December 20, 2016

Navigating Parenting Challenges – When and Where to Get Help with Behavioral Issues

shutterstock-child-behaviorFor parents, knowing when to seek help for their children’s behavioral issues can be difficult.

“Parents have to trust their gut feeling,” said Jennifer Combs, MSW, LCSW, Integrated Behavioral Health Consultant at McDowell Pediatrics in Marion. “If something feels ‘off’ please come and talk to me or the child’s primary care provider. Parents know their children better than anyone else; if they notice a significant change in behavior, drop in grades at school, or are concerned because their child seems unhappy, depressed, or much more irritable than usual, those can often be red flags that things aren’t going well for the child.”

Combs is part of McDowell Pediatrics’ team-based approach to care. As a licensed behavioral health consultant on the staff, she assists providers in treating both physical and emotional issues.

“These issues can be treated with medications; however, best practice is to treat with behavioral interventions in conjunction with medication,” said Combs. “Sometimes the behavioral interventions are so effective that patients find their symptoms improve and they do not need medication.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a combined approach — with medication and behavioral therapy — for the best possible outcome, added Combs, as opposed to treating issues with medication alone.

The issues Combs sees in children and adolescents varies, she said, depending on age. “In younger children, I see a lot of kids who are having trouble paying attention at school or who are struggling with listening to their parents and following directions,” she said. “In older children and teenagers, I see a lot of anxiety.”

Combs offers counseling services to children and families. “I can also work with parents separately from their child if they want to learn parenting skills. I can assess children for ADHD, depression, anxiety and a variety of other behavioral health concerns,” she said. “The services I provide are time-limited, and my goal is to help kids and families function better within six sessions. If families need more support, I can connect them with a variety of resources in our community to meet their needs.”

Don’t ignore these signs — your child might have behavioral issues:

  • Unhappiness
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Temper tantrums
  • Drop in grades at school
  • Physical aggression
  • Argumentative
  • Stealing
  • Bullying

Jennifer Combs, MSW, LCSW, is an Integrated Behavioral Health Consultant at McDowell Pediatrics. (828) 652-6386

To learn more about general pediatrics and primary care at Mission Children’s Hospital, visit