A surprise family trip to fly across the country to hang with my daughter’s cousins wasn’t met with the joy we expected.
Our daughter cried through the rush packing job and the race to the airport. Really cried. Like our dog had died.
A lost dad not knowing what to do
My husband called me from the airport. She’s ruining the trip, he said. She’s sulking. She’s snapping at her sisters. What do I do?
Say little. Get her a Starbucks chocolate croissant. Give her space.
Our daughter, I assured him, would return to her sweet self, sooner than he thought.
Before boarding, he called back: How did you know?
Because teenagers = hormones.
Having turned 13, she’s riding this roller coaster of emotions. One minute, she’s clinging to me like a fabric-softener sheet, telling me how pretty I am. The next, she’s hulking out because I unplugged the curling iron when she wanted to use it.
ALL. DAY. LONG.
I wouldn’t say you get used to it.
But I understand it. I’m in the throes of perimenopause, which is its own witch’s brew of hormonal whiplash.
My poor husband is confounded.
(My 13-year-old never passes up a park without insisting on a turn on the swings, yet she’s best not approached until she’s had her morning iced coffee.)
He needs help understanding this changing time. He needs help navigating this teen’s wild mood swings. Other dads probably do, too.
Watch: Crash course on dealing with moody teens
So here’s a dad’s guide to surviving a teen daughter’s mood swings:
1. Don’t mock, poke fun or otherwise minimize this changing time.
So let’s just get this out of the way. Do NOT say something akin to, “Are you on your period?” This will not go over well. And it’s not an acceptable way to handle your daughter’s physical, mental or emotional changes.
2. Give your daughter space.
The reason for my daughter’s cry fest before her trip was because she wanted to stay behind to attend a slumber party. A slumber party! The kind of invitation she receives every other week. Does this makes sense? No!
But it’s very hard to reason with her when she’s in the throes of extreme emotions, which is why I advised that he wait out her mood.
3. Make sure she’s healthy.
Has she eaten? Is she tired? My daughter skipped breakfast in the rush to the airport. That’s the reason I told my husband to get her something to eat.
Teens are always choosing their phone, electronic devices, their friends or something else fun over rest, water and good food. When kids are fatigued, or eating poorly, they’re moody. Helping them take care of themselves can ease the moodiness.
4. Let your daughter know she’s not alone.
Sometimes, after you’ve given your daughter space, there’s time for conversation. Try empathy and let your daughter know that you understand that she’s going through something.
Even if you don’t know what that something is and she doesn’t seem too hot to tell you. Try, I can see that you’re mad, sad, angry, etc. …
5. Set boundaries.
Sure, she has FEELINGS. Strong feelings. But that doesn’t mean she has the right to be mean to you, her siblings, other adults in the house or the family pet.
If she wasn’t allowed to curse in your house before, she shouldn’t be allowed now.
6. Take care of yourself.
My husband works out every day. He wanted to buy some new equipment for his workout room and man-cave in the garage. Did I have a problem with that? I did not. He needs to get himself in tip-top shape.
Because although we have only one teenager in the house now, in four years we will have three. A fit dad is a calm dad. Do whatever you need to do, dads, to get in top form to cope with your teen’s wild pendulum of emotions.
7. Confide in someone.
When it all becomes too crazy, you’ll need someone to talk to. And hopefully make you laugh. My husband and I laugh a lot about my daughter’s daily improv range of theatrics. We also worry.
We watch for signs that her darker moods are indicators of some deeper issues that may involve a professional. So far, that hasn’t been the case. But it helps to have another adult to blow off steam with so that it doesn’t blow her way, making things worse.
When you’re feeling helpless, get some chocolate. Maybe for your daughter, certainly for your wife. When is chocolate ever a bad idea?
9. Remind your daughter you love her.
She’s changing. Change is hard. It will help her to know she has someone in her corner. Especially her dad.
The return trip home was much smoother.
My husband called me from the airport again. She was crying again. Soft, silent tears.
But so were the other two sisters. They didn’t want to say goodbye to their cousins.