Mental Wellness Checklist for Children


How do you know if your child is mentally well? What is typical?

Every child is different. When children develop language, motor, and social skills varies from child to child.

Not every behavior problem is serious. In fact, many everyday stresses can cause changes in your child's behavior. For example, stress from a new baby in the family or a divorce may cause a child to temporarily act much younger than he or she is. Before assuming that there is a mental health problem, it can be worth trying changes to see if that makes a difference.

If you're concerned about your child's mental health, try these simple things first:

• Has your child had a full medical checkup recently? There may be a physical problem that needs attention.

• Try less TV

• More sleep

• Exercise every day

• Healthier food

• More calm and quiet

• Learn more about parenting tips and positive ways to manage your children's behavior

• Find out if there are problems at school or elsewhere that are causing stress, such as bullying.

• Adults' anger can influence children without your realizing.



It's easy to know when your child has a fever. A child's mental health problem may be harder to identify, but you can learn to recognize the symptoms. Sudden changes in your child's behavior can tip you off to a problem.



  • Changes in school performance
  • Poor grades despite strong efforts
  • Excessive worry or anxiety (i.e. refusing to go to bed or school)
  • Sadness that doesn't go away
  • Hyperactivity
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Persistent disobedience or aggression
  • Hurting or destroying things
  • Frequent temper tantrums


  • Substance abuse
  • Inability to cope with problems and daily activities
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive complaints of physical ailments
  • Defiance of authority, truancy, theft, and/or vandalism
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Exercising too much
  • Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or thoughts of death
  • Frequent outbursts of anger that seems to come from nowhere
  • Explosive behavior

Can symptoms be caused by stressful events?
Yes, events like a death in the family, illness in a parent, the stress of family financial problems or divorce can affect every member of a family, even the youngest child. It's normal for stress to cause a child to be upset. Remember this if you see mental, emotional, or behavioral symptoms in your child. Take note if he or she gets better with time. If more than a month goes by, professional help may be needed.

Some common mental health problems in children are:


You could discuss your concerns with:

  • People whose parenting you respect
  • Your child's teachers and school counselors
  • Your minister or rabbi
  • Your child's doctor or health care provider
  • A mental health professional

Ask questions and learn everything you can about the behavior or symptoms that worry you. Keep in mind that every child is different. Even normal development, such as when children develop language, motor, and social skills, varies from child to child. Ask if your child needs further evaluation by a specialist with experience in child behavioral problems. Specialists may include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurses, and behavioral therapists. Educators may also help evaluate your child.

If you take your child to a specialist, ask, "Do you have experience treating the problems I see in my child?" Don't be afraid to interview more than one specialist to find the right fit. Continue to learn everything you can about the problem or diagnosis. The more you learn, the better you can make decisions that feel right for you, your child, and your family.

* Sources: Mental Health America; U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Resources, National Institute of Mental Health

Local Resources

Ventura County Behavioral Health
Mental health & substance use treatment services
Countywide – All Ages
Call Toll-free • Confidential • 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

  • Crisis and Referral Line
  • Early Detection & Intervention for the Prevention of Psychosis 

211 Ventura County
Free service connecting people to health and human services in the community
Countywide – All Ages
Call 2-1-1 or text your zip code to 898211

Clinicas del Camino Real
Healthcare, including mental health services
Oxnard, Santa Paula, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Ventura – All Ages
(866) 885-7900

Support and resources, including youth shelter and housing referrals
Countywide – Children & Youth
805) 485-6114

Kids & Families Together 
For children and their families, including kinship and foster caregivers
Countywide – Children & Youth
(805) 643-1446

Logrando Bienestar
Mental health screenings 
Countywide – All Ages
805) 973-5220

Project Esperanza
Family classes & activities
Santa Paula & Fillmore – Youth
(805) 276-7671

United Parents
Local support and referrals for parents
Countywide – Youth
(805) 384-1555

Ventura County SELPA
Helping your child succeed at school
(805) 437-1560