Signs That Your Child May Need Support
Our kids. They are strong. But sometimes, they stumble. Sometimes, they even fall. So, what do you do when you notice that your child is suffering? What do you do when you see them struggle? We do what we always do. We research. We find them help. We move mountains.
So, how do you know if your child needs help? More than just butterfly kisses or ice cream can cure? Kids can be different from adults when it comes to mental health issues. Here are some signs to be aware of:
- Loss of appetite
- Sudden changes in weight
- Excessive worry about weight gain
- Visible prolonged sadness
- Sudden changes in sleep habits
- Persistent nightmares
- Excessive fear, worrying or crying
- Extreme disobedience or aggression
- Loss of interest in friends or favorite activities
- Persistent difficulty separating from a parent
- Behavior problems in school or daycare
- Sudden decrease in school performance
- Substance use or abuse
- Seeing or hearing things that are not there
- Destructive behavior, such as damaging property or setting fires
- Constantly threatening to run away or running away
- Withdrawal from family and friends
The key is a change from the norm and the presence of extremes of behavior when they are compared to others.
How to Find Support for Your Child
So, what do you do when you find that your child is struggling and may potentially be experiencing mental health issues? Glad you asked. Here are some tips:
- Talk to others who encounter your child on a regular basis such as teachers, coaches, bus drivers, day care providers. Get their take on your child. Are they aware of any changes? Do they have any concerns about your child?
- Consult with your pediatrician. They may have tips for you on how to manage the issues and will have referrals to experts who can help care for your child.
- Make an appointment sooner, rather than later, with a mental health professional. I know this can be an issue (see next section on how to deal with obstacles).
- Prepare for your first meeting with a mental health professional. Come armed with information about your child from multiple informants (the above professionals that work with your child) and your own observations. Come with questions and don’t leave until you feel satisfied with the answers.
- If you are not satisfied, search for another provider. You and your child have to feel comfortable with the mental health professional that will work with you. Progress can’t happen without trust and a comfort level. Rapport is key to treatment success.
- Once your child is in treatment, make sure that you keep in constant contact with the provider and those who work with your child. You are a team. Make sure to sign releases of information if you are comfortable with communication between you, the child’s school and provider.
- Speak with a counselor, clergy member or close friends so that you can get support through this too.
How to deal with Obstacles
Those moves we talked about earlier? Guess what? They can impact continuity of care for our littles. You may have found a brilliant therapist in Colorado Springs, then orders drop, and you’re off to Georgia. Wait. What? You mean I have to start over? What happens to my child while we search?
That’s just one scenario.
What happens if you can’t find a provider at all? Tricare gave you a list but their wait list is almost a year long? What can you do? Your child needs help NOW.
There can be obstacles to getting the care your child needs. So, how do you deal with them? Here are some tips to help:
- Contact your local military branch family support centers – Community Service Centers (Army), Family Service Center (Navy, Marines, Coast Guard), Family Support Center (Air Force). If you’re National Guard, reach out to the National Guard Family Programs Office in your state. Reserve? You may qualify for the branch specific services above.
- Consider uses the resources within your military installation – family support groups, chaplain’s office, pediatric clinic (primary care clinics), mental health clinic, social work services. The school system is another source of support and information.
- Consider seeing a Military Family Life Consultant (MFLC) for non-emergency care for your child. They even visit your child at school.
- Enroll in Tricare’s Case Management Program: A case manager is a nurse or social worker who serves as a support for you and your child, and helps you access care from health care providers and offers additional community resources.
- Find out about the Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) bonus payment. Modeled after the Medicare reimbursement program, TRICARE will pay a 10 percent HPSA bonus payment for behavioral health providers in medically underserved areas.
- Contact your school liaison. They can serve as an intermediary with the school system. If you’ve just moved they should be your first point of contact for referrals and information.
- Contact a Crisis Line.
- Contact Military OneSource for referrals. Your children over the age of five can be referred for non-clinical, no cost counseling.
- Emergency Mental Health Care. The Emergency Room is an option. They can find emergency mental health services and inpatient care for your child.
- Not sure if it is an emergency? Try the nurse advice line. They can talk you through it and help you find resources.
- If all else fails, file an appeal.
Remember, this life isn’t easy for most of us. It can be especially difficult for our kids, especially those who might be struggling with mental health concerns. Ask questions. Be the squeaky wheel. Find support for your child, who may be a super kid, but who may also be dealing with stress.
Military kids, they’re strong, but they’re not unbreakable. Find out how to support them as they navigate through this life. The more we support our kids and their health, the better and more resilient they will be when faced with (military) life’s challenges.