Emotional regulation is an important foundational component of not just behavioral regulation but attention, executive functioning, and all learning. Without a calm brain to build a foundation upon, the nervous system can’t learn in the same way.
When a person or child struggles with emotional regulation, they are more prone to mental health issues, behavioral problems, anxiety disorders, and mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, and DDMD, depression, and mental illness issues in general.
When you have a child that struggles with mood regulation, you may be asking yourself, “Why does it seem like my child can be a happy, nurturing kid one minute, but the next minute, is bouncing off the walls and melting down?”
The reality is that mood swings are totally developmentally normal and can happen with any child. When they do happen, parents are left wondering why they occur. When they fall within the developmentally normal continuum, they occur for short periods of time and kids learn new skills to manage whatever is triggering those meltdowns. Sometimes, they occur because there is an underlying clinical issue such as a mood disorder, ADHD, OCD, PANS/PANDAS, etc.
There are many reasons ranging from as simple as diet all the way to more clinical reasons such as a mental health diagnosis, head injuries or infectious diseases. With children’s mental health issues on the rise, we need to think about root causes for child and adolescent issues beyond genetics and effective and safe solutions.
Diet and nutrition are essential components of a healthy mind and body. The diet your child has can have a significant impact on their mood and they need the right nutrients to help their brain and bodies regulate.
Kids with mood regulation issues always have a low frustration tolerance. That means that you have a hard time managing big emotions and when things don’t go as expected.
Poor coping skills are at the center of why kids with mood issues can’t problem-solve when something arises or when they are frustrated. Good coping skills are the key for lifelong mental health.
Consuming high sugar levels is not only poor for your child’s health, but some children are more sensitive to it. Some kids are just more sensitive to sugar which results in behavioral, emotional and health-related issues. You want to think about if your child asks for sweets all the time or is carb craving?
A trend toward what I call “bubble wrap parenting” or a lack of autonomy parenting is creating generations of children who don’t know how to manage uncomfortable sensations and frustration. Kids need to experience failures and learn how to manage all those emotions and gain skills from those failures.
Kids with mood disorders often have a history of frequent and long tantrums that they are poor to recover from. Some children have a history of rigid behaviors. mood swings and tantrums as babies and toddlers and others develop those issues as demands increase.
Let’s face it, kids today are experiencing an unprecedented level of stress and anxiety. With that, anxiety disorders are increasing. The average age of onset for an anxiety disorder is age six and these children can be overly sensitive and easily upset. The roller coaster of emotions they experience are hard on kids and parents and really a shame builder for kids.
The brains of children and teens with learning disabilities have to work really hard to process even everyday information. When the brain has to overwork, it goes into a “rev state” and that means the brain is at maximum capacity, so managing everyday life can result in cranky and moody behaviors.
When a person has difficulty modulating sensory information (taste, touch, smell, sound, sight), the nervous system becomes dysregulated and you have little bandwidth for frustrations or anything that makes you uncomfortable. Sensory overload is something that many kids experience but when it becomes something that rules their life (and yours too!) then kids become moody and behaviorally dysregulated.
Children and teens with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have a hard time putting on the breaks and that means they can easily be startled, upset and angered. Poor transitions from a preferred task to a low interest task tends to be one the biggest triggers. It can take 10 times as long to cajole an irritated and negative kid to do a task then actually completing a task.
When you struggle with planning and prioritizing for a future event and don’t have a sense of time or strong listening skills, that means you are always behind and someone is “nagging” you to get everything done. That is a whole lot of friction and means your kid and you are arguing and could be moody as a result.
Children who have a history of early birth trauma often come out with sleep difficulties and problems self-regulating right out of the gate. They can be easily set off, experience anger and upset, have a hard time regulating their emotions, behaviors, and sensory input. If you think your child is struggling with a head injury, always speak to your child’s pediatrician.
The child with autism has a brain that typically has hypercommunication in their brain waves that makes their brain and behavior more inflexible. This lack of brain flexibility makes dealing with regular life stressors extremely challenging for the child and their family and is why these children and adults can get easily upset.
Chronic inflammation is on the rise even in our kids and studies show that inflammation is tied to anxiety, mood disorder, autism, PANS/PANDAS, OCD and other mental health conditions. When your brain is inflamed, it can effect one’s cognition, behavior, attention, and psychological health. Mood dysregulation, whether one is an internalizer or externalizer, can strain relationships and make a person feel shameful about their behavior.
Infectious diseases such as lyme, tick borne illness, Epstein-Barr, and COVID can cause an inflamed brain that leads to mood-related issues, rage, anger and other issues that affect one’s ability to regulate emotions and behavior.
Whether early developmental trauma or a single traumatic event that has happened in one’s life, these traumas can bury in one’s subconscious. Those traumas run in the background of one’s mind and cause the nervous system to activate, which can result in agitation, mood swings and irritability.
Bullying isn’t the same as when we were kids and today they experience exclusionary bullying more frequently than aggression type bullying that may be more easy to spot. Kids can hold it in and not seek help from their family and that results in behaviors that may seem out of character. A child feels shameful, insecure, and sometimes scared to ask for help.
Mood swings are typical for any child, but understanding the many causes may shed light on your situation.
There are many reasons why kids have mood swings: some totally normal and other times they reflect a life stressor or a clinical issue that needs support. The most important thing for parents to remember is that no matter what behavior your child is displaying, don’t take it personally.
Instead be a detective and think about root causes and work from there. Kids don’t want to be easily upset or angry. They need coping skills and the resources to manage frustrations, disappointment, and upset.
How you show up and manage your own frustrations will not only “show” your kids how to deal with life, it forces you to calm your own brain. And when parents have a calm brain, they share that calm in so many ways: energetically, emotionally and physically.
Calming their brain is a critical part of learning new ways to cope. Neurofeedback and PEMF are powerful ways to calm the nervous system and get it into a regulated parasympathetic state. There are manyThey are science-backed ways to help regulate mood without the harmful side effects of psychiatric medications, which can harm the developing brain.
Working with a mental health professional to teach your child coping skills and deal with stressors is a critical part of creating mental wellness. New behaviors don’t magically appear, they are learned, so reinforcing desired behaviors is super important.
Angsukiattitavorn, S., Seeherunwong, A., Panitrat, R., & Tipayamongkholgul, M. (2020). Prevalence and distribution pattern of mood swings in Thai adolescents: A school-based survey in the central region of Thailand. BMC Psychiatry, 20. https://doi-org.oralroberts.idm.oclc.org/10.1186/s12888-020-02605-0
Leow, A., Ajilore, O., Zhan, L., Arienzo, D., GadElkarim, J., Zhang, A., Moody, T., Van Horn, J., Feusner, J., Kumar, A., Thompson, P., & Altshuler, L. (2013). Impaired inter-hemispheric integration in bipolar disorder revealed with brain network analyses. Biological Psychiatry, 73(2), 183–193. https://doi-org.oralroberts.idm.oclc.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.09.014
Leroux, J. A., & Levitt-Perlman, M. (2000). The Gifted Child with Attention Deficit Disorder: An Identification and Intervention Challenge. Roeper Review, 22(3), 171. https://doi-org.oralroberts.idm.oclc.org/10.1080/02783190009554028
Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family™”
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.
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She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach. She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).
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