By: Rebekah Winschitl, M.A., LPCC
YSB Youth & Family Therapist
“It’s just this time of year, they will perk up”, “Once finals are over they will be back to their old self”, “She is just moody because she is a teenager”, “He won’t do his homework or chores because he is lazy”, “She says she is sick so she can get out of doing things or going to school”, “All teens sleep this much, it is because they are growing”.
These are phrases often said by parents when their kids are acting different than usual. It is easy, and very common, to associate any change in mood or behavior on the child’s age, level of motivation, or attitude and there is evidence to support that this is the case.
Adolescents often do sleep more and have mood swings due to growth and changing hormones. School is often stressful which may alter a child’s mood. Children also begin to show defiance as they grow older as a way to explore and test the world. Although many of these things are considered to be “normal”, too much of them may be more harmful than we think.
It is important to notice how these typically normal changes are effecting your child’s daily life.
- Are they sleeping so much that they are missing meals and not spending time with friends?
- Are they sick often enough to miss multiple days of school a month?
- Is there mood or behavior erratic to the point where they are getting into trouble, showing poor performance at school, or seem to never be happy?
If so, then there may be something a little more than the typical developmental changes going on with your child.
Kids often know that something does not feel right but are not able to explain or describe what is wrong. It is very common for conditions such as anxiety and depression to show themselves in unusual ways such as:
- physical pains
- low motivation
- problems sleeping
- troubles concentrating
- nail biting/picking
- can’t sit still
- getting upset or emotional when things aren’t “just right”, plans change, or something unexpected comes up.
If you notice some of these signs or traits in your child, then it is important to talk to them about their thoughts and emotions about different aspects of their lives. This will help you identify if your child is experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety and if you think talking to someone experienced in these conditions would help your child.
This will also help create a connection between you and your child where they know they can safely talk to you about these thoughts/emotions/symptoms without fear of judgment or reprimand.
Identifying and exploring these signs with your child is key to helping them be mentally healthy. When a child is mentally healthy, they are often more productive, more motivated, emotionally regulated, can adapt to change more effectively, do better in school, and are able to create and maintain healthy relationships with family and friends.
As a parent, you want the best for your child and you want them to be happy and healthy. In order for this to happen, your child needs to be both physically and mentally healthy. Addressing concerns like these when your child is younger is key to helping prevent these conditions from worsening and becoming a mental health disorder.
You may be hesitant to have these discussions with your child because you are not sure not only how to start, but what to say and how to be the most supportive. Below are several links to help you talk to your child about these signs and conditions.
You as a parent may also be experiencing some of these symptoms. Whether they are from situational stress or more chronic, it is helpful for you to focus on being mentally healthy yourself too. When a parent is mentally healthy, they are more able to be available for their children physically, mentally, and emotionally and whether we like it or not, kids copy the adults in their lives. If your child sees you focus on being mentally healthy, they will most likely also try to be mentally healthy themselves.
Below are also some links to give you ideas on things that both you and your child can do to help keep you both mentally healthy.
YSB’s programs and staff are also here to support you; in the form of traditional counseling, or even a “General Assessment” to discuss your child’s needs/your concerns to determine the right course of action. Contact one of our offices for local, ongoing support.