Is it Normal? Recognising the Emotional Needs in Young People

Have you noticed your child engaging in some ‘out of character’ behaviour lately? Do they appear more stressed, anxious, or irritable? It is normal for all children and young people to experience a range of emotions, particularly during times of increased stress. We are currently in a time where sudden changes to routine and looking for new ways to meet basic needs, are our new ‘normal’. Hence, it is not unusual for young people to feel a range of emotions as they navigate their way through their new ‘normal’.

However, when young people feel emotions in excess, or for a prolonged period of time, this can become increasingly disruptive to their lives. Proactive problem solving and goal attainment may become more difficult, resulting in further distress. Young people may have difficulty articulating how they feel. They may not notice or realise that they feel stressed or that they are behaving differently, until it is brought to their attention. It can be difficult for adults to know when emotions are at a ‘normal’ level and when they are occurring in excess. Some signs that your child may be having difficulty managing their emotions are:

–             Withdrawing from family and friends, particularly if it is out of character for them

–             Prolonged loss of drive, motivation, and goals

–             Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness

–             Anger outbursts, or excessive irritability

–             Overreactions to seemingly minor triggers (particularly if this would not have bothered them otherwise)

–             Excessive reassurance seeking

–             Making comments about not wanting to live or any indication of self-harm

–             Separation anxiety or excessive attachment to caregivers

–             Excessive crying or low mood

–             Difficulty sleeping for a prolonged period of time

–             Sudden changes in appetite/eating

–             Difficulty concentrating

–             Sudden strain in friendships

–             Sudden changes in behaviour that are not typical for that child

–             Increase in rule breaking or defiant behaviour

–             Excessive gaming

Please note that the presence of these behaviours does not indicate that there is a significant mental health concern, but may indicate that the child or young person may benefit from an increase in supports, particularly if the behaviours persist. As parents, there are a number of steps that you can take to address your child’s emotional needs. These include, but are not limited to:

  • For older children, you may bring their awareness to the changes that you have observed – i.e. “I have noticed that you have not been yourself lately, is there anything that you would like to talk about?” Let them know that you will be available to listen when they are ready to talk.
  • Younger children may not have the language or insight to articulate how they feel. Try engaging them in a craft activity, focusing on different emotions.
  • Let your child’s teacher, Head of House or mentor know if you have increasing concerns or are unsure how to assist your child’s wellbeing needs.
  • Refer your child for counselling at school or to an external provider. Please note that we offer brief counselling for school related or social challenges. For other matters, an external referral may be more appropriate. Please contact your child’s teacher (ELC/Junior School) or Head of House (Senior School) if you have increased concerns for your child’s mental health.