Does My Child Have an Emotional or Behavioral Disorder? Does My Child Normal mental development of the child a Mental Health, Emotional or Behavioral Disorder?
What to look for Among all the dilemmas facing a parent of a child with emotional or behavioral problems, the first question — whether the child’s behavior is sufficiently different to require a comprehensive evaluation by professionals — may be the most troublesome of all. Even when a child exhibits negative behaviors, members of a family may not all agree on whether the behaviors are serious. For instance, children who have frequent temper outbursts or who destroy toys may appear to have a serious problem to some parents, while others see the same behavior as asserting independence or showing leadership skills. Every child faces emotional difficulties from time to time, as do adults. Feelings of sadness, loss, or emotional extremes are part of growing up.
These are normal changes in behavior due to growth and development. At times, however, some children may develop inappropriate emotional and behavioral responses to situations in their lives that persist over time. The realization that a child’s behavior requires professional attention can be painful or frightening to parents who have tried to support their child, or it may be accepted and internalized as a personal failure by the parent. Sometimes parents fear that their child may be inappropriately labeled. They have concerns that the array of medicines and therapies suggested are not always agreed upon by all professionals.
While many parents will concede that they may need to learn new behavior management or communication techniques in order to provide a consistent and rewarding environment for their child, many also express deep anger about the blame that continues to be placed on families with children who behave differently. Where to start Before seeking a formal mental health evaluation, parents may have tried to help their child by talking to friends, relatives, or the child’s school. They may try to discover whether others see the same problems and to learn what others suggest. Parents may feel that they also need help in learning better ways of supporting the child through difficult times and may seek classes to help them sharpen behavior management or conflict resolution skills. If the problems a child is experiencing are seen as fairly severe and are unresponsive to interventions at school, in the community, or at home, a diagnostic evaluation by a competent mental health professional is probably in order. Evaluations provide information that, when combined with what parents know, may lead to a diagnosis of a mental health, emotional, or a behavioral disorder. So what is that magical moment when parents should recognize their child’s behavior has surpassed the boundary of what all children do and has become sufficiently alarming to warrant a formal evaluation?
It is often a gradual awareness that a child’s emotional or behavioral development just isn’t where it should be that sends most parents on a quest for answers. How much distress is your child’s problem causing you, the child, or other members of the family? If a child’s aggressive or argumentative behaviors, or sad or withdrawn behaviors are seen as a problem for a child, the school, or members of his or her family, then the child’s behaviors are a problem that should be looked at, regardless of their severity. While there is no substitute for parental knowledge, certain guidelines are available to help families make the decision to seek an evaluation. Does it just go on and on with no sign that the child is going to outgrow it and progress to a new stage? While temper tantrums are normal in almost all children, some tantrums could be so extreme that they are frightening to parents and suggest that some specific intervention might be necessary.