It can be difficult to figure out if a behaviour that you are noticing (or not noticing!) needs special attention. Is it a phase? Will they grow out of it? Am I worrying too much? 

All our children have their own individual personalities and preferences, strengths and challenges, so how do we know when an issue is concerning enough to seek help?

One way of deciding if a behaviour warrants attention is to check it against others the same age. How do most others in their class or their friend group act or cope? Sometimes, even if the same behaviour exists with peers, it may be more intense or frequent for your child which could be an indicator of trouble. Three year olds may tantrum but having a tantrum every day for an extended time would be concerning. Teenagers are notorious for needing their own space (which is developmentally appropriate) but withdrawing from the family and friends and activities they liked should be a warning sign.

Another check can be with other caregivers who see your child. Teachers and doctors both engage with a wide spectrum of children at the same age as your child and can be a good judge on whether a behaviour is atypical or concerning. Don’t hesitate to ask if others have noticed an issue or if they have the same level of concern.

Always keep in mind that children have differing abilities and needs. Even if something seems atypical compared to others, ask yourself whether the behaviour is affecting your child’s life in some way. Is it having an impact on their school life or their social life? This should be the key factor in deciding if an issue needs to be taken care of.

Identifying a problem is just the first step to finding a solution. The earlier a problem is addressed is usually the better the outcomes and less chance of greater problems down the road. If you think something is off or could be wrong, ask around informally. Get other opinions. Get a formal assessment or speak to a specialist. We can all work together to get the best outcomes for our children.


Written by Dr. Shauna Miller, School Psychologist