Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can occur in all ages. Put simply, it is an ongoing, persistent inability to tolerate uncertainty about a perceived distressing thought or threat. Frequently, this intolerance looks like disruptive, repetitive rituals and sounds like constant reassurance seeking from loved ones to try to gain certainty about an upsetting trigger. It can be diagnosed in young children, and research shows the earlier treatment that can be provided, the better the long-term outcomes in managing OCD across a lifetime.
The compulsive rituals in OCD can drive a sufferer’s daily life, keeping them anxious and preoccupied. When the OCD experience impacts your child, it impacts your entire family in ways that are confusing, frustrating, limiting, and extremely challenging.
To cope and navigate your child’s OCD diagnosis optimally, you’ll need specific education about the symptoms in young people, loads of knowledgeable support, and a plan to help them manage their OCD symptoms in their everyday lives.
OCD is Actually an Anxiety Disorder
The obsessions and compulsions of the condition form when certain behaviors become associated with finding relief from anxiety. Your child’s rituals can strengthen distorted beliefs related to resolving fear and worry. Thus, it’s crucial to learn how to recognize and respond to symptoms at home and school.
You may feel as though you’re stuck with your child in their cycle of distress, disturbing thoughts, and compulsive behaviors. What can you do practically and productively to help your child address their compulsive habits and feel more in control?
Tips to Help Your Child Manage Their OCD Symptoms
1. Education makes all the difference in your parenting effectiveness related to your child’s OCD, understanding, and compassion. Read up and connect with OCD experts who can help. Natasha Daniels has an excellent YouTube channel that has lots of information content towards understanding childhood anxiety and OCD.
2. Reassure your child by reminding them that the odd, awkward, or bizarre thoughts and rituals are not who they are. They are part of OCD, that’s all. But, be careful to not reinforce the OCD with too much reassurance. Instead of telling them, they are ok and safe, ask them, “is this your OCD talking?” without trying to further feed their OCD. Then without too much attention, carry on with your normal routines.
3. Shame tends to be a big part of OCD since the distressing thoughts and rituals in OCD are unwanted. Explain that their feelings and thoughts don’t make them wrong or shameful. Clarify that everyone has scary, strange thoughts. In their case, the thoughts just mean too much. Share that they have the power to label those thoughts as unimportant and throw them out the window.
4. Teach your child to separate themselves from the condition by naming it or simply referring to it as “OCD, the bully.” Let them know every time they complete a compulsion, they are making the bully stronger. In order to fight back against the bully, we have to do the opposite of what it is telling us to do.
5. When your child wants to perform a compulsion, help them notice how the process gets started, rather than the intricacies of the obsessions and content of their rituals. Try drawing their attention to the process by saying “here comes OCD again,” or the like.
6. Let your child know that obeying the bully just gives it more power and control.
7. Slowly, do your best to help your child alter, postpone, or abandon their rituals. Do this over time, testing their response. Then, ask them questions about how they felt and whether what they expected to happen actually happened.
8. Speak kindly and mindfully with compassion. Reiterate often that anxiety always passes. Their rituals don’t really make that happen.
9. Keep an eye out for developing rituals. Help your child notice and stop the OCD bully as early as they can.
10. Celebrate every win that your child experiences in their battle against OCD. Champion their ability to stand up for themselves. Praise their ability to address and change rituals in any way. Do your best to encourage and empower them.
Why Therapy is Important
Your support is an amazing advantage your child should benefit from daily. That fact is definitely not to be discounted. However, left untreated, your child’s OCD can get worse as your child grows up.
Your commitment to OCD treatment for your child helps prioritize managing the disorder for the long haul.
Choosing a well-trained therapist specializing in exposure and response therapy (the gold standard for OCD treatment) can make a significant difference in your child’s mental health and the health of your family. Your parenting is necessary and your participation in creating a helpful home environment is vital. However, there is no substitute for ongoing support.
Consistency is essential in OCD therapy. Please read more about our OCD treatment approaches and let’s talk about how we can customize them to meet your child’s needs. Please contact us for your free-30-minute phone consultation to learn more.