Mental health affects the way our children think, feel, relate to others and behave. Like physical health, mental health can and does evolve throughout life.
Symptoms of mental health conditions are often invisible and can be easy to miss. It may be difficult to distinguish age-appropriate thoughts, feelings and behaviors from those that may be signs for concern and warrant professional intervention.
If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, ask yourself the following questions:
- Intensity – How intense are your child’s behaviors, thoughts or emotions?
- Frequency – How often does your child feel or behave this way?
- Duration – How long do these individual episodes or periods last?
- Functionality – Most of all, how well is your child functioning at home, at school or with friends?
Emotions or behaviors that are more intense, frequent or longer lasting than most other children your child’s age and that are causing difficulties in their daily functioning may be signs for concern and might warrant a discussion with your pediatrician or a mental health professional.
Teach your children that mental health is as important as physical health by modeling that there is nothing wrong with seeking help when there are signs for concern. The earlier you intervene, the more likely your child can receive the help they need and prevent a larger issue down the road.
For more information on healthy developmental markers in children and youth and signs for concern, see the booklet from The Youth Mental Health Project at http://ymhproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Booklet_2018_updated.pdf.