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Top Eight Alternative Habits To Replace Thumb-sucking

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It can be frustrating and scary to be the parent of a thumb-sucking child. As soon as they’re older than five, every year they continue to suck their thumbs puts their health and reputation in jeopardy. Thankfully, thumb-sucking is a problem many children experience, so there is a multitude of information on the different ways people approach the issue.

In this article, we will explore the top eight alternative habits to replace thumb-sucking. Hopefully, once you’ve completed reading this article, you will have a few suggestions for how to help your child kick their thumb-sucking habit. You should try all of these until one of them makes a difference. There’s no guarantee they will all work, though. Getting rid of this habit may seem hopeless, but you and your child have more control over the issue than maybe you realize.

Number One: Popsicles

Babies and children suck on their thumbs because the action makes them feel safer and more secure. However, the same feeling can be achieved with items that don’t cause overbite and underbite issues. Popsicles are a delicious snack you can use to reward your child.

Perhaps they can have one popsicle for every day they do not suck their thumbs. Not only will the treat satisfy their sweet tooth, but it’ll also offer the same sucking sensation to relax them. Over time, they’ll hopefully be able to move on and give up the popsicles altogether. (Take care not to go overboard with this tactic. You wouldn’t want your child to get a mouthful of cavities early in life!)

Number Two: Lollipops

Similar to popsicles, lollipops can channel some of that sucking energy into an alternative treat. Since they’re high in sugar, though lollipops should never be thought of as a permanent solution. But they can be excellent rewards for children who haven’t sucked their thumbs for a period of time.

You can make it a game. Every time your child feels compelled to suck their thumb but restrains themselves, they can make a tally in a notebook. When they reach a certain number of tallies, give them a lollipop to celebrate their accomplishment and support them further.

Number Three: Fun Straws

When a child sucks their thumb, they are enjoying the pressure in their mouths. As a parent, you can find new ways to create that same sensation. One of the best ways is to give your child a fun straw with lots of turns and bends.

Sucking on these straws requires more force than sucking on a regular one. As a result, children feel approximately the same sensation as they do when sucking their thumbs. Make sure you purchase several reusable straws—we know how quickly kids can lose their things—and wash them regularly to eliminate bacteria.

Number Four: Smoothies

Similar to fun straws, one of the top alternative habits to replace thumb-sucking is with a smoothie. Thick liquids force the child to suck more on the straw to enjoy the drink.

You can get the same effect with milkshakes, but smoothies are a healthier option. If you load up a smoothie drink with delicious fruits, you’ll be surprised at how even picky eaters become overjoyed at its scrumptious taste.

Number Five: Sugar-Free Gum

Replacing a thumb-sucking habit with a sugar-free gum habit is a reasonable trade for older children. Younger kids—such as those who are five years or younger—should stay away from gum until you can trust them not to swallow it.

Children who suck on their thumbs do so because they want something they can put in their mouths. Sugar-free gum can help fulfill that need. There’s no medical reason why you should choose this option other than the usual concerns about bubble gum negatively influencing a child’s teeth and blood pressure.

Number Six: Blankets

In many ways, thumb-sucking is like any other “security blanket.” Children put their fingers in their mouths because it’s a recurring, familiar, and comforting sensation. This is why doctors sometimes refer to thumb-sucking as “the first addiction”—because the reasons children are drawn to it aren’t too dissimilar from the reasons adults turn to drugs and alcohol. They’re easily attainable ways to feel different.

If your child is sucking their thumbs, there’s a good chance they’re anxious or sad. Thumb-sucking is a coping mechanism, but giving them a blanket is a far better one. The child will, of course, need to move away from the blanket someday. But it’s perfectly fine for the time being.

Number Seven: Stuffed Animals

Stuffed animals are also great security blankets. If your child has a favorite stuffed animal they like to carry around, you can make them a part of the child’s accountability. Tell the child their furry friend also wants to quit thumb-sucking, and the animal needs the child to set a good example for them.

When you make quitting the habit a game between the child and their imaginary friend, it becomes a much more approachable reality for them. They won’t feel so alone in the struggle. Many people, regardless of their age, feel more confident in handling their addiction if they have a support group. You can use stuffed animals and other security blankets as a “support group” for your child.

Number Eight: Devices To Break the Habit

Instead of finding a new habit to replace the old, some parents may choose to employ a device to stop thumb-sucking. Different companies use different approaches to solve the problem. Some restrict the child’s movements so they cannot put their hands in their mouths, while others cover the thumb so the child cannot enjoy the sucking sensation.

Summary

Parents who’re concerned about their child’s thumb-sucking may feel helpless. After all, you do not want to deprive them of something that brings them joy, but you also want to protect their health and social skills. Thankfully, there’s been a lot of research on the subject. We have methods and approaches that allow us to introduce new habits to our children to help break the old ones. Return to this article if you need a refresher on its ideas concerning this difficult problem.

Top Eight Alternative Habits To Replace Thumb-sucking