Do you like coffee? I do too. But not every cup of coffee is the same. Starbucks coffee is generally too strong. Dunkin Donuts coffee is liquid heaven. Therapy is the same way. Therapists are like coffee beans…there are a zillion types and not all of them are going to be good. This is especially true if you are looking for a child OCD or Anxiety therapist.
It’s supposed to be the happiest time of year, right? Then why is your anxious child imploding behind the Christmas tree? Tons of parties, activities, and chaos might sound fun to you, but to an anxious kid – it can be a recipe for disaster. Helping your anxious child survive the holidays isn’t too hard. You just have to know where to begin. Let me give you a jump start…
Sarah sits at the back of the room. Her face has gone pale. Her hands are getting clammy. The teacher hands out the test. She feels nauseous, confused. The room starts to spin. She runs out of the room. The teacher stares at the empty seat. What just happened? OCD and Anxiety in school are often an unnoticed or mislabeled issue.
They are the quiet kids who are afraid to raise their hands. The aggressive kids who are feeling cornered and trapped. The perfectionistic kids who never hand in work because it’s not perfect. They are the kids that don’t participate, are frequently absent and know the nurse by her first name.
Your child is erasing and rewriting their homework…again. She is asking you over and over again if her answers sound right. She checks and rechecks that you understand what she is trying to tell you. Is she a perfectionist? Or could it be something more? Your son tightens one shoe and then the other. “No!” He shouts. The left one is not as tight as the right. He unties the shoes and begins again. Tying and tying. Over and over again. Does he have Sensory Processing Disorder or could it be something different? Just Right OCD is often missed. It can look like so many other issues.
So what is Just Right OCD and how do you help kids who have it? Let’s talk…
For some reason as parents we tend to feel this unrealistic weight and responsibility for everything that happens to our children. They got sick? What did we do to not keep them healthy? They got in a fight? Why didn’t we teach them how to solve their problems better? They are struggling in school? Why didn’t we enroll them in pre-school when they were in utero? So, I guess it makes sense that when our kids get anxiety and OCD we throw ourselves under the bus for that as well.
Sadly though, all this self-depreciation not only makes us less effective as a parent, but it hurts our kids with anxiety and OCD as well.
Sure, nobody likes shots. But your child goes ballistic at just the mere mention of shots. Their fear of needles is so intense that it takes a small army to hold them down and get the job done. You find yourself just avoiding the whole thing if possible. But even if you decide to avoid shots altogether (which is not the subject of this episode and let’s not make it that), there are still medical mysteries that only our blood can reveal. Our blood that is trapped behind layers of skin. Skin that has to be poked to figure those mysteries out.
So how do you help kids who have a fear of needles? Here is where to start…
Anxiety is not always visible. It is not always obvious. Sometimes it is silently attacking your child from the inside out. It makes itself cozy in a child’s mind that is already filled with doubt and insecurity. Intrusive thoughts are confusing to kids. They are scary to kids. Heck, they are scary for parents. So how do you help your child deal with them? It is the opposite of what you may think…
Your child stands there with their arms crossed. This is dumb. This is stupid. I don’t want to go. You never. She never. I never. It’s not fair. You’re not fair. Life is not fair. I hate this. I hate her. I hate you. It is as if someone hijacked your sweet child and replaced them with a ball of negativity. A ball of black darkness that you want to run and hide from. A ball of bad attitude that has the power of permeating your house and everyone in it.
Child anxiety and OCD not only overwhelms a child, but it can sour a child. It can suck the joy out of everything, leaving behind a child who is so miserable, they rarely see the sparkle of life anymore.
Parenting a child with anxiety or OCD can be confusing, overwhelming and lonely. If you have a child struggling with anxiety or OCD, you most likely have read one of Dawn Huebner’s books. Dawn Huebner is an anxiety expert and best selling author of What to Do When You Worry Too Much and What to Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck. Her new book Outsmarting Worry offers kids a wonderfully in-depth approach on how to beat their anxiety and/or OCD. Listen in as I talk to Dawn Huebner about her insights on how to parent kids with anxiety and OCD.
Your child is standing there, white-knuckled and pale as a ghost. “I can’t do it,” they whisper. “I’m scared.” You are about to offer words of encouragement when your partner chimes in. “Stop playing games and just do it!” You feel your stomach drop. You give your partner the death glare, but it has little effect as the tirade continues. “I’m tired of this! Just do it or you are grounded.” You stare at your child, wide-eyed and paralyzed with fear. You have two problems. A child with debilitating anxiety and a partner who doesn’t believe in anxiety disorders. What are you supposed to do with that?!
There were three words that would stop me dead in my tracks as a kid – We. Are. Moving. I didn’t handle change well and unfortunately my parents didn’t handle stability well. It was a bad combination for an anxious kid like me. I also felt silently overwhelmed when our family dog died, when I changed schools, when my parents got divorced and all the life that happened in between. So, how should parents help anxious kids deal with such big life changes? I can tell you what I tell parents in my therapy practice and privately what I wish my own parents would have done as well.
My daughter stands over the balcony. “I’m scared. I can’t sleep.” I look up at her little body. “Brave face!” I encourage. She sighs and then strikes her brave face power pose. Her head held up high, her arms on both hips, her lips pursed and eyes ready for battle. “Good!” I say. “Now what do you need to tell yourself?” She holds her pose and says the words I was hoping she would say, “I am safe in this house! We are all safe in this house!” And with that she is off to go try again.
It is past midnight. Your child is still refusing to go to sleep. “What are you scared of?” You ask impatiently. Your child just shrugs. “I don’t know.” You child refuses to go to school. “Why don’t you like going to school?” You ask for the hundredth time. Your child stares at you blankly. You know your child is feeling anxious, but you don’t have any clue as to why.
Unfortunately, it is hard to beat anxiety when you don’t know exactly what you are trying to beat. The thoughts behind feeling anxious are critical in arming your child with the necessary tools to overcome their anxiety. So how do you even begin to unravel this mystery of what causes your child’s anxiety? You can start by asking them these questions…
I wake up and reach for my phone. Breaking news headlines scream for my attention. Not again, I think. How many tragedies do we need to witness? How many mass shootings and bombings do my children need to live through? It doesn’t help that I have three anxious kids. Anxiety feeds off these headlines. Thrives off these dark moments of time. It has the power to ruin any progress a child has made crushing their anxiety .So how do we handle the situation? Do we tell our anxious kids what has happened? How do we minimize the impact it has on their already fragile view of life’s dangers?
We can’t ignore these life events, but we can frame it in a way that minimizes the long-term impact. Here’s how…
You are in the car trying to coax your child to go to school. You are in their bedroom trying to help them calm down. You are at the dinner table, negotiating what they will eat. All the while, little eyes watch from a distance. They watch as they are late to school. They listen as they wait for you to come into their room. They silently eat as all eyes are focused on the little mouth that refuses to eat. They quickly move out of the way, when angry, anxious fists come flying in their direction. Having a sibling with child OCD or anxiety can be overwhelming, confusing and scary.