These are often the first and easiest sign of a mental health concern to observe. Behaviours can be broken down into two broad categories: externalising and internalising.
- Externalising behaviours can include one or more of angry, impulsive, hyperactive (restlessness, difficulty paying attention) and challenging behaviours. These behaviours are relatively easy to recognise as they are quite disruptive and are likely to demand attention from parents and other family members.
- Internalising behaviours can include inhibited and over-controlled behaviours such as withdrawal, worry, fearfulness and becoming easily upset. These behaviours are a lot more difficult to notice as they are mostly experienced internally by the child and don’t necessarily draw attention from others.
Younger children may also have problems regulating their behaviour. This means that they find it hard to manage their feelings and responses to particular experiences. As an example, a younger child may have difficulties in settling into a predictable routine (for example, sleeping, feeding) and managing reactions to changes in the environment (for example, loud noise, bright lights). An older child may find it difficult to wait their turn or calm down after becoming upset.
Many children find it difficult to regulate their behaviour from time to time, as they are still developing this skill. If you’re seeing this regularly in your child, and they don’t seem to be learning over a period of time, they may need some extra support.