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when to seek therapy for child

The pandemic has been stressful for everyone, including children. While children are known for their resilience and their ability to adapt—especially in a loving home with thoughtful caregivers—it's totally understandable (and expected) for kids to show some signs of stress. In fact it would almost be weirder if they weren't!

If those signs of stress are emerging in a way that feels particularly noticeable or detrimental to your child's day-to-day functioning, however, it might be time to check in with a mental health professional.

How do you separate normal kid adjustment behavior from something more significant? The National Institute of Mental Health lists behaviors to look for in young children that indicate a child could benefit from evaluation.

Learn more about these 8 signs of stress in children, and how to spot them.


1. Your child's mood is more irritable, including more frequent tantrums

All kids have tantrums, but when tantrums get especially intense, it may be time to seek extra help. Really intense tantrums involve intentionally trying to hurt others or themselves, meltdowns that last more than 20-30 minutes or tantrums that occur many times each day. Every child has an off day when they just can't pull it together, but if your child's "off days" are every day, it could be time to get some help.

2. Your child talks about their anxieties frequently

When kids are able to tell us about their fears, that's a great sign! It means they can identify what's upsetting them and know how to seek help. But if these conversations happen frequently, it may be a sign that your child has more fears or anxieties than is typical. If they have trouble doing standard daily tasks (sleeping, going outside the home, being around people) because of their worries, that's a sign that they may benefit from some extra support.

3. Your child often reports headaches or stomach aches

Anxiety often shows up as physical symptoms—we've all had tension headaches or felt butterflies in our stomach. Kids often don't have the language to discuss their feelings, but they can let you know their tummy hurts. If your child consistently complains of physical symptoms, it's a good idea to check with your physician to ensure there's no medical cause. If the symptoms persist after your physician gives the all clear, consider that it could be anxiety or another emotional trigger needing to be addressed.

4. Your child is extremely active and struggles to sit quietly for even a few minutes (without screen time)

Lots of kids are active, and that can be a good thing! Active kids are often healthy kids. If, however, your child is unable to stop when it's time to stop, it could be a signal something more is going on. Children should be able to pay attention for certain blocks of time—five minutes for preschoolers and older children for 15 minutes—before they get antsy. If they struggle to sit, wait or listen, it may be worth getting a quick medical consult.

5. Your child's sleep patterns are suddenly off

Sleep is a great measure of what's going on in a child; children with unusual sleep patterns are often struggling with something else. Depression may show up as sleeping too much or as an inability to sleep. Anxiety might include nightmares or struggling to fall asleep. Many other childhood diagnoses impact sleep as well. Additionally, without adequate sleep, it's hard for little bodies to handle stressors throughout the day. So even if the sleep issue isn't caused by anything else, you may see behavior problems because of sleep deprivation. If your child experiences difficulty sleeping on more than just a few nights, it may be time to seek out help.

6. Your child struggles to connect with other kids the same age

Kids are all different—some are super outgoing and others a bit more shy. Although differences in personality are normal, if your child struggles significantly with peers, it could be a sign of something more. If your child struggles to follow rules, play age-appropriate games, make same-age friends or talk with others, there could be something else going on. Children with these difficulties usually have long-lasting struggles with socialization, so don't panic if it's just a few days. But if they have always struggled with friends, or suddenly lose interest in friends for a few weeks, consider checking in with a mental health professional.

7. Your child is struggling in school

Frequently children with behavioral or learning difficulties show struggles in school. If your child has always had to work harder than their peers, it could be a sign there's something impacting learning. Additionally, if your child suddenly begins to struggle, it could mean something new is impacting him or her. These changes may mean they are struggling with friends, with a new emotional stressor or simply with harder academic material. Keep in mind, the last quarter of the school year went virtual for most students, so difficulties could be related to that shift as well. The only way to know for sure is to seek out expert support.

8. Your child worries that something bad will happen if they don't complete a certain action or do things multiple times

If you notice that your child always has to do things a certain way, likes to do things repeatedly, or has to check on things to make sure they were done right, consider getting an assessment. These behaviors often happen when kids are feeling anxious and want to build in a sense of security for themselves. Wanting to play the same game or read the same story are standard kid behaviors, but if your kid becomes upset if you play the game slightly differently or if you read a new story, those are potential flags. All kids like repetition, but if you find yourself working extra hard to ensure things stay exactly the same to avoid a meltdown, it's time to reach out.

If your child is showing any of the signs above, remember that doesn't necessarily mean they have a psychological, educational or behavioral disorder, but it does suggest there could be something beyond typical child development going on. The best way to find out is to seek professional guidance and let the experts tell you whether the behaviors are childhood quirks or something more significant. Keep in mind, many doctors are currently offering virtual visits, so you could get answers without an in-person office visit. If you're seeing any of the signs above, it may be time to reach out for more information.

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

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Why do all of my good parenting or baby-focused inventions come after they've already been invented by someone else? Sigh.

Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

But it hasn't been. It's been more—as one of my favorite memes says—difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Because until this towel hit the bathtime scene, there was no easy-peasy way to pick up your squirming wet baby without drenching yourself and/or everything around you.

Plus, there is nothing cuter than a baby in a plush hooded towel, right? Well, except when it's paired with a dry, mess-free floor, maybe.

Check out our favorites to make bathtime so much easier:

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As told to Liz Tenety.

Around the time my husband and I were turning 30, we had a genuine conversation about whether or not we wanted kids. I was the hesitant one because I was like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's just hold on. Okay, let's talk about this. Because we love our life. We like traveling. Is this what we want?"

My husband said, "Let's ask our three most pessimistic, crabby friends who have kids whether or not it's worth it."

And every single one of them was like, "Oh, it's unmissable on planet earth."

So when I got pregnant, I was—and I'm not ashamed to say this and I don't think you should be—I was as connected with the baby in my belly as if it were a water bottle. I was like, I don't know you. I don't know what you are, but you can be some gas pain sometimes, but other than that, we're going to have to meet each other and suss this relationship out.

But all the cliches are true that you just know what to do when the baby comes out. Some of the times are hard, some of them are easier, but you just gotta use your gut.

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