Parents can help children with obsessive-compulsive disorder by disengaging

March 4, 2024

Watching a child struggle with OCD symptoms can be both agonizing and frustrating. As a result, many family members try to help by assisting with their child’s OCD rituals. This can range from a mother repeatedly answering her son’s questions about his well-being to reduce his distress to a father changing his work schedule to allow more time for his daughter to repeatedly check the locks when leaving home. The frequency of family members participating in children’s OCD symptoms is so common that the term “family accommodation” was coined to describe it.

In fact, one study found that 99% of parents reported participating in at least one type of accommodating behaviour and 77% reported doing so daily. Despite parents having the best of intentions, accommodating OCD symptoms comes with risks, including maintaining or worsening the severity of the child’s symptoms and impairment. But the good news is that parents can learn strategies that help them disengage from these behaviours. For more information, see Vol. 16, No. 1  of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.