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. 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 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.Download Our Anxiety E-Book

• 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).

8 replies
  1. Deborah
    Deborah says:

    thanks Alex! Another red flag for anxiety I have seen in kids is facial tics Like eye blinking or facial grieving. Just paying attention and being proactive with your strategies and professional help is the best way to go.

  2. maureen evans
    maureen evans says:

    Great blog about children and anxiety! Great tip about listening to kids in the car! You can learn a lot on the way to soccer practice or home from school- Turn the radio down and tune in!

  3. Anthony L.
    Anthony L. says:

    Having a tough time with my 4 y.o daughter. She is having clothing issues, seems like everything especially underclothes is “too tight” and she is claiming it is hurting her. I can see how girl panties elastic at waist and legs could cause discomfort. My wife and I took her to the store and I thought something like a boy style boxer or boxer brief would be better. We had her try on every style they had and all it did was send her into a panic attack. We don’t know what else to do! I hate seeing her in agony but she can go around commando. There does not seem to be much info on this type of problem, I’m thinking we need to discuss with our Doc and see if he can recommend a specialist.?…


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