Parents are usually quick to notice physical symptoms of illness in their kids, but may not connect their children’s anxiety or temper tantrums with possible medical problems, says a study by the University of Michigan Health System. The report was published on May 18, 2015. The data for the study was from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.
“Behavioral health 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,” says Sarah J. Clark, M.P.H., associate director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and associate research scientist in the University of Michigan Department of Pediatrics.
The most common reason that nearly half the parents did not bring up these symptoms in the doctor’s office is because they did not think the symptoms were medical problems. In this group, 40 percent of parents said that they preferred to handle their situation themselves, and 30 percent said they would prefer talk to someone other than a doctor.
“Many children experience challenges with behavior, emotions or learning. The key is for parents to recognize their children’s behavior patterns and share that information with the doctor,” Clark said. ” Unfortunately, our findings suggest that parents don’t understand their role in supporting their children’s behavioral health.”
Some behavioral problems are mild and short-term and are part of a child’s natural development. Other emotional and behavioral issues could be signs of substance abuse or mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, attention deficit disorder (ADHD), depression, and mood or behavioral disorders.
- Only half of the parents of children ages five to 17 would discuss temper tantrums that seemed worse than their peers or signs of more worry and anxiety than normal with their doctors
- More than 60 percent of parents would definitely talk to the doctor if their child was extremely sad for more than one month
- 37 percent would tell their doctors if their children were having difficulty organizing their homework
“Health care providers rely on parents to describe how children act in their regular, day-to-day lives outside of the doctor’s office in order to identify situations or behaviors that may be signs of larger problems,: said Clark. “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 behaviors and help families get treatment if needed.”