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What Can I Do at Home to Help My Child With OCD?

When you have a child with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), it can conjure up a mixed bag of emotions for you. You are probably feeling confused, upset, worried, concerned, anxious, and/or depressed right now. Truthfully, these are normal emotions. You may also be blaming yourself for your child’s predicament. My first suggestion is to stop blaming yourself. OCD is a blameless condition. Although some people have a higher risk of developing it, no one has a crystal ball to predict who will or will not ultimately develop the condition.

You should also not blame yourself if you did not notice or “pick up” on your child’s obsessions and compulsions earlier, because people, especially children and teens, are notorious for hiding their OCD symptoms from other people. It is hard for children and teens to accurately process their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, so they hide them. This is also not your fault. This is likely very confusing to you, especially if you are unsure of what OCD is, what caused it, what its symptoms and signs are, and how it is treated.

But, regardless of the ins and outs of OCD, your first thought is probably, “What can I do to help my child with OCD at home?” That is a good question and one that this article will answer. The good news is there are a lot of things you can do to help your child at home – things that will make a world of difference in his or her life.

The best thing to do if you suspect your child has OCD or if he or she has already been diagnosed with it is to be present, and “calm and collected.” You will also need to help your child navigate his or her confusing and frustrating thoughts, urges, emotions, and behaviors – while helping him or her remain “calm and collected.” This is the time to become a strong advocate for your child, because, at the end of the day, OCD is a chronic health condition that likely requires treatment.

Fortunately, however, it can be treated and managed just like any other chronic health condition. Although there is no cure for OCD, with the right OCD help, your child will not only be able to “silence” his or her racing and intrusive thoughts, but also have a happy and productive life free of non-stop rituals and routines. In this article, you will learn how to help your child with OCD at home with some “surefire” tips that are sure to help your child get “back on track.”


Is OCD a Real Condition?

Yes, OCD is a real condition.

In other words, it is not just in your child’s imagination.

It is common to equate OCD with “perfectionism,” when in reality it is so much more than that. However, OCD does often involve particularities, such as systematically organizing things or counting in a particular way. People with OCD may be extremely cognizant of germs and bacteria, or expect things to go a certain way, which, in some cases, may mimic “perfectionism.”

For instance, a person with OCD may like their towels and washcloths folded a certain way, and a child with OCD may place their dolls in a specific order or line their cars and trucks up in a certain order. Extreme organization could even make a parent question if his or her child has autism. And, while it is possible to have autism and OCD, many times, the child just has OCD, which looks like other conditions, but is not.

When children continuously count things in their mind, repeat mantras or phrases, organize and reorganize their toys or belongings, etc., it is because they are trying to relieve their stress or anxiety. Performing these behaviors helps “quiet” their minds, so they can function. Most times, people, especially young children, do not understand why they are having intrusive, upsetting, scary, and/or annoying thoughts and/or why they feel compelled to engage in certain behaviors.

As young children and even teens, in some cases, they do not have the analyzation skills to fully understand what is happening to them or why it is happening to them, so it is confusing. All they know is that they want them to stop now. So, they keep engaging in compulsive behaviors because it brings them relief. Still, these individuals are somewhat aware that something is not right – even at an early age, they just cannot pinpoint what that is.

What many adults do not understand is that OCD is a mental health condition that can adversely affect one’s life, if he or she does not get the proper OCD help. Most experts consider OCD to be an anxiety condition, in which a person becomes entangled in a non-stop OCD cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Endless obsessions and compulsions not only “suck up” people’s time, but also prevent them from participating in things that used to bring them joy.

Obsessions can consist of unwanted or upsetting thoughts, urges, fears, doubts, mental images, etc., that lead to high levels of stress, anxiety, and/or emotional distress, such as:

  • Fear of being “contaminated” or “infected”
  • Fear of hurting oneself or someone
  • A need for orderliness and “perfection”
  • Intrusive, sexual, violent, or inappropriate thoughts and/or urges
  • Fear of losing control

Compulsions can consist of repetitive or ritualistic behaviors, designed to reduce one’s stress and angst, and stop the obsession, such as:

  • Cleaning
  • Checking
  • Repeating
  • Counting
  • Tapping
  • Touching
  • Avoiding
  • Organizing or Arranging
  • Confessing
  • Apologizing

Does My Child Have OCD?

It is possible.

Children with OCD tend to be ashamed of their obsessions and compulsions, and as a result, suffer in silence for a long time, before a parent or teacher starts to notice that they have extreme fears and/or have adopted certain rituals or routines. Children with OCD often know that their thoughts and fears are unrealistic, and are likely silly to other people, yet, the only way they can stop them is to perform specific actions or engage in certain behaviors.

For your child to be “officially” diagnosed with OCD, he or she must exhibit certain symptoms for a specified period. Although, this diagnosis must be made by a psychotherapist, who has been trained to treat OCD and especially pediatric OCD. However, there are some things you can look out for if you suspect your child is grappling with OCD (obsessions and compulsions).

These signs and symptoms may include:

  • An unwillingness or inability to participate in and enjoy activities that interest him or her, like spending time with friends, participating in extracurricular activities, etc.
  • An inability to focus on school tasks, like completing homework assignments, etc.
  • An inability to make sound decisions, like telling the truth when asked, sticking to curfews, etc.
  • A habit of taking a long time to complete simple tasks, such as getting dressed, brushing one’s teeth, combing and styling one’s hair, completing a homework assignment, and/or eating a meal
  • Expecting or needing things to be “perfect” or “precise” and becoming upset, distressed, frustrated, or angry when things do not line up “right.”
  • An unrelenting fear of germs and/or contracting something, like the flu or COVID
  • An urge to excessively wash your hand or take showers or baths to stay
  • An urge to repeatedly count, tap, or touch things

Note: If your child is performing certain rituals or engaging in certain routines throughout the day, or if he or she feels that everything has to be “just right” for things to feel safe and acceptable, then there is a good possibility that he or she is struggling with OCD. If this is the case, it is important to seek OCD treatment for him or her as soon as possible.

Did you know, our our self-help course has helped thousands of OCD sufferers better manage their symptoms?

"My OCD is finally manageable"

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If My Child Has OCD – What Caused It?

Unfortunately, researchers still do not know exactly what causes OCD, however, studies suggest that biological and environmental factors play a role in the development and progression of the condition. There is some evidence that genetics, an illness (i.e., PANDAS), the death of a loved one, friend, or pet, certain fragrances or chemicals, and/or trauma, abuse, or witnessing or experiencing domestic violence can trigger OCD.

What Things Can I Do at Home to Help My Child With OCD?

Yes, there are things you can do to help your child at home.

The truth is figuring out how to help your child with OCD at home can be extremely challenging, however, the suggestions listed below can help you provide the support that your child needs to effectively manage his or her obsessions and/or compulsions.

Remember, the goal is to help your child live a healthy and productive life, free of non-stop intrusive thoughts, fears, urges, etc., and/or rituals and routines. Understand, however, that these tips are not meant to replace professional OCD treatment, so it is important to consult your child’s pediatrician or child psychotherapist for guidance if you suspect that your child is grappling with OCD.

Listed below are tips you can use at home with your child, who is struggling with obsessions and/or compulsions:

Research OCD

The first step is to research OCD. In other words, learn as much as you can about the condition, such as what it is, how common it is, possible causes, signs and symptoms, how it is diagnosed, and how it is treated – in adults and children. You cannot help your child with OCD at home if you do not understand it.

Conversely, dismissing or ignoring the symptoms because you are afraid or confused is the worst thing you can do for your child with OCD. Your child needs you to be his or her biggest supporter. In other words, he or she needs you to help him better understand what is happening to him or her because it is likely very confusing for him or her. If you understand the condition, you can explain it to your child in a way he or she can understand.

Afterward, you and your child can find ways for him or her to better manage the obsessions and/or compulsions at home, school, and activities. The quicker you come to grip with what your child is dealing with, the sooner you will be able to help him or her at home and beyond.

So, visit your local library and check out books on OCD, or purchase a couple at your neighborhood bookstore, search the internet for articles on OCD, read journal articles on OCD, and/or talk to OCD experts and parents, who have children with OCD. You may also want to attend OCD support groups for parents, who have children with OCD.

Do not forget to talk to your child’s pediatrician or child psychotherapist, and his or her teachers to find out things you can do to help him or her at home. Research is the key to learning everything you can about the condition.

Educate Your Child

Once you have a firm grasp of OCD, you will need to educate your child on what you learned. In other words, teach your child about the condition in a way that he or she can understand. Be honest with your child about what he or she is dealing with and be open to answering his or her questions about OCD.

Depending on your child’s age, he or she probably already knows that something is not right, so what you need to do is to help him or her describe what he or she is thinking and feeling. Remember, your child is likely confused, so your job is to help him or her figure everything out.

Once your child understands what is going on with him or her, he or she will be more equipped to manage his or her symptoms. Also, knowing what OCD is may ease your child’s stress and angst, thereby, reducing his obsessions and compulsions.

Be Open to Different OCD Treatment Options

While there is no known cure for OCD, there are a variety of treatment options that may ease your child’s stress and anxiety, and help him or her better manage his or her OCD symptoms. So, what should you do? Talk with your child’s pediatrician or child psychotherapist about various OCD treatment options, and then research the pros and cons of each treatment option, so you can find the right OCD treatment for him or her.

Try to keep an open mind when discussing treatment options with your child’s pediatrician or child psychotherapist, and other family members. Pay attention to any side effects, if you are considering putting your child on an OCD medication, like an SSRI antidepressant (i.e., Luvox, Zoloft, Prozac, etc.).

Lastly, do not let your pride get in the way of your child’s best interest. Remember, the goal is to get your child with OCD stabilized not just at home, but when he or she is out and about.

Make Sure That Everyone in Agreeance

If you want to help your child with OCD at home, you will need to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Once your child has been “officially” diagnosed with OCD or even if you just suspect that he or she has the condition, you, your child, partner, and anyone else in your child’s life must be in agreeance on the next steps – i.e., doctor’s appointments, assessments, counseling, etc. Why? Because that is the only way that the OCD treatment will be successful.

Your child is going to need all of the support he or she can get. But if you are not on the same page, your child will feel as if he or she does not have any support. That is the last thing you want as a parent of a child with OCD. Your job is to empower your child so he or she feels strong enough and confident enough to get control of his or her OCD.

For example, if your child’s pediatrician or child psychotherapist tells you not to enable your child’s compulsive behaviors, share this information with other pertinent people in the child’s life to ensure that you are all in agreeance. Consistency is the key to making this tip work.

Create a Warm and Receptive Home Environment for Your Child

Make sure your home is a warm and receptive environment for your child with OCD. Your child needs to feel accepted and safe so he or she can share his thoughts and fears with you. He or she needs to know that you care. More specifically, your child needs to know that your love and support are unconditional because to a child your love and support are powerful – so powerful that they can protect him or her from outside challenges.

So, tell your child over and over again just how smart, wonderful, resilient, strong, and beautiful he or she is – just the way he or she is. Reaffirm to your child that there is nothing he or she needs to change or be embarrassed by. And, let your child know that he or she can tell you anything and you will not judge or criticize him or her. Your child should never feel lonely, unloved, or unsupported, so make sure your home is always warm and receptive.

Challenge Your Child’s Intrusive Thoughts, Fears, and/or Mental Images

If your child becomes anxious and/or if you catch him or her engaging in compulsive behaviors, challenge his or her thoughts, fears, and feelings, so he or she knows that they are unrealistic and unlikely to happen.

The good news is your child’s doctor or psychotherapist will provide you with tips and teach your child healthy coping skills and strategies to “quiet” his or her mind, and reduce the need to engage in rituals and routines to ease his or her stress and angst. The goal of this tip is to eliminate the “boogie man.” In other words, to convince your child that nothing bad will happen if he or she does not perform a certain action.

Watch What You Say to Your Child

Something that most parents pay little attention to is the words they utter to their children. This is especially true in the heat of the moment – i.e. when they are upset, disappointed, angry, frustrated, or annoyed with him or her. But words have power, and children view their self-worth and base their self-esteem and self-confidence on what their loved ones, especially their parents, say to them. So, one of the most important ways to help your child with OCD at home is to watch what you say to them.

If you are constantly criticizing or mocking your child because he or she keeps repeating or reorganizing things, it will make his or her OCD worse. More specifically, it will heighten your child’s stress and anxiety, possibly leading to more severe OCD symptoms and/or other issues, such as depression, insomnia, ADHD-like behaviors, etc. So, use your words wisely. Although, your child’s OCD symptoms can be extremely emotional and frustrating, think before you talk.

Your child needs positivity (not negativity) from you. Even if you think your child’s obsessions and compulsions are silly or nonsensical, keep it to yourself. Your words, like your home, should be warm and receptive. Keep in mind that to your child, the intrusive thoughts and fears are real and very, very frightening, so your job is to squash your child’s fears and ease his or her worries.

When you feel your emotions get out of control, take a 5-minute adult time out to compose yourself. Once you get your emotions back in check, hug your child (if he or she will let you), and reaffirm your love and support for him or her. Then, sit down with your child and discuss what happened and try to come up with some solutions for when the situation arises again.

Do Not Be an “Enabler”

The worst thing you can do is ignore or dismiss what is happening with your child. And, although, it can be heartbreaking to watch your child struggle with anxiety and OCD symptoms, you should never provide reassurance, or engage in the behaviors with your child.

Why? Because it will enable your child’s compulsive behaviors. While validating your child’s thoughts and fears may temporarily ease his or her stress and anxiety, doing so will only strengthen or reinforce them in the long run. So, sit down with your child, and clearly and firmly explain to him or her that you will not allow his or her obsessions and compulsions to dictate what happens in your home.

Praise Your Child

Another way to help your child with OCD in your home is to praise him or her when he or she refrains from engaging in compulsive behaviors. Why is this important? Because doing so will help your child stop performing rituals and routines. In other words, use positive reinforcement with your child with OCD. Your child will be more likely to refrain from behaviors that do not garner the attention he or she is seeking from you or behaviors that he or she deems inappropriate and engage in more of the behaviors that garner him or her praise.

Researchers have found that positive reinforcement, like praise or rewards, can endorse positive or desired behaviors. In other words, praising or rewarding your child will boost the likelihood that he or she will repeat the desired behaviors and abandon the undesired ones. One way to use positive reinforcement with your child with OCD at home is to use a “sticker, behavioral, or reward chart” to motivate your child to find healthier ways to cope with his or her anxiety, stress, or depression.

Be Available

Lastly, be there for your child. This is one of the most effective ways to help your child with OCD at home. Keep in mind that OCD can be extremely frightening and isolating for adults, let alone a child, so your child must know that you are there for him or her, regardless of what is happening in your life or home. Your child is dealing with a lot right now, so he or she must receive unconditional love and support from you. You should always have an open-door policy at home.

If your child does not feel safe enough or comfortable enough to talk to you, it will only worsen his or her OCD symptoms. Your child also needs to feel that you will always be open and honest with him or her about his or her condition. He or she needs to view you as a “safe haven” he or she can always turn to when the world threatens to swallow him or her up.

You are your child’s life raft. You will play a significant role in your child’s recovery simply by how you treat him or her and what happens in your home. The coping skills and strategies that your child with OCD learns at home from you will help him or her when he or she ventures into the “real world.”

Note: If these tips do not work, and your child is not currently seeing an OCD therapist, you will probably want to seek OCD therapy for your child. You may want to discuss the benefits of exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), with your child’s pediatrician or psychotherapist. Studies suggest that ERP therapy is the most beneficial treatment for OCD, especially when combined with antidepressants.

ERP therapy is effective for people who struggle with non-stop fears. This OCD therapy usually consists of 12-16 sessions and is designed to “question” or “challenge” compulsive or “avoidance behaviors.” The goal is to remove the power associated with performing rituals and routines to “escape” the unwanted thoughts, fears, worries, doubts, urges, mental images, emotions, etc.

Other ways to help your child with OCD at home are to modify his or her bedtime routine, so he or she gets better quality sleep, alter his or her diet so he or she is consuming healthier foods, adding vitamin or mineral supplements to your child’s daily routine (depending on his or her age), establishing an exercise routine for your child by encouraging extracurricular activities, and using self-help tools, like Impulse Therapy, an online treatment program for OCD sufferers of all ages.


Our self-help OCD therapy course has helped 1000s of OCD sufferers since 2018.

"My OCD is finally manageable"

Jennifer S


DR. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham has a B.A. in English, an M.M.F.T in Marriage and Family Therapy (Psychology), and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She is currently a medical, health & wellness contributor, copywriter, and psychological consultant

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