Understanding Sudden, Odd Behaviour in Your Child

  • By: The DIG for Kids
  • Time to read: 3 min.

When children start acting differently many parents begin to worry, and with good reason. Sudden, odd behaviour in your child could be an indication that something is very wrong in his or her world. When you notice new and confusing behaviour in your child, investigate if there could be a physical, emotional or social cause. Share your thoughts with professionals who might be able to explore these issues with you.

Physical Causes of Sudden, Odd Behaviour

When children exhibit odd behaviour very suddenly there may be an underlying physical cause. Discomfort and pain can be strong motivators for confusing, different behaviours in which a child has never engaged before. Physical causes of such behaviour might include:

  • Allergies, including seasonal, food or to something like mould.
  • Illness, even something as generalised as a sudden fever.
  • Teething or dental problems, like cavities or gum disease.
  • Underlying condition, such as an autoimmune condition/disease.
  • Serious illness, for example a childhood cancer.
  • Pain from an accident, anything from a stubbed toe to a broken bone.

Emotional Causes of Sudden, Odd Behaviour

A child who engages in new, negative behaviours with a sudden onset may also be experiencing an emotional upset with which (s)he is unable to cope. Children may not even realise what they are feeling, and so may be unable to explain it, so adults must be extra vigilant to determine if there is an emotional cause to new and disturbing behaviours. Such emotional causes could include:

  • Reaction to stress in the home, including monetary stress.
  • Parental discord, separation or divorce.
  • Death of a loved one, including a pet.
  • Feelings of guilt or responsibility, for example if something was broken or hurt.
  • Confusion over authority in the home, for example if a new partner has moved in.
  • Anger for which (s)he has no outlet.
  • Embarrassment over a personal characteristic like a speech impediment.

Social Causes of Sudden, Odd Behaviour

It may be that any sudden, troubling behaviour your child engages in is the result of an external cause. Social causes in particular can have an affect on children who aren’t sure how to cope with things over which they believe they have no control. Some common social causes of odd behaviour in children include:

  • Being bullied, or bullying others.
  • Starting at a new playgroup or school.
  • Being forced to engage in a play, skit or other instance of public speaking.
  • Believing that they have no friends or no one who cares about them.
  • Not making it onto a team, club or other organisation which requires “membership”.
  • Having others turn down invitations to play, sleep over or attend a party.

Sharing Your Thoughts With Professionals

If you wonder if there may be physical, emotional or social causes to your child’s new and troubling behaviours then don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with professionals. Your child’s GP, dentist, teacher, coaches, school counsellor a member of your clergy and even private mental health professionals can all help you investigate your own thoughts as well as provide more evidence or data for you to work with. Professionals can also help you make a plan for discussing your concerns with your child as well as how to cope with the undesirable behaviours in which your child has begun to engage.

Sudden, odd behaviours in your child can be very worrying. To help understand why your child has begun to act in these ways you could explore any physical, emotional and/or social causes. Sharing your thoughts with the professionals involved in your child’s life might also help you get a better idea of what your child is coping with and how you can help alleviate the underlying causes and stop his or her disturbing behaviours.

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