Sometimes, it can be hard to tell if your child’s behavior is normal, or if it’s a sign of a deeper issue. Of course, some misbehavior and rebellion is to be expected during childhood and the teenage years! To evaluate whether or not your child’s behavior indicates that they should see a counselor, consider whether it is frequent, severe, age-appropriate, and if it lasts for long periods of time. Isolated incidents often do not require any intervention, but extensive patterns of misbehavior and acting out indicate that deeper problems are occurring.
Signs Your Child Needs Help with Their Mental Health
Remember, getting help for mental health is never something to be embarrassed about or ashamed of! In fact, reaching out to a mental health professional for your child can set them up for better mental health throughout the rest of their life. Here are several signs that your child may be struggling mentally:
- Their habits have changed. Perhaps your child used to have a very healthy appetite, but now you can’t get them to eat, even when you cook their favorite foods. Or maybe the opposite has occurred, and it seems like your child is suddenly always eating. A sudden or drastic change in sleeping patterns is also something to take note of. Finally, if your child’s performance in school has suddenly declined, that is another sign of a deeper issue.
- They’re engaging in destructive behavior. Destructive behavior comes in many forms. One of the most common ones is substance use. Promiscuous behavior and even self-sabotaging behavior like staying up extremely late on a school night are also considered examples of destructive behavior.
- They’re experiencing extreme sadness, worry, or anger. It’s completely normal to feel sad, anxious, or angry sometimes; that’s just part of being human. But if your child seems to be excessively sad, anxious, or angry, or if their emotions seem much different from other children’s their age, that could be a sign of an underlying mental health disorder or other issue.
- They’ve been isolating themselves and distancing themselves from others. If your child was once a social butterfly but can’t be bothered to leave their room anymore, that should trigger warning signals in your mind. It’s very important for children and teenagers to spend time with their peers, and while some level of distancing from family is considered normal, complete isolation and avoidance of social situations is a sign that your child may need help from a mental health professional.
- They have frequent physical complaints. Oftentimes, anxiety in children manifests as headaches and stomachaches. Of course, these physical complaints can also be caused by other issues, such as food sensitivities, allergies, dehydration, lack of sleep, and excessive screen time. But if your child often complains of their stomach or head hurting and there doesn’t seem to be a clear trigger, mental health issues may be to blame.
- They are preoccupied with death. Some curiousness surrounding death is completely natural, but an all-out obsession with death and dying can indicate that there is something very serious going on with your child’s mental health.
Tips for Helping Your Child with Their Mental Health
Although mental health topics have become much less taboo in recent years, it can still be stressful to figure out the best way to handle your child’s potential mental health issues. Read on for a few general pieces of advice on the subject. If you’re interested in finding help for your child online, MyTherapist may be a helpful place to start. Simply visit https://www.mytherapist.com/ to get started.
- Take a look at your family history. Have any of your family members ever struggled with their mental health? Oftentimes, mental illness has a hereditary component, so keep your family history in mind when evaluating your child’s potential mental health issues.
- Remember that mental illness can look different in kids compared to adults. You’re likely pretty familiar with the idea of depression or anxiety in adults, but these mental health disorders can exhibit themselves differently in children and teenagers. For example, depression can look like a sudden change in appearance or turning to alcohol and drugs.
- Talk to friends or visit online forums. Since it can be difficult to decipher between a mental health problem and normal misbehavior, talk to friends with similarly aged children to see if they’ve experienced anything similar. There are also many online forums where you can seek answers if you’re not sure whether it’s time to take your child to speak with a mental health professional.
- Don’t be nervous to ask questions. If in doubt, there’s no harm in reaching out to your child’s doctor or any other medical or mental health professionals. Those in the medical field should be able to give you a good idea of whether your child’s behavior is normal, or if they may need additional help.
- Talk to your child about their feelings. If you’re worried about your child, be sure to ask them how they’re feeling—and don’t try to answer for them! Instead, listen closely to their answer, and take them seriously. Brushing off any negative emotions your child is experiencing will only make them less likely to reach out to you in the future. Be sure to let your child know that you are there for them, even if they don’t feel like talking at the moment.
The Bottom Line
The thought of taking your child to speak to a counselor may be difficult or stressful for you, but at the end of the day, it’s all about doing what is best for your child and their future. If your child is displaying any of the warning signs listed above and you feel that they may be living with a mental health disorder or other issue, don’t delay in getting them the treatment they need.