8 Tips to Help Your Kids Stop Sucking Their Thumbs and Avoid Oral Health Issues

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Sucking their thumb, fingers or a pacifier is a natural reflex for most children. It helps them fall asleep, calm down, or to just feel good. When they are babies, it is considered harmless in terms of a child's growth and speech development.

But how long should it go on? Should a child still be sucking their thumb or a pacifier when they are ready for preschool?

Generally, a child who is in the 2- to 4-year range will start to develop other coping skills beyond thumb or finger sucking, such as language development. These coping skills replace the need for a child to suck on a thumb or finger. But for some kids, thumb sucking or finger sucking is harder to kick, which could lead to problems for their growing mouths. Recent research shows that thumb or finger sucking can have an impact even at a younger age - as young as 2 to 4 years old – on the mouth and the jaw.

Remember, sucking their thumbs or fingers is a soothing activity that can help reduce their anxiety. For most children, growing up is filled with anxiety and change.

So if your child is approaching preschool and still sucking away, here's 8 tips on how to handle it correctly:

Try to limit the time that your child sucks their thumb to their bedroom or in the house, not in public. Explain to them that this is a bed activity during nap time and at night.

Don’t turn it into a confrontation. Try to recognize your child and praise them when they are not sucking their thumb instead of criticizing them when they are.

If your child is hurt or injured, don’t prohibit them from sucking their thumb or fingers. They need that comfort zone to cope.

Help your child practice self-awareness by pointing out to them when they are sucking their thumb or fingers. Offer them an option to soothe them, like a blanket or stuffed animal.

Avoid the gross-tasting stuff that is sold to stop thumb and finger sucking. It’s just creates more anxiety, which is the initial reason why your child is sucking their thumb.

Use creative methods to help your child understand that they are growing up and one day won't suck their thumb anymore. Ask your child if their favorite cartoon character sucks their thumb.

Don’t try a glove or a mitten on the hand as a quick-fix to thumb or finger sucking. This will just frustrate the child and cause more anxiety. Plus, they are old enough to just remove the glove or mitten themselves.

Be sure to remember that a child will grow out of the need for thumb sucking or finger sucking when they are good and ready.

SOURCE: WebMD

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