Children will be children. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish in a child uncomfortable behaviors from more serious and mentally unstable behaviors that can affect their well-being. However, as a parent, you may feel that something is wrong with your child. Do you even suspect that your child would benefit from mental health treatment or therapy?
Don't ignore these vibrations. Children often do not talk about the mental and emotional problems they are going through, so it is up to you to recognize these problems and get them help. When talking to them doesn't work, it's time to seek professional help.
10 signs you should seek mental health therapy for your child
According to psychology researcher Courtney E. Ackerman, MSc. Here are ten signs that counselors say your child needs mental health therapy.
1. Constant depression
This red flag is one of the most common mental disorders so it is not surprising that a child suffers from it. There are so many factors in life that can contribute to a child feeling depressed and hopeless, and they may not all be obvious. However, it is important to recognize depression as early as possible so that you can give your child the mental help he needs before something disastrous happens.
These feelings should not be confused with fleeting moments of sadness. That is completely normal. However, if your child's sad moments persist for weeks or months, this is a main clue that something is not right.
Some signs to watch out for are negative thinking, extreme self-criticism, feelings of being unloved or unpleasant, or overreacting to minor problems.
2. Missing school
Skipping school is often a significant indicator that something is wrong with a child. It could be that they are exceptionally low, as discussed in the previous section. Children may have problems at home or feel unsafe at school. It could also be a combination of any of these situations.
Whatever the reason, missing school is a sign that something is happening with your child. While the direct reason could be physical, such as bullying for example, you can be sure that it is having some harmful mental effects on your child. You should get mental help for your child so that he can get to the bottom of problems.
3. Bad behavior at school
Just as missing school is an indicator of trouble, so is bad behavior at school. Children may not know how to express how they feel about certain things, or they may feel embarrassed to express themselves. This confusion can cause children to "misbehave."
The best way to get to the root of your child's bad behavior is to talk to him. Children often misbehave because they don't understand the lessons, but they are very embarrassed that their peers find out.
If this is the problem, it is easy to fix. However, if more things happen, seeking mental help for your child may be the best way to find out why he is misbehaving.
4. Out-of-control behavior
It can be incredibly difficult and frustrating to deal with a child who has out-of-control behavior. You may have seen this in public before - that parent who has a child who yells at, hits, or destroys the store displays because he can't get what he wants. Hopefully, you are not the parent who is dealing with it.
Unfortunately, children who display this type of behavior do so because the father has not asserted himself as the authority figure. Children have lost respect for parents and feel that they can do whatever they want without consequences as parents generally do not implement any consequences.
The problem with this is that the child grows up with this false mentality. As teens and adults, this out-of-control behavior can lead to constant trouble and severe hopelessness. That is why it is important to get mental help for the child (and probably also for the parents) when they are out of control at a young age.
5. Hurting themselves or others
It is never normal to get hurt. In most cases, it is not normal to hurt others. If your child is doing this, you should rush to get him psychological help.
This type of behavior can escalate and will increase if it is not taken care of immediately. It can be dangerous for parents, but especially dangerous for any other child around. Don't delay in giving a violent child the help he needs.
6. Talk about death or suicide
Kids say weird things, but talking about suicide should never be one of them. The teen suicide rate lately is being alarming. It is the second leading cause of death for 15–24-year-olds.
If your child mentions something about death or the end of his life or something vague like that it will no longer be your problem, stop what you are doing and get him help. This type of conversation means that they are dealing with some other serious underlying problem (most likely depression) and do not know how to handle it.
7. Frequent mood swings
It is normal for children to have mood swings. However, you should start to worry if the mood swings are frequent or interfere with the child's daily life. If this is the case, your child is in trouble.
There can be quite a few reasons why a child has frequent mood swings. Being extremely sad or hopeless is one of those reasons, but it could be related to a different underlying cause. Some examples are ADHD (attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder), bipolar disorder, and dysthymic disorder.
Unless you're a medical professional, you won't be able to diagnose your child on your own. Mental health therapy can identify any problems your child may have and provide them with a treatment plan that will help them live a daily and productive life.
8. Strange eating patterns
Children with mental health problems may display strange eating habits, such as not eating enough or overeating. It is normal for children to fluctuate in the amount they eat: they are growing and their bodies are “getting used to” the nutrition they need as they grow. However, if you notice extreme fluctuations, it is a sign that your child may need some mental health therapy
Extreme can be defined as significant weight gain or loss; a sudden disinterest in your favorite foods; Sneaking meals or snacks after they've eaten, or relying on food to deal with their emotions.
If these behaviors are not addressed, it can lead to problems such as anorexia, bulimia, or obesity. This habit will only make your child even more mentally distressed.
When you notice that your child has strange eating habits, feel free to find out why. If she doesn't want to talk to you about it, get her help before her physical health becomes a problem too.
9. Difficulty sleeping
Trouble sleeping is a classic sign of mental distress. While it's normal for children to have dreams or even nightmares from time to time, they shouldn't interfere with your child's life. Once they cross the threshold of vivid dreams or night terrors, it's time to figure out what's going on mentally with your child to disrupt their sleep so much.
Counselors explain that vivid dreams and night terrors are often manifestations of painful emotions that your child is dealing with internally, but may not be expressing while awake. Mental health therapy can get to the bottom of these unexpressed emotions, and hopefully the vivid dreams and night terrors will stop.
If this problem is not resolved, it can lead to other problems while they are awake such as anxiety, fatigue, irritability and more. Don't ignore your child's dreams and nightmares if they become excessive.
10. Drug or alcohol abuse
It is not pleasant to think of a child or adolescent who abuses drugs or alcohol, but unfortunately, this is a common reality in today's world.
It may come from being with the wrong people, but there is usually some underlying mental or emotional issue that makes them choose that path in the first place. If your child is abusing drugs or alcohol, you should give him the best mental health therapy he can afford.
Drug and alcohol abuse can ruin a child's life. Often begging and begging them to stop doesn't work. Reasoning with them will not work. It only works to get to the root of the problem, and children often feel uncomfortable trusting their parents. Receiving mental health therapy may be the only way to get back on track.
As a parent, you want the best for your child. It can be incredibly difficult to decipher what's going on in your child's head. After all, you are not a psychic and no one expects you to be.
The best thing to do is be vigilant. Look for signs like the ones above suggested by counselors, and when you see them, act. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) indicates that an excellent starting point is to talk with your child's teachers and counselors at school.
Keep in mind that their mental health is essential too, and having anxiety about your child's mental health can affect yours. It's okay to have family mental health therapy. In fact, that could be a great way to let your child know that they are not alone.
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