How to Know if Your Child Needs Mental Health Services

by Melissa Bradley, Clinical Director of Mental Health Services at the Florida Center for Early Childhood

Crying, tantrums, aggression, fearfulness…If you are a parent, chances are you’ve experienced these with your children, probably more than once. I know I surely have!  But what if your 5-year-old cries for long durations at a time, without the ability to soothe? What if your 7-year-old’s fears get so big, they refuse to socialize or interact with others? What if your 10-year-old’s aggression threatens to seriously harm someone else, or maybe even themselves? These are just a few examples of kids who would benefit from mental health services.

What is mental health for kids? Children need to reach developmental and emotional milestones to learn healthy social skills and cope with problems. This mental health development can begin as early as birth!

I love when people ask, “How in the world do you treat a baby?”

And my response, “There’s no such thing as a baby” (this is usually the point where they look at me like I have 5 heads).

Then I follow up with, “There is only a baby and someone” (quoted from the wise Donald Winnecott).

You see, from the moment babies are born they are completely dependent on the person caring for them. If that person is unable to respond to the baby’s needs, the baby’s mental health may be at risk. So no, we aren’t talking about laying babies on our Freudian couches and analyzing their dreams. We are talking about treating the relationship between that baby and their primary caregiver.

So, what’s the long and short of this mental health stuff for kids? No matter what the age, if your child struggles forming close relationships or has emotions/behaviors that interfere with their ability to learn, you may want to seek a mental health evaluation for your child.

P.S. There is never any shame in asking for help. In fact, in my book, the best parents are those who are committed to doing whatever it takes to help their kids!