Behavioural, Emotional or Sleep Difficulties

Have you got a young child who will not sleep in their own room, or insists on you sitting with them until they fall asleep?

Is your child a delight in school but incredibly hard to manage at home?

Does your child get into fights, appear to not tell the truth, swear at you, even steal?

Is your child using the internet really inappropriately, perhaps sending sexual messages or images despite you trying to educate them about the dangers?

If the answer is yes to any of these, there is help available.

Sleep problems in young people are very common

Usually the sleep problems can be addressed with some fairly simple advice or a few session of family therapy; this is such a relief to parents who are exhausted with sleep battles. It is important to have a thorough psychiatric assessment to ascertain the likely cause of the sleep difficulty. A minority of young people benefit from some medication temporarily to re-establish the sleep pattern and the medication options are harmless and non-addictive. One is a natural chemical found in your body, that regulates the sleep wake cycle.

Sleep problems also occur in teenagers and can really affect their mental state and functioning in lessons. These are often easily resolved and I would recommend not leaving poor sleep for too long without getting help.

Simple methods to try to improve sleep are:

Switch off all screens an hour before you want to go to sleep (the light from screens switches off your body’s natural mechanism to get you to sleep)

Establish a routine such as having a shower, getting changed for bed, having a warm drink, brushing your teeth, listening to music then bed. Eventually your body will learn the last thing in the routine is sleep

Do not do exercise too close to bed

Do not study too near to sleep, it will stimulate your brain too much

Do not get wound up if you cannot get to sleep, just reassure yourself lying in bed and resting is good

Behavioural problems at home

You are not alone. This does not mean you are a bad parent. It is worth having a psychiatric assessment to understand the cause and maintaining factors of these behavioural issues. The behaviours may be related to a developmental issue or a mental illness and it might be they are simply resolved by reviewing the communication patterns within the family.

Is your child defiant, disruptive and at times aggressive?

Children presenting this way can be so difficult for parents to manage. I would advise getting a psychiatric assessment early on as without input this is only likely to worsen and the behaviours could impact on the young person’s future significantly and negatively (this is backed up by evidence base). It is likely we would offer support to the whole family for a young person behaving in this manner but the first step would be a psychiatric assessment of the young person to get a clear understanding of what is happening for them.

Is your child using the internet too much or inappropriately and will they not listen to your advice?

If this is becoming a significant problem that you feel is posing a risk to your child’s functioning or safety it is worth arranging an assessment for the young person. Often there is an underlying cause for this such as a low self-esteem, an autistic spectrum disorder, depression or body image issues. Young people will often talk to a clinician about what is really going on for them especially if they understand conversations can be confidential. If this is becoming a problem that you feel poses a risk it is worth arranging an assessment for the young person.