Does your child need professional help? Top experts weigh in on everyday questions – Heads Up!

Does your child need professional help? Top experts weigh in on everyday questions – Heads Up! – Brief Article

LOUIS Z. COOPER, M.D., F.A.A.P.

President, American Academy of Pediatrics

Ten to 12 percent of children and teens have problems that need attention from a mental health professional. There are a number of warning signs: Does your child cry excessively and have trouble recovering from upsetting experiences? Does he have sleep problems? Does he consistently say he doesn’t want to go to school? Is he frequently sad or angry? Has he withdrawn from his usual activities or friendships? Many of these signs are common childhood behaviors, but the important thing is to notice their degree or frequency. Every child has a bad day; but if every day is a bad day, your child may benefit from outside help.

MARILYN B. BENOIT, M.D.

President, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Most parents offer their children an interactive and dynamic home environment. Parents influence their children’s environment, while also being affected by it themselves. Parents generally can sense when changes in their children affect their surroundings in negative ways–that is, when these changes are abnormal. Some developmentally appropriate changes, such as the oppositionality of a toddler, are indeed problematic, but there is real cause for concern when changes exceed what is developmentally normal. Parents should seek the services of a mental health professional if they observe the following: drastic changes in mood, thinking (suicidal, delusional, paranoid, obsessive), behavior, or if their child is abnormally aggressive, shows poor impulse control or signs of emotional distress, or has attention problems or irregular sleep patterns.

TERRY MIZRAHI, M.S.W., PH.D.

President, National Association of Social Workers

In these times of media attention on troubled children, deciding when to seek professional help for your child is complex. Parents need to be alert to any major change in their child’s behavior, whether observed by them or by a close relative, friend or teacher. Your child might be reacting to a major family or community event–death, illness, divorce, natural disaster, school trauma and so on. Professional intervention might be needed when behavior changes are sustained or severe, or when there is no apparent external cause. Consultation with a mental health professional is also in order when parents feel they are losing control of their child, aren’t able to communicate with him or her or find themselves asking, “Why is my child acting like that?”

COPYRIGHT 2002 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group