How I helped my daughter manage her mood-swings in 7 simple steps

I remember being twelve. It was awful!

When my hormones started acting up I would go to my room, slam the door, and cry – for no apparent reason.  I couldn’t control it. As I grew up, I stopped slamming my bedroom door and just gave into the food cravings.

It works for me…but not everything works as expected for my Emily.

In October of 1999, our 15 month old baby girl was diagnosed with Cri du Chat syndrome. At the time of her diagnosis we were told that Emily would never walk, talk, or even recognized us. Her syndrome created many challenges over the years both physically and mentally.

When her hormones kicked in, she was not ready…and neither was I.

Her mood swings appeared when she was 11 and slowly got stronger.  Within minutes, she would go from happy and quiet to making fists, stomping feet and destroying her toys.  She threw whatever she could find in the garbage.

She was hurting herself, and I had no idea how to help her through this.  After all, we’ve had to teach her everything over the years, starting with how to drink milk to how to even swallow, walk and get dressed. Managing her mood-swings wasn’t any different: we had to figure this out and help Emily.

It was time focus – to make a plan.

I went to Chapters, bought books and started to read them out loud around her, but my poor girl kept walking away. She said I was embarrassing. She didn’t want to know about her body changing, and she was not talking about her cycle.

So typical of a teenager, right? Except she is not a typical teenager.

I read the books out loud anyway, because I thought she might at least get something out of hearing it. Turned out she was listening, and that was my first big win.

I tried other ways to reach her too.

I showed her that a monthly cycle is a normal thing: “Look sweetie, it happens to mommy too.”

Yes, I over share with my daughter.

Surprisingly, she was fine with her cycle, but the mood swings were something else entirely.

She didn’t see them coming. She was all over the map and was completely overwhelmed! Daddy had no idea how his sweet little girl became this crazy teenager.

I didn’t have the luxury to be overwhelmed. I remembered myself at twelve and decided that I had to help her. I started to call her mood swings “Moments,” and made a plan to help her cope with them. I waited until the next one came barreling toward us, so that we could put my plan into motion and help Emily overcome it.

Our Mood-Swing-Moment Plan:

  1. Notice the Moment.
  2. Sit down together.
  3. Ask, “What is going on?”

She was either mad, sad, upset or some other out-of-place feelin

4. Ask, “Why?”

She would always answer with, “I don’t know.”

5. Identify that this is a Moment: a Moment when her body was reacting but she had no idea why.
6. Sit facing each other.
7. Hold hands and breath slowly.

I would breath with her slowly in and slowly out – for as long as it took for her to say she was ok.

Sometimes our plan worked, and other times Emily just wanted me to leave her alone.  She’d pretend to be fine just to get me out of her hair.

In order for me to leave her alone, she had to keep acting as if she were calm, or we’d sit down and go through the plan again. If she was stubborn and pretended to be fine for a long time…well then she would naturally calm down anyway. Win-Win!

We did this for days, weeks, months….maybe years! I don’t know anymore, but it worked.

Emily is 17 now, and she’s able to calm herself down and control her Moments – on her own.

If I see something coming I just have to say: “Emily, are you having a Moment?” Just by asking her, she takes a step back, thinks about it and acts accordingly.

It’s amazing!

I have had many times as a mom when I had no idea what I was doing. To be honest, every new challenge we face reminds me that I don’t know what I am doing.

But I do know that whatever we face, we can come up with a plan to handle it  – together.

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