I'm a psychologist and here’s 3 ways to deal with your 'moody' teenager

ALMOST every parent goes through those tricky years where their teenager seems to completely withdraw.

A once bubbly and playful child somehow becomes extraordinarily moody and never wants to talk – to you or anyone else.


Dr Nihara Krause, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and founder of youth mental health charity stem4, says she is “often struck” by how frequently parents ask for help talking to their kids.

Teenagers at the age of 15 are the most difficult to raise, according to a survey of parents.

And coping with their mood swings is the most stressful thing about parenting a teenager, followed by helping them to make important life choices.

Teens typically act out of emotion, rather than logic, due to their hormones, according to the NHS. 

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This can make it harder for you to understand what they’re going through and takes a lot of patience, even for the calmest parents.

You may feel your child is purposely hiding information about their social and dating life from you, leaving you wondering if you know who they are anymore.

Dr Krause says: “Part of growing up and developing an independent identity means that young people often don’t want to confide in their parents.

“Some also find it embarrassing to talk about themselves or don’t have the words to describe what they feel, particularly if what they are feeling is not good."

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While often "moodiness" is a side effect of growing up, which most kids grow out of, it can in some cases mask a mental health condition.

Symptoms of depression in youngsters include withdrawal from hobbies and loved ones, eating and sleeping habit changes, and a sense of hopelessness, Dr Krause says.

Even in those who are not clinically depressed, adolescence can be a challenging time with significant hurdles at school, with friends and identity.

She added: “Whatever the difficulty, it is important for young people to feel comfortable [and] to know they are supported in opening up about their mental health."

She revealed to The Sun her three top tips to open communication between a parent and teen.

1. Do an activity together 

It’s no use striking up a conversation with your teenager when you’re in the middle of the bread aisle at the supermarket. 

“If you want to talk to your child or young person, you need to make yourself available,” Dr Krause says.

“This means being fully available, since they will often pick up on signs that you are not listening or distracted. 

“It also means providing regular and warm opportunities for discussion since it is rare for discussion to happen the first time round.”

The best thing to do is set up an activity the two of you can do together where your child knows there is enough time to open up, such as a walk, drive or cooking a meal.

Dr Krause says: “Getting to know what might be happening in a young person’s life takes time, so you will need to set up regular catch ups.

“This also helps them to understand you are interested and concerned.”

2. Listen – and don’t give opinions 

“When they do tell you what might be concerning them, how you hear it is very important,” says Dr Krause.

“Be warm and accepting or if this is not possible, stay neutral. 

“This is because many young people don’t want to confide in their parents because they predict they will be angry or upset or become anxious. 

“It is acceptable to say you are concerned and reassure them you will be there for them even if what they are saying is difficult to hear.”

You’ll likely want to jump in and give advice to your child (after all, you have life experience).

But Dr Krause says: “Learning to listen is a skill and first steps are to listen with empathy, not disrupt and to reflect back what you think the young person is saying to you. 

“This means withholding any opinions or ideas you have in the first instance, since expressing your opinions or feelings will only make the young person shut down.”

The best way to move forward is to ask your teenager how you can be supportive, and encourage them to seek support from qualified professionals if you think it might help. 

This should be done collaboratively. It may take a few conversations to get on the same page, or even understand the task at hand.

“A pros and cons approach to getting your point across is more balanced and it might be that you have to question if you are the right person to help them listen to a different message,” says Dr Krause.

3. Look after yourself 

Finding out that your teenager is unhappy is going to take its toll on you, too.

And they might be going through something that you feel helpless to control or “fix”.

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Dr Krause says it’s important that you “look after yourself.”

She adds: “Knowing your child or young person is going through a difficult time can have a big emotional impact on parents and carers, so reach out and get some support for yourself too.”

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