November 12, 2023 // by Paulina Minucci, MHC-LP

As parents, we all want our children to be happy and healthy, both physically and mentally. While it can be difficult to recognize when your child needs mental health support, there are key signs to watch out for. 

BCHP Behavioral Health Consultant, Paulina Minucci, MHC-LP, shares her expertise and insights to help you navigate your child’s mental health.

1. At what age should I begin keeping an eye on my child’s mental health?

It's never too early to start paying attention. 

However, Paulina encourages parents to start paying closer attention to their child's mental health around the time they start school, and create a supportive, open environment where emotions can be freely discussed.

2. What are common symptoms to look out for?

Some common symptoms of mental health issues in children include prolonged feelings of sadness, anxiety, irritability, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, difficulty concentrating, and withdrawal from friends and family. 

Paulina adds, "Children do not always have the emotional vocabulary to express their feelings. So, they find other ways to let these emotions out through aggressive or avoidant behaviors, as examples. If you notice behavior that is out of character for you child, be sure to speak with your pediatrician to explore them further.”

3. What are symptoms that are often overlooked or dismissed?

Some symptoms that may be overlooked or dismissed include physical complaints like headaches or stomachaches, sudden changes in academic performance, and avoidance of certain situations or activities usually enjoyed.

4. What life changes could require a child to see a behavioral health consultant?

Meeting with a behavioral health consultant often helps ease transitions such as starting a new school, moving, or a death in the family. But a child does not need to be going through a significant life change to warrant mental health support. 

Paulina recommends reaching out to your pediatrician to address concerns if you feel your child could benefit from talking to someone.

5. What do I do if my child doesn’t want extra help or to admit they need help?

It's normal for children to feel hesitant about seeking help, especially if they are embarrassed or ashamed.

Talk to your child about the role of a behavioral health consultant and let them know that it's okay to ask for help. "If your child is resistant to talking, I would encourage parents to honor these wishes. Forcing a child or adolescent to discuss things they may not be ready to talk about can leave them feeling frustrated and create distance. Periodically bringing up the option to meet with a behavioral consultant can give kids a chance to make their own decisions and be an advocate for their own feelings," says Paulina.

As a parent or caregiver, it's essential to prioritize your child's mental health and seek help when necessary. With the right support and intervention, children can learn valuable coping skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.