Category Archives: Warning Signs

Feeling Socially Isolated?

Want to know how other parents are surviving?

Overwhelmed parent

Join  PCLG’s Parent Support Group ONLINE.

Meeting: Thursday, April 2nd at 7:00pm

This support group offers a safe place where you can share the ups and downs of parenting a child with mental health challenges – Connection and support is especially important in these challenging times!

Here’s how to participate:

  • Topic: Parent Catalyst Leadership Group
  • Time: Apr 2, 2020 07:00-8:00 PM Central Time
  • Join Zoom Meeting
  • https://zoom.us/j/198376991 (Cut and paste the link into your web browser, you do NOT need the app to join the meeting but you do need to approve the “launching” of the meeting.)
  • Meeting ID: 198 376 991
  • One tap mobile for cell phone or tablet use:
  • +13126266799,,198376991# US (Chicago)
  • If you computer doesn’t have audio, call the number below:
  •         +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
  • Meeting ID: 198 376 991

Can’t make this date/time? Join our 24/7 private support group on Facebook and let us know what works best for you! Hennepin County PCLG Support Group 

It Is Time to Change

A recent tragedy at my son’s school has reminded all of us of the urgency of reaching out to kids and  talking more openly about mental illness.

This short video from Britain is one of many great ways of starting conversations at your student’s high school:  The Squote-on-stigma-health-80-healthyplacetand-Up Kid

Check out other videos and the Time to Change Toolkit at Time to Change.org

Normal or Not Normal? Part 3

When should parents of young children seek help?

Red FlagsImage

Early identification of mental health problems in young children is extremely challenging.  There are many resources to help parents learn “red flags” for autism, but other forms of mental disorders are even less clear cut.  Sometimes a parent’s gut instinct is the most powerful “red flag” of all.

When my son with ASD was young, he would throw violent tantrums if his schedule was different, if I took a different route home from his preschool, if he was in too noisy a place, or even if the phone rang or someone flushed the toilet with the lid down.  He would throw the phone across the room, hit his sister or me, and once knocked down rows of boxes in a shoe store.

Given that this happened on a regular basis, I found it really insufferable when other people would say to me, “Oh, every child throws tantrums.” I had an older child and, yes, she had had her moments, but there was absolutely no comparison between the two.

I knew that I was not doing anything to drive the tantrums, like giving in, hitting my child or losing my temper.  Despite my exhaustion and embarrassment, it was EXTREMELY important that I kept my calm.  Otherwise, I just made things worse.  I also used a non-threatening way of restraining him with my arms and legs, so that he was safe and did not hurt himself or others.

If you have provided the right environment and know that your child is getting food, sleep, love, attention, physical activity, and appropriate play experiences, but he or she is still unhappy, disconnected from caregivers, aggressive and/or self-destructive, then you should ask for help.

Talking to Medical Professionals: Describing Behaviors

If you really feel that something is “not right” with your child, please don’t hesitate to talk to your child’s pediatrician or, in Hennepin County, call Help Me Grow at 612-348-TOTS (8687).

When talking to medical professionals, though, it’s best to be as precise as possible.  You could keep a Multiple_Behavior_Chart for one week to show the doctor how often child throws tantrums or hurts himself.  If your infant or toddler cries a lot, time how long the crying lasts.  If you report to the doctor that your one-year-old cries every night for 4 hours, that would have more impact than saying, “My kid is driving me crazy with all his crying.”

NORMAL FOR TODDLERS

NOT NORMAL FOR TODDLERS

Occasional tantrums – Daily tantrums that can last several hours;
– Violent or self-destructive behavior, such as head banging;
– Aggressive behavior toward others
Meeting developmental milestones at slightly different rates – Delays of at least 6 months in walking, talking or social behavior;
– Dramatic loss of skills (speaking, etc.) after a period of  normal development
Meltdowns when tired or hungry – Inability to be soothed or comforted;
– Overreacts to minor changes in routine, noise, light, etc.;

Normal or Not Normal? Part 2

ImageWhen Parents of School-Aged Kids Should Seek Help

Parenting children through their school-aged years can be exciting and fulfilling, but also frustrating.  You may delight as you watch them grow, but you may not always know how to help them through challenges. Remember that childhood is not always rosy, and our kids can be confronting difficult issues like bullying, problems with schoolwork, and peer pressure.

How our kids are responding to the normal stresses of elementary and middle school years is important to know.  The guide below should help parents to consider what types of behavior are considered normal and when behaviors should be of concern.

NORMAL FOR SCHOOL AGED KIDS

NOT NORMAL FOR SCHOOL AGED KIDS

Sometimes not wanting to go to school
  • Actively and continually resisting going to school;
  • Routinely crying about school or having tremendous anxiety about school.
  • Skipping school
Not excited about schoolwork
  • Declining school performance
  •  Getting very behind in schoolwork
  • Easily distracted or unable to pay attention
Growing awareness of and some anxiety about external peer and school pressures, as well as broader issues such as spirituality and world events.
  • Extreme, obsessive or long-term anxiety that interferes with eating, sleeping, or other daily living activities.
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches that don’t seem to have a medical cause.
Body changes and awareness of sexuality
  • Sexual acting out that is inappropriate for a child’s age
Some mood swings
  • Having “up” or “down” moods that last for several weeks at a time;
  • Experiencing a dramatic personality change;
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Talking about death or suicide
Testing out behaviors and taking risks
  • Displaying patterns of lying, cheating and/or stealing
  • Aggressive or hurtful behavior, fighting or bullying
  • Recklessness to the point of endangering self or others
  • Substance abuse

Sources: Minnesota Department of Human Services; University of Maryland Medical Center

Normal or Not Normal? When Parents Should Seek Help

 NEWS FLASH: My teenager is driving me crazy!Image

OK.  I pretty much hear that all the time from my friends. I have two teens right now, and life is often like an exhausting roller coaster ride.  They are “coming in to their own” and asserting their independence, but they also need guidance.  I find myself in a precarious balancing act between letting them learn through experience, but also keeping them safe. And when I see troubling behavior, I often feel at a loss as to what to do.  Do I dismiss it as a normal part of adolescence or is it a warning sign that something is very wrong?

Often, troubling behaviors are a question of degree.  For example, many teenagers experience stress, but then bounce back quickly.  The question you should ask yourself is, “Does the stress interfere with my child’s daily living and functioning?”

As a general guide, I’ve listed below some “normal” and “not normal” behaviors.  I’ve borrowed heavily from the folks at the American Psychological Association to give it more authoritative heft.

But the most important thing of all is that you talk to your child and keep lines of conversation open.  This means you need to do MUCH more listening than talking.  If you have a nagging feeling that something is really not right with your child, please seek out professional help.  You are not alone.

NORMAL FOR TEENS

NOT NORMAL FOR TEENS

Arguing for the sake of arguing Being overly aggressive or violent; Abandoning long-time friendships;
Jumping to conclusions Thinking everyone is judging them negatively; Not trusting anyone
Being  self-centered Becoming isolated; Not wanting to leave one’s room; Having very low self-esteem
Finding faults with adults Being openly hostile to adults on consistent basis; Being unremittingly defiant
Being overly dramatic Displaying overly fearful reactions; Crying excessively; Injuring self;
Having mood swings Having “up” or “down” moods that last for several week; Experiencing a dramatic personality change; Dropping activities that used to be fun; Declining school performance
Experiencing stress Having so much fear or anxiety that it interferes with daily living; Having lots of physical complaints like stomach aches, joint pain, headaches or dizziness, problems with sleeping, and feeling fatigued;
Taking risks Committing crimes; Abusing drugs or alcohol; Endangering self or others; Being promiscuous;
Link

Access to Children’s Mental Health Care

Access to Children’s Mental Health Care

I was particularly excited when I read this study by Child Trends: Adolescent Highlight: Access to Mental Health Care.  They really captured what parents have been saying for a long time about

  • missed opportunities for early intervention,
  • difficulties finding providers
  • services that wait for a crisis before being triggered,
  • a system that is poorly coordinated and difficult to navigate AND
  • the important role that school based mental health services COULD play in remedying many of these problems.

Rather than Armed Guards, How About Trained Mental Health Professionals in Every School?

ImageWhen my teenager had a meltdown at school a year and a half ago, she was called into the counselor’s office to talk through what was going on with her.  This talk and this counselor really helped her that day and in coming weeks as more red flags emerged.  Over the next year, the counselor shepherded my daughter and my family through a mental illness diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

This counselor was not an academic counselor or a school psychologist, whose primary duty was to administer tests.  She was a licensed, trained professional employed by a community based mental health agency who worked from the clinic in my daughter’s school.

Once I learned the gravity of my daughter’s situation, we set up weekly appointments. My insurance company paid for these services, and I didn’t have to drive her to weekly appointments.  I didn’t miss work and she didn’t miss much school, but she got the help she needed. I’m happy to report she is doing much better these days, but some days are still a struggle.

There are lots of kids with mental health issues and most kids go to school.  Why not bring mental health services to kids where they are?  If we want to protect our kids, my money is on school based mental health, because it actually works. It works because more kids get help and they get it earlier in their illness.  It works because counselors can build trusting relationships with students.  It works because counselors can work with teachers to help students who are struggling.  These are things that actually help prevent mental illness from spiraling out of control into tragedy.

These are things that armed guards cannot do.