It’s a cliché to point out that kids don’t come with an owner’s manual, and an understatement to say that parenting can be quite a challenge. Through the course of their natural, healthy development, children can go through all sorts of ups and downs, moods, behavioral issues, struggles, personality changes, and other “symptoms” of just acclimating to the world and growing up. And even the most “well behaved” kids can put their parents through some seriously trying times.
At the same time, as a parent, you must strike a balance between guiding your child through the rocky parts and letting them find their own way so that they develop independence, healthy coping mechanisms, and resilience. Yet you always want to be there when your child genuinely needs help.
All of this can make it tricky to know when you’re dealing with “normal” difficulties, or with those that may call for professional intervention. As a general rule, when problems start seeming too persistent, or they’re severe enough on a regular basis that they take a toll on your child’s or your family’s quality of life, it’s a good idea to consult a mental health professional.
To be a bit more specific though, below are some common signs your child may need therapy—or should at least meet with a mental health professional for an evaluation. From there, you ‘ll get recommendations about how to proceed in addressing the issues you and your child are experiencing.
When to Seek Counseling for Your Child
- Behaviors or other problems are interfering with your son or daughter’s—or your family’s—daily life
- Regular disagreements or arguments about how to deal with your kid’s behavior are straining your relationship with your spouse or partner
- Your child is exhibiting struggles in multiple areas of life (e.g., school, family, friendships, hobbies or extracurriculars, etc.)
- A sudden, significant, unexplained decline in performance in one or more areas of life (e.g., a big drop in grades, sports performance, etc.)
- Major changes to your kid’s eating or sleeping patterns
- Persistent, disruptive inability to concentrate or sit still
- Your child has withdrawn from friends and family
- Your son or daughter stops participating in activities they enjoy
- He or she feels persistent sadness or hopelessness
- He or she feels persistent anxiety, worry, or fear
- Regressing in age-appropriate behaviors and/or needs
- Regular bed wetting or nightmares
- Consistent anger management problems or aggression
- Exhibiting obsessive and/or compulsive behaviors or thoughts
- Binge eating, excessive dieting, starving him or herself, or purging after eating
- Your child has started abusing drugs or alcohol
- Your other kids are upset, scared, or disturbed by their sibling’s behavior
- Engaging in self-mutilation or other self-harm
- Your child is endangering him or herself or others
- Your son or daughter talks explicitly about suicide, dying, or disappearing
- Causing destruction to property or inflicting harm on animals
- You just don’t know what to do about the situation with your child