Does My Child Need Counseling?

Top 5 Signs your Child Might Need Psychological Counseling

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We all know teenagers can be moody. But when should you seek professional help for your child’s emotional or behavioral problems?

Parents and teachers are usually the first line of defense, recognizing when a child might be having an issue. Chances are your child’s problem can be successfully addressed with an open discussion about their thoughts and feelings.

There are times, however, when a mental health professional needs to be consulted. Below are the five top signs that your child might need professional help.

1.         Decline in school grades

A drop in school grades is often times the first sign that something might be wrong. Changes in behaviors and attitude contribute to decreased motivation to complete school assignments. Negative peer influences are likely to increase truancy or skipping classes. Maintaining communication with teachers and monitoring grades is something you can do to ensure that your child is staying on the right path. Combined with some of the behaviors below, a steep decline in grades may be a sign that you need to consult a professional.

2.         Depressed moods for a prolonged period

We all get into bad moods sometimes; for adolescents, this can happen frequently and at the drop of a hat. They can go up and down like a yoyo, sometimes several times a day. Just as people isolate themselves when feeling sad; they may also act out with verbal or physical aggression. When moodiness is combined with changes in appetite, problems sleeping, isolation from family and friends, feelings of guilt or worthlessness and thoughts of death or suicide, it is time to consult a professional for an evaluation.

3.         Self-injurious behaviors

Self-injurious behaviors include cutting, burning, scratching or bruising. Some teens do this in silence, often taking great effort to hide these wounds by wearing long sleeves, even when the weather is warm. Many times, they are not really trying to inflict serious harm, but instead are crying out for more serious help.

4.         Changes in personality

You may notice a marked change in the way your teen thinks, acts and feels. This is normal, as adolescence is a time when children are transitioning physically and emotionally at various rates of development. Teens may take on the behaviors, dress and beliefs of a new peer group. Not all of these changes, however, are positive or normal, and other peoples’ opinions may have too strong of an influence on your child’s ability to make positive and healthy decisions on their own.

5.         Excessive worry that disrupts daily functioning

Children often worry about fitting in or what to wear to school. Sometimes the worry intensifies and may disrupt sleep, contribute to headaches/stomachaches, and disrupt concentration. Other changes include staying home, avoiding public places and feeling on edge most of the time. If you think your child is worrying excessively, this may be a sign that they need help handling normal levels of stress.

Any one of these signs or a combination of several are good sign that they may need professional help navigating the pathway to adulthood – especially if problems persist over an extended period of time or if others involved in the child's life are concerned or affected. This is the time to consider seeking a consultation with a child and adolescent psychotherapist or other trained mental health professional.

Chances are professional counseling can help set your and your teenager’s mind at ease as they transition through adolescence.