I once received a note from a mother who had an eight-year-old son with obsessive tendencies. He was scared the upstairs of the house would break and drop everyone into the basement, so he constantly checked that the floor was strong enough. And this wasn’t the first time he had fixated on something. The mom was nervous because she had a family history of mental illness. Her husband wasn’t as worried because he believed most mental problems are created by a family’s discipline and relationships. He said that developing perfectionist children who govern themselves caused their son to obsess over things. She asked my advice on how to help her son through his obsessive thoughts and actions.
I acted similarly to this boy when I was young. I couldn’t sleep well after I heard about someone getting stabbed in bed. I had to move around every few seconds so the people I imagined under my bed wouldn't know exactly where I was. I even leapt onto my bed so the people underneath couldn't grab my feet. I always thought someone was following me when I walked to friends’ houses because I’d heard stories about kidnappers.
Was I obsessed? Yes. Did I stay obsessed? No. Can I tell you I never feel strange walking alone at night? No. But, I now know where fear comes from and what to do about it.
Based on my own experiences, I think most children’s obsessive behaviors probably have nothing to do with learning to govern themselves and everything to do with active imaginations and desires to control their surroundings. Fear comes from a dark force. Going to haunted houses or watching movies that make children feel out of control only adds to the problem.
Talk to Children About Their Fears
Parents should talk to their children about their fears and see if the children can identify when they started being afraid. Children need to be encouraged to come to their parents whenever they’re scared so they can talk through their fears.
I don’t think teaching children how to control their own behavior has a bad effect on them. Children want control over their surroundings as much as possible. Teaching children to control their anxieties does them a great favor when it's done with the spirit of love.
Take heart; most children will probably grow out of their fears. By the time I finished high school I didn’t worry about everything except walking alone in the dark. I’m still cautious about that, but I don't panic like I did as a child.
There are people who really do have mental problems and obsessions, but most parents shouldn’t worry unless their child becomes really extreme. However, if talks and plans to conquer their fears don’t help, parents should seek professional help.
Open Communication Important
I had a foster child whose OCD fears came from reading Goosebumps. After she stopped reading the books, she was much better. I also made sure we had regular talks about anything she might be afraid of. I always kept the communication lines open. My foster daughter is now a mentally healthy adult.
I chose to conquer my fears because I wanted to be successful and knew that happy, successful adults don’t walk around with fears all the time. I conquered my fear because I had a personal vision. I helped my foster daughter get a vision, too. This can be a good activity once children are old enough to care about becoming adults.
The most important thing parents can do is to pray with their children when they’re afraid. Good and bad can’t occupy the same space at the same time.