Behavioral Health for Young Children

Like adults, children and adolescents can have behavioral health problems that interfere with the way they think, feel and act. These problems are real and painful. They can lead to school failure, family conflicts, drug abuse, violence, or suicide.

Definition of Behavioral Health

So, what is behavioral health? Behavioral health is how we think, feel and act as we face life’s situations. It is how we look at ourselves, our lives, and the people in our lives. It is how we evaluate options and make choices.

Like our physical health, our behavioral health is important at every stage of life. Behavioral health includes how we handle stress, relate to others, and make decisions.

Behavioral health problems often limit young people’s current and future ability to be productive. In addition, these problems can be very costly to families, communities and the health care system.

Who is Affected by Child Behavioral Health Problems?

From a family perspective emotional, behavioral, or mental health problems cut across all income, educational, racial, ethnic, and religious groups. They are found among single parent and two-parent families and in birth, adoptive, and foster families.

Yet, families raising a child with an emotional, behavioral, or mental health problem have many things in common. They share the need for accurate assessment of their child’s strengths and needs. They seek appropriate therapeutic, education and recreational services for their children.

Support Services for Families

Families need support services that will assist their efforts in helping their children learn, develop and grow. Families may face many challenges as they cope with the difficulties and demands of raising a child with behavioral health issues.

The absence of childcare prevents families from participating in social or recreational activities. Families may experience isolation from friends and relatives. Also, families may face staggering costs for special treatment, education, or other services. 

Families have great strength. Many have learned to manage their circumstances very well through the assistance of community mental health centers, and other family orientated self-help organizations. Mental Health Centers do not always have the necessary services available for young children because they are usually funded through public resources. Specialized care is available in the private sector often at a very high cost.

Parents who have experienced these same difficulties may be of assistance in locating a professional who can guide you through the steps to more positive outcomes. Agencies that specialize in helping families access community-based resources specific to families’ needs are listed at the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

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