Newly caring for your grandchild or relative? Important things to do first →

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Understanding and helping the child with their emotional, behavioral or learning needs

Because of the early stressful life events your relative child may have experienced, they may be at a higher risk for emotional or behavioral issues. Below is a list of possible terms and diagnosis that you may encounter. These are typically provided by a mental or behavioral health professional.

Children and adolescents with anxiety may experience intense fear, worry, or uneasiness that can last for long periods and significantly affect their lives.

If anxiety is not assessed and treated early, it could lead to problems like repeated school absences or an inability to finish school; impaired relations with peers; low self- esteem; alcohol or other drug use; problems adjusting to work situations; attachment disorders; and anxiety disorders in adulthood.


These are common neuropsychiatric conditions that affect six to nine percent of school-age children and four percent of adults.

Symptoms of ADHD/ADD can include difficulty paying attention, being easily distracted, fidgeting, acting impulsively or difficulty following instructions.

The good news is with diagnosis and treatment, the symptoms of ADHD/ADD can be substantially decreased and one’s quality of life can be improved.

ADHD/ADD can flare up during periods of stress (such as school or work), in group settings and when tasks seem difficult or tedious.

People with ADHD are often creative and highly energetic. However, it can cause problems in relationships and diminish performance at work or in school.


Only in the past two decades has depression in children been taken very seriously. A depressed child may pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a caregiver or experience feelings of worry. Older children may sulk, get into trouble at school, be negative or grouchy and feel misunderstood.


Children who have had adverse experiences in childhood (recurrent abuse, incarceration of a household member, neglect or trauma) may be more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, self-harm behaviors, and eating disorders.

Learning difficulties are disabilities that affect the ability to understand or use spoken or written language, do mathematical calculations, coordinate movements or direct attention. Although learning disabilities occur in very young children, the disorders are often not recognized until the child reaches school age.


All children can be difficult from time to time, particularly when tired, hungry, stressed or upset. They may argue, talk back, disobey and defy parents, teachers and other adults. Oppositional behavior is often a normal part of development for 2- to 3-year-olds and early adolescents.

Openly uncooperative and hostile behavior becomes a serious concern when it is so frequent and consistent that it stands out when compared with other children of the same age and developmental level and when it affects the child’s social, family and academic life. Children with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) or conduct disorder (CD) have an ongoing pattern of uncooperative, defiant and hostile behavior toward authority figures that seriously interferes with a child’s day-to-day functioning.


Children who have been exposed to a trauma (abuse, witness to violence, experience a life-threatening illness) are at risk for developing PTSD. PTSD symptoms in children may last for a long time, and may include disturbing memories or flashbacks, repeated nightmares, feeling nervous and jumpy, or feeling emotionally numb.