Parenting Topics

When Do I Need Help?


Children and adolescents often struggle to communicate their needs in ways that parents can understand.  However, parents are often the first and best experts on recognizing that their child is experiencing difficulties, whether emotionally or behaviorally.  Many parents can often identify the “cues” their children present but struggle with how to approach or manage these cues.   Talking with your child is always an important first step, as it opens the door for communication and shows your child that “feeling talk” is safe and important to you.  Gathering information from your child’s Teachers and other supportive adults can also give you more insight as to how your child is doing in all areas of his or her life.  Sometimes, simply talking with your child about their feelings helps to reduce their distress.  In other cases, your child or teen’s distress may be significant enough that additional help or evaluation may be necessary. 

Below are a few signals that your child or teen may benefit from a professional evaluation or treatment:

Younger Children:

– Noticeable change or decline in school performance

– Behavioral difficulties, including frequent or intense tantrums, aggression, persistent opposition/defiance

– Hyperactivity, impulsivity and distractibility that impact their ability to maintain appropriate academic or social expectations

– Significant fears or worries that may include school refusal, resistance to socialize or engage in age-appropriate activities

– Excessive or odd behaviors that are not common to their age group

– Frequent complaints of headaches, stomachaches or “feeling sick”

– Persistent sadness that includes frequent crying spells, sleep problems, self-injurious behaviors or comments

Pre-Adolescents and Adolescents:

 Marked change in school performance  

– High-risk or dangerous behaviors, including sexual acting out, aggression, running away, stealing

– Persistent changes in mood, including severe irritability or sadness

– Noticeable changes in sleep or appetite patterns

– Social withdrawal or isolation

– Threats to harm oneself or others or self-injurious behaviors

– Fears or worries that impact daily functioning

– Behaviors or beliefs that appear unusual, strange or “out of character,” including reports of hearing or seeing things

– Abuse of alcohol or drugs

– Frequent or intense emotional outbursts; inability to manage stressors

– Consistent defiance of rules or expectations; opposition to authority or disregard of others’ feelings


If your child or teen is exhibiting the above difficulties to the point you or others are concerned, it could be helpful to seek consultation.

Ariel Shea, LCSW

The Looking Glass, LLC

Denver, Colorado