The thing we hear most often from parents is, “I wish I would have known about you sooner.” It can be extraordinarily difficult for parents to reach out for help or to know what resources are available to them. It can also be difficult to distinguish between the signs of normal teenage moodiness and serious causes for concern.
In this article, we will give you a few tips about when it’s time to ask for help. This is only a small sampling and we encourage parents to reach out when they suspect something is wrong. As you read this article, if you find yourself thinking about your child and wondering if reaching out is the right thing to do, then it’s probably a good idea to do so. No one knows or loves your child more than you do, and if you suspect something is wrong, it never hurts to ask for help.
When something has happened
It can often be helpful for parents to reach out for help and additional support when something difficult or traumatic has happened in their child’s life. Examples include the recent loss of a loved one, divorce, bullying, or anything else that is emotionally difficult to handle.
Sometimes, parents don't ask for help with these sorts of painful experiences and kids are often left not knowing how to handle their emotions. The skills involved in coping with traumatic events often require a mental health professional to navigate. When something has happened that is disruptive in your child's life, asking for help from a professional will give your child the skills he or she needs to cope and it will teach you, the parent, skills to maintain healthy communication and improved resilience.
Getting help for your kids in the midst of an emotional challenge is oftentimes the best thing parents can do as a means of preventing future challenges as a result of a traumatic event. It offers parents and their kids the chance to process their emotions in healthy ways and gives the family a neutral third party who can help them navigate the rocky waters of trauma.
Sudden, unexpected changes in your child's behavior
Sudden changes in behavior seems like the tagline for many, many pharmaceutical commercials. So much so that we almost become deaf to it.
When we talk about sudden changes in behavior, we’re really talking about changes outside of the things one would expect. For example, as children approach puberty they often become more moody, emotional, and less interested in the things they enjoyed as small children. This is a very normal part of growing up.
When professionals describe a sudden change in behavior, they’re looking at changes in behavior that are outside of normal transitions. For example, this might be when a usually extroverted child loses interest in spending time with friends or when an athletic child no longer wants to participate in sports or events he or she enjoyed. Another kind of telling change in behavior is when a child suddenly reverts to things like bed wetting, thumb sucking, or telling outlandish lies. These are all signs that indicate something more serious is going on below the surface, which a young person may or may not know how to cope with or process. If you see these kinds of changes in your child, it is a good time to reach out and get additional support.
When a child's behavior outpaces your parenting
If your child's behavior is becoming increasingly difficult or disruptive at home or at school and you have tried different tactics to improve communication or change their behavior, but you're simply not able to make any headway, it's time to reach out for help.
Often times people don't think about reaching out to a mental health specialist for parenting challenges. However, mental health professionals have unique and specialized training for helping parents understand where their children are in terms of mental and behavioral development. Mental health professionals also have a unique understanding of how experiences and support systems in childhood have long-term effects on a person's mental and physical well-being. Just like you wouldn’t feel guilty for asking a mechanic for help with your car, no parent should feel shame about asking a professional for help with their children.
The bravest thing any parent can do is recognize that their child has needs beyond what the parent is able to give at that time. Reaching out for help is not an indictment of one's parenting skills, nor is it reflective of how much a parent loves their child.
If you or your child needs help or if you are interested in services to help your family better connect and improve your skills, click here to learn more about how Idaho Youth Ranch can help.