Is this typical, or is this something more?

All children and teenagers go through rough patches: times when they may have deep feelings, difficulty with paying attention, or with getting along with others.  Children and teenagers are, by definition, still learning and growing, and sometimes challenges can be part of typical development.  For example, all toddlers will sometimes tantrum when frustrated or overwhelmed.  However, the early years are also when many mental or behavioral disorders begin, and some challenges may seriously impact your child's ability to learn, grow, and enjoy life.  These disorders may need professional support in order to get better.

You may be wondering how to know if a problem is "just a phase" or something more concerning, and if it may be time to seek the help of a qualified professional. 
  • Consider intensity (how severe is it when it happens?)  frequency (how often is it happening?) and duration (how long does it last?) If it is lasting more than a few weeks and/or is really intense and problematic, consider seeking outside support.  
  • Consider functioning:  is this getting in the way of your child's ability to successfully participate and grow at home, school, or with friends?  
  • Most critically, consider safety.  If you have any concern that your child may be at risk of hurting themselves or others, please reach out for help right away.  If you believe your child may be in imminent danger, don't wait:  seek support immediately.  You may call the suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255,  call 911, or go to your local emergency room.  


I am concerned about my child's mental health.  What's my next step?  

If you answered "yes" to one or more of the above questions, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with your child's pediatrician.   Prior to the appointment, it can be helpful to take notes on what is happening and your concerns.  Your pediatrician will ask you questions prior to and during the appointment to further assess what is happening.  Together, you, your child, and your child's doctor will determine a plan of action based on evidence-based guidelines. 

This may include any or all of the following: 
  • referral to start therapy or to speak with a mental health professional (such as a psychologist or licensed clinical social worker /LCSW) either in house (see our team), in a community organization, or with a private provider.
  • discuss medication options, if applicable
  • Discuss other strategies or resources that may help your child at home or school. 
It can be scary to feel worried about your child's wellbeing. Fortunately, these conditions are treatable. Please reach out to our office with any questions or concerns.  We are here for you and your family.

Other helpful links: 

List of warning signs for younger and older children, questions to ask a potential therapist, and treatment options. 
More information on common types of mental health diagnoses in children or teens:
Symptom Checker, resource finder, and library of articles on guidance for specific concerns: