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How to Navigate the Unavoidable Arguments with Kids about their OCD

3 min read
Maegon Miller
By Maegon Miller

Children not listening, arguments, and disagreements are part of parenthood, but this can be especially true as it pertains to the many facets of OCD. Having a game plan of what you can do will help alleviate stress for both you and your child. Below are some quick and easy tips on how to not only avoid arguments, but how to navigate them when they happen (because, let’s face it–they’re inevitable). 

How to Avoid Arguments

  1. Pick Your Battles

Not everything needs to be a disagreement. If your child’s behavior is not putting them or anyone else in danger, then it may not be something that you need to address or make a big deal out of. The child will follow your lead so be mindful of what you do and don’t react to. 

2. It’s Not Your Fault

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It can be easy to blame yourself or try to find a reason why your child has OCD. Maybe you’ve told yourself if you didn’t discipline them a certain way they wouldn’t be struggling with this disease. Or that if you would have done things differently while they were infants you wouldn’t be going through this right now. However, you are not to blame, and neither is your child. The jury is still out on the exact cause of OCD, but there is no evidence to show it’s due to parenting skills or lack thereof. As hard as it may be, try not to take their behaviors personally and realize that OCD is sneaky.

3. Be Mindful of Your Own OCD

Although your parenting isn’t to blame for your child’s OCD, they are watching everything you do. It’s important to be mindful of any potential OCD symptoms you may be exhibiting because they can pick up on those. If you praise or reinforce their compulsions that could signal to them that they need to continue. So, pay close attention to you doing repetitive behaviors that they can observe.

How to Navigate the Unavoidable Arguments

  1. Do more listening than talking
Active listening is a skill which means it must be practiced. There may be times when your child wants to talk about their thoughts, urges, or images. Give them the safe space to do so without interrupting. Although they are a child, at the end of the day only they can know exactly what’s going on inside their heads and be able to tell you want they need. 

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2. Don’t Try to Fix or Cure OCD

It’s hard to watch someone you love struggle, especially when it comes to your child so it’s natural to want and rush in and try to fix what they are going through. However, OCD is not something that can be fixed or cured. There may be times when your child wants reassurance, but this only reinforces the fear. The goal is for the two of you to work together to find treatment options that will drastically decrease your child’s symptoms. You can’t do the work for them but you can be a solid support system and sometimes that means giving them the space to experience some uncomfortable or uncertain feelings.

Pro Tip: ask the therapist you’re working with for tips that will help you support your child when you’re at home with them. Also, communicate things you notice at home that can be brought up in the session. These can potentially be things for the therapist and child to work on together. 

3. Avoid Punishing them for their Symptoms

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Some of the behaviors your child will display may be confusing and even frustrating at times. Try to remember that your child is not doing these things on purpose to upset you, but because they can’t help it. Use empathy and think about something that you’ve tried to stop doing but no matter how hard you’ve tried it’s been unsuccessful. This could help you understand the magnitude of what they’re going through. Be mindful of what your child’s symptoms of OCD are and what their compulsions look like and know the difference between these and typical childlike behaviors. 

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Taylor Newendorp

Taylor Newendorp

Licensed Therapist, MA

I started as a therapist over 14 years ago, working in different mental health environments. Many people with OCD that weren't being treated for it crossed my path and weren't getting better. I decided that I wanted to help people with OCD, so I became an OCD therapist, and eventually, a clinical supervisor. I treated people using Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and saw people get better day in and day out. I continue to use ERP because nothing is more effective in treating OCD.

Madina Alam

Madina Alam

Licensed Therapist, LCMHC

When I started treating OCD, I quickly realized how much this type of work means to me because I had to learn how to be okay with discomfort and uncertainty myself. I’ve been practicing as a licensed therapist since 2016. My graduate work is in mental health counseling, and I use Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy because it’s the gold standard of OCD treatment.

Tamara Harrison

Tamara Harrison

Licensed Therapist, MA

I have personally struggled with OCD and know what it's like to feel controlled by intrusive thoughts and compulsions, and to also overcome it using the proper therapy. I’ve been a licensed therapist since 2017. I have an M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and practice Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy. I know by experience how effective ERP is in treating OCD symptoms.

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