Being a mother to two school age daughters has its joys and challenges. My girls, ages 8 and 10, are both funny, creative, and loving, and I am sometimes overwhelmed by how much I love them and I know that I would go to great lengths to protect them from anything. A few months ago, I learned just how much I would go the extra mile for my girls after learning that my child with OCD was being bullied in school.
My younger daughter has OCD, and I know that many parents can relate to what I’m going through as current estimates suggest that 1 in 100 children have OCD. My daughter is often late to school as she washes her hands many many times before leaving the house. She sometimes scrubs so hard that her hands turn red and raw. She also fixates on her homework, feeling that something terrible might happen if she doesn’t get things just right. As a result, some of the pages of her textbooks and notebooks have huge holes because she erases so hard if she feels that she didn’t write something in the “perfect” way. All these things have never bothered me, nor has it troubled her older sister as we both have learned to be patient and to hear her out whenever she gets anxious.
How the bullying began
One day, my eight-year-old came home in tears, saying that two of her classmates were being mean to her. When I asked why, she told me that one of her classmates teased her for taking so long to finish her seatwork, while the other made a joke about how often my child would spray disinfectant on her hands. I didn’t think it was bullying at the time, and I certainly didn’t know that I would have to teach my child to cope with bullies, but it got worse as the weeks went on.
The teasing got so bad and her classmates resorted to name calling, which was especially hurtful for my child. When one of them caught on to the fact that my daughter was bothered by germs, the kid made sure to make life even more miserable for my daughter by sticking gum on her desk, throwing papers and pencil shavings all over her chair, and finally, scattering some dirt on and around her desk. At that point, my daughter got so distraught that the school called me and asked me to pick her up as she was crying so hard and couldn’t calm down.
How I helped my child cope with bullying
After I got my daughter to calm down and take a nap, I pondered how to deal with this situation without making her a target for more bullying. It’s a fact that people who are different often get picked on by their peers, and while my child does have OCD, I was determined not to let it define her.
I talked to the principal and my child’s teacher and told them about what I wanted to do. They empathized with my child’s situation, and rather than talk to the bullies’ parents, I asked if I could talk about OCD in my daughter’s classroom. I was given the chance to do so and I talked about how having OCD means that a child can get anxious about certain things, but it doesn’t mean that they’re different from anyone else. At first, everyone was silent but when I asked them if they had any questions, one little boy raised his hand and said that his brother was the same way. Another child said that her uncle also has OCD, and that made my daughter’s classmates know that anyone, even adults, can have obsessive compulsive disorder.
Children who isolate themselves tend to get bullied, so I encouraged my daughter to make friends. She was shy at first, but she ended up being good friends with her classmates who have loved ones with OCD. My older child was also very supportive, and my younger child would often be invited to eat lunch with her sister and her friends at the school cafeteria. Seeing this 8-year-old surrounded by fifth graders impressed all the other 8-year-olds, and soon, the bullies stopped and left my daughter alone.
Right now, I am extremely relieved to find my child smiling and happy once more after her experience dealing with bullies. I may never be around my children 24/7, but I know that I’ll find ways to be there for them whenever they need me.