Some people are always in a good mood. The moody child isn’t one of them. He’s known for his frown, his complaints and his tantrums that occur frequently enough that his parents call him “moody.” Some moody kids are actually in a bad mood from the time they get up in the morning till the time they go to sleep at night. Their glass is always half empty; nothing is ever just right. They feel sad, hurt, angry, neglected, abandoned, mistreated, and generally unhappy. They feel this way even when their parents are normal, kind people trying their best.
Some moody kids have alterations in their emotional states, moving from miserable to content off and on throughout the day. They may be happy as long as things are going their way, but then, blow up when there is a hitch (when Mom says “no” or anticipated plans fail, for example). Some moody kids actually travel daily across a spectrum of emotional states ranging from lows to highs: from grumpy to delightful to enraged to ecstatic to grief stricken to full of joy.
Why are Kids Moody?
Children and adults can experience temporary moodiness that is out of their normal stable character. This occurs when people haven’t eaten well or haven’t slept enough or when they’re coming down with an illness. It can occur also when there is an unusual amount of stress or pressure or chaos. For instance, in the days before “moving day” a family may find itself living in a house that is full of boxes, unable to locate needed clothing or pots or what have you, living without the comforts of home for some days before and after the actual move. During this period the whole family may be in a bad mood. However, once they are settled, the mood will also settle and the family members will return to their normal pleasant states.
People who have experienced a trauma may suffer a number of symptoms such as trouble sleeping, panic attacks and uncharacteristic irritability. Once the trauma is treated, the bad mood will lift. Living in a chronically stressful situation can also affect mood in otherwise normal kids and grownups. Going through a difficult, drawn-out divorce, for example, can put everyone in a bad mood for some years.
Some people have bad moods because of their diet. Excess sugar and caffeine can negatively affect mood in anyone; after chocolate milk and cookies kids can become grumpy, angry and sour. Some kids have sensitivities to ingredients in foods or they have allergies or food intolerances. These can all cause irritability and bad mood. Once the diet is adjusted, the mood will improve.
However, chronic bad mood, including the alternating moods described above, that are not explained by temporary circumstances or health issues may better be explained by inherited characteristics. Irritable mood in children can be a precursor of adult depression. In adults depression manifests as sadness with other physical and emotional symptoms. However, in children, depression is expressed as irritability and regular bad mood. Adults may treat their depressions with therapy and/or medication. These treatments are rarely employed in the treatment of children’s mood issues, reserved for particularly severe cases of emotional dysfunction. However, there are many alternative treatments for children’s mood issues that can be very effective.
Helping Heal Bad Moods
Naturopathic treatments can be quite helpful. Bach Flower Therapy, for example, is a form of vibrational medicine that is harmless and yet powerful. Like beautiful music (another form of “vibrational medicine”), Bach Flowers lift mood gently. This form of treatment can decrease negativity, tantrums, discouragement, jealousy, anger, rigidity and other low-mood characteristics. You can learn more about Bach Flower Therapy online and/or find a Bach Flower Practitioner to further guide you.
There are many other naturopathic and alternative treatments for children’s mood issues. Essential Fatty Acid (EFA) supplementation and other nutritional support can be very therapeutic for all mood issues and particularly in the treatment of alternating high and low moods. A nutritionist experienced in the treatment of children’s mood disorders can design a therapeutic diet for your child. Homeopathic treatment, cranial sacral work, acupuncture and other treatments all have been found to be helpful and safe in the treatment of mood issues. Although some research and experimentation may be necessary until the right treatment is found for your youngster, it is worth the trouble. Helping a child grow up more happily not only brings him (and you!) more happiness, it also affects his developing brain for the future.
Behavioral treatment of mood disorders can be carried out by you in your home. It is helpful to use “emotional coaching” in response to a child’s expressions of unhappiness. This involves naming and accepting his feeling. “Yes, I see you’re upset,” or “Yes, it’s very disappointing,” or “You’re really mad about this” are simple statements that you can make to your disgruntled youngster. What should NOT be said is, “You’re never happy about anything!” or “I’m tired of your complaints” or “There’s no reason for you to be so unhappy.” A parent’s irritation only makes matters worse. Emotional coaching, on the other hand, has been shown to help children become more emotionally intelligent over time, better able to remain calm and emotionally stable, perform better in school, do better socially, emotionally and even physically. Emotional coaching—the naming and welcoming of all feelings—eventually helps children suffer less frequent and less intense negative emotion.
It isn’t necessary to try to make a moody child happy. And it isn’t really possible. Rather, focus on accepting that the child is in pain. Moody kids don’t want to be grumpy and unhappy. They are victims of their genes and inborn temperaments. They deserve your sympathy, support and compassion. Showing your child you care about his or her mood issues by seeking out treatment is a powerful message in itself.
It is hard to parent children with chronically bad moods. Be sure to take care of yourself: manage your stress, exercise, socialize, take breaks and laugh. Your moody child needs you to be in a good mood!