When to look for help from child and adolescent psychologist?

Most probably, parents are in the best position to identify when their son/daughter has a problem. To discern whether this is something that came with age and will finish soon, or will require professional help, it is certainly more difficult for parents.

The first step will be to explore, without pressuring, why this is happening, what are his/her feelings, his/her explanations for what is happening, what worries him/her or would like to change.

The second step will be to check if the behaviors are present in other contests, or what are the observations done by other family members, teachers or babysitter.

From the time parents identify the problem until they decide to seek help, a variable time period can take place, in which their son/daughter’s problem can cause them anxiety to the point of feeling overwhelmed, which makes it difficult to be efficient. They may believe there is no problem, or feel guilty.

Often, the problem in a child can reflect a family conflict. Some situations in the family, such as separation, divorce, chronic illness, couple conflict, alcoholism, drug abuse, bereavement, loss of job, can add stress to family members and the need to adapt to the situation.

Therapy can help the family cope with the crisis in a more effective and adaptive manner.

Below, I detail signs that when persistent, will indicate that the family needs treatment.

Children up to 6 years:

  • Cries excessively,
  • Difficulties with sleep or repetitive nightmares.
  • Fear and excessive worry, anxiety.
  • Behavior problems in school.
  • Hits, kicks, bites other children.
  • Disobedience, aggressivity, defiant behavior with adults.
  • Tantrums for little things.
  • Hiperactivity without purpose (fidgety in hands or legs, move in seat, plays with pen…) more marked than other children his age.
  • Persistent risk taking.
  • Excessive difficulties to separate from parents.

In children from 6 to 12 years:

  • Sadness, withdrawal.
  • Frequent anger explosions.
  • Self-destructive behavior (hurts him/herself or does risky behavior).
  • Changes in sleep and eating habits (more or less).
  • Weight loss without medical explanation.
  • Frequent somatic complaints (stomach, headache)
  • Difficulty to make or maintain friends.
  • Decrease in academic performance.
  • Overwhelmed with daily activities.
  • Hyperactivity without purpose (moves hands or feet, plays with pen…) more marked than in children his age.
  • Frequently takes risks.
  • Disobedient, aggressive and provocative with adults.
  • Plays with fire, threatens to leave home.
  • Frequent lies.
  • Tantrums for little things.


Dr. Connie Capdevila Brophy,

Clinical Psychologist, Psychotherapist, and Mediator

Dr. Diego Palao,

General and Adult Psychiatrist

Dr. Elena Padrell,

General and Adult Psychiatrist