Signs Your Child Needs Therapy & How to Help

Being a parent can be tough. You might be worried about whether or not you’re making the right decisions for your kids, and while...
a child holding a ball

Being a parent can be tough. You might be worried about whether or not you’re making the right decisions for your kids, and while no parent is perfect, be sure not to miss these warning signs. If any of these behaviors seem familiar, it might be time to consider taking your child to a qualified therapist. Here’s what you need to look out for and what you can do to help if you notice your child is struggling.

What You Don’t Need to Worry About

While you do need to look for a few important warning signs, you should also recognize what you don’t need to worry about. You can reassure yourself that there are some behaviors in kids that are perfectly appropriate that you won’t agree with. If your kid has a tough day at school and wants to skip dinner to relax in his room alone, that’s not an immediate cause for concern. If your daughter doesn’t want to tell you everything she’s doing, that’s okay. Your child is entitled to some privacy, and he or she is still going through a lot of personal changes. Adolescence is a tough time, so not everything requires a counselor. But if you can recognize when things start to get drastically different, that will help you recognize what is typical of your child and what is not.


What You Do Need to Worry About

That being said, there are some clear warning signs that you should look for. Your child’s behavior might be a sign that he or she needs to see an adolescent or child therapist. If your son or daughter is always feeling sad, angry, worried, afraid, or anxious, that could be an indication of poor mental health. You might notice your teenager has stopped sleeping and is always tired. Your son or daughter might start expressing concerns about his or her weight and refuse to eat dinner. Maybe she stops going to play rehearsal or he stops hanging out with his usual friends.

You might notice an increase in risky behaviors, such as the use of tobacco or an e-cigarette product. Young adults are becoming more and more addicted to nicotine and vaping, so the use of e-cigarettes means it could be time to call in a healthcare provider before your child risks a vaping injury. If you catch your teenager drinking alcohol or doing drugs, you’ll want to take action. Maybe you don’t see your teen doing this, but you notice him or her hanging out with other young people who engage in these activities. You still might want to call in a professional if you’re worried about the influence of other high school students on your son or daughter.


What You Can Do to Help

If you notice any concerning behaviors in your teenager, don’t panic. You can get him or her help from a child therapist or psychologist. A professional can work with your son or daughter on whatever is going on: mental health needs, addiction, parental divorce, trauma, or a death in the family. You and your child could even attend family therapy to discuss what’s going on in your family dynamic. Start by asking your child’s doctor or school for a referral to a local therapist. You can also do your own research on adolescent psychologists in your area. Look for someone who has experience working with teenagers, then talk with your teenager about what type of therapy he or she would be open to. If your son is nervous about talking one-on-one with a mental health professional, consider family therapy. If your daughter is ready to tackle cognitive behavior therapy, help her find the right therapist. Sometimes art therapy is a great option. Compare all the different options and come up with the best type of therapy for him or her.


It’s important that you let your child know that therapy is normal and that you’re there for him or her. Don’t get angry with your teenager. Instead, show him that you’re on his side and want to help. Mental illness can be scary even for adults, so speak kindly to your child and you’ll be able to help her get through this.

Lois Pratt is responsible for assisting in editing and running the site’s web publication, in addition to covering special events. She is a UCLA graduate and resides in Tulsa.