This little girl of ours causes me such worry at times.
Over the last few years she’s had a range of compulsive habits – it started with twirling massive knots in her hair whilst sucking her thumb when she was two – this escalated into pulling the knots out and causing significant thinning on one side of her head, picking a scab on the end of her nose preventing it from healing for six months (this has happened on two separate occasions), sucking on her coat collar until it makes her face sore and now we’re back with pulling her hair out.
We have tried everything – distracting her, being cross with her, ignoring it, reward charts, covering her hands with welly socks to her arm pits or eczema sleeves (or even both!) at night to stop her from being able to get to her hair / nose / whatever else she can’t leave alone. But every time we think we’ve cracked it and broken the habit, she replaces it with something else.
On their own, each of the habits I suppose could be seen as a fairly normal childlike habit that you’d expect her to grow out of but the fact that we break a habit only to then find her reverting back to the same one months later concerns me.
Her hair had all but grown back, I was planning on cutting it into a bob this month to even it all out but last night I notice that, out of nowhere, she has created herself a significant thin (borderline bald) patch again. I worry that her hair won’t recover, that this will be a lifelong issue for her, or that if I can actually manage to stop her pulling her hair out, she’ll just start doing something else. I worry that it will be more serious as she gets older.
I don’t think it’s an anxiety thing, so much as comfort. She’s such a happy little thing – people are always telling me she’s one of the happiest little girls they’ve ever met. The habits often seemed to be linked to sucking her thumb – she would twirl her hair whilst sucking her thumb, pick the scab on her nose whilst sucking her thumb – the coat thing I suppose also relates to finding comfort from sucking.
Dave was fairly determined that we needed to stop her sucking her thumb to break the other habits whereas I felt that stopping everything at once was too stressful for her. As it is, we have reached a point where she wears her sleeves for bed which means she can’t get to her thumb anyway, but she still sucks it during the day.
We think the hair pulling is happening in bed in the mornings when she has taken her sleeves off so I’ve asked her to keep them on until we get up with her. I’ve watched her closely today and have seen her hand rise to her hair once or twice but she has stopped herself, I’ve praised her and given her her favourite cuddly toy to hold to try and keep her hand busy.
I’m sure you can tell that I’m worried about her. Dave and I have decided the time has come to seek some advice on this now and are planning on taking her to the GP next week – we’re going to go together so that one of us can wait outside with Amy whilst the other speaks to the Doctor before we take Amy in for them to see her.
Essentially the purpose of this post is that I want to record where things are up to for her, so I can see how things improve (or deteriorate) over the coming months. And, to ask if you have any experiences or advice to share that can help us to help Amy break these habits.