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Kids and OCD: The Role of Parents in Treatment

Kids and OCD: The Role of Parents in Treatment

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About half a million children in the U.S. have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. As parents play an integral role in their child’s life, their involvement is essential in their child’s OCD treatment. Parent involvement in the treatment process is key in helping children overcome their anxieties and build confidence in their ability to cope with fears.

Exposure & Response Prevention Therapy is an evidence-based treatment that has been proven to be effective in reducing OCD symptoms and building the necessary skill set for coping with and managing anxiety. Through this form of therapy, your child will be exposed to their anxieties so that they have the ability to learn that they can cope, rather than avoid. Thus, you are helping your child learn to overcome these fears.

In many cases, families of children with OCD accommodate the child’s fears. Many families, for example, stop taking vacations or going out for dinner to avoid exposing their children to their fears. Their efforts are well-intentioned, and they often hope that if they can remove their child from a situational trigger that the child will experience relief.

Unfortunately, this relief is short-term and does more harm than good. Throughout the psychoeducation process in treatment, parents learn that by accommodating their child’s fears, they aren’t helping them. In actuality, they are helping the anxiety grow. Family accommodation can reinforce a child’s symptoms, and their condition can take a turn for the worse, leaving both the parent and the child frustrated and hopeless.

In therapy, you, your child, and your therapist will create a fear hierarchy. The parties involved will work to identify all of the feared situations, rate them on a scale of 0-10, and tackle them one at a time.

For example, if your child has a fear of germs, the therapist may continue exposing them to difficult situations that may involve handling dirty objects, until their fear subsides and they no longer feel uncomfortable in the situation.

When your child is exposed to their fears, it is important that you demonstrate confidence in their ability to face their fears. Your therapist will model how to do so in session and will collaborate with you on how to practice exposure in between sessions to further build your child’s confidence in defeating their OCD “monster”.

As a co-therapist, you will play an important role in response prevention which involves preventing the child from performing any activity that decreases their anxiety (i.e. safety behaviors such as reassurance seeking, checking, or ritualizing).

For example, if your child has an intense terror or fear of germs, encourage them to refrain from washing their hands after touching doorknobs or railings.

If your child has a fear that they might become contaminated by germs, assign them tasks such as cleaning dishes or vacuuming the carpet that will force them to confront their fears.

Over time, your child will learn to tolerate uncomfortable feelings and will learn that their worst fears typically do not come true.

Your child’s therapist will also help you identify ways to encourage your child to use coping skills to fight their worst fears, instead of overly relying on you to get them out of uncomfortable situations.

Your child’s therapist will also work with you to learn how to manage anxiety, tantrums, resistance, and any uncomfortable emotions or anxiety-related behavior as it arises. They will role play and model how to respond when anxiety arises, what to do, what not to do, when to push, and how to push your child.  You may have your own parent training sessions or these may include your child.

The OCD & Anxiety Center is one of the most trusted child anxiety counseling centers in Orland Park. Our counselors bring years of experience to the table. Every child and family is different. We will create a customized plan to treat your child’s specific symptoms. To make an appointment, call (630) 522-3124.

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2805 Butterfield Road suite 120
Oak Brook, IL 60523

(630) 522-3124

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