The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: Is your child moody?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Is your child moody?

One day your child is happily skipping down the street to visit a neighbor.  The next day, she's moping around the house, seemingly apathetic.  Yet another day, she eagerly asks to help make cookies with you.  Is there something wrong with this picture?  Perhaps. 

The first thing you should do is determine a pattern.  Keep a mood calendar using specific words to describe your child's mood.  Use the emotion thesaurus at this website if you need help putting your child's mood into words: http://thebookshelfmuse.blogspot.com/2008/01/introducing-thesaurus-thursdays.html.  This will help a professional if you need a consultation.

When you plot the pattern, you can see whether you have a problem worthy of a professional intervention or one that you can treat by removing a trigger.  That trigger might be a specific babysitter, a day when your child goes to the other parent, or a certain day of the week when he must stay after for extra help. 

If you have a child who is moody to the point where she causes problems in school, at home, and with her friends, she needs professional help.  Consider the likelihood of drug or alcohol abuse if the moodiness has a sudden onset. 

Also called manic-depression, bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes a person to cycle through abnormally high and low moods. It was once thought to be rare in children, so little attention was paid to the issue. But the latest research shows that not only can bipolar disorder begin very early in life -- as early as age 5, though it typically manifests in kids around the onset of puberty -- it’s much more common than ever imagined. In fact, according to the Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation, the condition is now diagnosed in close to one million children and adolescents in the United States each year.

While a trip to the pediatrician may be the first stop, parents should realize that he or she probably isn’t trained to pick up on the symptoms of bipolar disorder, many of which mimic other more common disorders. Since bipolar has a strong genetic link, they should ask for a referral to a child psychiatrist or a psychiatrist who specializes in bipolar disorder, particularly if they know the illness is present in their family.

Be very careful.  Consider the circumstances around your child's moodiness and try to determine if it's environmental before you consult a physician who may prescribe strong drugs to counteract an alleged physical problem.  After all, parents know their children better than the professional.  Notice your child's habits and see if you can talk through the source of the moodiness before jumping to any conclusions that will result in drastic intervention.

Effective parenting works!

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