Would your child benefit from counseling? This is a question you might ask yourself at times. Naturally, if you are a parent, you are well aware of the importance of taking care of your child’s physical health – you go to regularly, scheduled physicals; see your pediatrician when there is an illness and you rely on your pediatrician for advice about all kinds of things, including child development, eating issues, elimination concerns, and behavior concerns. Pediatricians are the first line of defense when you believe something is going on with your child that can’t be explained.
As well, when there are emotional and/or behavioral concerns, most parents turn to their trusted pediatrician for guidance about the signs your child might benefit from a counselor.
Here are 8 Signs Your Child May Benefit From Counseling:
When looking at the signs, keep in mind that depending on the age of your child, the symptoms may look a bit different. As well, some of these symptoms can be a normal part of child development so getting a proper physical and mental health assessment is important. Calling some to discuss your concerns is extremely helpful.
1. Mood changes.
Feelings of sadness or withdrawal that last at least two weeks or longer or severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships at home and/or school can be a sign of suffering. With young children this may not be expressed in the same way – it may be more irritability or sullenness/quieter than usual or less tolerance for changes in routine, more sensitivity to others or unexplained fearfulness.
Be aware of overwhelming expressions of feelings, such as fear, sadness or worry for no reason — sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing — or worries that are excessive and can’t be calmed and interfere with daily activities. With younger children, this may be expressed with separation anxiety, seeming to be worried about things that children shouldn’t be thinking about (i.e. money issues, getting into colleges when young, getting onto sports teams in the future); or tantrums and outbursts that seem too reactive for the situation. When a child is feeling intense feelings, depending on their age, they have trouble regulating and calming down, which are also signs of distress and worth getting an assessment.
3. Behavior changes.
Drastic changes in behavior or personality, as well as dangerous or out-of-control behavior, specifically for teenagers. Fighting frequently, expressing a desire to badly hurt others or themselves are warning signs to be taken very seriously. Less obvious signs might be staying up later than usual, not getting enough sleep, having difficulty staying asleep, eating more or less than typical, more aggression towards family members or others; lower grades than usual; compulsive behaviors, such as checking, counting, washing hands; more defensive; withdrawing into fantasy (video games, ipad/cellphone/computer use, reading, writing, drawing more than usual); spending hours in their room; or irritability are some of the 8 signs your child may benefit from counseling.
4. Difficulty concentrating.
Look for signs of trouble focusing or sitting still, both of which might lead to poor performance in school or behavior problems, as well. Along with this, there may be daydreaming that interferes with concentration and not completing tasks. Difficulty concentrating can be a result of anxiousness about performance, home life issues, social issues, and sadness. As well, this symptom is often associated with ADHD and is worth a discussion with the school, your pediatrician or counselor.
5. Unexplained weight loss or gain.
A sudden loss of appetite, frequent vomiting or use of laxatives might indicate an eating disorder (usually starting with ages 11+) or overeating, compulsive eating, or binge eating are also signs of possible underling anxiety, depression and/or extreme stress. With young children, picky eating can be “normal” but if there is a change or fears around eating certain foods, this may be a reason to seek help.
Mental health conditions may result in headaches, stomachaches, feeling numb or no feeling, lack of energy or feeling more lethargic than usual which could be a result of underlying sadness or anxiety versus a physical ailment.
7. Physical harm to self or others.
Sometimes a mental health condition leads to self-injury, also called self-harm. This is the act of deliberately harming one’s own body, such as cutting or burning oneself. Children with a mental health condition also may develop suicidal thoughts or actually attempt suicide. Even young children can talk about wanting to die or hurt themselves and should be taken seriously. A proper mental health evaluation is vital to assess what is happening to cause these thoughts, feelings and actions. Children and adolescents that experience these feelings and actions are at risk and should be seen immediately!
8. Substance abuse.
Some kids use drugs or alcohol to try to cope with their feelings. Some children start using these coping mechanisms, as young as middle school, so if this is occurring, it may be a way of masking underlying anxiety, depression, ADHD or a traumatic experience. Getting your child an assessment is another vital part of taking care of your child’s health and wellness.
Getting help early in a child’s life, before mental illness is in full swing can help to prevent later issues. If you are concerned about your child or teenager, getting an initial evaluation with a mental health professional is an important first step in getting your child the help he or she needs.