Your gut instinct about your child is usually right: If you sense something is wrong (or different) perhaps your kid seems depressed, tired or anxious you’ll want to speak to your pediatrician first. But how do you know if your kid needs to see a psychotherapist?

If you’re alarmed by changing behaviors, consider seeking therapy for your child, Jeanette Raymond, a psychologist in private practice in Los Angeles, tells Yahoo Parenting. During therapy, your child can express herself through play or art, and talking is the best way to uncover her fears and help her feel more settled. Keep in mind that traumatic events such as divorce, a death in the family, a move, or even job loss may also prompt behavioral changes, acting out, or disturbances in eating or sleeping habits.

Warning signs that could signal a need for therapy vary by age, Raymond says, and below are several to help you determine if it’s a step your child could benefit from:

Toddler Warning Signs

Not talking
Being unduly clingy and tearful
Biting and kicking excessively
Being cruel to pets
Playing aggressively with toys and/or other children
Head-banging
Having uncontrollable tantrums

Elementary-School Age Warning Signs

Soiling and wetting pants after being fully toilet trained
Refusing to eat
Eating non-edible substances
Problems staying awake
Fear of going home after school
Avoiding answering questions about themselves and their family life
Self-harm with pencils in eyes or ears, or scratching until they draw blood
Pulling out their own hair
Biting their nails until they get to bare flesh
Writing or drawing dark scenes and refusing to talk about them
Abuse of younger children and animals
Excessive weight gain or loss
Separation anxiety

Tween Warning Signs

The above (elementary-school age) behaviors
Retreating into themselves
Hiding from adults and peers
Bullying or being bullied
Adopting an adult manner of talking and acting
Smell of alcohol or cigarettes on clothes
Drowsy and incoherent
Covering body with large baggy clothes
Sleeping at school

Teenager Warning Signs

The above (tween) behaviors
Choosing to be alone a great deal
Pretending to follow a normal routine but secretly stashing/disposing food, report cards, homework
Sexual precociousness
Eating fads and weight fluctuations
Constant headaches, migraines or stomach problems

The bottom line, Raymond says, is to trust yourself, and to know that getting your kid in for a therapy consult even if it doesn’t turn out to be what he or she needs can’t hurt. Taking your child to a therapist gives you an inside scoop into the psyche of your child and how you figure in it, she says. Even if there is no major problem, you’ll learn important things about your child. It gives you the opportunity to be the parent your child needs.

Lambeth HochwaldWriter/EditorNovember 10, 2014