How can I tell if my child needs counseling?

parentsAdapted from NIMH

Not every problem is serious. In fact, many everyday stresses can cause changes in your child’s behavior. For example, the birth of a sibling may cause a child to temporarily act much younger than he or she is. It is important to be able to tell the difference between typical behavior changes and those associated with more serious problems.

Things to consider are:

  • Does your child experience problems across a variety of settings, such as at school, at home, or with peers?
  • Is your child experiencing changes in appetite or sleep?
  • Is your child withdrawing from friends and/or family?
  • Is your child exhibiting fearful behavior toward things he or she normally is not afraid of?
  • Is your child returning to behaviors more common in younger children, such as bed-wetting, for a long time?
  • Does your child exhibit signs of being upset, such as sadness or tearfulness?
  • Does your child exhibit signs of self-destructive behavior, such as head-banging, or a tendency to get hurt often?
  • Is your child exhibiting anger frequently, often resulting in attacking people or things?
  • Is your child having difficulty concentrating or sitting still leading to poor school performance?
  • Is your child expressing repeated thoughts of death either verbally, through play, or art?

“While these items may indicate a concern, the most important indicator is the perception of the caregivers and others involved in your child’s life. If you feel your child is having behavioral or emotional concerns, consider scheduling him or her for an assessment at a counseling agency. After learning more about you, your child, and how he or she is doing in different areas of life, the counselor will make recommendations regarding next steps as appropriate. “

Drug Guide for Parents: Learn the Facts to Keep Your Teen Safe (pdf)


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