by Alicia Skiles, MS, NCC, LPC, SAC-IT, Professional Counselor

child's mental healthWhat were you thinking? Why do you keep doing that? These are questions you have probably asked your children out of frustration. Their behavior is sometimes difficult to understand because, unlike adults, children are not as good at regulating their emotions. Whatever the case, it can signal a change in your child’s mental health.

Challenging behavior is normal from time to time, but how do you tell what is typical child behavior or something more? Consider asking yourself the following questions about your child’s mental health.

Does my child get enough sleep, exercise and nutrition? Adequate sleep, exercise and nutrition are essential for healthy kids.

Can my child stay focused when they need to? Sure, children get distracted. But if not being able to focus is preventing them from getting their homework done each week, it may indicate a mental health problem.

Does my child change moods for no apparent reason? Children and parents can have bad days, but if noticeable changes in mood are happening often, there could be an underlying mental health issue.

Is my child flexible with changes to their routine or new situations? All parents hear “I don’t want to” at some point. But if it feels like a struggle whenever something unexpected happens, it’s worth looking into further.

Did something scary or violent happen to my child? When children experience an event that is extremely upsetting or violent, they can develop symptoms and behaviors that may need specialized treatment.

Parents and caregivers are in the best position to observe and consider their children’s behavior. Communicating what you know and asking questions of yourself and mental health professionals can support children in overcoming barriers to mental health. The earlier you raise concerns, the easier it is to reduce symptoms and improve your child’s well-being.