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The Coping Mechanism of Thumb Sucking & Why it’s a Bad Habit

The Coping Mechanism of Thumb Sucking & Why it's a Bad Habit
Written by TeamIdentity

When children continue sucking their thumbs, it can lead to having an emotionally difficult experience, coping with life

Thumb sucking can seem harmless when your child begins doing it, but it quickly develops into a bad habit. This is because it is typically the first way that children cope with their emotions. It is also a way for children to calm themselves and deal with the pain that occurs when they’re teething.

When your child continues to suck their thumbs, it can get in the way of their social and emotional development skills. The habit also causes physical issues that are detrimental.

Emotional Coping

When children continue sucking their thumbs, it can lead to having an emotionally difficult experience, coping with life. It can be a sign of slowing development or result in an inability to cope because they aren’t communicating with others and expressing themselves. They may also be made fun of by their peers.

Some psychologists also think that thumb sucking is the first addiction that can lead to other bad habits in the future. It can begin with the baby sucking thumb in womb, but if it continues into the time that the child can talk, there needs to be a change or there could be negative physical results in addition to the emotional consequences.

Physical Consequences

In addition to emotional coping and the development of new skills, there are physical consequences that thumb sucking leads to. For example, one of the biggest problems the habit can cause is malocclusion of their teeth. This is when one or both of the rows of teeth are misaligned, causing an overbite or an open bite. Malocclusion is when the teeth are directed outwards even when the mouth is closed. It can eventually require orthodontic work.

Beyond problems with the teeth, thumb sucking can cause skin irritation and other issues. When the skin comes into contact with moisture, it can become vulnerable to infection and injury. The skin may bleed, crack, and become calloused. It may warp their nails or cause peeling and ingrowth. The skin issues that arise can be complex and long-lasting.

Furthermore, thumb sucking can lead to speech impediments. Not only does it negatively impact the jaw, teeth, and palate, your child may have problems pronouncing certain sounds. A speech impediment will also get in the way of their ability to communicate and express themselves, which leads to all the emotional issues that come with thumb sucking.

What to Do

When your child is sucking their thumb beyond the point that they should stop, it is your responsibility as a parent to get them to. If they don’t, emotional and physical consequences will result. One way to help your child is to buy a product called a thumb guard or a thumbsie. The former is a plastic guard that prohibits your kid from sucking their thumbs and the latter is a cloth glove that wraps around the thumb. These take out the satisfaction from thumb sucking, which may make them disinterested in doing it.

Another method that will help them stop is mavala nail polish. This product was designed to discourage kids from sucking their thumbs because it tastes bitter. When the child goes to suck their thumbs, they will be repelled by it because it tastes horrible.

If these methods don’t work, you should take your child to a doctor for an evaluation. The doctor won’t just be able to tell you if your child is developing slowly, they’ll also give you tips for getting them to stop. Getting your children to stop sucking their thumbs is never easy, but is completely necessary for their development.

Thumb sucking is a negative coping mechanism that leads to negative physical and emotional consequences. While it begins as a natural way for children to comfort themselves and cope with the pain of teething, it quickly becomes a bad habit that the child will have difficulty stopping.

The longer the habit continues, the more difficult it will be for them to stop doing it. Not only will it be tough to get over, but thumb-sucking can also lead to problems in the future related to bad habits, emotional reasoning, self-comforting, and more. So if your child won’t stop sucking their thumbs, it is time to get them to end the habit and form more productive coping skills. 

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About the author

TeamIdentity

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