Parents/primary caregivers are the most important advocate for their children in all areas of their development, including social-emotional. May is Mental Health Awareness month. Children as young as newborns can have social-emotional issues. Research shows, behavior problems that surface in early childhood are the single best predictor for several long-term outcomes, such as adolescent delinquency, gang involvement, incarceration, substance abuse, divorce, unemployment (Center for Evidence-Based Practice: Young Children with Challenging Behaviors, 2004). The good news is that there are many preventative and early intervention programs available to help head off mental health issues in young children or to help lessen the intensity of the problems a child may experience.
The following are some red flags that may indicate that a child could benefit from an assessment. It should be noted that one or two red flags alone does not necessarily mean a child is having a mental health issue, but it does mean further observation, discussion, and evaluation may be indicated.
- Developmental concerns.
- Not giving eye contact with primary caregiver(s).
- Over or under reactivity to pain.
- Does not allowing soothing from primary caregivers when hurt or upset. Does not engage in self-soothing behaviors.
- Has problems with affection, becomes rigid when picked up/cuddled/touched or turns head away when being feed. Does not initiate affection with those close to them.
- Overly friendly with strangers.
- Ongoing sleep and/or feeding issues.
- Acting out behaviors such as, fire setting, excessive lying, or stealing. Routinely tantrums or rages for more than 15 minutes for no apparent reason.
- Intentional cruelty to animals or younger/weaker children.
- Development of nervous or anxious behaviors that persist, including being easily startled or frightened. Or routinely crying for 15 or minutes after separated from primary caregiver.
- Play issues, such as withdraw or avoids playing with other children. Lack of explorative behaviors/play.
- Repetitive behaviors
If you are seeing any of these signs or symptoms in your children, regardless of how young they are please talk to your child’s health care provider or your local mental health center. You can also call 1-800-Children, where we can help direct you to other resources and support.
For additional ways to support your family and for other great parenting tips call the Family Support Line at 1-800-CHILDREN (800-244-5373) OR 1-866-Las-Familias (866-527-3264) for Spanish speakers. You can also e-mail stacy@FamiliesFirstColorado.org with questions or concerns. The Family Support Line offers parenting tips, resources and information only and does not serve as legal or mental health advice. We believe you are the paramount person to decide what is best for your family. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First.