By Rachel Riley Fancher, PsyD (bio below)
Many parents wonder at one time or another if their child needs therapy. However, most parents are unsure about what is typical child or teen behavior and what is a sign of something more. Childhood and adolescents can be tough, with issues such as school stress, social media, bullying, and body image concerns; it’s no wonder that the World Health Organization reports that 10-20% of children under 18 experience a mental health disorder. Most kids will go through a difficult period, but how do you know when to make the call to a therapist? Here are some signs to look out for:
• Suddenly not wanting to go to school or see friends
• Frequent stomachaches or headaches (not known to be part of a medical condition)
• Irritable, crying more, quick to melt down at unusual times
• Difficulty making choices or changing routine
• Acting out in school
• Regression in certain areas (such as toilet training)
Depression and anxiety are often shown through changes in behavior and described as physical ailments by children, “My stomach hurts”, “I have a headache”. Kids won’t always say they feel sad or worried, but they will show us in other ways.
• Withdrawal and isolation, spending more time in their room and not going out with friends
• Angry or irritable
• Not doing the things they typically love to do (such as dropping a sport)
• Change in sleep or eating (more or less)
• Spending significantly more time on phone/devices
• Doing poorly in school or missing significant amounts of school all of a sudden
Irritability is the sleeper symptom of depression in teens. If your teen is angry all the time, it could be a sign they are experiencing something more. Teenagers experience significant stress with school and peers, and with social media and technology, they can’t retreat from it when they are home. This can become overwhelming and lead to serious distress.
All behavior has meaning. What a child or teen may be showing us is just as important as what they are telling us. Letting your child know you are available, being invested in their academic and social life, and keeping an eye out for unusual changes in their behavior are all key components to supporting your child’s mental health.
If you would like more information or are concerned about a child or teenager in your life, please reach out.
About Dr. Rachel Riley Fancher:
Dr. Rachel Riley Fancher is the founder and director of Fancher Psychology & Assessment, LLC a private practice located near Old Orchard Mall in Skokie, Illinois. Dr. Fancher founded the practice in 2012 with the goal to provide comprehensive mental health care and wellness to families on the North Shore. Dr. Fancher and her colleagues strive to provide the most effective psychological treatment available to children, teens, emerging adults and adults. Dr. Fancher grew up in Houston, Texas (and still sometimes struggles with the long Chicago winters!). She earned Bachelors degrees in Psychology and French Studies from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee and Doctorate and Masters degrees in Clinical Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She is the mom of two young boys ages 5 and 1 and lives on the Northside of Chicago. She loves to travel, cook, and play outside with her kids when she’s not in the office.
*This super helpful post is generously sponsored by Fancher Psychology and Assessment, LLC. Thank you.