Every child has unique behaviour, but when his or her actions affect social skills, life, or others around them, the parent must check if it is a mental health disorder.

In children, mental health issues are exhibited as disruptive behavior, highly impulsive behavior, mood disorders, defiant behaviour, etc. These challenging behaviors must be addressed at once before they drastically affect the child’s life permanently. To prevent this, parents must take the child at once to a qualified mental health provider for treatment.

Before you look for a child psychiatrist, here is a bit of advice for all those parents who have children with mental health concerns.

Identifying if a mental health disorder exists

Parents must know to differentiate behavioral disorders from normal behavior in a variety of situations. For instance, all children are fearful of the dark but if your child starts shivering, palpitating, or feeling breathless in the dark, you can be certain they have a phobia of darkness. 

Another example is this- all children feel sad at times. If you find your child is so dejected that he attempts to harm himself, then you can be sure that he suffers from depression. 

Similarly, parents must look for a pattern of behavior problems at school. Watch out for common problem behavior that your child demonstrates at school. Some children may seem to lack communication skills. Parents should check for autism spectrum disorders in such children. Similarly, poor grades in school may be due to ADHD. Other undesired behavior at school may be a defiant disorder or disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.

The thumb rule to recognize abnormal child behavior or mental illnesses is to observe their duration and frequency. If the negative behavior patterns exist for a long time or are recurrent, you must consult a child psychiatrist at once. Also, look out for pain with behavior issues and seek professional psychiatric help for the kids in time.

Seeking the right mental health care provider

While dealing with children, always try to look for mental health providers close to your home. It should be a child psychiatrist preferably. A child psychologist can only do counseling like a therapist who can even be a social worker. A psychiatrist is a qualified doctor who can prescribe psychiatric medication. When you meet the psychiatrist, be sure to check on his credentials and experience with children. if you cannot find a psychiatrist nearby, take the child to the nearby hospital where you can find one.

Exploring the treatment options

Based on the diagnostic criteria, the psychiatrist may do a functional behavior assessment and suggest various types of therapy. While the child undertakes behavior therapy, sometimes parents might be asked to attend a positive parenting program to correct themselves. Such kind of parent training is a must to help the child overcome his mental developmental disorders and achieve school behaviour goals. 

You can see any number of therapists but always choose one whose treatment plan suit’s the mental health issues of your child.

Giving the right medication

The golden rule for any parent is ‘Never give any medication without consultation’. A psychiatrist will prescribe medicines only based on the child’s current condition and medical history. Parents must give only the recommended dosage at the right times to the child.

Also, avoid giving a medication long-term and ask the psychiatrist how many months of treatment is needed, beforehand.

Watch out for overmedication

Another thing to watch out for is if your child has been prescribed any stimulant medication. Usually, children with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) are asked to take stimulant medication like Ritalin. This is usually the medicine for such disruptive behaviour but if this medicine has delayed consequences that interfere with his typical routines of life, it must stop.

Looking for signs of bipolar disorder in children

Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are very rare in children. Still, one must watch out for hallucinations, hearing voices, etc. which are signs of schizophrenia, and treat them at once.

School-specific behaviour management strategies and skills parents must develop

Children experience difficult emotions during exam time or when sent to the time-out chair or even if their extra screen time is cut. Parents should avoid stressing children about the progress report as it affects their behavioural health. . They should discuss with fellow parents and devise a formula for time outs and homework time. They must watch out for abnormal symptoms and give periodic reports to the psychiatrist from time to time. Training for parents is a must to inculcate emotional self-regulation skills and pro-social behaviour in their children.

Living with a child who has mental and behavioural concerns

Coping with a child with mental disorders is a challenge in real-life situations. Difficult transitions have to be made by the family members to accommodate the child. Most often, the family faces an emotional situation or anxiety-inducing situation that it cannot control. In such circumstances, the best thing to do would be to see a psychiatrist and opt for family behavioural therapy. The family should adopt consistent routines and offer helpful resources to treat the child’s target behaviour.

Parents should not act as authority figures but offer collaborative care by acting as role models and primary care providers for their children. Only an experienced child psychiatrist can devise emotion regulation strategies and a behaviour intervention plan to treat their child.