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Most children's behaviors come and go and are a normal part of development. Here are ten behaviors, however, that warrant a second look.

10 Behaviors That Would Worry Even a Child Therapist

As parents we worry, that is what most of us do. But how do you differentiate between which of our children’s behaviors are common and which behaviors are something to worry about?

Sometimes it is hard to tell.

In my practice, parents voice many concerns. Often these are easy to address and are typical for the developmental phase their kids are in.

Some behaviors, however, warrant concern. Here are 10 behaviors that would worry even a child therapist:

They no longer play with any close friends

If your child is all of a sudden not playing with any of her (or his) close friends, this is a problem. It might be a sign there was a fight. It could be an indication there is an issue with your child’s mood. Whatever the cause – it deserves some further probing.

They are up late into the night with worries

If your child is up late into the night with worries, his worries have crossed the line into anxiety. It is important to be proactive and give kids tools to fight their anxiety to help empower them and not let them become a victim to their anxiety.

They pinch, scratch or cut themselves

Self-harm can present itself in many ways. Younger children tend to pinch, scratch or punch themselves. Pre-teens and teens move more into cutting and burning behavior. If you have kids doing self-harm – even if you don’t think it is serious – you should see a child therapist to evaluate their emotions. Waiting for more intensified self-harming behavior is not a smart idea.

They run out of the house when they are upset

Kids of all ages will often impulsively bolt out the door when upset. This behavior seriously concerns me. This demonstrates a lack of coping mechanisms. Kids can get hurt or lost when they run away from their homes.

They aren’t sleeping at night

If your child was a good sleeper and is now not sleeping at night – something is up. Sleep disturbance is one of the key indicators there is a problem. Sleep disturbances can be caused by a plethora of issues – so explore and discover the origin.

They aren’t eating anymore

Just like sleep, appetite is one of those key indicators of how someone is doing. If your child has suddenly stopped eating – this is a major concern. I am not talking about becoming slightly picky. I mean – missing all meals and getting maybe a few calories in each day. Kids can stop eating due to stress, anxiety or mood issues. It warrants further exploration.

They appear secretive

Kids are generally secretive about their phone and Internet activities – especially teens. But, if your kids freak out – and I mean freak out – when you look at their phone or computer, it should increase your level of concern.

They make comments like, “Why was I even born?”

Some kids make scary statements. It doesn’t always mean they have a plan to kill themselves. Younger kids will often make more general comments like the one above. I tell parents, even if these comments don’t mean they necessarily want to die, it is still an indication of some emotional distress. This could be an issue with mood, self-esteem or life stressors.

They have unusually aggressive or violent behavior

These last two concerns are obvious, but should be included anyway. If a kid is being violent or aggressive it needs to be addressed right away. Kids who resort to violent behavior have no ability to self-regulate and need help to develop those tools before they reach adulthood.

They threaten to kill themselves or someone else

We’ll end this article with the most obvious concerns. Whenever kids threaten to harm themselves or someone else it should be taken seriously. You might feel it is attention-seeking, but even if it is just that – it is still a sign things are not okay and your son or daughter needs additional help.

If your kids are having any of these behaviors seek out some additional help from your friends, family, pediatrician or a child therapist. It is never too early to get help, but sometimes it is too late.

Do you have some additional concerns you would add to this list? Have you experienced some of these behaviors in your home? Leave a comment and share with other parents.

Do you know someone who could benefit from knowing what behaviors to take seriously? Share this article with them.


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10 Behaviors That Would Worry Even a Child Therapist

Natasha Daniels

Natasha Daniels is a child therapist and author of Anxiety Sucks! A Teen Survival Guide and How to Parent Your Anxious Toddler. She is the creator of and the parenting E-Course How to Teach Your Kids to Crush Anxiety. Her work has been featured on various sites including Huffington Post, Scary Mommy and The Mighty. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest or making parenting videos for

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APA Reference
Daniels, N. (2016). 10 Behaviors That Would Worry Even a Child Therapist. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Sep 2016
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