By Simon Spencer
If you are the parent of a child who has OCD or anxiety then you know what it’s like when they get stressed about homework. Here are some things you as a parent can do to help them manage their extreme levels of stress.
Let your child or teen know that you’re proud of them because of what they’ve accomplished despite their challenges, and encourage them to keep trying.
Your kids want to try their hardest and pass school so they can get into a good high school, college or university. But sometimes if they don’t do well enough, they will mentally beat themselves up about it. Assure them that you know they tried their hardest and if they receive a poor grade on an assignment, that you will work to help them learn to do better on the next assignment.
Reassure your kids that their obsessions are not real and don’t need to be acted on: For kids with OCD, it’s easy get obsessed about a particular assignment or test, even if it’s already been handed in. As silly as this sounds, this fear can be so powerful that it can cause the student a lot of anxiety, or worse, they might even start to believe it’s real. Let your teenager know that this is just an obsession. If you want to, send them a text or two everyday with an inspirational quote that reminds them to leave the past in the past and keep moving forward!
Focus on time
Help your child with OCD manage their time effectively: Sometimes, if a student has multiple assignments on the go, their anxiety might overwhelm them and as a result they might spend a lot longer on one assignment than they need to. If you know that they’ve been working on one assignment too long and have others to get to, remind them of it. When that doesn’t work, set timers, buy them a day-timer or get them into the habit of writing to-do lists for their homework assignments. This way they can see everything they have to do in one list and decide which ones are the most important so they know what to focus on next.
What to watch for
Washing their hands: Sometimes the OCD will be so bad that the student may not even be able to continue doing their homework until they have performed a compulsion, such as washing their hands. They will literally stop what they’re doing, get up from their work and go to the washroom to wash their hands before sitting back down and continuing. It’s very stressful for OCD sufferers and wastes a lot of time.
Self-doubt: This is a powerful mental barrier in getting things done in teens with OCD and anxiety. The important thing is to suggest that once they have an assignment done, they can come back and check it later.
Repeating behaviours: When a student is doing an assignment, they might sometimes repeat or delete a sentence or phrase and keep re-writing it, or erasing a piece of a drawing and re-drawing it. This also takes up a lot of time and wasted effort because you’re essentially redoing something that’s already been done.
Simon Spencer is an editorial intern with the Canadian Abilities Foundation who is wide awake every morning and ready to take on the world.