Clinical teen depression is relatively uncommon, but tell that to parents of teens and they may not agree. Bouts of moodiness are hallmarks of teen behavior and one of the most worrisome for parents. Here's a parent survival kit for dealing with teen mood swings.
* Puberty rules. Hormonal changes drive thoughts and feelings which in turn direct behavior. Puberty is a rite of passage into adulthood. Understanding it will help you stay glued when your teen seems to be constantly unglued.
* Abnormal is normal. Teen mood swings are bizarre, unpredictable and irrational. They're often scary. But they are perfectly normal puberty behavior for teens. Don't downplay mood swings, but keep them in perspective.
* Moodiness is healthy. Crazy as they make us, teen mood swings are a natural part of development. Dr. Barbara Strauch, health editor for the New York Times describes this process in her book "The Primal Teen." I can't recommend this guide enough.
* Rage is good. Angry outbursts are the logical byproduct teen hormone storms. Kids shouldn't be ashamed or afraid of anger. They should learn how to channel it.
* Decompression is essential. Expressed anger may be alarming, but bottled-up rage is even scarier. It turns septic and poisons. Teens need to vent anger safely, to prevent them hurting themselves or others with it.
* Physical activity is crucial. Sports, exercise, outdoor games and physical labor all burn off anger energy in safe ways.
* Yelling is therapeutic. Swearing and shouting may be unpleasant, but they are safe ways to process anger (so long as they're kept within the home and not abusive to anyone). Teens should vent angry feelings away from others (in the garage or basement, in their rooms). Ugly feelings and words need to come out but not where they can hurt others.
* Validation is necessary. Depression and anger may be normal, but they shouldn't be minimized. Kids need to have their feelings taken seriously. They need to explore them. Writing out feelings in a journal helps teens learn to accept and respect emotions.
* Patience is critical. Teens are being bombarded with new hormones which magnify every sensation. Feelings are intensified. Situations are exaggerated. Problems are blown out of proportion. Kids need tolerant, supportive parents to help them navigate their topsy-turvy world.
* Serenity is vital. Heightened emotions cause teens much anxiety. The last thing they need is a parent panicking too. Practicing self-care will help you stay grounded and so help your teen.
Teen hormonal imbalance will right itself in time. If you stay the course, you can weather mostly unscathed.