When thinking about all the changes in your child’s life, it can be difficult to know what’s going on with them, when they require professional help, and when they’ll just “grow out of it”. All kids have their ups and downs, but how do you know if it’s something more?
Not all problems are created equal, and while it’s not an exhaustive list, it is important for parents to keep an eye out for some of these signs that there’s a much deeper issue.
Behavioral issues will be the ones that are much easier to spot due to the fact that the symptoms –acting out, dysregulated eating, self-injury, etc.– are observable in nature. Listed here are some of the warning signs that a deeper issue is taking root.
Problems at School
If your child’s behavior at school is regularly becoming an issue, or actively disrupting your family life it may be time to call in the reinforcements. Disruptive, defiant, or dangerous behavior indicate that at the very least, the child needs alternative ways of coping with their stress, or may be the result of frustration from an undiagnosed learning problem. Of course not all problems at school are cause for counseling, however when combined with issues from other aspects of life, it will be important to address the problems head-on before a more permanent pattern develops.
When children develop disordered patterns of eating, they may display any number of concerning behaviors. Restricting food intake, exercising excessively, or participating in binge and purge cycles are dangerous to their physical health, and equally dangerous to their mental health as it typically alters their ability to effectively process emotions, keeping them trapped instead in a cycle of shame.
No matter how casually your child may reveal to you that they have been hurting themself, or however else you may discover it, it is important to get help. Self-injury is more often than not a way of communicating their pain, and likely shows a lack of healthy ability to cope with their emotions and stress. If your child talks explicitly about suicide or makes comments like “I wish I weren’t here”, it is important to both ask them about it calmly and directly, and enforce that they talk to someone about it.
Conduct disorders in children are severe behavioral issues, when children are consistently defiant, abuse the rights of others and prematurely act out in areas such as sex, drugs, stealing, and fighting. These children often have difficulty taking responsibility for their actions, and clear patterns of out-of-control behaviors emerge over time.
When screening for potential emotional issues, you may recognize that your child has problems in multiple areas of life, such as family relationships, academic performance, how they spend their time and within their friendships. You may notice your child starting to feel bad about themselves, seeming less confident, and less independent.
If you have a family history of mental health concerns, or you struggle yourself with depression or anxiety, It will be extra important to be on the lookout for the increased possibility that your child will follow along the same path.
Excessive worry about the future, fears about entering into new social settings or separating from their caregivers are signs that your child lacks confidence and feels insecure. When these worries are allowed to take center stage in your child’s life, they begin to develop avoidance mechanisms for dealing with uncomfortable emotions which only contributes to lifelong patterns of more of the same.
In depressed children and adolescents, persistent irritability and negative outlook characterizes their life. They may also express hopelessness, experience a significant change in sleep habits or appetite, and withdraw from friends, family, and once-enjoyed activities.
Although the situations are too numerous to be listed here, make sure that if your child experiences something traumatic, such as witnessing a violent crime or being subject to unwanted sexual advances by an adult, to provide them with the opportunity to process the event.
Life events can be stressful for all involved, including adults, so it is no wonder that children are especially susceptible to be influenced by the changing times. Whether it’s a divorce, addition of a new sibling, or even something like switching up schools, it’s common to experience some troubling behaviors that may or may not pass with time.
In this way, it is good to remember that just because your family is going through a transition does not necessarily mean that your child will need professional support. Be careful of sending a message to them that you are out of control or that they should be.
On all accounts, keep a watchful eye, and be open to your child’s feelings about seeking therapy. You may be surprised when they admit that they could use some extra support, and don’t forget that even if they’re not ready to talk, they may benefit just as much from your attendance on their behalf.
If you think your child could benefit from therapeutic services, or you might, don’t hesitate, make an appointment with one of our experienced staff members. Give us a call at 312-324-4502 or book your session with our easy-to-use online portal.