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The Top 10 Signs a Child May Need Professional Help


by Morrisa Drobnick, LCSW

When to Refer a Child for Counseling


Many think of childhood and adolescence as a carefree time. For some, it is. Others however, do not seem to go through childhood and adolescence carefree at all. Below are some guidelines on when a child or teen may need a referral to see a licensed counselor.

The Top 10 Signs a Child May Need Professional Help



  1. Long Periods of Sadness.The child or adolescent may seem to be sad for several days or weeks. Nothing helps them feel better. Even if you try to entertain or distract them, nothing works. The child may cry over both little and big things and not be able to stop. Children and adolescents do not normally talk about being sad; they show sadness through their actions. They may get in trouble and break rules to show they are sad.

  2. Withdrawn Behavior.
    Withdrawn kids and teens have little or no interest in playing or being with friends. They want to be by themselves instead of being with friends or family.

  3. Feeling Angry.Some children or adolescents may be angry all the time. They may get into fights with other kids. They may take their anger out on adults in authority. It is often tantrum-like behavior. These kids are disruptive in the household.

  4. Feeling Anxious and Worried.Some kids and teens may worry a lot. They worry about their parents when they are away from home. They worry about their parents getting physically hurt. They worry that another death will occur or that they will have to move again. They create things to worry about all the time.

  5. Feeling a Sense of Responsibility or Guilt.
    This is sometimes a problem with older school-aged children. This is often a problem with children who have experienced divorce, or a death in the family. They may think it is their fault. They may feel responsible for taking care of other family members.

  6. Problems with Separating.A child or teen may not want a parent to leave to do their normal routine of the day. A young child may cry in school to get in touch with his or her parent. A teen may call or text a parent several times a day to be in contact. This is a problem.

  7. Cannot Concentrate.Some children or adolescents may have a hard time getting things done. They may be easily distracted. Maybe they cannot settle on any one activity or job you give them. They may not follow instructions well.

  8. Living in the Past.
    The child or adolescent may seem to think more about the past than the present. Many will talk about the past when their family was together, when their loved one was still alive, or when times were different.

  9. Changes in Daily Habits. Kids and teens may change what they normally do. Some may wake up in the morning, but have difficulty getting out of bed. Or they may start having problems going to sleep or having nightmares while sleeping. Eating habits may also change, whether that is eating much more or much less than before.

  10. The Parents Cannot Help the Child.Methods that have worked previously are not currently effective. At this point, the parents are having difficulties with their own feelings and feel that helping the child is beyond their control.


Morrisa Drobnick, LCSW, is a licensed Mars & Venus Counselor in Teaneck, New Jersey. Learn more about Morrisa Drobnick. Telephone her with any comments or questions at 201-692-0508 .