February 1, 2024

Strategies to Decrease Nail Biting and Other Anxious Habits

Many things can cause stress for children, including academics, social problems at school, or even sports.

Many things can cause stress for children, including academics, social problems at school, or even sports. Some children may be less resilient than others, and these stressful events can lead to anxiety problems. Unfortunately, many children may be unable to express their worries and emotions verbally, or they may not be aware of what it is that causes them stress. Therefore, often times children will express their anxiety through behaviors or anxious habits. Stress and anxiety can lead to poor and inconsistent sleeping patterns, depression, fears, difficulties with social interaction and isolation, among other problems. Follow the tips below to help ease the stress in your child’s life.

Tips To Identify Decrease Stress In Your Child’s Life:

  • Children don’t often express anxiety with words, as they tend to not understand these feelings, not be fully conscious of them, or do not know how to express them.
  • Habits/symptoms that may be signs of anxiety or stress include: nail biting, chewing on fingers, picking on clothing, inconsistent sleep routine, stomach aches, head aches, fear, worry, distress or isolation.
  • Anxiety and stress affects concentration, decision-making, ability to make friends, and mood. Depression is closely linked with anxiety.

How To Help:

Make sure your child has good sleeping habits and can recharge her batteries for the next day. Sleep improves concentration, boosts the immune system and aids in relaxation. Talk to them to identify stressors, and identify coping mechanisms to reduce them. It is helpful to have them come up with the coping strategies – they will be more likely to use their own ideas. For reference, the website http://momshomeroom.msn.com discusses typical problems kids may have, and how to help them.

  • Nail biting is a fairly typical childhood habit. Tips to discourage nail and finger biting include putting band aids on fingers, painting nails, encouraging the use of toys(e.g. a koosh ball, which she can use in school and wherever she feels anxious), chewing gum, and putting chap stick on lips.
  • Tips for establishing a consistent sleep routine include making sure to be ready and in bed at the same time every night (whether tired or not), listening to soothing music (e.g. classical music, nature sounds), reading a book, and avoiding vigorous physical activity in the evenings.
  • Another coping mechanism is finding a quiet place she can sit by herself to de-stress, even if it’s when she’s in school. For example, perhaps she can leave the classroom on a bathroom break or go sit on a bean bag chair for several minutes. Engaging in physical activity can also help calm the body down.
  • Other methods include: slow breathing techniques, white noise sounds and soothing music/nature sounds, talking to someone to communicate feelings, engaging in a hobby, simply letting her talk (be quiet and listen during dinner or while driving somewhere, and you may be surprised how much she will open up), and making her feel comfortable and good about herself (compliment her on her strengths).

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We know that choosing a local ABA facility can be a hard decision. We’ve created an informational guide to help you understand more about the questions you should be asking while meeting with different providers.

Although we talk about our services here, our highest goal is for you to feel comfortable and knowledgeable about picking a provider that is the best fit for your needs. You are making a decision that will impact the entire trajectory of your child’s life!
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The cover of the NSPT Guide for Families, which helps families to figure out the questions to ask when picking an ABA provider.


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