Nature does not discriminate. Each and every person could, for a variety of reasons, develop symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, whether it’s a coping mechanism caused by a traumatic event, or a by-product of being neurodivergent. If not ourselves, it could be someone close to us who shows symptoms of compulsive behaviour and severe anxiety.
As our own advocates, we must be sensitive and caring for those around us at all times, no matter what they’re struggling with. So if you’ve recently discovered that your loved one has OCD, then we’ve listed 7 stress-free techniques for supporting Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in children (OCD).
What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a type of anxiety that involves the struggle a person may have with intrusive and troubling thoughts in their head as well as repetitive patterns or rituals which decrease worry, anxiety and make you feel “just right”. Often selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are prescribed to help alleviate such anxiety disorders. But this is just one form of treatment.
Like most neurodiversity, the most effective treatment programmes include professional treatments such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), as well as provisions made to the everyday home life.Children who a very young may not be able to explain what is happening to them or to even recognise that these common obsessions and compulsion are false. However, older teens and adults can identify that their thoughts are false.
Types of habits and compulsions include fear of contamination, excessive washing hands, a fear of dirt or symptoms of a hoarding disorder. A wide range of repetitive behaviours can exist in one individual alone, so it’s important that the proper treatment for children and adults alike is adhered to.
1. Unconditional Love at All Times
It may seem to you so obvious that you love your child, after all, it’s your child. However, OCD in children causes a great amount of insecurity and anxiety, and sometimes even the most innocent comment can trigger an episode.
Family therapy is one type of therapy that everyone should be doing no matter their circumstances. More so in difficult times when everyday life means that compulsive rituals such as cleaning rituals and bedtime rituals are broken.
Sending messages through words and actions to your child of your unconditional love for him or her may help to bring about secure attachment and an environment ripe for change. Its stress free and simple things such as saying ve you”, quality time together, acceptance, film nights, game nights, no criticising, name-calling, nit-picking, etc. goes a long way
2. Exercise Helps Reduce Anxiety
Get them moving! In treating and managing any mental health condition, exercise is vital and important. This is because the brain benefits from endorphins or “feel good” hormones that are released during exercise. It improves self-esteem, aids in sleep quality, provides an outlet for built up emotions and energies to be channelled and is a great way for the entire family to bond!
3. Deep Breathing and Mindfulness
Again, another stress free way to support your child with OCD is to do deep breathing and mindfulness exercises with them. These techniques pull attention and focus away from intrusive thoughts as well as provide healthy alternatives for meltdowns and tantrums.
Mindfulness can also help a child to recognise intrusive thoughts are just that they are — thought, which can do no harm. Studies show that persons who spend time with the object of their fear or anxiety tend to realize there is no harm or eminent threat as they had once perceived.
4. Music Therapy is Excellent for Mental Health Treatment
A great way many persons switch their focus from distressing emotions is through music. Whether it is through playing music, listening to music, dancing to music, deep breathing to music or singing along with music, it sure helps! Children often love music.
When a tantrum is imminent, or when conflict occurs, offer to do his or her favourite music activity as a way to calm down and relax. This offer provides a way to bond at the same time and reinforces togetherness.
5. Implement a fun and relaxing bedtime routine
Sleep is so important for children. Many children with OCD do not get proper sleep because they stay awake thinking about their habits, even if they are only mild obsessions and thoughts. Help bedtime be something to look forward to by creating a routine.
Introduce a scented shower gel to use for night-time baths, mix a warm glass of milk, read a favourite story book and offer to leave the night light on. Hopefully these ideas will spark some of your own and help your child to enjoy bedtime and fall asleep relaxed, pampered and happy
6. Use Behavioural Therapy Techniques Such as Reinforcers
Give Reinforcers to your child for choosing to resist the urges to follow through on rigid routines and patterns. You can, for example, use a token economy system, where your child can earn points to earn token rewards such as games, candy, stickers, a day to the zoo or cinema and so forth.
You would need to decide how many points would be needed to earn these ultimate reinforcers and how much each successful attempt from your child will be worth. Remember, do not make the tokens super hard to earn, but don’t make it too easy. Also remember to use rewards your child loves, so they can be motivating to them.
7. Accommodate the Child’s Needs in their Social Life
Maybe your child may feel that their mental health challenge makes them less of a good person or less worthy of love, this may interfere with there self-esteem and hence social life. They may withdraw from making friends, isolate themselves and become a loner.
You can encourage them to make new friends, offer to do carpools, play dates and sleep overs. The point is to encourage your child to enjoy their childhood and to be open to relationships while accepting love.
Remember to Always Seek Professional Advice
Please remember that these tips should not be used in replacement of psychotherapy, medication or professional interventions. These tips alone cannot heal or cure OCD in children, but they can go a long way to aid in change and transformation. Please remember to be consistent and diligent in using these strategies as inconsistency on part of the parent’s may breed even more insecurity and doubt in the mind of a child with OCD.
Along with these techniques, we encourage you to do your own research, read books, join support groups, incorporate faith based activities and take each day at a time while you navigate the situations you may face.
If you feel overwhelmed by all the pressures you face in your circumstance, we also encourage you to seek help for yourself and are aware it is okay to prioritise your marriage, your hobbies and mental health for the sake of balance and an improved quality of life. Keep clicking for more reading!