Is This Normal? 10 Things to Consider When You Are Worried About Your Child

Daniel Silva Gaxiola from

Explosive behavior
Risky behaviors-drug or alcohol use, excessive screen use, sexting, cutting, food restriction etc..
Moodiness and irritability
Being secretive or shut down, pushing you away
Feeling self-consciousness
Time spent in front of the screen
Grades dipping

As parents, we have been there, but it has been awhile and there are challenges our kids face, we didn’t! It is so hard to have perspective about our own children. They are our hearts walking outside our bodies and stepping back to see the wider picture is TOUGH!

But it is natural to be concerned when we are seeing some of the above behaviors. SO, HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHAT IS NORMAL AND WHAT IS NOT?

Each child has his or her own continuum. He or she is wired a bit differently than everyone else. So, one child’s behavior may seem intense for him or her, but compared to a different child, it may not be that shocking.

I am going to first say, it is complicated to assess whether a child’s behavior is abnormal, so I strongly suggest that you go with your GUT. YOU KNOW YOUR CHILD BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE.

So, if you are spending huge amounts of time:
• Comparing your child to your friends’ children,
• Researching online to determine whether you child’s behavior is abnormal,
• Spinning that mind-spin wheel inside your head constantly so you are losing sleep and having a difficult time enjoying the connection you DO have with your tween or teen.

STOP and seek help! If you are parenting from a place of fear, your will NOT be able to connect with the child who is in front of you!

However, I get that it is helpful to have some guidance, so I will give you some high-level tips to consider when deciding to seek help:
• Has this behavior started suddenly?
• Has your child’s friend group changed recently?
• Is this behavior getting in the way of school performance? Are your child’s grades suddenly being affected?
• Is your child isolating? Has he or she suddenly started refusing to get involved in extra- curricular activities?
• Have certain behaviors persisted even though you feel you have tried EVERYTHING?
• Has your child lost interest in the things he or she used to enjoy doing and has not replaced these interests with others?
• Is your child having a lot of trouble sleeping?
• Has there been a recent loss of appetite and weight loss or sudden weight gain?
• Have you suddenly been seeing excessive mood swings that are unusual for your child and you are concerned about?

Finally, I can’t emphasize this enough, PLEASE do not worry about crying wolf. You do not need to, clinically, assess your own child. It is okay to default to seeking help if, in your core, you believe something is not right—even if you don’t know what it is!

If you would like to talk to me about your child off line, I do offer free strategy consults over the phone. Feel free to grab a spot on my schedule! Go to:

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Allow Your Kids to Flail

 Myles Tan from

I love the word, “flail”. It combines fail and fall into one word. So, I choose this word because it is so efficient and to challenge you as parents to allow your kids to flail.

Last year my 13 old asked if he could manage screen time on his own.  We told him that we would let him give it a try if: 1. He continued doing well in school. 2. He was getting together with friends, 3. He was involved in school and extra-curricular activities and 4. He had a hard stop at night at a time we decided.

So, even though he was in front of a screen more than we liked, he managed his life pretty well.

This year: new year, new developmental stage, different story and, now, at 14, he started pushing boundaries on the night-time hard stop.  Now we are faced with a dilemma. We have given him latitude to self-manage his screen time. So far, his life still looks pretty good: good grades, friends, some activities. Sleep?  Not so much. It worked okay last year, now, it is not working so well. Potentially, his behavior is sliding into health hazard territory if it continues.

For us as parents, some of the questions we struggle with are: how lenient or how strict should we be with our kids?  When do we let go or when do we restrict? When do we jump in when a child is floundering or when do we let our children fail?  There are no hard and fast answers here. It totally depends on you, your family, the situation and your child.

However, here are some questions to consider as you are deciding when to say, “yes” or when to say “no.  When to restrict or when to be more lenient. When to jump in or when to allow your kid to “flail”.

  1. What are the major values and lessons you want your child to internalize?  Would imposing rules without discussion be the best route for your child to truly own the values you would like him or her to learn?
  2. What conversations have you been having with your child about these values all along?  If you have not been talking with your child about what you believe is important, it is a good time to start–the sooner, the better.
  3. What are the things that are not that important?  What can you let go of?
  4. Is your child safe?
  5. How are you encouraging your child to be part of the solution?
  6. And are there any circumstance in which your child may be able to change your mind about a decision you have made?  How would you want your child to present his or her argument?

You can create a family culture where your children have some skin in the game.  Where they can be part of the solution in an age-appropriate way. And where they can learn by making mistakes.  You can bet that they will come to a much deeper understanding of what you want them to know by having these experiences.

But there may be times when you will have to step in.  That will come under the, “is my child safe” heading. Most other lessons may be better learned by your guidance rather than direct intervention.

In our case, we decided to get clearer to our son that we will intervene if he can not take care of getting off his devices at the agreed upon time.  If you have given your child latitude and he/she is pushing for more and the behavior has consequences for your child’s health and wellbeing, it is totally okay to do a reset and to intervene.

The best image I can think of, is letting your kids flail with a safety net below them.

Sharon Burris-Brown M.S.W., N.B.C-H.W.C is a mental health professional-turned-health and parent coach who specializes in helping parents create strong families and resilient kids.

Please feel free to join my FREE Facebook group: Raising Empowered Tweens and Teens for the 21st Century by clicking here.