By Nazia Islam, LPC-S, RPT
Just like adults children can experience stress. Stressors for children can include the death of a pet, the birth of a sibling, divorce, neglect, abandonment, moving, domestic violence, bullying at school, natural disasters, war, violence, and political climate. Your child will not come to you stating “Mother, I feel quite saddened by the recent events of the world, and it is affecting my mental health. Here are my symptoms: emotional lability, lack of appetite and middle insomnia, irritability and hopelessness, and anhedonia.” Instead, they will show their distress through their behaviors. It can be confusing to identify the difference between developmentally appropriate behaviors (i.e kids will be kids) versus something more is going on and my child needs counseling. As a parent, you are the expert on your child and are best able to notice significant or subtle changes in your child’s mood, behavior, and actions.
The following is a summary of a list from ACD of Human Services Office of Behavioral Health Bureau of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and various other sources to help with identifying signs that your child may need professional help-
- Are they having trouble with their feelings?
- Irritability, aggression, crying spells, screaming, spitting, hopelessness
- Have you noticed changes in your child?
- Poor academics
- Losing interest in things that they once enjoyed.
- Change in sleeping patterns and appetite.
- Day Dreaming
- Hear voices
- Separation Anxiety/Clinginess
- Is your child’s behavior limiting parts of their life?
- Inability to make decisions
- Poor concentration
- Unable to sit still
- Racing thoughts, frequently worry
- Ritualistic activities
- Persistent nightmares
- Is your child’s behavior problematic?
- Abusing drugs
- Self-harming behaviors
- Comments about suicidal thoughts/ideations
- Bed Wetting
- Is your child complaining about unexplained medical symptoms?
- Aches, pain
It can be overwhelming to consider bringing your child to counseling and acknowledging that your child may be struggling. However, it is important to remember that children are resilient, and facing struggles head-on is the best way to role model problem-solving. It is also healing for a child to have a safe space to talk about the difficulties they are experiencing and know that they are not alone in their struggle.
Alleghany County Department of Human Services of Behavioral Health Bureau of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. (n.d). Taking Charge of Your Child’s Mental Health, a Parent’s Guide. Bethal Park School District. Retrieved March 25, 2020 https://www.bpsd.org/Downloads/Taking-Charge-of-your-Child_s-Mental-Health—-A-Parent_s-Guide2.pdf
Cleveland Clinic. (2021, March 31). Signs Your Child May Need a Therapist. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/signs-your-child-may-need-a-therapist/
Ward, Christina (2020, September). Warning Signs Your Child Might Need Therapy. The Kid’s Directory Family Resource Guide. https://www.kids-houston.com/2021/01/10/warning-signs-your-child-might-need-therapy/