Because my son has OCD, many of my posts focus on a parent’s perspective; what are the best ways we can help our children? But what if you are the child, and your parent is the one struggling with the disorder?
Of course, the issues children and their families face will differ depending on the ages and personalities of the children, as well as each particular situation. But no matter what their age, I think children need to be educated as to what OCD is and how it affects their parent. Good therapists can help provide age appropriate information, whether the “child” is four years old or forty.
Anyone who has ever lived with someone who suffers from OCD knows it is a family affair. Children naturally want to please their parents, and will likely accommodate their parent with OCD to make them feel better. “Yes, Mom, you definitely turned off the stove,” an eight-year-old son might say, over and over. This child is doing what any of us would do in this situation, unless we were educated about OCD. He is reassuring someone he loves. Perhaps another scenario might involve a young daughter helping her dad check all the doors in the house to make sure they are locked. In this case, the child actually participates in the compulsive behavior. In yet another example, a teenager might just avoid getting her driver’s license, because her mother is terrified she will get in an accident.
As outsiders looking in, it’s not hard to see that these various possibilities might have detrimental effects on children. Children mimic their parents. While this does not necessarily mean they will go on to develop OCD, it wouldn’t be surprising if they, at the very least, developed into anxious adults.
I don’t have OCD, but I’d like to think if I did, witnessing the effects the disorder might have on my children would be a huge impetus to get treatment. Also, a parent with OCD has the opportunity to be an amazing role model to his or her children. We all have our struggles, and our children will as well. What better way to teach our children how to deal with these struggles, than to face them head-on ourselves! The lessons here are valuable, to name a few:
It’s okay to admit you have OCD (or any illness, problem, hardship, or pain); talking about our issues, not keeping them secret, is the way to go.
There are people who can help you (and your family) cope and get better.
Treatment is seldom easy, but it is worth the fight to regain your health and well-being.
You will always have the support and love of your family.
Of course, there are times when a parent does not choose treatment, and in these cases, I think a lot of care and attention must be given to the children in the family. A good lesson in this case is that while we can’t control the behavior of others, even those we love, we can choose how we respond to them. We need to be able to live our own lives. Support groups might be particularly helpful in these situations.
If OCD is controlling your life, and you have children, then it is affecting them as well. (I haven’t forgotten about spouses and partners; that will have to be another post). I hope you’ll make the choice to stand up and fight your OCD, for you, for your children, and for your entire family.
Very well stated, as usual, Janet. I come from a long line of “worriers” on my mom’s side, though none had/have OCD or any kind of anxiety severe enough to interfere with their lives and become an actual disorder. However, I do remember checking door locks and that the stove was off with my mom before we went up to bed. Although given the myriad different ways anxiety has manifested and turned into disorders in my own life, I really couldn’t tell you with certainty whether she instigated these rituals or I did. And I know of course that regardless of whether or not she was such a “worrier”, my anxiety issues were going to come forth on their own without any prodding from her!
I do think we owe it to our children to speak to them about OCD or any other mental illness; children pick up on absolutely everything no matter how we may think we’re hiding or handling it. Children deserve to grow up in a secure environment where they aren’t constantly feeling our anxiety, even if we tell them everything is okay. And with the high heritability of so many mental illnesses, we need to show them how good and right and important it is to seek help when an issue has gotten past the point of being able to deal with it on our own. We cannot expect them to grow up and reach out for help when we have, for whatever reason, refused to do so ourselves.
That’s one of the major benefits I see in the relationships I have with my girls. We do talk about my problems in an age-appropriate way, and if (God forbid) any of them ever get to a point of needing to seek help from a therapist or psychiatrist, I believe (I hope) that this “normalizing” of these subjects in conversations now will make it so much easier to ask for help down the line, if they should ever need it.
Thanks so much for your insight, Ruby, and I agree with everything you say. It is so true that children pick up on everything, even though they might seem oblivious to us at times. As you say, telling them everything is okay means nothing if everything is obviously not okay. Your girls are lucky to have you in their lives and I do believe your honesty with them will serve them well in the future. Thanks for sharing!
Reblogged this on Jackie Lea Sommers and commented:
Great thoughts from my friend Janet.
Thanks so much, Jackie!
Great post and great insight, Janet! I think it would be sooooo easy for a child to want to “help” by reassuring his or her parent, and I certainly can see times when a parent would want that reassurance, even from the child. I never had children, but I do wonder what kind of mother I would have been as one with OCD.
My guess is you would have been a great mother, Tina, OCD or not! Thanks for your insight.
Wonderfully thought provoking post. I don’t know if it was for the grace of the almighty or science and genes or both but I am very grateful my child who I am sure was effected by the dysfunction of my disorder growing up, thank heavens turned out to be happy, productive and a wonderfully calm and nurturing parent. It is truly amazing with anxious, phobic, OCD me as the mother. Somehow my child skipped the mental illness curse but a sibling who is well functioning, highly accomplished and an awesome parent is not as blessed in this area.
Thanks for sharing Merianna, and I think your comment shows how hard it is to predict who will end up with certain mental health issues.So many factors involved for sure!
Very interesting post, thank you for your thoughts! Thanks for visiting my blog today! Looking forward to reading more of what you have to say 🙂
Can you recommend any therapist in the westchester ny area for a married couple?
Hi Michelle, I don’t know of any personally, but my guess is there are good therapists in that area. I’d suggest starting out at the IOCDF website, where they have some therapists listed by state as well as questions to ask when you contact them. Good luck!