It is hard to acknowledge and describe OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) to children unless we fully understand it ourselves. OCD is a type of anxiety disorder.
Help Your Child Understand: The first step to helping your child is to teach them about what they are going through. Put a name to the problem so they know that they are not the only ones feeling this way. Describe the disorder in a way in which they will understand. “The feelings you are having are called anxiety.”
This day in age computers and electronics are something even toddlers are familiar with, a way to describe OCD is to compare it to a computer virus. “A computer will work fine unless it has a virus, when a virus happens it just means the computer has to work through some problems and have help until it can work fine by itself again. Just because a computer has a virus doesn’t mean it’s broken or not any good, we just have to fix certain programs in order for it to work normally again.
How Do I Tell If It’s OCD: Being a parent you are always on the lookout and any little thing that is different in personality could strike a red flag. The changes could be because of who your child is friends with, what they are watching on television, or what they are learning in class. If you notice very different behaviors take a closer look into their daily routines and attitudes.
Early OCD Identifiers:
-A sudden drop in school and test grades
-High unexplained utility bills
-Hours spent on homework and the results being unproductive
-Raw or chapped hands
-Multiple eraser markers on schoolwork
-Reluctance to leave the house
-Increase in laundry
-Persistent nightly rituals and uneasy feelings if ritual is broken
-Constantly checking in on family members
-Asking for the same question or phrase to be repeated multiple times
-Continual fear that something terrible will happen to someone
Ask: You are very familiar with your child’s behavior and attitude, if there’s a change, simply ask. Be involved in your child’s life and show an interest. If you notice a change bring it up to them in a way where they will not be alarmed and defensive but rather open and honest and allow them to explain their feelings.
Being Diagnosed: Once you have noticed your child’s behavior change and the two of you have spoken about it, seeing a doctor that specializes in OCD may be necessary. A doctor will help you better understand the disorder and they will help give you ways to treat and work with your OCD child.
Reassurance: Is something that is truly important for both you and your child. You are both working very hard to fight this disorder and once you start to work on it, your child may start to verbalize his or her feelings more. They may ask questions like “Are you sure the bathroom is clean?” In response “Yes, but what would happen if it wasn’t? What is the worst thing that would happen? Talk over each possibility over with your child and allow them to verbalize their thoughts instead of suppress and internalize the issue.
Rewards: After you and your child discuss OCD and what is happen it is best to give small rewards when you see your child putting in an effort to stop the actions. Even delaying the urge to perform an action or discussing the feeling instead of doing the action is progress. Verbal praise very important when raising a child and it is especially important when raising a child with this anxiety disorder. Along with verbal praises try a sticker chart or small gifts for big accomplishments. If a child goes all day without doing a specific anxiety driven task, that can result in a bigger prize or present. This is not considered a bribe but rather a tool to fix the issue at hand and should only be used when milestones are involved.
Be Patient: This is a process. Having something seem so easy to you and seem so difficult to someone else could be rather frustrating. It’s easy to sympathize with a loved one but to truly understand what they are going through research, help, and be patient. At times it may be difficult but understand that this is a daily struggle and any progress at all is still progress in the right direction.