Learn how to recognize the signs of a mental health problem and what to do to help your child or teen. Just as you would get them help for a broken bone or physical illness, you can and should get them help for mental health problems.

What you’ll find on this page

Might my child have a mental health problem?

  • What to Watch for and How to Help

    Learn ways to support your child or teen’s mental wellness, signs of a mental health problem, warning signs of a potential crisis or suicide, steps you can take and how to get help. Also get tips to help your child support friends and peers who may be dealing with mental health challenges. Spanish (PDF)

  • Symptom Checker

    If your child or teen’s behaviors make you wonder if they have a mental health condition contact your child’s doctor. If you’re exploring conditions related to behaviors your child displays, consider using this symptom checker from Child Mind Institute. Spanish

Common mental health problems and resources

How do I get care for my child?

Start by talking with your child’s pediatrician or primary care provider.  They can often help determine the most appropriate next step and provide referrals. 

How can I support my child with emotion and/or behavior issues?

Consistency and a daily routine provide structure to allow your child to thrive as they grow and develop. Small things like following through on what you tell your child and setting and sticking to regular wake up, meal and bedtimes can support them. When your child can count on some stability in their life, it makes it easier for them to learn appropriate behaviors and cope with the unpredictable parts of life.

Children often act out because they are frustrated and have a hard time communicating this to their parents. Parents can use “emotion coaching” to help their child name the feeling. Then they use validation to tell their child that they understand and accept their thoughts or feelings. Validation doesn’t mean you are agreeing with or like their behavior, but that you are listening and trying to understand their point of view.

These resources can help you learn about behavior problems, emotion coaching and validation:

How can I learn to recognize when my child is upset, why, and what helps them cope?

The escalation cycle is a tool that explains emotion or behavior during a crisis situation. It has six stages identified by different colors and guides parents through how to help their child in each stage. The use of a “coping card” together with the escalation cycle is an essential element in understanding the emotions that trigger certain behavior in your child.

How can I make my home safer for my child with a mental health problem?

Home safety is important for all families. Children and teens with mental health problems are at higher risk for harming themselves. There are things you can do to make your home safer for your child and the rest of your family.