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Mental and behavioral health


It's normal for children to feel afraid or sad sometimes. Learn how to know if your child might need extra help to feel better.

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Anxiety (fears and worries)  

It’s normal for children to feel anxious or afraid when they do something new or face new problems.

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    • Talk to your child about what's making them feel anxious. 
      • Let them know everyone has fears and feels anxious sometimes. 
      • Tell them that you are a team and together you can get through these tough times. 
    • Don’t make fun of your child’s fears or act as if they aren’t real. 
    • Don’t force your child to face their anxieties or fears. 
      • Some children need time to overcome what is making them feel anxious. 
      • Urge them to take steps to face whatever they fear. 
    • Changes in behavior 
    • Using drugs or alcohol
    • Repeated and ongoing fears and stress about everyday life 
    • No longer doing activities at school or with friends and family 
    • Trouble paying attention in school, causing a sudden drop in grades
    • Often has trouble sleeping, feels as if their heart is pounding, has trouble breathing or sweats a lot, among other things
  • Yes. At their annual well-child visit, your pediatrician will ask your child questions about their physical and emotional well-being, and their school and home life. 

  • Anxiety is treatable. The first step is to talk to your pediatrician about your concerns. They will then ask your child some questions and work with you to create a care plan with your child’s specific needs in mind. 



Some children have depression. This can be very serious if a parent does not watch it closely.

Signs of depression include

  • Low energy 
  • Low self-esteem
  • Imagining aches and pains 
  • Not caring about the future
  • General lack of interest in things
  • Thoughts about death or suicide
  • Trouble focusing or making choices
  • Changes in eating (too much or too little)
  • Changes in sleeping habits (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Mood changes such as being very sad or upset for long periods of time 
  • Using drugs or alcohol
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  • If you think your child is depressed, the best thing you can do is to talk to them about how they’re feeling. Ask them if something is bothering them.

    Also, some medical problems can cause depression. That’s why it’s important for your pediatrician to know about any recent changes in behavior. If your child shows any signs of depression or suicide, you should treat it as an emergency. 

    The National Suicide Prevention Line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 1-800-273-8255. 

  • Mental health is important. Teach your children that healthy habits can help keep them from becoming depressed. These habits can include eating well-balanced meals, getting plenty of sleep, exercising, limiting screen time and having a balanced social life. 

    You can also teach your children coping skills. When they’re feeling stressed, ask them to focus on something physical or creative. Reassure them by telling them you love and support them.  



Suicide is the leading cause of death in teenagers. If your child shares or shows any feelings or thoughts of suicide, treat it as an emergency. The National Suicide Prevention Line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 1-800-273-8255.

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  • It is natural for children to feel physical, emotional, hormonal, sexual and social pressures. These pressures can lead to mental health problems. 

    Tips to help your child cope:

    • Talk openly, honestly and often. 
      • Your child should know they can come to you with anything. 
      • If they don’t feel comfortable talking to you, find someone else they can connect with. That person can reassure them and remind them that they are not alone. 
      • Let them know that it’s OK to ask for help. 
    • Remember that care is available for mental health problems. 
      • Talk to your pediatrician about your child’s mental health and get the information you need to help them. 
    • Keep an eye on your child’s behavior. They are going through many changes. 
      • Watch, while respecting their space, so you can see how they handle these changes. Their actions may show signs of mental health problems.  

    Any child can have mental health problems that might make them think about suicide. Studies show that certain children may be more at risk. These children have: 

    • Been bullied
    • Previously attempted suicide
    • A family history of mental health concerns
    • Struggled with sexual orientation
    • Had a recent or serious loss
    • Depression or trauma
    • Alcohol or substance abuse
    • Behavior problems 
    • Access to weapons
  • Being a parent to a teenager can be hard. How do you know what to worry about and what is just normal behavior? Knowing the warning signs can help you know if your child is in danger. 

    Keep these tips in mind:

    • Do not let depression or anxiety take over. 
      • It’s normal for children to have a bad day. If they are in a bad mood for a long time, they may be struggling. 
      • Don’t wait for your children to come to you with their problems or concerns. Ask how they’re feeling and how you can help. 
    • Listen to your child.
      • Thoughts or threats of suicide are serious. If your child says something like, “I want to die” or “nothing matters,” take it seriously. 
      • Even when they are not talking, watch their behavior. Let your pediatrician know if you are concerned. 
      • Let your child know they are not alone. Everyone feels depressed or anxious sometimes. 
      • Don’t brush off how they’re feeling. Let them know things do get better and that it’s OK to ask for help.
    • Urge them to have healthy behaviors. 
      • Physical activity releases endorphins — feel-good chemicals that your body produces. These can help your child cope with pain or stress. Being active can also be a good distraction. It can help children turn off their mind and relax. 
      • Eating healthy meals can also help. Fueling your child’s body with nutrients can help them handle what they’re going through. 
      • It’s also a good idea to teach your child to be mindful and focus on the present. This can help when they feel anxious. 
    • Remind your child that it might take time to feel better. 
      • Good mental health is a lifelong journey. Give your child coping skills so they can rebuild confidence and self-esteem. 
      • Your child might also need therapy or medication, as recommended by a doctor. 
      • If you’re worried about your child’s behavior, call your pediatrician right away. They can help you find a mental health expert and create a care plan to help your child.

    The National Suicide Prevention Line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 1-800-273-8255. 

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