24/7: A Resource For Working Parents


When To Seek Professional Help For Your Child's Mental Health 

It’s not always easy to know when your child needs professional help. Here are some guidelines that may help.

Don’t just look at severity of symptoms

A child can have symptoms that seem quite alarming, but symptoms are not considered “disorders” until they’ve been around for months and have had a significant negative impact on one’s home life and/or school life. So hang in there for a while and see if things get better.

Determine if it’s age-appropriate behaviour

The behaviour you’re concerned about may be fairly common among children of a particular age group. But if your child’s behaviour is not getting better after a few months, and seems to be unusual for children in her age group, then seek out a professional.

Take stock of your support network

Research shows that parents who seek professional help for children’s behaviour and mental health problems are less likely to have partners and extended networks of family and friends to get advice from. If you are feeling alone in dealing with your child’s problem, don’t be afraid reach out for help from a professional who can support you and become part of your team to find solutions.

Monitor your child’s progress

Even a professional is not going to perform a miracle and make the problem go away instantly. So hang in there. Do your best and be encouraged by small steps in the right direction. But if there is no progress, in spite of continued efforts over several months, seek help.


Also Recommended:  Every Mind Matters Handouts For Parents, The Orchid Child, Extremely Challenging Behaviour, Helping Children Flourish


Is your child in danger?

If your child is engaging in self-harm behaviour or putting themselves at risk for harm,

seek professional help as soon as possible. That might even mean a trip to the emergency room.

Emergency room? Really? Think about it. A mental health professional might not be available for weeks or months. The action of taking your child to the hospital communicates loud and clear that this is an emergency and that you take threats to their mental health very seriously. It might even be a one-time intervention that leads to positive change.

This is a condensed version of an article by psychologist Dr. Robin Alter, which originally appeared on the CBC parents website. Read the full version HERE.

Dr. Robin Alter is a trustee with The Psychology Foundation of Canada and chair of their Kids Have Stress Too Program. Dr. Alter co-led the development of this ground-breaking program targeted to parents, raising awareness that children do experience stress and providing parents and caregivers with the tools to help their children identify and manage stress. Dr. Alter is a registered clinical psychologist in practice since 1979. Her current practice includes both the assessment and treatment of children, adolescents and adults. She consults to Blue Hills Child and Family Centre since 1980.  She has authored two books: Anxiety and the Gift of Imagination and The Anxiety Workbook for Kids.
Thank you to Workplace Strategies for Mental Health for their support of 24/7: A resource for working parents.