Kids birthday parties. Play dates. Mommy groups. If those words create a small knot in your stomach you are not alone. Social anxiety is a major struggle, but when you add parenthood to the mix you can suddenly find yourself walking in a social minefield. Being a mom with social anxiety catapults you into a sea of social interaction that is hard to avoid. The guilt of not being social is now not only about you, but about your kids. Ouch. That makes it even harder to deal with it.
Your daughter comes home from school and half her eyebrows are gone. You are giving your son a bath and you notice a patch of hair missing from the back of his head. Your teenager picks at her skin until she creates scabs. This behavior can freak parents out! I know – it freaked me out. When scabs started showing up on my daughter’s forehead I didn’t know what to think. Why does she keep getting scabs in that one area? Then one day I saw her little hand digging deep into her skin. My heart sank. “What?”She said staring at me with big eyes. “I like to pick.” She said simply. She is not alone. Many of us have a child who pulls hair or picks skin. And many of us feel desperate to make them stop.
I’m embarrassed. I’m weird. I’m crazy. These are statements I hear every week from kids with OCD. Kids who think they are alone. Kids who don’t understand their disorder. Kids who don’t realize that there are kids all over the world, just like them. Chris Baier understands this struggle all too well. When his daughter Vanessa was just nine she changed from a happy-go-lucky child to a child filled with worries and compulsions. Vanessa also felt alone. She felt like no one else understood what she was going through.
When I stare at my son spit a mouthful of food out and discretely tuck it under his plate my heart stops. When I spot my youngest daughter picking at her skin until it bleeds my stomach starts to hurt. When my kids stay up late at night because they are fearful they will be killed if they fall sleep my heart sinks. Anxiety and OCD are hard to stomach. It is hard to watch our children struggle and not allow it to be OUR struggle. To not allow it to be our defeat. How can it not be? But if you want to survive this whole business of raising kids with anxiety and OCD, perspective and separation are key.
Much of what we’ve learned about parenting comes from our own childhood. Good, bad or ugly – it is often what we know. We are also surrounded by people who are quick to share all their parenting wins and strategies. So what happens when typical parenting approaches don’t work for our anxious kids? Helping kids with anxiety often requires a unique set of parenting approaches that can feel counterintuitive.
I had the pleasure of discussing these issues with Dr. Kaylene Henderson, a Child Health Specialist who offers her knowledge and expertise in workshops as well as on her site A Dose of Awesomeness.
We talked about parenting approaches that help anxious kids and discussed aligning with our kids to problem-solve. We talked about doing “just enough” to teach our children self-reliance and self-confidence. She discussed how our own childhood impacts our perspective on parenting, and the interesting science behind it. And lastly we talked about the importance of believing in our children’s abilities.
Kids with anxiety and OCD often have an intimate connection with technology. It is where they go to distract themselves from their scary thoughts. It is where their obsessive nature takes over. It is the cause of huge meltdowns. It is the platform for google searches and rumination. It is the arena for bullying and low self-esteem.
What’s your child’s relationship with technology? Do you know how to harness its power for good? Technology is not the enemy. In fact, it can be a great resource if you know how to use it. Join me for an insightful discussion with Dr. Adam Pletter, a psychologist and national expert in technology.
Most of us know that Strep can attack our joints. Most of us know that Strep can attack our heart. But did you know that Strep can attack our brain? It hides behind OCD symptoms. It hides behind children who all of a sudden are afraid to eat, afraid to sleep. Who start to wet the bed. Who start to rage. Who start to develop compulsions, tics and struggles they’ve never had before. It hides under the mystery and denial of PANDAS/PANS.
So maybe you’ve heard about Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), but the ideas of how to do exposures are just not flowing? Developing exposures require a deep understanding of your child’s core fears, while being creative and thinking out of the box.
Having OCD is hard enough, but being a kid or teenager with OCD is even harder. Many children with OCD think they are the only ones suffering with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. They don’t realize that OCD in kids is much more common than they think! They struggle alone and many wonder how on earth they are supposed to beat OCD.
When children are afraid or obsessed with a horrible thought you might think that the best way to help them is to teach them to get their mind “off of it.” Not only is this not effective, it can actually make anxiety and OCD worse. ERP for OCD and anxiety, also known as Exposure and Response Prevention is a counterintuitive therapy that has some parents running in the opposite direction.
But let me tell you why this wacky approach not only works, but is the gold standard for treatment.
If you are dealing with Child anxiety or OCD there is one lethal weapon you are up against….doubt. Almost everything related to anxiety and OCD comes down to doubt and uncertainty. When you conquer doubt, you conquer anxiety and OCD.
Not sure how to do this with your child? Let me know you how…
Your child is refusing to go to school, but you don’t know why. Your child is up all night in a perpetual state of panic, but nothing seems to calm them down. Your child is tapping things and turning the light switch on and off three times, but you have no idea why. Knowing your child has anxiety or OCD is different from knowing what is behind your child’s anxiety or OCD.
Do you know what is almost worse than having a child with OCD? Seeing your child be surrounded by people who just don’t get OCD. Siblings who tease their brother or sister for their “strange” behavior. Partners who tell your child to “just stop!” Relatives who think they are being helpful when they tell you “they’ll grow out of it.” And teachers who don’t understand how your child can have OCD when they just don’t see it. Explaining OCD to people who just don’t get it can be daunting. OCD can be complicated even for parents to understand.
How many times have you heard people say things like,“you just coddle him too much” or “you just need to be tougher with her!” Some other oldies but goodies are, “She doesn’t act that way for me” and “he’ll grow out of it. Don’t worry.” Sometimes explaining anxiety to people who don’t get it can make your head spin. Trust me, I get it. I have bitten my tongue so many times – I have callouses. What about if those people are your other kids? What if you hear things like, “Why do you treat him like that?” or “If that was me I would totally get in trouble!” How can you explain anxiety to your other children so they can “get” their anxious sibling and maybe even help and not hurt the situation?
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Welcome to AT Parenting Survival for All Ages! My name is Natasha Daniels and I created AT to offer support and guidance to parents raising kids with anxiety and OCD. I am a Child Therapist who has dedicated my career to writing, advocating and teaching all things anxiety & OCD.When I am not in my practice, I am soaking up my three children, who teach me more about life and parenting than anyone else. To read more about me and the site click here.