Books for small children with OCD?
March 22, 2017 3:34 AM   Subscribe

I have two preschool-aged children, both of whom exhibit some classic signs of OCD. I've been aware of it in my eldest since they were very tiny, but only recently my youngest has been sharing that they are having intrusive thoughts about death and dying. They are especially struggling with it at bedtime and asking a lot of questions about it (which I am comfortable answering in an honest but reassuring way. We had a death in the family last year, and my parents are both dead, so I think my kids are old enough to start understanding that all living things must eventually die).

That said, I am in weekly therapy for OCD and ADHD, and part of why I am committed to it is because I want more resources for parenting kids who seem to have inherited some of the same issues. My psychiatrist has been very helpful with this, but I wanted to reach out to other parents and see if you have experience parenting kids who struggle with obsessive and intrusive thoughts and strategies you've developed (or books to read, etc) to help them learn to cope with it.
posted by anonymous to Education (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My youngest is starting art therapy for, among other things, bothering thoughts that sound like they may be intrusive thoughts that I had since fairly young. She's five and verbally and cognitively advanced. Art/play therapy is the main treatment mode I've been recommended for her by the family therapist and my psychiatrist.

She's also very interested in death and I have bought her a book on funeral rites (YA and non-graphic) and that helped give her enough information. Her self harm is hitting, not death related though, and I went through this with other kids so I do the same things the therapist taught me then, the Golden Rules of no hitting people and animals, breaking things and looking for safer alternatives for big scary emotions. It means reminding her to do the belly breathing song to enforcing physically with a safe hold on her wrists not to hit to removing breakable items nearby while she calms down, but she's usually able to calm down and articulate her big feelings safely in pictures or dancing. A good therapist can teach you that quite quickly.

We have LOTS of emotion books around. If you're angry and you know it, something happened and I'm scared to tell, the great big book of feelings are her current three in rotation, oh and the girl who never made mistakes. Read over and over. There are good therapeutic books for all kinds, and I know I just saw a book about kids with intrusive thoughts written for teenagers in my own country for example. The writing wasn't amazing, but when the story matches, it doesn't need to be literature because your kid isn't alone. There are some fantastic adhd books for sure, written as picture books.

This may be more woo, but research I saw recently also said that time in nature helps with adhd and depression which can affect OCD, and I know with my kids, the more time they had outdoors in nature the easier they coped with stress. You might want to try deliberately upping more nature walks and time in parks for a month and see if that has a positive effect.

I had little or negative help with mental illness as a kid, so I've actually felt no guilt seeing any signs in my biological daughter because I feel like she's going to get so much more support and help that for her, it would just be another part of her life, not a huge shadow. They get a parent who understands and can model (somewhat) healthily living with mental illness and who is supportive.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 4:55 AM on March 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

I had great success using the book "What To Do When You Worry Too Much" with my very anxious (at the time) 6 year old daughter. She doesn't have OCD, but was very distressed by the way her brain felt so noisy and would never change. The book is kid-oriented CBT exercises and helped enormously.
posted by lizifer at 6:31 AM on March 22, 2017

There are mental health professionals that work with children as young as infants and can give you a thorough evaluation. What would be considered an intrusive thought in an adult or adolescent could just be a normal way of a child coming to terms with a new concept. My understanding is that OCD is not diagnosable in children this young, but someone trained to work specifically with children can look for signs and give suggestions for how to best approach this.

Instead of books that deal specifically with intrusive thoughts, I'd look for books that deal with the subject they are concerned about. Here's a listing of books about grief/death for younger kids:
posted by galvanized unicorn at 7:07 AM on March 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't have an answer for this, but I wanted to thank you for being aware of this and helping your kids. My husband started exhibiting these issues around 2 or 3 years old and instead of helping or asking, his parents dismissed and taunted him. He'd wash his hands so much they were dry and bleeding and they would just say it was good practice for him to have "working man's hands". AT FOUR YEARS OLD. It was always affectionate, but it has made his path to whatever recovery looks like so much harder. You're doing great by your children!

When I asked him, he said at that age mostly he wanted someone to listen and tell him that there were other ways he could make himself feel better. He says he felt he was so "crazy" that he couldn't share what he was going through because no one "normal" could ever understand.
posted by Bistyfrass at 10:59 AM on March 22, 2017

Up and Down the Worry Hill is specifically written for young kids with OCD. My nephew found it really helpful at 4.
posted by goggie at 12:15 PM on March 22, 2017

A book my daughter found helpful at her school's library: Mr. Worry: A Story about OCD and she did the What to Do When You Worry Too Much book with the school's social worker - and there's one for OCD. They helped with basic CBT concepts before she went on to do a proper course of CBT.
posted by peagood at 6:09 PM on March 28, 2017

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