Childhood is a time of change. Therefore it is important to evaluate your child’s mental health taking into consideration the emotions and behavior that are appropriate for your child’s age. It is also important to understand what is going on in your child’s environment. Family issues, problems at school and conflicts with peers can all affect your child’s mental health.
The range of what is considered ‘normal’ is wide. Parents compare their child to other children of the same age. All children are unique and reach developmental milestones at different times. That’s why it’s unwise to compare your child to another child.
By the same token, it’s important to listen to your instincts. Many parents who are raising a child with mental health issues report that their child showed problems early on, even when their doctors reassured them. If you are uneasy about how your child is developing or behaving, talk to your pediatrician. You know your child better than anyone. Your doctor only sees your child for a few minutes during a doctor’s visit. You live with your child 24 hours a day.
In order to understand if your child has a mental health problem that would benefit from treatment, you need to have an understanding of what is considered ‘normal’ for children at various developmental stages. You also need to be aware that as your child grows and develops, her behavior, attitude, learning and relationships change.
The following is only a general guide to the developmental stages of children. Your pediatrician is the best source of information. And don’t forget to trust your instincts.