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Communicating with Kids Series – Signs My Child is Having a Bad Day

November 7, 2018     By Boys Town Contributor

Child Development, Communicating with Kids, Connecting with Kids, Connecting with Teens, Parent-Child Relationships

Communicating with Kids is a seven-part series on how parents can better communicate with children of all ages. Each month we pose a specific question about communication to a variety of our Boys Town experts: from the Boys Town Center for Behavioral Health® to the Boys Town Common Sense Parenting® program and many who serve the Boys Town National Hotline®.

Part 2

What signs should stand out to parents when kids are having a bad day?

K-3rd Grade

An observant parent can see signs pretty quickly that a child is having a bad day. Early warning signs may come in the form of "rumbling" behaviors. These are behaviors that are more subtle and not like the child's normal behaviors. For example, a child who usually responds to you when you greet them does not respond back, or a child who usually enjoys playing outside with others stays in their bedroom. Calmly and quietly address rumbling behaviors as soon as you observe them. When you address the behavior immediately it reduces the chances of it getting worse and spiraling out of control.

Bridget Barnes, Director, Boys Town's Common Sense Parenting

4th-8th Grade

Most parents are going to know this already by noticing changes in their child's behaviors. This means there are fundamental areas kids usually shine in that they are now struggling with. Here are some examples of signs to look for: 

  • A child who's usually social is now mostly quiet.
  • A child who usually has a brighter, upbeat affect now appears downcast and disengaged with others at school and home.  
  • A child has unusual changes in mood or is even just more moody in general.
  • A child's physical appearance begins to deteriorate in uncharacteristic ways (wearing the same clothes for days, poor hygiene, etc.).     
  • A child begins to isolate and turn inward.  
  • A child is more sensitive and reactive to things you or others say and do.
  • A child has changes in appetite.  
  • A child starts picking on or bulling others when ordinarily they don't do that. 

All of these examples are changes in what I like to call the "fundamentals" – or ways children normally behave that are "off" or different that day.

Julie Almquist, Manager, Boys Town Behavioral Health Clinic

9th-12th Grade (Teens)

Multiple school absences
Tardy to school
Tired (laying around, yawning)
Facial expressions (angry, sad)
Crying/emotional
Poor hygiene and/or grooming
Wearing same clothes
Not prepared for school
Don’t talk or unusually quiet
Lack of focus
Plummeting grades
On phone/headphones in
Negative verbal comments
Behavior changes (acting out, out of sorts, abnormal behavior)
Outbursts
Aggressive behavior
Isolating from others
Disengaging
Suspicion of substance abuse
Risky behaviors
Somatic complaints

Julie Bloomindale, Boys Town National Hotline Supervisor

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