Mental health was once a taboo topic. No one wanted to talk about it because they believed it made them look weak, or that they were a bad parent if their child was experiencing mental health challenges. If you notice that your child is not behaving like they usually do, it’s time to start thinking about their mental health.
Just like adults, children can experience changes in their mental health in response to life changes, trauma, or other situations. It’s important not to overlook certain indicators that your child may be in need of a mental health checkup. Your child’s mental health is critical for healthy development. Here are some signs to help you know it’s time to get a checkup for your child’s mental health.
When You Notice Behavioral Changes
When you notice that your child is not behaving like they usually do, it’s time to start thinking about their mental health. Anything out of the ordinary, while it can be attributed to many factors, can also indicate they are experiencing a mental health crisis. A one-time change is typically fine, but if your normally outgoing child is now retreating or your normally timid child is suddenly acting wild, there may be something going on. While these changes can sometimes be attributed to bullying or even puberty, it’s important to get them assessed to ensure that they are doing okay with their mental health.
When Parents Struggle With Mental Health Challenges
If either parent has a history of untreated mental health issues, it’s important to keep a close eye on your child. Children can be affected by their parent’s mental health in many ways. They may begin exhibiting symptoms similar to those experienced by their parents or they may develop behaviors that are not only disruptive but also dangerous, like self-harm. In addition, there is also the possibility that children will be neglected as their needs go unmet due to a parent suffering from untreated mental illness.
When There is a Sudden Change in Mood
Look out for a sudden change in behavior or mood, whether it’s outbursts of anger or sadness, changes in school performance, or sudden changes in social life. If your child experiences any of these changes, make an appointment to speak with a mental health professional. If these sudden changes persist it may indicate a deeper mental health issue. If your child is suddenly giving away his or her things, talking more about death, and no longer participating in beloved activities, these mood changes are critical and should be addressed with a professional early on.
If Your Child Is Being Bullied
If you have concerns about the influence peers might be having on your child, watch for signs of teasing, bullying, or intimidation. Bullying can take place in person or online. If you see your child being bullied, step in and help. If you see bullying online, report it to the website where it happened and talk with your child about how he or she feels when this happens. This will give them an opportunity to express themselves while allowing parents to provide support and guidance on what they should do next time they encounter something like this again.
In addition to offering emotional support during these types of situations, parents should also discuss ways that their children can avoid becoming targets themselves. This can be either by removing themselves from these social media platforms altogether or avoiding spending time with the people who are causing the bullying.
Strange Levels of Anxiety
If you notice that your child is constantly feeling anxious or scared about things that seem normal to you, it’s worth talking to an expert about your child’s mental health. Anxiety is a common problem for children and teens, but it can also be a sign of an underlying problem like depression. It may be helpful to talk with your pediatrician at this point. Children who experience severe anxiety might feel nervous and worried all the time or be afraid of situations that are not dangerous.
Eating and Sleeping Changes
Changes in eating and sleeping habits can be an early warning sign that something is not right with your child’s mental health. Here are some examples of changes in eating or sleeping habits that can be a sign your child needs mental health support. Children may have a decrease in appetite. They may increase in the number of episodes of vomiting, diarrhea, and/or nausea. Anything that seems out of the ordinary and concerning like sleeping almost all day and never feeling rested or avoiding activities they love in order to sleep could indicate a mental health need.
Watch for Early Signs
It’s never too early to start looking for signs of trouble with your child’s mental health. In most cases, the first signs of trouble with your child’s mental health will be changes in behavior or mood. If they begin to withdraw from their friends and family members, refuse to go to school, or participate in activities they used to enjoy, this should be cause for concern.
However, it is important to understand that they may be indicative of some other problem entirely. For example, if your child suddenly begins isolating themselves from others at school because they are feeling bullied by other students or have been diagnosed with a learning disability, then this could simply be an issue that requires intervention on their behalf rather than a sign of major psychiatric problems.
The best thing you can do is to keep an eye on your child’s behavior and mood. If something seems off, talk to your pediatrician or another professional who can help you figure out what’s going on. In the meantime, be supportive and listen to what they have to say. Being an ally for your child to let them know you are there for them can mean all the difference in the world. It’s critical to address mental health problems before they become severe. And if your child is talking about death or suicide, it’s important to address their mental health immediately.