Your child is doing another “quirky” behavior. It seems like it is always something. You remember the time she had to twirl as she entered a room. And then there was the time that she had to blow on her fingers. You stare as your daughter is tapping the kitchen table four times with each finger. What do these behaviors mean? Once a well-intentioned friend suggested it was child OCD. You had scoffed at the idea. She obviously didn’t know your daughter. Her room looks like a bomb hit it and don’t even get you started on her hygiene. But if it isn’t child OCD, what is it?
So many parents dismiss the possibility of childhood OCD because they don’t understand it. OCD isn’t just about germs. OCD isn’t about being neat and orderly. Sure, those are two components in some OCD themes, but what about the thousands of other themes?
The hair on the back of her neck is standing up. Her stomach feels weird. She doesn’t like how he is staring at her. She has a weird gut feeling, but she doesn’t know what it is. “Go hug your Uncle Victor,” her mom says. She nervously shakes her head no. “Don’t be rude! Go hug him!” her mom demands.
Your child is imploding. You stand there in disbelief. What happened? You run through the last ten minutes in your head looking for the trigger, the spark that lit this fiery storm. Like a needle in a haystack, your mental search is futile. You come up empty handed – again. Meltdowns and poor behavior are becoming par for the course in your home.
You want to throw the parenting rule book at him. You want to strip him of every privilege and shut this nasty party down. But this isn’t your first rodeo. You’ve been here many times before and you know how it goes. This isn’t your ordinary, run of the mill poor behavior. These aren’t your typical meltdowns. These meltdowns are born from a build up of anxiety. A build up a stress. A build up of such strong emotion there should have been an emergency alert before it hit your home.
“Oh no,” her mom says. “There is no way she’s an introvert. She isn’t afraid to talk to people.” I think to myself, another person who doesn’t get introverts. Sometimes I feel like introverts are the most misunderstood people on this planet. Reserved kids aren’t necessarily shy kids. I know that those two words may seem synonymous, but they aren’t. Introverted or reserved kids aren’t always shy. They aren’t always afraid to interact with people. Some kids just prefer one-on-one interactions. Some kids just prefer less environmental chaos.
I get introverts. I get reserved kids. They are my people. Let me help you get them as well.
You tell your child to pick up their clothes and they crumble to the ground. “Why are you shouting at me!” They exclaim. Seriously? You just asked them to pick up their clothes. It seems like you can’t even redirect your anxious kid without them imploding. So what are you supposed to do? Not discipline? Walk on eggshells? Is that helpful or hurtful to them long-term?
Your child is begging you for reassurance. This is the tenth time in less than fifteen minutes. Do you give it to them again? And again? When does it end? Are you helping them when you get sucked into their OCD compulsions? No one ever tells you how to parent children with OCD!
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In this episode I talk about the 4 things parents often get wrong about childhood OCD. I talk about child OCD myths and misperceptions.