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Identifying emotional, behavioural changes in your child

Emotional child

Is your child’s academic performance dwindling?

Does you child react in some way that may seem weird from the norm?

Has your once happy and active child now become reclusive?

Then you may want to think toward an emotional and behavioural imbalance.

While a lot of parents may not think that such traits can be linked to a mental disorder, it is therefore pertinent to rule out such when presented with similar symptoms.

Parents should, therefore, pay adequate attention to the traits their children display.

According Ruqoyah Ogunbiyi, a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Professional, “Mental health discourse are just beginning to gather audience in Nigeria and indeed the world, thus it is no coincidence that the reaction of many when child mental disorders discourse arises is oftentimes stigmatizing.

Children do not think, they are innocent and don’t have worries, these were some of the responses often gotten when child mental discourse arises.”

She noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that one in five children have a mental disorder.

Emotional and behavioural disorders are most common and they increase the likelihood of academic underachievement and poor behaviour.

Emotional disorders can be seen in children as early as 4 months and behavioural disorders as early as 3 years.

Yet many parents, teachers and other custodians of children are not aware of these disenabling disorders.

The founder of SaneMindng said that to determine emotional and behavioural disorders, one must be well equipped with knowledge of developmental milestones. “Developmental milestones are set of skills children attain as they grow.

While it is widely agreed that children develop at their individual pace, it must be known that we are more alike than different and milestones should be reached within set range outside of which may be indicative of a delayed developmental.

“A difference from the expected social and physical milestones may be an early sign of an emotional or behavioural disorder.

For example, toddlers are characterized with increased physical/motor activity compared to older children.

A nine-year-old child that still jumps on the cushion like a toddler would most likely raise a red flag for a behavioural disorder. 

“Another means of detection is deviation from the known personality of the child.

Emotional/behavioural disorders could cause a child to become withdrawn or more talkative/hyperactive. So how well do you know your child?

Sometimes, children may also show symptoms of emotional disorders in form of consistent, unexplained physical health condition.

For example a child with depression may present with seizures all of a sudden.

This is often differentiated from physical health problems because routine tests show no biochemical explanation of the illness hence unexplained physical health problems.”

Ogunbiyi stressed that infantile depression is about the earliest emotional disorders and it is typically seen in infants as young as four months and characterised by failure to thrive without explainable biochemical or neurological cause, separation anxiety can be noticed in about four to seven years.

Typically emotional disorders often begin much earlier than behavioural disorders.

“When parents are concerned about their child’s mental health, it is best they reach out to qualified professionals.

The pediatrician or General Practitioner (GP) is often the first point of call to rule out any biochemical or neurological illness that may mimic emotional and behavioural disorders.

If the symptoms cannot be explained then further assessment would be required by a child mental health professional.

Ogunbiyi added: “It is noteworthy that the social environment in which children are nurtured can predispose, trigger or perpetuate emotional and behavioural disorders in children.

Hence, the two most significant institutions in the life of a child, family and school, can make or mar the child.”

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