As a parent you may have difficulty deciding at what point you may need to seek therapeutic intervention for your child’s emotional and behavioral needs. When a child goes through the different stages of development, they can often experience conflict and challenges as they achieve new milestones, confront new situations and encounter new demands. It can be common for children to have emotional ups and downs and feelings of anger, sadness and disappointment in response to these new experiences and significant life events. A child’s reaction to these different circumstances can range from mild and short lived to severe and long lasting. When your child’s problems and emotional/behavioral concerns do not resolve themselves and they appear to be affecting your child’s everyday functioning at home, school or with peers, it is time to seek outside help. It is also important to know that significant life events like losing a parent, the loss of a pet, moving to a new area, experiencing a trauma or going through divorce can trigger concerns that may be indications that therapeutic support is needed.
How is my child functioning at school, at home or with peers?
How often does this behavior occur and how long does it last?
Has there been a recent change or a new stressor in my child’s life?
Do I or my family find that we are walking on “eggshells” all the time when we are around my child?
Is my child meeting developmental milestones? (See our infographics and resources to learn more)
Look for warning signs:
- Extreme difficulty separating from primary caregiver
- Withdraws from primary caregivers
- Ignores other children or isolates self from group
- Does not initiate or participate in activities
- Difficulty with transitions from activities on a regular basis
- Difficulty expressing a wide range of emotions
- Excessive fears of being alone
- Difficulty with transitions between activities
- Overly aggressive behavior, i.e. biting, hitting, kicking
- Excessive crying and difficulty self-soothing
- Problems sleeping, i.e. refusing to go to sleep, nightmares
- Behavioral problems, i.e. refusal to obey adults (will not follow rules or listen to directions) and poor self-control
If you feel like your child exhibits some of the above behaviors and these behaviors are impacting their ability to function and be successful at home, school or with their peers make sure to talk to your pediatrician or a local mental health provider for support. If your child has expressed a desire to harm himself/herself or another person your child may need more serious interventions and should contact 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room to be assessed for mental health services.
More helpful resources include: