As young people develop, it is common for them to go through a stage where cycles of emotional highs and lows predominate. One minute they feel fine and the next they feel rage or sadness. These ups and downs are normal and can be understood a number of ways.
First, hormonal surges send children and teens into new and unfamiliar emotional territory, territory where emotions may be experienced as more intense and where old strategies for managing a bad day or an upsetting situation may consequently no longer work. Worries may turn into panic, sadness into depression, happiness into mania, or anger into rage. More intense emotional experiences coupled with common experiences of adolescence such as friend changes, school pressures, self-consciousness, body changes, family conflict, and break-ups can easily activate a cycle of emotional highs and lows.
Second, starting around the age of twelve, children start to orient more toward their friends than their parents. When they are having a bad day, failed a test, or got dumped, they are more likely to seek their friends out for support than they are their parents. Though this is considered a natural stage of development, it often backfires as young people are generally not equipped to support the complicated emotional needs of other young people. What started out as a small upset may quickly escalate to something formidable and difficult to manage.
Third, despite their best efforts, parents can sometimes lose patience with the constant turmoil of adolescence. They might find themselves reacting to their child's big emotions or arguing over what looks like a bad decision. Conflict between parents and children tends to increase as adolescence approaches. Again, though this is normal, it can contribute to the emotional instability of their young person.
Whatever the reasons for these highs and lows, the fact remains that managing them can be difficult. Below are some of the common emotional issues that can manifest in adolescence.
When these challenging emotional experiences start to exceed old coping strategies, create conflict, trigger the use of new unhealthy strategies, or impair everyday functioning, it may be helpful to seek support. I can help your child gain insight into and express their emotions in a healthy, life-affirming way.