Nail biting by children is a headache for many parents. Many children start biting their nails in kindergarten. Although parents try their best, it is still difficult to correct them. Children who bite their nails for a long time or chew the skin around their nails can cause nail deformation, traumatic bleeding, paronychia, skin calluses, and dental malocclusion. Some children not only bite their fingernails but also their toenails, and some even continue to bite their nails until middle school.
How can you correct the habit of biting your nails? Psychiatrists have summarized ten groups of strategies for different people with nail biting habits.
Rule out mental illness
Parents first need to take their children to a psychiatric outpatient clinic and ask a doctor to evaluate whether there is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, emotional disorder, etc., whether drug treatment or psychological intervention is needed, and whether family education methods need to be improved.
Improve trace element inspection
Targeted supplementation of deficient trace elements, or direct daily supplementation of small doses of iron, magnesium, zinc and other trace elements, as well as vitamin D3, multivitamin B, etc., are beneficial to neurological and physical development.
If the child has no indications for drug treatment or psychological intervention, and it is just a habit problem that is difficult to correct, you can use the method of diverting attention, that is, when the child bites his nails, quietly and naturally guide the child to do other activities.
Apply bitter nail polish
For younger children, you can use bitter nail polish, also called bitter nail polish. Foreign studies have shown that the effectiveness of using nicotinic acid is higher than that of using reminder wristbands. Younger children can also wear gloves to physically isolate their lips and fingernails from contact.
Get a decompression tool
Some older children often bite their nails when doing homework and reading. You can allow them to use their other hand to play with rubber and kneading toys while doing homework. You can even buy them some bracelets and walnuts. Although they are all small movements, playing with small gadgets such as bracelets at least does not damage the fingers or affect the appearance of the nails.
Do hand care
Trim your children’s nails, apply hand cream, and massage their hands regularly to help them develop the habit and awareness of loving and taking care of their own bodies.
Inspire children’s love for beauty
Put beautiful stickers on girls’ nails, or give them some cute rings and bracelets. This can stimulate girls’ love for beauty and they will naturally reduce their nail biting behavior.
Keep little hands busy
Let the children move and use their fingers. You can teach them to do finger exercises and hand shadow games, or let older children learn an instrument that requires the use of nails, such as guitar and guqin.
Teach children how to exercise restraint
Teach your child to press his or her thumb or other fingers against the palm of the other hand when he or she feels the urge to bite their nails. If the child really wants to bite his nails, he can insist on not biting one finger and only bite the other nine fingers, and then gradually expand the scope, such as only biting the nails of one hand, until he transitions to biting only one finger.
Parents will praise and reward children when they make progress, and allow children to choose reasonable reward items to increase their enthusiasm. Parents can also take photos of their hands before and now, develop them and hang them on the wall. In this way, when children can intuitively see their progress, they will also have more confidence in their improvement in control.
Less blame and more companionship
There are always some children who are under great learning pressure and whose habits are difficult to correct, or whose parents lack time and energy and cannot fully implement the above suggestions. So what parents can do is not to worry too much and not to often blame their children for this, thereby increasing their psychological burden.
Generally speaking, even without any treatment, nail biting behavior will gradually subside with age. Parents can pay more attention to their children’s strengths, seek more time for parent-child companionship, entertainment and relaxation, and leave more beautiful memories for their children’s childhood. These beautiful memories will be a source of spiritual strength to support their children in moving forward.
Knock on the blackboard
40% of teenagers bite their nails
Suffering from ADHD
According to statistics, the average age at which nail biting first occurs is about 5 years old, and the incidence among adolescents is about 20%-30%, with slightly more females than males. Nail biting decreases with age, and the average age at which people stop biting their nails is about 14 years.
Foreign scholars refer to the habit of biting nails as onychophagia, and trichotillomania, skin tearing, lip biting, cheek mucosa biting, etc., are all classified as obsessive-compulsive disorder or impulse control disorder. Studies have found that among teenagers who bite their nails, the incidence rate of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is about 40%, and the incidence rates of anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and tics are also higher than those of the general population.
Some children may be nervous and irritable, but they will not resolve them in a better way, so they adopt the method used in the oral stage of children and self-soothe by biting their nails. Over time, they will form a habit and they will bite their nails even when they are not anxious. Text/Gu Yi (Beijing Children’s Hospital)