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I’m a single parent of two children, my 8 year old son is helpful, cheery and generally nice to have around. My thirteen year old daughter, on the other hand, is often moody, can be rude and yells at the rest of the family. I have recently begun to think that there is something very wrong with her and I am not sure what to do, can you help me?
-Mom of Moody Teen
Dear Mom of Moody Teen,
At thirteen years of age, it is likely that your daughter has transitioned into puberty and may be having some difficulty managing this transition. Changes in sleeping patterns, mood fluctuations, and forgetfulness are to be expected during adolescence, along with the physical changes commonly associated with adolescence, like an increase in body hair.
There are many reasons for these changes in teenagers. Many people understand that changes in hormones create these symptoms in teens, but there are also other reasons. During adolescence the brain is doing a great deal of changing as well. The brain matures to its adult size, which requires the brain to reorganize some of its circuitry. This occurs over a period of years and is generally completed by the time teens reach their early 20’s. There is evidence to suggest that the wiring of the emotion centers of the brain also change during this time, which could partly explain some of the behaviour changes experienced in adolescence.
These changes, coupled with the fact that adolescence is a time when children are seeking their independence, makes parenting difficult at times. Peer influence on their teen is also a factor that many parents need to contend with. Positive or negative experiences with school, peers, family, brain growth and hormonal fluctuations all contribute to a teenager’s inability to cope with strong feelings. This means that parental guidance during adolescence is even more crucial to your child’s success.
If you believe that your daughter’s behaviour can’t be fully explained by adolescent growth and development, try and take some time to think about things from her perspective. Have there been any recent events that might be upsetting your daughter? Sometimes, seemingly small events can seem big during adolescence so don’t assume something that happened was minor and she is over it. Once you have some ideas about what might be bothering her, you can then try and talk with her.
It is usually best to have these conversations when things between the two of you are good, and you are getting along. Starting the conversation with talking about how you feel, and specific behaviour you are concerned about can help your daughter feel at ease. If you and your daughter are able to talk and discuss any difficulties she might be having and resolve them, that’s great. If you are not able to resolve the problem, or she experiences symptoms like, difficulty sleeping, unexplained physical complaints like stomach aches or headaches, or changes in eating patterns your daughter may benefit from talking to a counselor who has experience working with teenagers.
Sherry Tucker, BA, BSW, RSW
Director of Family Services