Children today are influenced not just by their family, but also their peers, school environment and the media. Psychological problems in childhood are becoming more visible and should be promptly identified and tackled
1 Withdrawing from family: Children sometimes find it difficult to communicate their feelings. Instead, they might feel lonely and misunderstood, thereby recoiling into their shell. Parents must always have communication channels open to their children.
2 Not interacting with peers: Friends typically become more prominent in teenagers’ lives. Spending most of their time alone or not engaging in things they used to enjoy can be a danger signal.
3 Sudden drop in academic performance: Children’s grades do not drop only because they are ‘disinterested’. Emotional distress affects every sphere of life; if a student’s grades have fallen, parents should have an open conversation with them and not simply dismiss or reprimand them.
4 Changes in sleeping and eating patterns: Psychological problems often have physical or biological signs. Eating too much or too little or sleeping too much or too little are strong indicators of distress.
5 School avoidance: If your child consistently makes excuses to skip school, it might be an indication that s/he is experiencing some academic or social difficulty. In such cases, it is important to talk to your child’s school teacher.
6 Changes in personality: Parents are in the best position to understand and predict their children’s behaviour. If there are sudden changes in children’s personality — be it the way they dress, their moods, or the things they say, look into the matter.
7 Showing signs of irritability and aggression: Children do not always express sadness or distress the way adults do. Irritability and uncharacteristic aggression warrant attention.
8 Low self-esteem: Having a strong sense of self-worth is the only way to ward off untoward influences. Reinforce your children’s efforts. Help them assert themselves.
9 Getting overwhelmed easily: Stress is a part of every child’s life; be it the pressure of exams, balancing extra-curricular activities or carrying the right kind of accessories. If you find your child getting very easily overwhelmed over small things, address their coping skills.
10 Displaying truancy and defiance: School authorities are sometimes in a better position to identify vulnerably children. Bunking classes, defying teachers and vandalising school property can be a child’s way of expressing his distress.
The author is director, Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare