Parents gather round as their kindergarteners play on the playground before the first bell

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With kids it can be hard to tell when something is wrong. 

And just like us, they experience sadness, bad days and mood swings. 

But, sometimes there's more to it. 

"Children are a box of surprises," says Luz Lopez a counselor with the Sunnyside Unified School District. 

Once behaviors start to affect their daily lives, though. It's time to step in. 

"It could be part of their development, but I always tell parents 'better safe than sorry,'" Lopez says. 

Kathleen Conner, another Sunnyside counselor said there are a few specific things to watch for. Signs differ greatly by age, she says, so these are specifically geared toward kids younger than age 10.

1. Extreme moods, temper or irritability that is out of proportion with daily stress.

2. Persistent sadness, melancholy, hopelessness or loss of interest in friends or favorite activities.

3. Excessive fears and worries, which may be expressed somatically, via changes in sleep or eating habits. 

4. Of course, any self-harm or suicidal thoughts or actions require immediate mental health assessment.

"A parent should seek the help professional if any of the first three signs persist beyond a few weeks or significantly impact major life functions, such as attending school, engaging in social interactions or begin to inhibit the child from caring for him/herself (eating, sleeping, toileting," Conner says. "No. 4 requires immediate help of course."

You should also pay attention to the child's academics, Luz says. 

"When a student's grades dramatically dropped usually that is a sign something is going on," Luz says. "It may not be a mental/behavioral issue but it's good to be on the lookout for those things."

In urgent situations, Conner suggests the Crisis Response Center at Kino Hospital, which is open 24/7 and always available to families dealing with mental health questions or crises. 


Get help finding a diagnosis with an assessment by CPES Novelles 

Experiencing difficulties at school, home or work can be frustrating, especially when you don't understand the cause or how to solve the problem.

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Click here to see the full list and make an appointment today.

Angela Pittenger | This Is Tucson