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Does My Emotional Child Need Therapy?

From your toddler’s temper tantrums to your teen’s depression and anger, it seems like as parents, we have to deal with the emotional upheavals of our kids during every stage of life. But, how do you know if what your kid is dealing with is just a normal phase of growing up, that he or she and you can work through on your own, or you need to call in the pros?

Of course, some degree of emotional difficulties is normal. “Some moodiness, anxiety, and social and school difficulties are expected as kids grow up,” says psychologist Kristen Eastman, PsyD. “I call them bumps in the road.”

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These normal developmental challenges may require your child to change perspectives or learn new skills. In most cases, if you offer support, sensitivity and patience, your child can figure it out.

“When these things pop up, I encourage parents to try to listen first and validate their child’s experience,” Dr. Eastman says.

But how do you know when your child’s emotional problems are more than simple “bumps in the road?” How do you know if your kid needs therapy?

Here are eight warning signs to look for provided by The Cleveland Clinic.

According to Dr. Eastman and the Clinic, you have reason to be concerned about your child’s emotional well-being, and should seek professional help if your child:

  1. Has problems in multiple areas of life, such as family relationships, academic performance, leisure activities and friendships.
  2. Starts feeling bad about himself or herself, less confident or less effective.
  3. Shows excessive worry about the future.
  4. Expresses hopelessness.
  5. Withdraws from family, friends or activities he or she used to enjoy.
  6. Has a significant change in sleep habits or appetite.
  7. Has repetitive, self-destructive behaviors such as hair-pulling or skin-picking.
  8. Talks about or engages in any kind of self-harm.

Dr. Eastman also recommends that parents trust their gut. “You know your child best. If something just doesn’t feel right, trust that instinct. It’s better to go and get something checked out if you’re not sure.”

National estimates suggest that more than 4 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with anxiety, and nearly 2 million have been diagnosed with depression. With suicide being among the leading cause of death for teens, and suicide attempts being reported among kids as young as 5 years old, parents should not ignore these 8 critical warning signs of emotional problems in their children.

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