Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, can be a debilitating disorder for children and their families. Working with a child with these different anxieties and compulsions can be difficult and almost impossible to cure. OCD is defined by symptoms of ritualistic behavior, turning a key three times before opening a door or excessive cleaning, and the sufferer is almost a prisoner to these obsessive thoughts.

OCD Misconceptions

OCD is very commonly misunderstood by society at large, and it is common for people to refer to minor quirks and preferences as OCD incorrectly. Somebody can be a “neat freak” or “germaphobe” without those traits being a symptom of an underlying disorder. If somebody prefers their house to be impeccably clean or enjoys organizing their books and records, it could just be a personality trait. The primary way of differentiating a quirk from a mental disorder is to observe how much distress those compulsions can have on one’s day-to-day life. When a lack of cleaning leads to anxiety, or there are real-life sacrifices made to accommodate compulsions, that is when those traits can indicate a disorder. Comparing harmless personality traits to a mental disorder skews the perspective that society has on the disorder and can make the general populace take the disorder less seriously than they should. 

Here are five helpful tips to grant freedom to your child with OCD.

1. Work With a Counselor

Not every child diagnosed with OCD shares the exact set of symptoms. Each child has different triggers and behaviors that come with their OCD and their own methods of coping with their symptoms. It’s hard to follow one blanket treatment to help raise your child. A professional opinion by a counselor will go a long way toward tailoring a treatment plan that can specifically benefit your child. They can form a long-term plan for coping with symptoms as well as a way to recover. Another benefit of scheduling appointments with a counselor is weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly updates on your child’s progress. You don’t need to be alone in parenting your child; there is always help out there to assist you!

2. Make a Plan

A counselor can help you create a detailed plan for helping your child, but you can also come up with a plan if you know what to look out for and what results you want for your child. Work with your child in ranking their compulsions on a scale of 1-10, 1 being the least debilitating and 10 causing the most stress. Tackle the lower-ranked compulsions and behaviors first, as the stakes may not be as high, and your child may feel more at ease dealing with those first. Taking care of these lower-ranked behaviors will reduce the load on your child, making the harder behaviors a bit easier to learn coping mechanisms for. 

3. Do Not Accommodate 

As a parent, you never want to see your child under stress. This instinct can drive you to feed into their OCD, validating any irrational beliefs and reassuring them that mundane triggers are as catastrophic as they believe. It is important not to reinforce these compulsions, or your child may not learn proper coping mechanisms and how to function in a society that, unfortunately, will not accommodate. Saying “No” to your child will be the hardest step to take, but it may be the best direction. 

4. Recognize Signals

Your child may not always say out loud what is bothering them or otherwise show their symptoms of OCD in an obvious manner. It is up to you to become perceptive and notice these signals to assist your child in times of stress. Look for any repetitive behavior your child can exhibit, such as turning a door-handle multiple times. Keep track of any excessive time they may spend getting ready, such as going to school, as they may obsess over their own cleanliness. Like any mental disorder, a healthy sleep schedule goes a long way toward recovery, so keep track of how well your child is sleeping or if they’re staying up too late. Not only should you look out for behaviors, but you also should keep track of their moods. Irritability is a huge sign that your child may not be coping with their OCD well at the moment. Recognizing signals will shed insight into how well your child is doing.

5. Keep a Normal Routine

This tip ties back to not accommodating your child. Rotating your entire day around your child’s obsessions and compulsions is unhealthy for your child and the entire family dynamic! Other children may look at this as favoritism. Accommodation can cause other issues as your child may be pulled into revolving their life around OCD symptoms they don’t understand as well as an adult does. Your child with OCD also needs to realize that their family has needs. Exposing them to a “normal” life your family may lead can help them adjust and cope with their OCD.

Be Patient With Yourself and Your Child

Raising a child with OCD is a long road for a parent to take, but it ultimately leads to a rewarding and happy life. Use these tips to best manage your child’s symptoms, prop up healthy coping mechanisms, and help your child live without fear and anxiety.