Help with OCD in young kids

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Over the past few weeks we have noticed something with Elliott. That something bares a striking resemblance to OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).  In Elliott’s case it has to do with hand washing. 

Elliott is very preoccupied with germs and this is relatively new.  We did realize exactly what was going on at first.  Then over the past day or so I started paying closer attention to Elliott’s activities throughout the day.  I thought he was going upstairs to play or get a toy but he was going to the bathroom to wash his hands. 

I’m completely for good hygiene but not like this. He is constantly washing his hands with hand sanitizer.  Since I have noticed this,  I have very tactfully talked to Elliott about what he is doing.  I was curious as to why he would feel the need to wash his hands all the time.  I was hoping there was something I could clear up for him that would help him to relax and maybe let go of this obsessive behaviors. 

Basically,  Elliott doesn’t like to think that there are germs in his hands.  So if he touches his nose or something along those lines he has to wash his hands.  He is embarrassed by this behavior because he tries to hide it now.  He will say he’s going upstairs to get a Lego or something and instead go wash his hands. 

This absolutely breaks my heart and I don’t what to do to help him.  He very clearly doesn’t want to do this but he just can’t seem to help himself.  I have been trying to distract him when he feels the need to wash his hands but sometimes he gets really upset.  I could obviously hide the hand sanitizer but I don’t know if that’s the right way to handle this.  Elliott is so stressed out by our lives and I was hoping that something like this wouldn’t happen to him. 

I have been spending as much time with him as possible to try and help him to feel safer or more secure about his life but it doesn’t seem to be helping.  What he desperately needs is normalcy.  He needs to be around typical peers and away from all the chaos that living with 2 brothers that have rather extreme behaviors.  I also know he’s worried about Lizze and Gavin as well.  My fear is that the longervthis goes on the harder this is going to be to get under control.

I don’t want him feel ashamed or embarrassed because this isn’t his fault,  it’s mine.  I’m not doing enough to shield him from some of things that are disrupting his life.  I can’t provide him with a better neighborhood where he could more freely and safely be a kid.  I have failed to make him feel safe and in control of his life. 

Elliott,  getting booted out of his school is only going to make things worse.  That school was going to provide him the one big thing that I can’t and that was a sense of normalcy.  All his friends were there and he loved being there. He felt safe and secure there.  Now that’s gone and if things were rough for him now,  what will happen when he finds out?

Does anyone have experience with this?  His therapist is out of town for 2 weeks and I need to start helping him now.

I want help him work through this… Any advice would be greatly appreciated……

Rob Gorski

Full time, work from home single Dad to my 3 amazing boys. Oh...and creator fo this blog. :-)
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Our youngest has OCD. His traits change from year to year. One year he had a thing for keys. collected literally hundreds of keys. If a key went missing, we looked to him for them. Then it was food. we would find food hidden everywhere. Cupcakes in the couch, twinkies behind the stereo in the living room any where and every where. This year it is hand washing and cat food cans. Preferably empty cat food cans. We found them in his dresser, and under his bed.

He has been a group home for over 6 weeks, and we are still finding things that he has taken and hidden in the house.
My recent post it's been a while…


Rob, my 9 year old son suffers from OCD. His obbsessive behavior was food hoarding. He'd wake in night and help himself to whatever. At its worse, I would find unfinished food, sometimes rotting in his stash spots.

Ive noticed it lessen & finally stop. He told his therapist this week that he was done with it. Just out of the blue. He just decided…

Been reading for a bit, this is my first comment. Sending you positive thoughts.

Kindly, Sarah Kelso


Thanks. We had the hoarding with Gavin a while ago. Thank you very much for your story and support.


I can only speak for myself. When my sister and I were growing up we both had some OCD traits. Mine were much more severe and annoying and so my Mom had to set some pretty firm limits on me especially when I was a young teen. I learned to discontinue OCD stuff like breaking a bad habit, even when it was a good thing, but carried to an extreme-like handwashing. For me, believe it or not, was going to confession. We were not Catholic, but our church had a similar practice. My mom once set a two-month limit before I was allow to go back to it. Believe me it was the kindest thing anyone ever did.

It is scary to a young child to feel that the OCD behavior is stronger than their mom or dad. They may not seem to like it but they are actually crying out to you to help them break that habit, whether it involves setting a timer, or a reward system or only dispensing hand sanitizer at special times. Don't worry about insecurities you can't prevent like school. You may not realize it but you will be his hero if you help him get out from under an OCD behavior. He needs Dad to be stronger than that obsession.

My sister did not fare so well. Her OCD habits were not so in-your-face. My parents did not see an urgent need to help her break them. To this day she is riddled with OCD. She loves the TV show "Mr. Monk", but I find it very upsetting because that used to be me, but now I am free and live quite a relaxed life even with three autistic kids.