Seeing your kids bite their nails might make you anxious. Research says that about half of all kids bite their nails, so it is perfectly normal for kids of certain age to have this habit. They might bite their nails for various reasons – stress relief, curiosity, boredom, or imitation. Nail-biting is the most common ‘nervous habits’ and it is the most likely one to continue into adulthood.
We all get anxious some time or the other and the same goes for kids. If your child bites his nails moderately (doesn’t injure himself) and unconsciously (such as while watching television), or if he tends to bite in response to specific situations (such as in exams or while in sports), it might be his way of coping with stress and this isn’t anything to worry about. He will stop doing it with time. Use the following strategies to prevent him from biting his nails.
Identify and address the reason for his anxiety
If you know the reasons for your child’s anxiety which might because of a move to a new school, an upcoming exam, moving to a new city, or a baseball game. Talk to your child and relieve his stress. Explain him about the change, address his anxieties and come up with a solution.
Talk about his nervous habits
Sometimes, just talking about the reasons of anxiety to your child will help relieve his anxiety. Explain him why it is bad to bite nails and its impact on their health. Try to connect it with something they love to do, such as if they like to sing, tell them that biting nails will have impact on their singing skills or they might fall sick and won’t be able to participate in an upcoming game.
Sometimes your child may feel anxious when he is on a long ride or in a bus or train journey. Engage him in activities so that he feel distracted and doesn’t bite his nails. Show him his favorite videos or give him his their favorite video game to play. Comics or books will also help your child get distracted.
Make your child aware of their bad habit
Most of the times nail biting is more of a reflex action to something happening around your child and making them aware of their bad habit will ensure they don’t do it. Agree on a quiet, secret reminder for times when your kid is biting their nails – a light touch on the arm or a code word will make them aware of their habit and help them stop. However, make sure that your child doesn’t look at these gestures by you as disciplinary measures as they might start repelling it. If you have a girl child then putting her favorite nail polish will ensure she won’t bite nails.
Don’t punish or nag your child
You should understand that your child is not biting his nails consciously, and that there is a reason behind his nail biting. Don’t over react and keep calm unless and until he is overdoing it or hurting himself. If you pressure him to stop, you’ll just add to his stress and risk intensifying the behavior. Pressurizing and nagging will increase his stress levels and will act as a fuel to the fire. However, your affection and care can have a completely opposite reaction, as it will boost your child’s confidence and assure him that you are there to help him and not chide him.
There was a first time when your child started biting his nails and due to repeated biting it became a habit. Similarly, stopping your child from biting his nails over and again will ensure that he will stop after a certain time. However, remember that changing habits take time and this will not happen overnight. Show your love and care for your child so that he doesn’t start repelling your actions. You will have to persevere with your child and keep trying and eventually your patience and persistence will pay off. However, if your child is overdoing and hurting him then you should go and seek help from a consultant or a doctor.