Emotional changes during puberty

Puberty brings with it many challenges. It can be a challenging time for teenagers and parents. Find out when puberty is at its worst and how to deal with side effects of puberty such as angry outbursts.

19.12.2023 Nina Merli 5 minutes

How long does puberty last?

Puberty is a phase of physical and emotional growth where children turn into young adults. With girls, puberty normally starts between 8 and 13, with boys it's usually between the ages of 9 and 14. And when does puberty end? Adolescence, as this phase is also referred to, can last anywhere from two to five years on average and is considered to be completed soon after a person turns 20.

When does puberty cause the greatest difficulty?

This time can generally pose a major challenge for parents and their children. Bad grades, angry outbursts or mood swings are all potential side effects of puberty that hinge on various different factors such as hormonal changes, emotional instability, family situation and even pressure at school. When puberty causes the most difficulty varies from person to person. Since hormones run wild predominantly in the first few years, the start of puberty is often perceived as a particularly challenging time. But it’s important to remember that puberty isn’t all doom and gloom, it’s also an exciting time where parents and children can get to know one another all over again.

What are the concerns, fears and wishes?

The video features a discussion between 19-year-old Anastasija and 83-year-old Karl. What topics are they currently dealing with? Both of them soon realise that they can learn a lot from each other.

Teenagers: too much screen time can impact health

On average, teenagers spend 3 hours and 47 minutes a day on their mobile phones. Many parents find this excessive. So mobile phones are a recurring source of conflict in puberty. How much screen time is healthy? And what effect does this have on our health? Read our blog article to discover the impact the digital everyday has on our body – and pick up some good arguments to convince your child that too much screen time is harmful. 

Mood swings in puberty

From sky high to down in the dumps – teenagers have a very broad mood spectrum. In puberty, parents must be prepared for their child’s mood to change from one moment to the next. But why do teenagers experience such mood swings in puberty? This variability is attributable to a mix of hormonal, physical, social and emotional change. What can parents expect?

Sad for no reason in puberty

Teenagers can sometimes exhibit sadness or despondency without any apparent reason.

What you can do: Show understanding for your child’s feelings, listen when they open up to you. Do not criticise your child and encourage them to talk about their emotions. Talk about your own state of mind too. If the sadness persists, a psychologist or a therapist can provide more support.

Angry outbursts and aggression in puberty

Teenagers can experience anger due to hormonal changes, stress at school, peer pressure and problems finding their identity, among other things. These feelings are often directed towards parents.

What you can do: the most important thing is to keep calm – do not allow yourself to be provoked, do not engage in the argument. Wait until your child has calmed down before addressing the problem again.

Self-esteem in puberty

A lack of self-esteem is a common occurrence in puberty. Many teenagers lack confidence about their appearance, their identity and their abilities.

What you can do: try to boost your child with positive feedback. Highlight their achievements and hard work. Help them if there's any challenges they cannot handle alone.

Loneliness in puberty

Many teenagers cut themselves off completely and spend more and more time alone because they feel misunderstood.

What you can do: many experience a period of disinterest in puberty. Try to encourage your child to take part in activities and hobbies nonetheless – ideally before puberty. Make sure screen time is kept within reasonable limits.

Disrespect in puberty

Rebellious behaviour and a lack of respect during puberty often manifest themselves at school, but also in interactions with parents and siblings.

What you can do: set boundaries. Clear boundaries can help to prevent disrespectful behaviour because the child will learn the consequences. But if you show your child respect in difficult situations – you can expect this from them too. Ask your child to explain their behaviour.

The mother-child relationship during puberty

During puberty, young people often develop feelings of aggression towards their parents. These are often directed predominantly towards the mother. This is because mothers often spend more time with their children and therefore have more exposure to this. Whether boy or girl – puberty is often a time of detachment from the mother, a natural process, but one that can sometimes lead to heated confrontations. The mother-daughter relationship can be severely tested here – that's because the daughter has to find her own role as a woman during puberty. Mothers should try to remain as relaxed as possible – conflict with a son or daughter is normal and important.

Tiredness in adolescents

Tiredness in puberty is often associated with a changed sleep-wake cycle. To reduce this, parents can do the following:

  • Ensure regular sleeping times: even when children are much older, a sleeping routine is important when it comes to ensuring young people get enough sleep.
  • Limit screen time: the blue light on screens keeps us awake and can lead to sleeping disorders. Mobile phones and other devices should ideally be switched off at least an hour before going to sleep. Parents should lead by example.
  • Good sleeping environment: a comfy bed, the right temperature and suitable lighting are important for creating a good sleeping environment.
  • No caffeine in the evening: teenagers should avoid drinks containing caffeine before bed because they can make it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Suggest relaxation exercises: meditation or autogenic training can help people to fall asleep.
  • Talk to one another: if you notice your child is regularly having sleeping problems, address this with them. You might also seek professional help, because ongoing sleep problems lead to exhaustion and can worsen a lack of motivation and drive during puberty.
Find tips for a restful sleep here

A lack of motivation in puberty

To the disappointment of their parents, many teenagers experience a period of disinterest in puberty: listlessness and a lack of drive and motivation are day-to-day occurrences. For parents it becomes increasingly difficult to encourage their child to take part in activities. So it helps if children can develop hobbies and interests before puberty. It’s also important that parents refrain from constantly nagging adolescents and try to remain positive in the way they express criticism in spite of everything.

Depression, anxiety and a lack of self-esteem in puberty

Negative feelings and attitudes towards yourself are common in puberty. The body in particular undergoes significant change during this stage of life, leading to uncertainty and self-doubt in a lot of teenagers. That is why it is important that parents actively promote a healthy attitude regarding body image:

  • Talk openly with your children about physical changes
  • Explain that having different body shapes is completely normal
  • Lead by example and talk positively about your own appearance
  • Explain that many images in the media, above all social media, are retouched or have a filter
  • Encourage your teenager to eat a healthy diet and take part in sport

If you notice persistent despondency, eating disorders, weight loss, diffuse anxiety or noticeable listlessness in your child over a prolonged period, these could be symptoms of depression. In this case it is important to seek professional help.

Is your child acting out because of puberty? Or are their symptoms actually a sign of depression? 

Find out about depression in young people and where you can get help here

It is important to recognise that aggression, angry outbursts and mood swings are normal during puberty. These may not necessarily be directed towards parents but are an outlet for coming to terms with the many changes they are undergoing. Communicating openly and honestly can help during puberty. Accept that your child is developing a new need for autonomy. Ample patience, calm and affection are key to overcoming this challenge.

Helsana’s health consultation

Helsana’s health consultation service provided the editorial team with advice and input for this article. Our health advisors can provide you with answers to all of your health-related questions quickly and easily, whether you’d like advice on nutrition and exercise, on coping with a diagnosis or on a recommended course of treatment. 

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