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Five Reasons to Help Your Child Stop Thumb Sucking

3 Mins read

When your child first starts sucking their thumbs, you probably think that it’s harmless. That’s because at first, it is. Thumb sucking begins as a baby’s first coping mechanism. Since they can’t express themselves early on, they comfort themselves by sucking on their thumbs. It helps infants and toddlers deal with pain and all the new experiences. The problems come when the child doesn’t stop sucking their thumbs. If the habit persists, it can lead to all kinds of physical, emotional, and social issues. Read below for five reasons that you should help your child stop the bad habit of thumb sucking.

Skin Irritation

One of the most noticeable problems from thumb sucking is skin irritation. It can become red, cracked, calloused, and peel when a child partakes in prolonged thumb sucking. Not only will the skin become infected, but the infection can also spread to other parts of the skin. It can also lead to ingrown nails and other problems on the skin and hands. In fact, skin irritation is one of the tell-tale signs that the child is sucking their thumbs too much. If their skin hurts and they still won’t stop, the habit could become a big problem.

Malocclusion

Another physical issue that is difficult to overlook is malocclusion. Malocclusion is when either one or both rows of teeth are directed outward, creating an open or overbite. Since the thumb is pushing against the teeth, over time this negatively affects them. It can become so bad that even professional orthodontic work is needed. While it takes a long time for this problem to develop if you allow thumb sucking to go out of control malocclusion can become a big problem that needs to be solved. It is a physical consequence that is significant.

Coping Mechanisms

Since thumb sucking is one of the first coping mechanisms children develop, if it doesn’t stop by a certain age the child can have difficulty developing new ones. They may have a hard time expressing themselves and communicating their feelings. This can lead to a lot of psychological problems in the future. This is probably the most significant reason to help your child stop thumb sucking. If prolonged thumb sucking continues, the kid can have late development emotionally.

Precursor to Addiction

Psychologists now believe that thumb sucking creates a reward system in the brain that could lead to addictive behaviors later on in life. It is a way to comfort themselves when they are feeling bad that doesn’t necessarily lead to the child dealing with their problems. This is also why the child should choose, with direction from parents, to stop the bad habit on their own. If you explain these things to your child in the best way you can, you may be able to break through to them and make it clear that thumb sucking is not harmless. It is, in many ways, the child’s first addiction.

Social Ridicule

Finally, another reason to help your child stop thumb sucking is that they will be the subject of social ridicule from their peers. If your child is still sucking their thumbs and the other kids have stopped, they could be made fun of and teased. No one wants this. Not only will it hurt your child’s self-esteem, but it might also reinforce the comforting coping mechanism. The child may revert because they cannot express their feelings and want the comfort of thumb sucking to make them feel better.

What to do about it?

Luckily there are many options when you’re trying to help your child stop the bad habit of thumb sucking. First, you can buy them a thumb sucking device like a thumb guard or cloth covering. These products put a barrier between the thumb and the mouth, making it less satisfying for them. 

You can also use a specially-designed nail polish that tastes bitter. They’ll be repulsed by the smell and taste, making them stop the habit. Furthermore, you can get an arm brace that completely prevents them from putting their hand up to their mouth. Whether your child just started thumb sucking or has been doing it for a while, helping them stop the bad habit of thumb sucking is imperative. The sooner you do, the better off they will be in the future.