Every parent has moments when they wonder about their child’s mood—is she too anxious? Is he too angry? Is that irritable attitude ever going to go away? How is a parent to know when a problem is a problem? Several key features are useful to keep in mind if you aren’t sure if your child is just “going through a stage” or perhaps has a larger issue that would benefit from professional attention:
- Does your child’s mood remain “off” (too anxious, sad, irritable) for several weeks at a time? Everyone has good days and bad days. If problems remain persistent for days and weeks on end, they may need to be evaluated.
- Is your child responding to a stressor or are you noticing problems “out of the blue”? Death of a beloved pet, being cut from a sports team, or a close friend moving away are all examples of potential triggers for children that can be very upsetting to them, even if these events don’t seem as devastating to adults. If problems don’t resolve by several weeks after the stressor occurs or if they appear for no apparent reason, seeking professional help may be indicated.
- Does this moodiness lead to problems getting along with peers? Conflict in the home? Struggles at school? Or is your child “silently suffering”? Significant interference with daily activities or high levels of distress are signs that a mental health check-up may be beneficial.
- Do you see other signs of something being “off”? Examples include
- Not being interested in fun activities
- Trouble sleeping
- Eating too much or too little
- Excessive tiredness
- Decreased school grades or inability to concentrate
- Low energy or “nervous” energy
- Many physical complaints (e.g., headaches, stomach aches)
- Has your child received a thorough exam from his or her primary care physician to ensure that symptoms aren’t due to a physical cause (e.g., low iron in teenage girls resulting in low energy, eye strain causing headaches, gluten intolerance leading to gastro-intestinal upset).
Several “simple” ways to see if your child’s mood can improve include:
- Making sure your child is getting enough sleep—tiredness leads to crankiness in most of us!
- Ensuring your child gets physical exercise, preferably out of doors with exposure to sunshine (Vitamin D and nature are both mood enhancers)
- Providing a balanced, nutritious diet (following a “Mediterranean diet” that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy oils while avoiding processed foods high in sugar and fat has been demonstrated to contribute to better mood)
- Checking in with other parents of children your child’s age can keep you up-to-date regarding pressures your child might be experiencing at school or on teams/in activities/etc., and give you a chance to work on ways to modify those pressures.
If you’ve covered all your bases listed above and still remain concerned, seeking evaluation from an evidence-based mental health professional is warranted. Treatment for anxiety or depression can help your child develop coping strategies and enhance resilience, both of which can reap a lifetime of benefit.
Proper citation link for this blog post:
Fristad, M.A. (2017, July 20). When to Be Concerned About Your Child’s Mood. Retrieved from http://infoaboutkids.org/blog/when-to-be-concerned-about-your-childs-mood/