We all have our moods, our good days and our bad days. However, some people run more or less on an even keel, while others swerve radically from high to low. Kids, too, are more or less moody, depending on their genes, their health and their stress levels. A well-rested, well-fed, happy-go-lucky child living in a relaxed home and attending a child-friendly school geared to his or her academic skill level will probably be in a pretty good mood most of the time. On the other hand, a tired child subsisting on sugar cereal, living in a stressed-out family and dealing with a high-pressured school environment will probably be moody a lot of the time. While parents can't do much about their children's genes, they can do something about the other factors that affect mood and they can also help their kids learn how to manage their low and irritable moods.

For instance, parents can be aware that their own mood impacts tremendously on their children's moods. Calm, happy parents bring out the best mood in their kids. Nervous, agitated or angry parents disturb their children's mood. One way that parents can help their kids' moods is by helping their own mood first. Adult mood improves along with adequate sleep, healthy diet, leisure time, social and emotional support, exercise, deep relaxation and other stress-busters. One of the most important stress-busters is the nourishment of spiritual faith.

Medical and psychological research has shown that a personal, direct relationship with G‑d is excellent for one's physical and emotional well-being. Talking to G‑d informally and formally through prayer is one way to develop such a relationship. Parents who are still stressed after employing all of these strategies will usually find that good mental health support provides an extra measure of stress-reduction. Although they will definitely benefit from giving themselves the best care, their children may benefit even more. Parents who abuse themselves through self-denial not only provide a bad model of mood management for their kids but may also directly harm their children by being too stressed-out to respond appropriately throughout the parenting day.

Teaching children mood management skills is accomplished through the parental model and through direct teaching techniques. Kids can be taught how to take study breaks, downtime, fun time, exercise and even how to do deep relaxation. They can be taught to pursue their passions and develop their spirituality – both of which lead to improved mood. They can be taught to talk to G‑d about all of their problems. Parents can help see to it that younger kids eat a balanced diet and get enough sleep and that older teens learn the importance of healthy physical and emotional habits as well.

When a child's mood suddenly changes, parents need to be concerned and take action. A departure from a normally balanced mood can indicate extreme stress in a child. Such stress can be caused by problems with peers (i.e. being bullied), teachers, schoolwork or family stresses (i.e. divorce, illness, moving, fighting, etc.). Medical conditions and substance abuse can also account for mood changes.

The chronically moody child is born that way. His "mood-o-meter" is set on "low" causing a chronic low grade sad or irritable mood or sometimes an angry, negative mood. Positive life events and even positive parents can do little to shift the mood. As long as the symptoms don't cause undue distress or dysfunction, little needs to be done apart from providing emotional support and lifestyle guidance. Some professional psychological intervention may be helpful as well. If mood disturbances are intense enough to make a child seriously unhappy or unable to socialize or handle his schoolwork, intervention is necessary. These kids may benefit from physical therapies such as alternative treatments (i.e. acupuncture, homeopathy or other physically based interventions), professional psychological treatment and/or psychiatric treatment (i.e. psychotropic medication). Early intervention can help prevent a lifetime of suffering.

No one is happy all the time. Challenges help us to grow even if they cause us distress. However, low mood can also interfere with our development causing us intrapersonal or interpersonal difficulties and impeding our relationship with G‑d.

We have to help ourselves and our kids monitor and manage moods in order to become our best possible selves.