Determining whether or not your kids are just being mean children or experiencing depression or anxiety can be challenging. Trying to discern if their tantrums are typical or unusual is also equally tough. So, how do you know if your child’s behaviors call for the help of a therapist? Although there is no substitute for parental knowledge as they are most familiar and knowledgeable of their child’s behavior, there are certain guidelines made available by experts to help families make the decision to seek a therapist’s evaluation. Most experts agree that the three criteria below can help in deciding whether your child’s behavior is normal or a sign that your kid needs help:
- Duration and frequency of a troublesome behavior. Parents should carefully observe and watch out for a particular bad behavior of their child that just goes on and on with no sign that the child is going to outgrow it and seems progress to a new stage.
- Intensity of a bad behavior. While temper tantrums are normal in most children, some tantrums can be very extreme and troubling to parents; this can be reason enough to suggest that some specific intervention may be necessary. Parents should pay particular attention to sudden changes in their child’s feelings, especially of despair or hopelessness. They should also watch out for sudden lack of interest in family, friends, school or other activities once considered enjoyable. In addition, behaviors that are dangerous to the child or to others should be something to look out for.
- Consider the age of the child. Some behavior might be age-appropriate and quite normal for a two-year-old, but such observed behavior in should be quite right for a five-year-old to exhibit. We are aware that not all children reach the same physical, emotional and mental milestones at a certain age. Some may reach these milestones early, on time or quite late. However, it can be a cause for concern if we observe extreme deviations from age-appropriate behaviors in our child.
There may be times that these given criteria may not manifest in your children, but as parents, sometimes you can’t help but feel that there is something bothering you about your child’s behavior. You may also want to consider whether your child’s behavior could be influenced by other precipitating factors, such as the following:
- A specific physical condition. Parents should watch out for allergies, health problems (especially in hearing), change in medication, etc. that could be affecting the child’s behavior.
- School problems. Parents should be keen of their child’s school problems (relationships or learning problems) that are creating additional stress.
- Substance abuse/experimentation (for teens and adolescents). Young children are not the only ones parents should keep a watchful eye for regarding their behaviors. Of equal importance is to watch out for adolescents or older teens experimenting with drug use or alcohol.
- Significant changes in the family. Sudden or significant changes (divorce, new child, death) in the family setting or atmosphere can be traumatizing or hard to embrace for young children and such situation(s) may cause concern for the child.
Troubling behavior can appear in many forms, such as regular irritability, loss of interest in activities, changes in eating and sleep patterns and even self-harm or suicidal tendencies. Bad behaviors can be considered excessive when they get in the way of our child’ daily activities and cause problems in their daily lives. As parents, your warning signs should include any sudden change in mood or behavior, or if you notice that your child or teen is struggling in day to day task. If safety towards oneself or others is an issue, or if the emotional or behavioral problems have a significant impact their functioning, it’s time to seek professional help.