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Warning signs: How do you know if your child is struggling?

Ken Gordon and Céilí Doyle, The Columbus Dispatch on

Published in Mom's Advice

Is your child OK?

It's a question parents, guardians and loved ones who care for their kids ask themselves every day. But sometimes it's hard to tell when children are in emotional distress.

COVID-19 has taken a traumatic toll on the world, and life during the pandemic has been complicated, stressful and full of complications during the the past year and a half.

Throughout the pandemic, more young people have reported being anxious, depressed and lonely, but one small COVID-19 silver lining is the added emphasis and attention toward proactively treating mental health issues.

Signs to watch for in kids

How do you know when a child is struggling emotionally to the point that professional help is needed?

Mental health experts encourage everyone to be mindful if a child starts showing any of these warning signs:

– Sleep: Sleeping a lot more or less than usual. Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

– Eating/weight: Eating substantially more or less than usual. Significant weight loss or gain in a short period of time.


– Concentration: A change in ability to focus on a task or complete a task.

– Moodiness: Not just having a bad day or few days. A week or more of persistent low mood, sadness, anxiety, or irritability.

– Cleanliness: A noticeable difference in personal hygiene.

– Fashion: Atypical clothing for the season. For example, always wearing long-sleeve clothes even during hot weather days (outside of medical conditions or religious/spiritual reasons). This may signal concerns for self-harming behaviors such as cutting.

– Socializing: Less interest in spending time with friends or socializing. Withdrawing from social events and family more than usual.

– Interests: Not wanting to participate in activities that usually bring joy. Not wanting to play sports, do art projects or other favorite activities.

– Academic: Sudden decline in academic performance with no known reason.

– Social media: Talk of hopelessness, death, or self-harm and/or sharing many negative/hopeless posts on social media. These should be discussed in more detail and mentioned to parents, school staff members, or a pediatrician right away.




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