Children with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) often have a hard time dealing with change, even good change, and the end of the school year brings with it many different changes: going from school mode to summer mode, leaving a teacher and friends, worrying about the upcoming school year. These children frequently thrive on structure, routine and certainty. They feel safe when they know exactly what to expect, and summer often brings uncertainty and day-to-day changes.
Here are tips that can make this transition easier for children with OCD.
Create structure in the daily routine
Children with OCD feel more secure when they know what to expect. Set up a daily schedule that closely mimics their school day. If your schedule will drastically change during the summer months, try to incorporate the changes slowly rather than having it change overnight.
Give plenty of notice for changes to the schedule
If you have plans to go away on vacation, give your child time to adjust to the upcoming change of schedule and, when possible, write down times and places you plan to visit to provide structure.
Set clear rules and expectations
Write down your expectations for activities and behaviors and post them in a place your child will see them regularly, such as on the refrigerator. Make sure to write rules in a positive way, for example, “You can watch television after you read for one hour,” instead of “No television until reading is done.”
Pay attention to physical needs
Anxiety is often heightened when children are tired, hungry or other physical needs are not attended to. Be sure your child is eating right and sleeping enough.
Teach relaxation strategies
Children with OCD often have other anxiety conditions, as well, such as generalized anxiety disorder or panic attacks. Teach techniques such as listening to music, deep breathing and meditation that your child can use to calm himself during times of stress, uncertainty and change.
Provide guidance for decision-making
OCD can sometimes make people feel they “need” to do something. Help guide your child through decision making so they are choosing what they want to do rather than what their OCD is telling them to do.
Stop and think before disciplining your child
All children misbehave, but symptoms of OCD can also seem like misbehaviors. For example, compulsions or avoidance might appear to be defiance. Consider whether the behavior is a result of not managing OCD symptoms or if it is truly misbehavior. Don’t punish symptoms of OCD; instead, focus on ways to manage the symptoms. If you have concerns about discerning the difference, a behavioral or mental health therapist can help you spot the difference and develop strategies for managing symptoms.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.