Parents Help Teens and Children with OCD -The Key to Early Intervention

OCD at home

Make home a non-stressful place.

Why Do Teens and Children With OCD Have

This Kind of Expression of Anxiety?

Teens and children with OCD bear a high level of anxiety that is due to genetics, internal, and external stressors. Parents help teens and children with responsive listening, lowering stress in the household, and nurturing involvement. Early intervention for kids with OCD helps tame the obsessions and compulsions with professional help. OCD generally does not disappear on its own. Seek help from a professional experienced with OCD and the child or teen will be grateful. Parents can also be guided by this psychotherapist to help their child at home.


Often teens and children with OCD have one or more family members in past or present generations who also suffer from anxiety. Parents can help their children and teens by letting their children know this is a family trait. They are not alone.

Internal Stressors

Teens and children with OCD often have internal stressors such as worries about friendships, school, self-esteem. Difficult relationships with peers, parents, and teachers can cause anxiety. Talking about these worries with a trusted adult can reduce anxiety and thus reduce OCD symptoms.

External Stressors

Teens and children with OCD often have external stressors such as changes in family relationships, parental arguments, an unemployed parent, divorce, traumatic losses, illness, conflicts with friends and other expected and unexpected events which may raise anxiety. It is important for parents to provide stability during these changes to minimize them. Stability is given by offering your child and teen time to prepare and talk about the changes when they want to.

Listen to this brief discussion that describes OCD.

More Ways Parents Can Help Children and Teens with OCD

Manage their Anxiety

• Be available to listen to your child’s worries. • Clarify the difference between real worries (peer pressure) and irrational worries such as harm coming to someone when it is not realistic. • Encourage children to draw pictures of their worries to show to you. This puts the worry on paper instead of holding it in their mind. • Help your child by listening to their convoluted thinking. Do not judge or use the word “crazy.” Talking about thoughts and compulsions in detail helps a child and teen feel less alone which eases anxiety. • When your child is sick like with the flu or allergies, it can raise anxiety and thus increase fears and compulsions. Explain this to your child if it happens because it is relieving to understand why there are peaks in irrational thoughts. • To the extent you can, minimize external stressors. When such stressors mount, they increase anxiety, irrational thinking and compulsions.

relaxation for OCD

Relaxing by the water reduces anxiety.


Cumulative Strain

Sometimes a child or teen has a predisposition to OCD but it isn’t revealed until there is a “tipping point.” This means that when stressors accumulate there comes a time when the child can no longer contain the anxiety that is mounting. Then the child or teen tips into his latent OCD tendencies. Be aware of mounting stressors in an anxious child’s or teen’s life. This can forestall a break out of OCD if the parent spends time talking with the child preparing them and helping them manage the stress. Explain to your child or teen why OCD occurs. Understanding how their mind is working helps.

Early Intervention

• At the first signs of OCD, it’s tempting to think it will just go away. By age 5 if you see symptoms, go for help right away. Remember that OCD spirals if help is not offered. • Seek a team approach. This means seek a child or adolescent psychotherapist (licensed social worker or psychologist) who is experienced with OCD. Also seek a licensed child psychopharmacologist, a child psychiatrist up-to-date on the current research on medication for OCD in children and teens. • Check out the training of the people who give therapy and medicine. They must be specially trained to treat children and teens. • Have regular sessions with the psychotherapist for your child. Have separate parenting sessions. A parent can go a long way in helping their child. • Remember to not only treat the symptoms, but also talk about the internal and external stressors.

Parental IntelligenceAdditional Reading: Click here to read about how Resilient Children Become Anxious Children.

Click here to learn more about the Parental Intelligence Model for solving problems with kids.

Note to  Parents:

If you have questions about OCD such as what you can do as a parent and treatment choices, feel free to comment or contact me, and I will get right back to you.