Kids and teens can have lots of strong emotions, which may affect how they act, learn, think and feel. Sometimes these feelings can be tough for them — and you — to manage. But you can help your child cope by figuring out what’s going on, learning about common conditions, and finding the professional help your family needs to feel better.
If your child is in crisis and you're worried about suicide, call your local crisis center or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 right away. You don't have to handle this alone.Get Help Now
Nearly all kids feel angry, sad, fidgety, worried or nervous sometimes. That’s all part of being a kid. But something more may be going on if these feelings:
Learn more about common conditions and concerns that can affect kids' behavioral health.
Lots of kids struggle at times to sit still, pay attention, listen, follow directions, or wait their turn. But for those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the struggles are harder and happen more often. ADHD is a medical condition — kids with ADHD have differences in their brain activity that impact their development.
And kids of all ages, especially toddlers and preschoolers, can have challenging behaviors like tantrums. Preteens and teens can be pretty moody and defiant too, as they deal with hormones and growing up. Sometimes, though, it might be worth talking to a behavioral health provider if the challenging behaviors start happening regularly and/or create a lot of disruptions in daily routines.
All kids can feel worried, anxious or stressed sometimes. But anxiety disorders may happen when these worries prevent kids from participating in their daily lives, and cause changes in behavior, sleep, eating and/or mood.
Kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have differences in the way their brains develop and use information. They might have language delays, trouble communicating, social problems and/or unusual behaviors or interests.
It’s normal for kids to feel sad, irritated, or to be in bad moods from time to time. But it may be time to consider whether they’re showing symptoms of a mood disorder like depression when negative feelings and thoughts linger for several weeks, result in thoughts of harming themselves, and/or keep them from participating in daily activities.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among school-age youth. And children with behavioral health problems like depression are at a higher risk for suicide. But suicide can often be prevented. Knowing the risk factors and signs can be a lifesaver.
Eating disorders are related to challenges with the way people eat. These can harm their health, emotions and relationships.
Most people experience a posttraumatic stress response right after something scary or stressful happens. But it's also very common for people of all ages to keep experiencing posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) for up to four weeks after the scary or stressful event has ended.
PTSS may include:
Research has found that kids are very resilient (that is, they're often able to bounce back after stressful situations). With support from their families in working through the event, most kids return to their "normal" self in about four to six weeks.
Tourette syndrome (sometimes also called "Tourette's") is a neurodevelopmental disorder that causes tics (involuntary, sudden, repetitive movements and sounds). It’s not a psychological condition, but behavioral treatments can be very effective in managing the tics as well as the stress and challenges that can come along with Tourette.
The support of a trusted adult improves a child's ability to cope. Learn what to look for and how you can help.
If your child needs behavioral health support, you may wonder what to do, where to turn, and how to get help. The good news is there are many professionals in the community who can help you and your child. It may take time, persistence and patience to find the providers and care that best fit your family’s needs. You will always be your child’s biggest advocate. Here are some resources to help you get started.
Sometimes emotions and difficult experiences can feel too overwhelming for kids to handle. So you may end up in a crisis (emergency) situation in which they or others may be in danger.
Kids who are at risk of suicide, in particular, may show signs such as:
If your child’s showing any of these red flags:
Seeing your child struggle is difficult for any parent. Staying calm and providing support by being available and listening are important steps you can take right away to comfort your child.
Different kinds of behavioral health providers (like counselors, therapists and social workers) can provide therapy. They can help you and your child understand and cope with feelings, thoughts and behaviors. They may also help assess and diagnose behavioral health conditions.
You may also need to meet with a psychiatrist and/or a psychologist. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can provide therapy and prescribe medications, if needed. A psychologist, who can also provide therapy, has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology or another specialty like counseling or education. Psychologists are also trained in performing behavioral health evaluations. That may include talking to you and your child, and doing psychological testing and evaluations.
You may need to meet with providers more than once before they can figure out what’s going on and work with you and/or your child to come up with a care plan that might work best for your child.
It’s common for kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism and behavioral health challenges to have trouble in school. Working with your child’s teachers and staff to understand the problem and come up with a plan can help your child feel as successful as possible.
Whether your child is 2 or 17, so many factors can affect their emotions and behavior. And as a parent, it can be challenging to know how to manage it all as they grow. Find out how to help your child deal with common ups and downs, and difficult situations like death and divorce.
When your child has a behavioral health issue or emergency, you are your child’s strongest advocate — you know your child best. But it can be hard to figure out where to start looking for help. That’s why we created this guide for parents like you, as well as for health care professionals. Although this guide isn’t a complete list of all resources in the area*, it can serve as a quick reference if you’re looking for crisis and outpatient behavioral health therapy providers for kids and teens in Delaware and southeast Pennsylvania.
The agencies in this guide have providers trained in a collection of treatment and prevention methods, called “evidence-based practices.” That means the therapy they use is based on evidence gathered from scientific studies, evaluations and approaches shown, over time, to work best.
As you start your journey to get help for your family, know that you don’t have to go through this alone. We all need support during challenging times.
*This list provides community resources that may be available to you. The agencies are not affiliated with or endorsed by Nemours Children's.
If your child is experiencing a behavioral health emergency, please contact the following crisis services in your area or call 911.
Champions for Children's Mental Health
Parent Information Center of Delaware
Maryland Coalition of Families
Parent’s Place of Maryland/Family-to-Family Health Information Center
SPAN Parent Advocacy Network
Chester County Intermediate Unit
Parent Education & Advocacy Leadership Center
Parent to Parent of Pennsylvania
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