What are typical challenges we go through when we are children or adolescents?

Growing up and being young is not always easy. When we are little, there are a lot of things we have to learn. We learn how to walk and talk, understand and deal with our emotions, communicate and hang out with friends and adults, and how we should act in many different situations. As we continue to grow up, we keep learning a lot of new things about ourselves and about the world, as well as experiencing a lot of different feelings, sensations, and situations. So, it is expected that some of the new things we are learning or experiencing may be challenging and may cause us distress. With so many things to learn, and so many things we go through, it is expected that we may have some difficulties and delays in acquiring skills, understanding and dealing with difficult emotions, and carrying out appropriate behaviors at all times.


If some difficulties are typical, when should I be concerned?

Knowing when our behaviors or difficult emotions are typical or not is not easy. There are six things that can help us differentiate them:

  • Frequency. Most concerns arise when our emotions or behaviors begin to interfere with our lives. For example, it is typical to be worried from time to time when new or challenging things are happening, such as a school change or a fight with a friend. However, worrying most of the time or every day may indicate a concern.
  • Intensity. Most of us experience mild emotions, with temporary ups and downs, and our behaviors are not often troublesome. For example, it is typical to get angry when provoked or have mood changes that don't get in the way of our daily activities. But when feeling these ways results in withdrawing from most friends, getting aggressive or fighting with family or friends, throwing or destroying things, hurting ourselves, or having suicide thoughts, there is an indication of a concern.
  • Duration. Concerns also appear when our emotions or behaviors have a duration longer than what is expected for a situation. For example, it is expected for us to be angry for a while right after being frustrated about something that did or did not happen. But frequently feeling angry or feeling angry for longer than a few days may indicate a concern.
  • Context, or situation. Emotions and behaviors mostly happen in response to things that happen around us. But emotions or behaviors that seem to happen for no apparent reason may indicate a concern. For example, feeling sad after something distressing happens is more likely to be typical than feeling sad without any bad thing happening.
  • Uncommon behaviors/experiences. Some behaviors/experiences are uncommon and can be a cause of concern independent of whether they are frequent, have a long duration or occur in a specific situation. For example, self-injury, unusual sensory experiences like hearing voices or seeing things that others cannot see, are examples of experiences that indicate the necessity of immediate attention from a trusted adult or professional.
  • Impairment. Finally, the most important rule when trying to understand if an emotion or behavior is typical or not is trying to understand the impact they have in our lives. Emotions and behaviors that interfere with school, friends, family members, and our free time are more likely to represent a significant problem than emotions and behaviors that do not interfere with daily lives and are not generating distress or problems.


What are concerns about children and adolescents?

Concerns about children and adolescents can be typically divided into three main groups:

  • The first group includes concerns about learning during development. Concerns that emerge from these types of difficulties typically emerge very early in life, and represent a failure to learn and develop skills, as well as delays in achieving milestones, such as reading, writing, doing math activities, and effectively communicating with others.
  • The second group includes concerns about emotions. Concerns that emerge from these types of difficulties can also emerge early in life, but also later in development such as in our childhood or teen years. They are usually related to experiencing intense emotions, such as fear, anxiety, sadness, and anger, and are commonly associated with avoidance and withdrawal from pleasurable activities.
  • The last group includes concerns about behaviors. Concerns that emerge from these types of difficulties can emerge early in life, but also later in development such in our childhood or teens years. They represent difficulties in understanding rules and social norms, leading to inappropriate, or rule-breaking behaviors.


Below you can find a list of common concerns we may face when we are children or teens. Remember that if you, or a friend, is going through any of these problems, you don't have to face them alone. The short guides in this package will address all of these problems in detail, refer you to more information and materials to help when a significant concern is present, and help you learn about ways you can ask for help.


Concerns about learning

Concerns about emotions

Concerns about behaviors

Early developmental problems


Rule breaking behavior







Social communication

Fear of being apart from a caregiver


Restricted and repetitive movements



Difficulties with bladder control

Ritualistic behaviors and repetitive movements

Alcohol and substance use


Obsessive thoughts

Excessive screen use





Body image









Distress after traumatic experiences



Panic attacks




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