5 Warning Signs Your Child May Need to See a Behavioral Health Specialist

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., ACCESS Media Relations Specialist
March 20, 2017

A combination of school stress, test anxiety, homework, or issues like bullying and peer pressure can cause emotional or behavioral distress for your child. Outside of school, major transitions and family issues can also be a source of stress. Dealing with family problems, community violence or a serious illness can trigger an emotional response that is difficult to deal with alone. With that said, sometimes it’s not clear what’s caused your child to suddenly become worried, stressed, withdrawn, depressed or tearful.

 

Like adults, children can benefit from behavioral health consultation. The value of seeking help shouldn’t be lost on children, and therapy has proved to help kids develop problem-solving skills. When problems present themselves, it is helpful to be able to cope with stress and a variety of emotional and behavioral issues.

 

As a parent, if you feel that your child might have an emotional or behavioral problem, or may benefit from getting help to cope with a difficult life event, here are 5 signs professional assistance may be warranted:

 

1. Overly aggressive behavior, either physical or verbal.

This type of behavior can harm your child or other children and is also a warning sign there may be a larger issue bothering your child that they’re unable to express.

 

2. Significant changes in behavior such as a drop in grades, change in friend relationships, lack of appetite, insomnia or increased sleepiness.

Significant changes indicate that normal functioning has become disrupted and some children do not have the language or emotional intelligence to tell a parent or teacher what is wrong.

 

3. Development of or an increase in physical complaints, despite a normal physical exam by your doctor.

Frequent physical complaints (such as headache, stomach ache, or not feeling well)may simply be due to a child's increased body awareness. If there is no physical evidence for such complaints, they can be an excuse to prevent children from participating in school, activities or functions. These events may be causing anxiety or could be the result of bullying.

 

4. Being the victim of bullying or bullying other children.

If you suspect your child is being bullied, you may see a difference in their grades and their attitude. Parents may also notice their children become much more irritable and easily frustrated. Too many kids don’t talk with anyone about the fact that they’re being picked on. Instead, they withdraw from the world. Their daily life is very painful for them, and their coping skills become withdrawal and avoidance. If your child is the bully, it’s important to let him or her know that you will help them change their behavior and correct the situation. Have a conversation with them about how they think they can stop bullying and ask what they think has to change in order for them to change? If you feel resistance, or they don’t understand that their behavior is causing harm to others, a behavioral health specialist can help your child behave differently, accept responsibility for their actions and teach them how to develop empathy, as well as learn how to form cohesive relationships.

 

5. Decreased interest in previously enjoyed activities.

This may be a sign of depression. A child who used to play often with friends may now spend most of the time alone and without interests.

Some parents tend to feel guilty and blame themselves for their child's problems. Others may experience confusion or uncertainty regarding their child's need for treatment; for example, if a teacher brings to light an issue but the child is acting normal at home.

What’s important is taking action to help your child cope with any issues they may be facing. First, have a conversation with them to surface any issues they may be having. If you have been noticing changes but your child is unwilling to communicate with you, a behavioral health consultation may be the answer.

Therapy offers children the opportunity to identify, discuss and understand problems, and to develop necessary coping skills. Parents will also get the opportunity to address parental concerns, become educated regarding their child's unique needs, and assist them in meeting these needs appropriately.

If you decide that therapy would benefit you and your child, remind them that therapy isn’t a punishment. Therapy should never be used as a consequence to undesired behavior, and it’s best to explain that therapy can help them feel better.

ACCESS offers a wide range of behavioral health services and programs to help individuals live the best life possible. Our providers are clinically trained to connect you to the right specialists at the right time, so please contact us if you feel your child could benefit from behavioral health care.

Sources:

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/finding-therapist.html http://psychologyinfo.com/treatment/childtherapy.html