Don't just consult Dr Google' for your child's worrying behaviour

As a parent, it is normal to worry about your child.

But some behaviours can be more worrying than others, and it is hard to know when to call on professional help.

Psychologist and neuroscientist Charlotte Keating said it was understandable that parents were sometimes reticent to take their child to see a therapist.

"There's that fear that you'll make it a bigger problem if you treat it as a problem," she toldĀ ABC Radio Melbourne's Clare Bowditch.

"Parents think, 'Hang on, I should be able to get through this or I should be able to help them through this', rather than having to outsource it."

Trust your instincts

Dr Keating said parents needed to think about the behaviour that was concerning them and ask themselves how pervasive the problem was, and what level of risk it posed to their child.

She said there were a few key questions parents could ask themselves.

"How long has it been present for, how disruptive is it, and have I tried everything to try and turn it around?"

"Is the problem at a stage whereby if we do leave it and see whether it's a phase, we might actually do more damage in terms of social, emotional, academic or personal development?"

Dr Keating said parents should trust their gut feelings about whether to seek professional help.

"If a mum or a dad has an instinct that something might be wrong, and they've tried various different strategies to try and turn this around but it hasn't worked, then it's really useful to get a second opinion."

Face to face better than Dr Google

Parents did not have to take their child to the initial appointment, Dr Keating said.

Talking to a professional will give you insight into how to better help your child, and help you decide if your child needs counselling.

Dr Keating said parents often turned to the internet for advice when they were concerned about their children, but seeing a doctor or psychologist was "another form of information gathering".

"It doesn't have to be Google, it can be that face-to-face opportunity for clarity," she said.

"That could be with your GP, it could be with a psychologist, it could be with the school counsellor."

Free help is available

Dr Keating said while mental health care could be expensive, there were options available if cost was a concern.

"You can go to your GP and get a Better Access Mental Healthcare Plan that will entitle you to a Medicare rebate for usually six, but up to 10 sessions," she said.

Organisations such as Headspace also offered free mental health services for young people, she said.

"That can be a much better option, particularly where it's a cost-sensitive decision."