Many parents struggle with a moody child, “tween,” or adolescent. At these ages, children are discovering their own identity, and managing the stress of school, parents, peers, and their future. In addition, they are going through vast changes in physical and emotional development. Who, in their shoes, wouldn’t be a little up and down? Adolescent angst is such a common issue that there have been entire books and seminars on raising moody children, and the challenges that it brings to parenting.
Sometimes, as children age, typical “moodiness” seems to worsen, developing into depression. Recent research has identified rumination as a significant risk factor for depression in children. Rumination is the tendency to dwell on problems or concerns, rather than “let them go.” Kids who are more likely to ruminate have higher levels of depression as they enter adolescence.
What this means for parents
- Validate your child’s feelings. For example, saying, “That must be so stressful (or sad, etc).,” when your child is upset helps them feel understood. It also labels their feelings for them, and teaches them to communicate feelings better to others.
- Give your child other things to think about rather than what is hard, difficult, or “wrong” in their life. Teach (and use) gratitude skills in your home. Make a commitment as a family to count your blessings.
- Teach (and use) forgiveness. Research supports that people who forgive are healthier and happier. Remind them that they can’t focus on things that are outside of their control, but that they can control how they think and choose. Teach them that they suffer when they insist on things that life or other people won’t give them.
- Involve your family in service/volunteer work where you can. Help your child see that there are others less fortunate, but also to realize that service to others can be a blessing.
- Abela, J R. Z. & Hankin, BL. (2011). Rumination as a vulnerability factor to depression during the transition from early to middle adolescence: A multiwave longitudinal study. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol 120(2), 259-271.