Many parents of children aged 5-17 wouldn’t discuss behavioural or emotional issues that could be signs of potential health problems with their doctors.
“Behavioural and emotional health are closely tied to a child’s physical health, well-being and development, but our findings suggest that we are often missing the boat in catching issues early,” said Sarah J. Clark, associate director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and associate research scientist in the University of Michigan department of paediatrics.
While more than 60 percent of parents definitely would talk to the doctor if their child was extremely sad for more than a month, only half would discuss temper tantrums that seemed worse than peers or if their child seemed more worried or anxious than normal.
Just 37 percent would tell the doctor if their child had trouble organising homework. Another 40 percent of parents say they would rather handle it themselves and about 30 percent would rather speak to someone other than a doctor.
Behavioural health problems, sometimes also called mental health problems, affect boys and girls of all ages, impacting their learning, social interactions and physical health.
While some behaviour and emotional issues are mild and short-lived, others are signs of longer-term problems like depression, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, mood and behaviour disorders, or substance abuse.
“This conversation between doctors and parents is an essential step that allows providers to assess the severity of the problem, offer parents guidance on strategies to deal with certain behaviours and help families get treatment if needed,” Clark concluded.