How do I know if I need to take my child to a psychologist?

Being a parent of young children is often challenging, particularly for first-time parents. There are many moments of joy and sheer delight and many “I have no idea what I’m doing!” or “Am I doing the right thing?” moments. All children (and sometimes adults) have mood swings, defiant behavior at times, and test boundaries. They may also face issues such as separation from parents (when starting kindergarten or school), separation of parents, or bullying. They may experience feelings of stress, worry, anxiety, sadness or anger. These are normal feelings we all experience from time to time. It may be hard to gauge if your child can work through their obstacles, challenges and feelings on their own, or if they need the help of a professional. You may consider making an appointment with a child psychologist if you notice any of the following red flags:

His behaviour has become aggressive and defiant: children will often act up when they are unable to express, explain or control their emotions. Sometimes the best idea they have is to act aggressively, and sometimes their extreme and sudden onset of defiant behavior is a red flag indicating they are feeling stressed and do not have the capacity to deal with the complexity of their emotions.

She is not sleeping well lately and her appetite has changed: If you have noticed a change in your child’s sleeping habits, such as difficulty falling asleep or waking during the night, bad dreams, and a significant increase or decrease in appetite it may be a sign something is worrying your child.

He has withdrawn and does not want to spend time with others: if your normally social child, is avoiding friends, or finding it difficult to make friends, it may be a sign of bullying, low self-esteem or social anxiety.

She just seems sad: Children have bouts of sadness, worry or anxiety but if it seems extreme, and is interfering with her day-to-day life, then it may be a sign of depression, anxiety, low self-worth or feelings of isolation.

He suddenly has separation anxiety: Some separation anxiety is normal. Children will initially feel nervous about starting childcare, kindergarten or school. However, if your child is not usually teary or anxious about you leaving, and this has developed recently, it may be indicative of feelings of insecurities, abandonment or loneliness.  Read another blog of mine on Separation Anxiety.

You may find it helpful to discuss your concerns with other people, such as other parents, family members or your child’s teacher to find out if they have noticed any of the red flags or unusual behaviour. You may find their observations, advice and opinions helpful, but at the end of the day, you know your child best and are best attuned to your child and their needs. Trust your “parent’s intuition”.

Your child’s behavior and emotions impact on the family unit as a whole.  At Attuned Psychology we have child psychologists to assist with management of children’s emotional and behavioural concerns to help your child. We work with you and your child to develop a plan and therapy goals to ensure the best therapeutic outcome for your child and your family.

Rachel Ielasi, Psychologist

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