Supporting children who struggle with obsessive thoughts, anxiety, and rumination is no easy task! But the right parenting techniques make a huge difference. Give some of these techniques a try and see how they work for your child.
1) Schedule Worry Time
Teach your child to discipline their worry for only designated times of the day, typically 15 minutes before bedtime. Give them the option of being present to provide validation and empathy. When thoughts intrude any other time, gently remind your child to wait to worry about it until their “worry time”. The frequency and length can be cut down over time.
2) Change The Channel
Encourage your child to imagine a remote control in their mind that they can use to “change the channel“ whenever they have intrusive thoughts or images. They can focus on the future or a positive or happy memory. This helps kids control their inner thoughts and lock out distressing channels.
3) Thought Stopping
Teach your child that the moment a negative thought or image begins to intrude, they can shut their eyes and tell themselves to “stop” intrusive thoughts or images. They can imagine a red stop sign, think of the word “stop”, wear a rubber band around their wrist and snap it, or press their fingernails into the palms of their hands.
4) Label Thoughts as Thoughts
Encourage your child to say “I am noticing that I am having the thought that….” “It is just a thought and it will pass”.
5) Maybe or Maybe Not Method
Help your child to practice the Maybe Or Maybe Not (MOMN) method by saying to themselves, “maybe this might happen, or maybe not, I can deal with uncertainty“ over and over until their anxiety subside.
6) Model Using These Coping Strategies
Be open with your child about how you cope internally and externally with your obsessions. Let them know when you are using a specific coping strategy and if you find it helpful. Children are both visual and auditory learners and learn best by watching and hearing you.
Dr. Hasti Raveau is a child and family psychologist and the founder and owner of Mala Child and Family Institute. Much of her work is focused on helping children improve their emotional well-being, supporting parents on their parenting journeys, and empowering families so they can heal, grow, and thrive