If you describe yourself as “so OCD” chances are you aren’t. People with OCD don’t describe the disorder that way. They describe it as a painful, insidious illness that hijacks their thoughts and holds them ransom until they pay up with compulsion after compulsion. It isn’t a meme, an adjective or a joke. It is a debilitating and common disorder that impacts 1 out of every 200 children.
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.
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.
She grabs the door. She pulls once with her left hand and then once with her right. She sits waiting for the bus. Tap tap goes her left foot. Tap tap goes her right. The teacher hands out crayons. The little boy next to her hands her five. Five is not right, she quickly hands one back. She waits for her mom to pick her up. Her eyes scan the corners of the building. One, two, three, four she counts to herself. All is safe. All is right in her little world controlled by symmetry OCD. Symmetry OCD is almost always missed by parents. The subtle movements to balance the body, the small gestures to tap just right. The mental games hidden in the dark recesses of the mind. It is often only discovered after years of balancing. Years of counting. Years of compulsions. Let’s talk about how to spot Symmetry OCD and how to help kids who have that OCD theme.
Do you feel like you are bossed around by your child’s OCD? Do you find yourself doing things a particular way, so as not to upset your child? Most kids will involve their parents in their rituals. So what are you supposed to do?
There are ways to empower your child, without empowering your child’s OCD. Here’s how….
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.
Your child denies they have a problem. They deny all their compulsions. They don’t want your help. They don’t want to go to therapy. What are you supposed to do with that? Do you force them to fight OCD? Do you throw up your hands and give up? Or is there a way to help kids with OCD, even without them being a willing participant?
I was on Facebook Live talking about ways parents can help their kids with OCD, even if their child doesn’t want help. I have put the conversation on YouTube.
Raising a child with OCD can be incredibly difficult. After seeing children with OCD in my practice for so many years, there are three things I wish every parent would do.
It’s always something. Right now it is doorways. She has to tap them twice as she enters or leaves a room. Next month that will go away and something equally bizarre and irrational will come and take its place. But she’s not hurting anyone. She just always has some “quirky” behavior. But what if it isn’t quirky behavior. What if it isn’t a habit or a routine? What if it is an OCD compulsion. A compulsion that when done over and over again strengths her need to do more and more compulsions.
OCD loves when others write it off. It loves when it is not taken seriously. It hides behind words like habits, routines and quirks. It hides behind ignorance. If a child is showing any OCD compulsions it is important to start working on the issue right away. When OCD hasn’t been around for years and years it is much easier to defeat.
So are you missing your child’s compulsions? Let me explain how to spot the difference.
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.
She’s been in school for two hours. An hour longer than yesterday. I reluctantly answer my phone. “Mom,” I hear her say. “I’m feeling really sick. Can you pick me up?” My daughter doesn’t have the stomach flu. She doesn’t have the latest virus. She has emetophobia, a phobia so intense it is actually making her sick.
“He’s really oppositional!” The mom vents. “Honestly it takes a miracle to get him to do anything. Don’t even get me started on how long it takes him to get out of the house in the morning.” She takes a breath and continues, “And no one can go into his room. One time I entered his room without his permission and he had a complete meltdown.” This is often my initial introduction to a teen whose main issue isn’t opposition, but rather OCD. OCD symptoms in teens are often misconstrued as oppositional or quirky behavior.