How to Parent a Child With OCD

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Parenting a child with OCD poses many challenges. Unfortunately, this can be a severe and debilitating condition.

However, you can help your child deal with their obsessive-compulsive nature with the right parenting skills. You can help your child deal with obsessive compulsiveness and overcome it to a certain degree.

This article discusses how to parent a child with OCD. This is about making your life as a parent easier and allowing your child to enjoy their life despite their condition.

What Is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental and behavioral disorder in which an individual has intrusive thoughts and feels the need to repeatedly perform certain routines to the point where it creates distress or impairs general functioning.

One of the most common symptoms concerns numbers. You may see your child repeating the same number in all their actions. Many people with OCD have to do everything a certain number of times. These are known as compulsions – things that people feel compelled to do over and over again.

The other part is obsessive thinking. This is when a person has uncontrollable and recurring thoughts. This could be anything from needing everything to always be symmetrical to having uncontrollable thoughts about violence.

OCD can take many forms and have a wide variety of obsessive or compulsive symptoms. However, with the tips we provide below, parenting a child with OCD should become more manageable.

How to Parent a Child With OCD

The following are tips on how to parent a child with OCD. However, there are certain things that you should do and should avoid doing, so let’s cover both.

Things Parents Should Do for Children With OCD

Let’s first take a look at the things that you should do when your child has OCD.

Teach Them That Weird Thoughts Are OK

Your child needs to know that everyone can have weird or scary thoughts and that people with OCD give those thoughts too much importance.

Let them know these thoughts are generally insignificant and that they really should not be focusing on them.

Teach Them What Giving into Their Compulsion Does

When a person with OCD gives in to their compulsive tendencies, it makes the OCD even stronger. Therefore, teach your child a variety of coping mechanisms to deal with their compulsions. Being able to resist them can help lessen those compulsions in the future.

Let Them Know That Feelings Will Pass

When people with OCD don’t perform their compulsions, they often feel anxious; they may think there will be a negative consequence for not engaging in their compulsions.

For instance, somebody might think they absolutely need to do everything four times. However, they then believe that if they don’t do everything four times, there will be some kind of negative consequences.

Your child should understand that there won’t be any negative consequences if they don’t give in to these OCD rituals. Moreover, you need to reassure them that their feelings of anxiety will pass with time.

Encourage a Change in Rituals

You can encourage your child to change their rituals and see what happens. Ask them if they noticed a difference or expected something different to happen.

It’s pretty beneficial for them when they change their rituals, and there are no negative consequences. It will show them that changing their rituals doesn’t make a difference. You can also ask them to postpone some of their rituals to see what happens.

Identifying New Rituals and Compulsions

As a parent, you can identify new rituals when they happen. It’s always easiest to reverse these compulsions when you catch them early.

Educate Your Child About OCD

One of the most important things is to teach your child about their condition – what OCD is and what it means for them.

Moreover, you can reassure them that all thoughts, compulsions, and obsessions are just a normal part of OCD and that it doesn’t make them a bad person.

Educate Yourself as a Parent

It’s also crucial to educate yourself about this issue. The more you know about this condition, the easier it will be to help a child.

How to Parent a Child With OCD

Things Parents Should Avoid Doing When Kids Have OCD

Now, let’s discuss things you should avoid doing when your child has OCD.

Never Punish Your Child

One of the worst things to do when a child has OCD is punish them for their actions. OCD forces people to have various compulsions and obsessions – it’s not the person themselves who wants to do it, it’s the condition causing the behavior.

Therefore, punishing your child to get them to stop their rituals is futile; you will not reverse the OCD by punishing your child. In fact, you are putting your child through more pain and stress by doing so.

Don’t Tell Your Child to Stop

Another thing you should never do when you have a child with OCD is to stop them from doing their rituals. These are compulsions and obsessions, not things that your child likes doing or wants to do.

More often than not, it’s more painful for the people who have OCD than for those who have to watch it happening.

If you tell your child to stop and shame them for their rituals, you are essentially punishing them. Essentially, you are victim-blaming, and you’re trying to stop someone from doing something when they’re not in control.

Don’t Accommodate the OCD

You should never punish your child for their obsessive rituals, nor should you encourage them. Don’t give your child extra organizational or cleaning tasks either. If they’re already obsessive or compulsive, this might make things worse.

You might think that you’re being helpful by diverting their attention, but you’re actually just reinforcing their obsessive symptoms. If your child is already obsessive, you don’t need to give them more things to obsess about.

Don’t Try to Reason With Your Child

Reasoning might be a successful strategy for an average child. However, you can’t reason with a psychological disorder. You can tell your child that their ritual is useless and futile, and likely, your child probably knows this as well.

Telling your child that what they are doing is useless won’t affect the behavior, but it will, in all likelihood, make them feel worse.

Don’t Try to Reassure Your Child Too Much

You might think that you are doing a good thing telling your child not to worry and that everything will be OK, but this usually doesn’t help.

The anxiety and compulsiveness might disappear for a few minutes, but it will come back. Your child needs to find ways to deal with their compulsions.

Final Thoughts

With the tips listed above, you can help your child with OCD. These tips are merely a starting point, and you can research additional strategies. Including your pediatrician or your child’s therapist, if they have one, are additional ways to support your child. OCD parent support groups are also an excellent source of information; members share their experiences, and you may find new ideas. Remember, the priority is to help your child live as normally as possible.

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