Friday, September 16, 2011

What, why and when?

Parents worry...  This is normal and expected, and I would also argue, it is a healthy part of parenting.  When the worry continues over a specific aspect of our child's development and/or behavior, we often find ourselves wondering: "why is this happening?", "do I need help" and "what kind of help do I need?".  We must start first by taking a deep breath.  Remember, your anxiety very often transfers to the child, which will escalate his/her issue.  Psychological and psychiatric services are available to you anytime, even if you just want a second opinion.  But for those who are hesitant about seeking help, you can then ask your self the following questions:

  • How long have I noticed this change?

If the change continues for over a week, without you understanding the reason behind it, you may seek professional help.  If it continues for a month or more, you should seek professional help (exception is teenagers, where mood swings and fads are a normal part of their development.  Seek help for a teenager when the behavior becomes harmful or extreme).

  • Can I think of any reason for the change? (beginning of school year, exams time, you were traveling, your child was sick, new vitamins/diet, etc)

Think of medical, emotional and social changes that may have happened recently.  If the behavior has continued and you find no explanation for the changes, go ahead and seek a professional.

  • Is my child's behavior/change escalating?

By that I mean is it getting worst, or more pronounced. If so, it is best to see a professional.

  • Did my spouse or other family member also notice the change?

Sometimes when we are watching our child so closely, little changes can seem quiet large and alarming.  Having a second opinion may help ease your anxiety or support your observations.

  • Has my child had a medical check-up recently?

I usually urge parents to do a blood test with most psychological/psychiatric conditions to exclude any medical reasons for the change.

Realistic or exaggerated worrying?

Now, if after answering the questions you have decided to seek professional help, do your own research.  Start first by checking some websites about the behavior changes (if it is not an emergency).  If it seems unprofessional and/or more confusing, then wait until you see a professional.

Research available centers and professionals.  Make sure that they are qualified and licensed.  It is within your right to ask the therapist about their credentials (I personally never get insulted, I actually encourage it).  If you cannot find any good resources online, ask your child's pediatrician, or ask around in your social circle.  Some professionals and centers offer free consultations, which is a great first step if you are unsure about the issue or the type of intervention.  

If it is an emergency: Go directly to the ER, or alternatively you may visit the ER at the psychiatric hospital (if it seems more of a psychiatric issue).  Some psychologists/psychiatrists do make house/hospital visits.  Again, check your local sources.

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