The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry came together to publish this statement as we saw an increasing number of children and adolescents access mental health care, the rise and prevalence of eating disorders, substance use problems and the need for hospitalization , ”Says Anisha Patel-Dunn, DO, a practicing psychiatrist and chief physician at LifeStance Health, a provider of virtual and personal outpatient mental health care.
It may seem obvious, but COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the mental health problems that have affected children socially and developmentally, she says.
“Just imagine: 18-year-olds and freshmen are currently missing the final grade of high school, so they are technically stuck in their first year,” she says.
Still, how do parents know if the problem will resolve itself or is it time to consult a therapist? Read on as Jen Dowd, And clinical social worker in Marblehead, MA, lists the signs to look for, depending on your child’s age and stage.
What’s going on: Doc child development it is not linear, the years of primary school are generally a large period of growth, and school-age children are likely to explore an increased sense of independence, dressing, tying shoes, cycling, etc.
What to look out for: If your child falls behind, pay attention.
“This is a signal that something is going on,” Dowd says. “Examples include changes in sleep, eating habits, bedwetting, isolation, excessive worry and withdrawal from things they enjoyed.”
Who to call: If you notice these behaviors, call your pediatrician.
“This is the best place to start,” Dowd says. “They are often our first line of defense and will dismiss any medical concerns before they can suggest that your child consider visiting a therapist.”
What happens: The years between primary and secondary school can be stressful, especially when it comes to social interactions.
“This is a time when we sometimes see an increase in anxiety as the pressures on children increase,” Dowd says.
What to look out for: If your child is struggling with social interactions, unable to make friends or being bullied, these are red flags and may mean that your child needs help.
“In addition, watch out for risky behaviors, which can include risky sexual behaviors or risky behaviors related to substances,” says Dowd.
Who to call: You may want to consider contacting one of your child’s teachers to see if they have noticed any changes in behavior.
Then talk to your child’s doctor, especially if your child has made self-harming or suicidal statements, such as, “I see no point in being here.”
“High school kids can be dramatic, but only if your child’s behavior is worrying you, it’s worth talking to a doctor, ”says Dowd. “Parents’ views on therapy are also important. If you approach the conversation about therapy, as in ‘this is extra support for us’, your child is more likely to be on board. ”
What happens: At this stage of life, children may be interested in romantic relationships, may show more independence from family, and have a deeper ability to care, but they may also feel great sadness or depression.
What to look out for: Changes in social relationships (for example, your once popular child suddenly says he has no friends), a drop in school performance, a radical change in personality, or any other risky behavior.
“For example, if your child has always been quiet and serious and, all of a sudden, constantly goes out or stays out until late, pay attention,” Dowd says.
Who to call: Consider contacting a mental health professional directly, especially if the situation becomes worrying.
“Keep in mind that as children get older, it is sometimes harder for them to get involved in therapy,” she says. “They will become cunning in hiding their behavior, so it is very important to do your best to encourage open conversations with your children.”
Ultimately, if your child requests a visit to a therapist, consider the request because he or she is probably looking for a reason, especially if a traumatic event has occurred, such as a family death, divorce, or abuse.
And never consider yourself a failure if your child asks for therapy, says Patel-Dunn.
“We need parents to think about therapy differently,” she says. “They need to know that they will fail if they don’t stay open to give their children the help they need.”
Goal? Think of therapy as preventive medicine, even if it is only a few sessions with a licensed specialist. This will give them the tools – and help – they need that will last a lifetime, says Patel-Dunn.