Significant life events — such as the death of a family member, friend, or pet; Child Relaxingdivorce or a move; abuse; trauma; a parent leaving on military deployment; or a major illness in the family — can cause stress that might lead to problems with behavior, mood, sleep, appetite, and academic or social functioning.

In some cases, it’s not as clear what’s caused a child to suddenly seem withdrawn, worried, stressed, sulky, or tearful. But if you feel your child might have an emotional or behavioral problem or needs help coping with a difficult life event, trust your instincts.

Signs that a child may benefit from seeing a licensed therapist include:

  • developmental delay in speech, language, or toilet training
  • learning or attention problems (such as ADHD)
  • behavioral problems (such as excessive anger, acting out, bedwetting or eating disorders)
  • a significant drop in grades, particularly if your child normally maintains high grades
  • episodes of sadness, tearfulness, or depression
  • social withdrawal or isolation
  • being the victim of bullying or bullying other children
  • decreased interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • overly aggressive behavior (such as biting, kicking, or hitting)
  • sudden changes in appetite (particularly in adolescents)
  • insomnia or increased sleepiness
  • excessive school absenteeism or tardiness
  • mood swings (e.g., happy one minute, upset the next)
  • development of or an increase in physical complaints (such as headache, stomachache, or not feeling well) despite a normal physical exam by your doctor
  • management of a serious, acute, or chronic illness
  • signs of alcohol, drug, or other substance use (such as solvents or prescription drug abuse)
  • problems in transitions (following separation, divorce, or relocation)
  • bereavement issues
  • custody evaluations
  • therapy following sexual, physical, or emotional abuse or other traumatic events