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As parents, we want nothing but the very best for our children. We want them to be happy, thrive, and find their place in the world, and their mental health plays an integral role in all of that.

While most of us think of mental health issues as issues that primarily face adults, the truth is, that many of our problems begin to take root early in life. Unfortunately, when mental health problems are overlooked, they can progressively get harder to manage. The good news, though, is the earlier you realize what is going on, the sooner you can get your child the therapy they need.

The thing is though, that mental health problems look much different in children than they do in adults. Here are 6 early warning signs to keep an eye on.

1. Sudden and overwhelming fear.

Pay attention to how your child’s moods fluctuate and thought patterns change. If you notice your child is suddenly overwhelmed with fear and catastrophizing certain things, this could be a sign of a phobia or even anxiety. It’s best not to diagnose these things yourself, though, so please check with a professional.

2. Lack of interest in favorite activities.

Think back to being a child: unless you had a flat-out terrible childhood (and I surely hope that isn’t the case, if it was, I’m sending you love) chances are, it would have taken a lot to break you away from your favorite activities. And the same goes for your child. If they suddenly don’t want to play with their friends or skateboard or do art or whatever it is that they love- there could be an underlying reason.

3. Fights.

Children with mental health problems often start with aggression or irritability. If you have noticed that your child is getting into more and more fights at school and with their friends and family, this could be due to a mental health issue. Kids don’t go from being happy-go-lucky to being irritable and abrasive for no reason, not even at puberty. Yes, their moods may shift, but aggression is a whole other thing.

4. Massive mood swings.

Yes, kids have mood swings, but I am talking like MAJOR mood swings. Like the end of the world, tectonic and out of their personality, shifts. If you notice your child moping around and sleeping a lot, this is a major mood shift. If you notice your child is staying up for days and saying crazy stuff, this is major.

5. Lack of communication.

Another thing to look out for is communication changes. If your child went from talking pretty frequently and often to being non-communicative, this is a major red flag that something has gone amiss.

6. Loss of weight.

This one is twofold: first off, if there is another illness like depression, anxiety, or even psychosis, one of the first signs is a loss of weight and lack of interest in food. But, this could also be a sign of an eating disorder, especially if you have noticed food fears and things like that.

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