Nail biting is a common habit that is seen in many children and teens. Some of them outgrow it as they grow older, while some may not be able to kick the habit until adulthood. Now, in terms of causes, there is nothing specific. It is just a habit. They do for comfort during stress, they can do it out of boredom, they may bite their nails to imitate a family member doing it. They can even do it to annoy parents in a way to seek attention. Now, nail biting by itself is not harmful but, it can cause problems such as transmission of germs from fingers to the mouth, causing frequent colds and diarrhea. It can cause the fingertips to be sensitive and painful and biting the skin from the nail edges can cause it to get infected. It can make the fingers look unattractive from all the scarring and it can cause chipping of the front teeth.
Now, how to deal with this nail biting? First, you can try to identify the stress. Now, factors such as new school, a move, a new sibling, overwhelmed with extra activities etc. may be a stress factor. Talk to your child about ways to deal with it. Indulge them in activities to reduce stress, like, more playtime, playing with a pet, deep breathing exercises with the family. Now, do not ridicule or punish them for nail biting. This can cause more anxiety. Positive reinforcement, by giving them stars on a chart for everyday that they don’t bite their nails and always praising their good efforts can encourage them. Discuss how unsanitary this habit can be. You can dip the fingers in bitter gourd juice or neem leaf juice to create distaste. You can paint the nails, with a non-toxic, bitter substance that is available in drug stores, which doesn’t wash off easily. Keep your child’s nails trimmed and filed. Stay consistent with your efforts to help break the habit.
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