Behavioral Health and Your Child
Children exhibit all kinds of interesting behaviors. Many of these behaviors are normal boundary testing, showing independence, and other healthy milestones you want to see.
Children can also exhibit behaviors you don’t want to see, like aggressiveness, sadness, and fear. Your pediatrician is an expert on child development and can help you with your child’s behavioral health.
First let’s look at normal behaviors you want to see. These include:
- Defiance, because your child may be testing boundaries and exerting independence
- Withdrawing, because your child needs to show autonomy, and wants to accomplish things without your help
- Acting out, because your child may be reacting to major changes in life, like moving to a new school, divorce, or death of a close family member
Now, let’s look at behaviors that could be warning signs of a behavioral disorder. These include:
- Threatening or harming others, pets, or themselves
- Damaging possessions belonging to others
- Having difficulty forming or keeping relationships with others
- Showing frequent signs of unhappiness or depression
- Demonstrating anxiety about going to school
- Exhibiting defiance and hostility toward authority figures
- Frequently lying, arguing, stealing, or skipping school
- Using drugs, drinking, or smoking at an early age
If you notice any of the signs or symptoms listed above, it’s time for a behavioral health evaluation from your child’s pediatrician.
When you bring your child in for a visit with the pediatrician, a complete medical examination is necessary to make sure there are no underlying medical conditions which may be causing your child’s behavior or making it worse. Your pediatrician may also request additional testing including lab work and other studies.
Your pediatrician will develop a treatment plan designed to help with your child’s behavior. Treatment may include:
- Individual, group, and family counseling
- Lifestyle modification including diet and exercise
- Medication if necessary to modify behavior
- Additional specialty care with a child psychologist
Your child’s behavioral health is just as important as physical health. You want the best for your child, so call your pediatrician today.