NAIL EATING IN CHILDREN

Nail biting in children:

  • Usually occurs after 3-4 years of age,

  • Known to be more common in girls than boys,

  • It is especially common in adolescence.

Nail biting behavior is not seen as a problem for some families. However, this behavior can become chronic in the future. In this case, the nail structure of the child deteriorates, causes a bad appearance, is not welcomed by his friends and environment, even hears sarcastic words and causes problems in the child’s social life.

Understanding the underlying causes of nail biting is the first step in determining how to treat children. The underlying cause is largely psychological factors. Tension, anger, mental distress, anxiety, stress, unreported aggression are some of them. We can list other possible causes of nail biting behavior as follows:

  • oppressive parental attitudes

  • The child is constantly criticized, despised, shown as an example by others, and not receiving enough love and attention from caregivers.

  • An oppressive teacher attitude

  • Arguments and fights in the family

  • sibling jealousy

  • Communication problems with peers

  • Low self esteem

  • An important life event (moving, divorce of parents, loss of a parent or loved one, etc.)

In some cases, the presence of someone who bites nails in and around the family is also a wrong model for the child, and children can imitate this.

Why is nail biting behavior harmful to children?

  • Nail biting damages the stomach and triggers physiological problems related to the stomach.

  • Since the nail is a hard substance, it reduces the sharpness of the teeth.

  • Microbes on the nails cause various diseases in children.

Sometimes, in addition to nail biting, behaviors such as teeth grinding, thumb sucking, hair pulling or hair pulling can also be seen. These are the harbingers of feelings such as anxiety and tension in the child. Unless these feelings are resolved and the underlying causes are not addressed, they may lead to injuries in the personality structure of children in the future. Families should be alert to these behaviors and seek help from specialists when necessary for their children’s healthy development and mental health. The approach of the family to this event is decisive for the child.

So what should parents do when they realize that their child is biting nails?

Until the age of 3-4, this situation can be ignored. If it continues after these ages:

  • First of all, the reasons for this behavior should be investigated, the underlying causes should be examined and solutions should be produced. It will be beneficial for you and your child to get help from an appropriate child therapist in this regard.

  • Children should not be pressured. They should not be scolded or punished.

  • Children should be kept away from restless, stressful and anxious environments. Problems in the family, if any, should not be reflected on the child.

  • Other occupations should be found to keep their children’s hands busy. When they realize that they are biting their nails, they may try to direct them to activities that will distract them.

  • Parents should explain gently and in a way that they can understand why nail biting is harmful to their children, it is not a pleasant behavior, and their hands can look unkempt and ugly. The important thing here is to have a dialogue with your child without using a judgmental tone.

  • Try to observe when your child often does this behavior and try to understand what factors trigger it. If you realize this, you will have an opportunity to prevent it.

Parents should be patient in this process and always make their children feel their support.

It is extremely critical for the future, mental and physical health of children to receive support from a specialist before this situation turns into a permanent behavioral problem.

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