being through a strong relationship with God. This could practically include praying with our teens when talking through a problem.

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shoes on different sides of a line to demonstrate healthy parent child boundaries

7. Set Reasonable Boundaries

All teens require healthy and reasonable boundaries. This can be difficult, considering how teens should learn more and more on the path to independence. Too many boundaries or too much discipline becomes abusive. However, this shouldn’t keep us from having rules. Establishing clear, fair limits helps provide structure and security, while professional assistance can address more complex emotional issues. Proverbs 29:15 emphasizes the importance of guidance: “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.” Discipline and boundaries nurture well-adjusted individuals.

Setting reasonable boundaries means creating clear, consistent, and age-appropriate rules. These rules should cover important areas such as behavior, curfews, and screen time. Communicating these boundaries clearly and explaining their reasons is essential, fostering understanding and compliance. Enforcing consequences consistently ensures that teens learn accountability and respect for rules.

However, it’s also crucial to recognize when professional help is necessary. If a teen’s mood swings are severe, persistent, or interfere with daily life, consulting a mental health professional can be beneficial. Therapists, counselors, or psychologists can provide strategies and interventions tailored to the teen's needs, helping them manage their emotions more effectively.

Seeking professional help is not a sign of parental failure but rather a proactive step in supporting a teen’s mental health. Proverbs 11:14 states, "For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.” This wisdom underscores the value of seeking counsel and assistance when facing challenges.

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Britt MooneyBritt Mooney lives and tells great stories. As an author of fiction and non -iction, he is passionate about teaching ministries and nonprofits the power of storytelling to inspire and spread truth. Mooney has a podcast called Kingdom Over Coffee and is a published author of We Were Reborn for This: The Jesus Model for Living Heaven on Earth as well as Say Yes: How God-Sized Dreams Take Flight.

Originally published Thursday, 06 June 2024.