Childhood and especially adolescence can be a time of intense feelings and volatile growth.
It can be difficult for even those closest to a child to recognize the signs that additional support is needed. However, there are some signals that a child or teen needs help.
- The child or adolescent tells you that they are feeling overwhelmed. This can be in the form of an angry statement at dinner, a text message of hopelessness, a comment under their breath about feeling empty and alone, or many other shapes. It is important to hear these as pleas for emotional support, for the world to slow down a bit.
- The people close to them express concern for their well-being. Friends, teammates, teachers, coaches, and other people who spend time with the child may have important observations and insights. Parents should listen and stay connected to their child’s network, while still respecting their privacy and autonomy.
- Their behavior seems very out of the ordinary and concerning, reflected by sleeping or eating patterns, crying spells, scratching or cutting themselves, anger outbursts or rage, school refusal, or not interacting with friends for long periods of time. It is sometimes necessary to take a longer view of the child’s behavior - some changes are developmental or situational and other changes are difficult to notice over short periods of time but can still develop into a habit, syndrome, or mental health condition.
- Their thinking seems disorganized or inappropriate, reflected by fear of certain people or places, frequent worrying, negativity, or self-criticism,
- They are showing signs of physical distress that are not explained by their doctor or an illness, such as nausea or stomach pain, headaches, dizziness or lightheadedness, exhaustion, frequent diarrhea, trembling or shaking, shortness of breath, or chest pains.