Concerning behaviours and conditions

I am worried about my child’s behaviours what can I do to help?

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Sleep problems

Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep so there might be nothing to worry about. However, the fear, anxiety and embarrassment your child/young person may experience from having a sleep problem can exacerbate the original problem. 

Sleep problems are very common. They can include bed-wetting, night terrors, sleep-walking and insomnia. All of which can be very upsetting and disruptive to your child - of whatever age – as well as to the rest of your family who may be losing sleep as a result.

If problems persist or interfere with your child’s learning or behaviour then there may be an underlying physical or mental health problem. Contact your GP for help and advice.

Read more in the useful links below:

Royal College of Psychiatry

Eating problems

If your child is reducing and controlling their food intake and losing weight, or they are making themselves sick after eating, they may be developing an eating disorder.

Anorexia, Bulimia and overeating are all eating disorders which boys, girls, men and women from all types of backgrounds can experience.  

Controlling one’s eating and body shape is usually a method someone has developed to try to cope with difficult feelings. Sometimes it can be difficult to deal with feelings such as anger, sadness, guilt, loss or fear and self-criticism about your body and appearance. Traumatic events like bereavement, being bullied or abused can also trigger eating disorders. In other situations triggers may be high academic expectations, upheaval in the family, concerns over sexuality or other issues which may not necessarily seem big to other people.

A person may focus on food and eating as a way of coping with these stresses. An eating disorder is a sign that people may need help in coping with their life and support in dealing with personal problems. Without treatment, eating disorders can persist throughout life - affecting physical and mental health and wellbeing.

If you are worried that your child may have an eating disorder you must get professional medical advice. Either contact your GP or school nurse and they will advise you of the specialist agencies and make a referral to the appropriate service so that you can get help.

Read more in the useful links below:

Anorexia Carers
Download our guide to surviving mealtimes

My child may have been abused

Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional and/or verbal. When a young person is abused, it can affect every aspect of their lives, especially self-esteem. 

Children and young people who are abused often have trouble sleeping, eating and concentrating at school.  They may be angry with other people and themselves and have difficulty making and keeping friendships. 

It is normal for people who have been abused to feel angry, embarrassed, guilty and confused about what has happened. Abuse is a significant cause of depression in young people. Some teenagers may use self-destructive behaviours, such as deliberate self-harm or misusing drugs or alcohol, or engaging in sexualised behaviours, to cope with their feelings.

If you are concerned that a young person is suffering abuse, do not keep this to yourself. It is important to act quickly and get help, so that the abuse can be stopped and the effects of the abuse dealt with. You can contact the Birmingham Children’s Services, Integrated Access Team, for help and advice: 0121 303 9515

Read more in the useful links below:

Stop it Now

My child gets angry all the time

Anger is usually a symptom of an underlying cause. It can be the manifestation of an inner turmoil. Those affected may or may not know the reasons for it. Repressed anger can lead to depression, so some may argue it is better expressed. However, anger in itself can be a destructive emotion, especially if it involves the use of violence to the person concerned (self-harm), to property or others. Anger can also be harmful against others in the form of personal verbal attacks, and the use of bad language.

If you have concerns that a young person you care about has difficulties controlling their anger then contact your GP for advice.

Read more in the useful links below:

Young minds
Hands on Scotland
Royal College of Psychiatrists - conduct disorder factsheet

I am worried about bullying

Bullying is a serious problem and it can be very upsetting for both you and your child. Children and young people may find it hard to talk about being bullied or bullying others, and whilst you may not be sure that your child has a bullying issue there are some signs that may suggest there is a problem. 

Bullying can present itself in different forms, from physical bullying to verbal and psychological bullying. There is an increase in bullying using email, text messaging and other social media sites such as Facebook.

  • Your child might start to miss school or complain about physical health issues such as stomach pains and headaches in the morning.
  • Your child’s sleep might deteriorate and your child might find it hard to get to sleep and stay asleep, might not eat or eat more than usual.
  • Your child might come home with torn clothes, missing or broken belongings, or lost money; your child might have more bruises and scrapes than usual.

Look out for signs of stress - being moody, silent or crying, or bullying a younger sibling or friend. 

Read more in the useful links below:
Beat Bullying
Royal College of Psychiatrists

Need for order and routine

We all need some order and routine in our lives, but sometimes this need can become overwhelming and impact on everyday functioning, friendships and the ability to go places. 

If you are worried that your child’s need for order and routine is impacting on their quality of life it may be useful to seek support.

There are many reasons why a child or young person might seek order and routine. Often this can be related to underlying stressors such as anxieties and worries and creating order and routines can make situations more predictable and less anxiety provoking. Sometimes, children and young people develop habits and rituals to manage their anxieties.

There may also be an underlying developmental or mental health condition that is causing this need and if you are concerned about this, it may be helpful to speak with your GP who can advise you whether to seek further professional help.

Read more in the useful links below:

Hands on Scotland

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety related condition which can be very disabling and difficult to understand and cope with. Symptoms can present in a variety of ways from performing repetitive rituals, impulses, irrational doubts and having unwanted obsessional thoughts.

Supporting a young person struggling with OCD can be trying and frustrating as by nature it is not based on rational thought. Symptoms can vary widely, which can make it difficult to recognise and treat and therefore hard to fully identify how best to help your loved one.

Read more in the useful links below:

OCD Kids


Autism is often known as “Autism Spectrum Disorder” or “ASD” because it covers a range of conditions including Asperger’s Syndrome. 

Typical difficulties for somebody with Autism Spectrum Disorder are around understanding and engaging in social interactions: 

  • Difficulties understanding and using communication, including more subtle aspects of social communication such as sarcasm or body language
  • Difficulties using imagination to generate ideas and play creatively
  • A strong dislike in changes in routine
  • Responding more or less sensitively to sensations such as sound or touch

In addition to the above, children and young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder frequently experience high levels of stress and anxiety, particularly around times of change (eg transition from primary to secondary school). If you are concerned your child may have an autism spectrum disorder, see your GP and they may refer you on to a Community paediatrician in the first instance.

Read more in the useful links below:

National Autistic Society
Autism West Midlands
Resources for Autism

Always on the go - my child acts without thinking (ADHD)

ADHD, or Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, can be difficult to distinguish from ordinary behavioural difficulties.

Symptoms of ADHD are inattention; nervousness and/or fidgeting; impulsive behaviours.

Many children and young people who have ADHD find it hard to make and maintain friendships due to their impulsive and restless behaviours; they may be seen as ‘naughty’ and don’t listen well. At school, teachers might find that they daydream or shout out; get out of their seats; find it hard to concentrate and stay on topic. Often, children /young people might not sleep much and can experience low self-esteem.

Often, children and young people with ADHD are seen as ‘naughty’ by the general public and parents can feel judged by others for their child’s disruptive or impulsive behaviour.

If you are concerned your child may have ADHD see your GP about this and they may refer you on to a community paediatrician in the first instance.

Read more in the useful links below:

NHS ADHD information
Royal College of Psychiatrists ADHD information

Royal College of Psychiatrists – restless excitable children information

Headaches, stomach pains, feeling dizzy (anxiety)

Worries, fears and phobias are all forms of anxiety. Everyone gets worried and frightened by things from time to time, but sometimes these concerns start to take over everyday life. 

Children and young people may develop anxieties to specific situations or problems, like a phobia, or may develop more generalised anxiety. Your child may want to stop doing certain activities as they feel overcome by feelings of anxiety; they may become reluctant to go to school or report physical concerns such as feeling sick; feeling dizzy; heaving stomach pains or headaches.

Some children and young people become very anxious when they have to leave a parent and find it difficult to settle into school.

Read more in the useful links below:

Royal College of Psychiatrists
Hands on Scotland

Difficulties with cultural Identity

Children and young people who live between two cultures - a “British” way of life and the culture their parents grew up with - can face conflicts and challenges. It can be difficult to balance cultural traditions with the more “British” traditions.

Cultural identity can be made up of influences that are not part of mainstream society and these can often be misunderstood and misinterpreted. This can lead to the feeling isolated and a lack of sense of belonging. Young people are likely to want to learn about their background but may be confused about how they connect with other cultures. 

You might find it helps to talk to other people within your community or to staff at school or college, who are likely to have experience of dealing with this.

Read more in the useful links below:

Royal College of Psychiatrists

Moodiness and low mood

Most people feel sad or unhappy from time to time, however people suffering from depression feel very down. Everything is too much effort and they cannot shake off the constant feeling of unhappiness. They may start to think that they are useless and no good. Things that they may once have found fun, no longer make them happy and they can’t seem to laugh anymore.

If you are concerned your child may have become depressed you may notice that their sleeping and eating patterns have changed. A child or young person may spend long periods of time sleeping, or may not be able to sleep at all. They may also completely lose their appetite, or eat much more than they normally would. They may be more tearful than usual and become socially withdrawn or isolate themselves from family or social events. Concentration and engagement in school may deteriorate. Your child may be more irritable than usual to the point you may feel you’re walking on eggshells. Those mood changes, outbursts of anger or tearfulness would be beyond what might be classed as ‘normal’ child or teenage behaviour.

If you have concerns that a young person you care about has become depressed then contact your GP for advice.

Read more in the useful links below:

Young minds

Paranoid, bizarre and unusual behaviours

If you are noticing that your child is becoming unusually suspicious or paranoid about situations or people; or they seem to respond to sounds or things that are not actually there, or their thought patterns and things they say seem confused, and they may become increasingly withdrawn; your child may be showing symptoms of psychosis and you should seek out help through your GP as soon as possible.

Psychosis is a symptom of serious mental illness. The risk of having psychosis increases through the teenage years and can be triggered by a sudden and/or traumatic event, it can also be the result of a physical illness like a severe infection, the use of illegal drugs like cannabis, or a severe mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Sometimes it is difficult to know what caused the illness. People who have a history of mental illness in their family are more likely to develop psychosis.

Read more in the useful links below:

Royal College of Psychiatry
Young minds


Schizophrenia is a disorder that affects thinking, feeling and behaviour. It usually starts between the ages of 15 to 35 and affects about one in every 100 people during their lifetime. Symptoms are divided into ‘positive’ (a change in behaviour) and ‘negative’ (reduction or loss in behaviours and activities). You may notice that your child has difficulty thinking and is finding it difficult to understand what they’re saying; they may feel controlled by someone/something; they may have altered perceptual experiences and may hear, see or feel things that are not there; their thoughts may be distorted.

On the other hand, your child may have lost interest in things around them; lack energy, motivation and show a lack of emotions. 

If you are concerned about schizophrenia then please contact your GP.

Read more in the useful links below:

Royal College of Psychiatrists


Self-harm is usually a strategy to try and manage difficult and distressing feelings. Often, people don’t know why they self-harm, but use it to communicate their distress and as a way to cope. Self-harm can take many different forms and implies that a person deliberately causes harm to themselves.

Self-harming is surprisingly common, involving about one in 10 young people - more frequently girls. 

Young people who self-harm are not usually intending to commit suicide but trying to find a way to survive high emotion, distress and unbearable inner turmoil. 

Finding out that someone you care about is deliberately injuring themselves can be difficult to understand and parents/carers may feel shocked and isolated. Please speak to your GP for support for both you and your child.

Read more in the useful links below:

Royal College of Psychiatrists
Young Minds

Suicidal thoughts

Nearly everyone has times when they feel very down and can't see a way out, but for a few people these feelings are so intense they may lead to attempts to end their life. Young people can be particularly at risk due to the changes and pressures they go through as part of growing up; young people may act more impulsively.

For most people it is difficult to understand and talk about why someone may be thinking about taking this course of action. Suicidal thoughts affect both boys and girls and can occur in a variety of ways for a variety of reasons.

If you have concerns that a young person you care about is considering suicide take their considerations seriously. Seek medical advice immediatelySee what to do in an emergency. 

Also, get professional advice on how you can make your home safer for your child.

Read more in the useful links below:
Young Minds