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Breaking Thumb-sucking Habit

By Jodie Lynn
www.ParentToParent.com



QUESTION:

My granddaughter is four and still sucks her thumb. My daughter doesn't have a problem with it. However, the dentist told her that it could affect my granddaughter's teeth. What have other grandparents and parents done that have helped their kids to stop sucking their thumbs?

ANSWER FROM READER:

My four-year-old grandson used to suck his three middle fingers. In the beginning, he did suck his thumb but by the time he was five, he changed to the other fingers. The dentist said he wasn't sure why this happened except for the possibility of moving to a new area and going to a new childcare facility. What helped him the best was when was around his grandfather. We finally figured out that his grandfather made sure that he was always busy with his fingers, like finger painting, fishing, playing with building blocks or toy cars, etc. So the rest of us distracted him with whatever when he started in on his fingers. In about two months, he had forgotten all about the habit. - Norma Jones in Wyoming, MT

FROM JODIE:

Children can develop this habit for many reasons. Parents and other relatives seem to be more embarrassed by the habit than the kids themselves. While it's not a life-threatening situation, if she continues to suck her thumb, she may very well get teased or labeled as reserved, shy, weak, weird or “a baby” by peers, family, teachers or childcare workers. This is especially true if she does not take her thumb out of her mouth while talking and is hard to understand. Her speech could also be affected and create yet another habit to deal with later down the road. Most dentists are not too terribly concerned with thumb-sucking until the two front permanent teeth begin to surface at around the age of six. Then the sucking could possibly cause the teeth to protrude. If you spend a lot of time with her, try to keep track of when she does it. For example, does it begin after something upsetting happens to her, to you or perhaps a pet? There may be a possibility that you could correct whatever precedes the sucking. There are some liquids, creams and powders that some parents have used to break the habit. If you try any of these, be sure that whatever it is, it's been tested for this specific challenge and is non-toxic. Keep her busy and try not to constantly harp about it. Whatever you do, do not shame her into trying to get her to stop, as it will surely backfire or she will sneak around and do it when no one is watching. In fact, a power struggle will surely ensue... one that she will clearly win. Patience will be the best virtue in this situation.

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Editor's Note: My own teeth "curved" from long term thumb sucking, and I had braces for a year to correct that and a slight overbite. I sucked my thumb to some degree up to age nine, if not longer.

CAN YOU HELP?

My kids are in a lot of extracurricular activities where team uniforms or same-color t-shirts are required. Besides trying to find some type of pen to write their name on each piece of garment that will actually stay on, isn't there anything else to help with this problem? Many times, they end up yanking the tag off the garment, then we really have no clue to whom which piece of clothing belongs.

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© Jodie Lynn
Jodie Lynn is an award-winning internationally syndicated family/health columnist and radio personality. Her syndicated column Parent to Parent has been successful for over 10 years and appears in newspapers, magazines, newsletters and throughout the Internet. She is a regular contributor to several sites including eDiets.com, KeepKidsHealthy.com, ClubMom.com, BabyUniverse.com, CatholicMom.com, MainStreetMom.com and MommiesMagazine.com. Lynn has written four books and contributed to three others, one of which was on Oprah and has appeared on NBC in a three month parenting segment. Her latest books are "Mom CEO (Chief Everything Officer) - Having, Doing and Surviving It All!" (June 2006) and "Syndication Secrets - What No One Will Tell You!" (March 2006).
Please visit www.ParentToParent.com for details on her new radio talk show, Inside Parenting Success.

 

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