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Irritability in Children - How Parents Can Help


Leibenluft: Parents often ask “Well, how do I know if this is unusual?” You know, how do I know if the amount of temper outbursts that my child has is unusual? And there are a couple of things to say about that. One is to think about is this impairing for the child or the family? Are there things that the family wants to do that you can’t do. Are you as the parent getting phone calls from school? Is the child not getting as many play dates as other children might have, because they’re having their temper outbursts? And of course, you can talk to the child’s teacher or pediatrician – people who see lots of children – and ask them: “What do you think about this?” You can have your child assessed by a mental health professional.  And indeed, if you’re concerned, that’s a very reasonable thing to do. Even just to answer the question: “Is this something I really should be concerned about or not?” The important thing to realize is that there’s a good bit of evidence that intervening with children early does make a difference – and it does make a difference in the long term -- does not have to do with medications, it has to do with various forms of psychotherapies – very targeted, structured, kinds of psychotherapies. Some of what help the parents get more skilled at how to deal with these situations where the child is having a good deal of difficulty. And some of it has to do with helping the child develop more skills to deal with it themselves.