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Thumb Sucking.

Dear Sam,

I hope you are well and staying safe.

I will be turning 16 and I still suck my thumb. I have tried everything to stop but I can't. Do you have any advice? And why do I still do it?

I am worried about being bullied and picked on.

Please Help

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Sam

Hi there

Some habits are hard to break, especially if it’s something you’ve done since you were very young. It’s possible to change any habit with some hard work and the right technique.

You probably began sucking your thumb when you were a baby and it’s a natural way for babies to comfort themselves. Lots of children stop sucking their thumb by the time they start school but some continue until they’re much older and sometimes adults also do it. It’s a good idea to change the habit if you can, as thumb sucking can cause dental problems and you’re at risk of infections and illness from germs when you put your thumb in your mouth.

You’ll probably notice there’re specific times you suck your thumb – maybe when you’re tired or hungry or when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. It might be at certain times of the day, like when you’re going to sleep or when you’re doing certain things like concentrating on school or college work. Noticing when you suck your thumb will help you to change this habit because you know what causes it – you could even write it down in a journal to track when it happens.

Once you know when you might suck your thumb, you can try and divert your attention at those times. For example if it’s when you are watching TV, you could try to hold a fidget toy  to give your hands something else to do. You could also get something to put over your thumb – like a plaster. You probably don’t notice all of the times you’re sucking your thumb but if there’s something physical stopping you then it won’t just be automatic.

When you get the urge to suck your thumb try to focus on something else – you could wiggle your toes, notice 3 things that you can see or hear, count backward from 50 or take two slow deep breaths. After a while you’ll probably see that the urge doesn’t last very long when you distract yourself, even if it felt very strong at first.

I hope this helps. You can talk to our Childline counsellors about this if you need to and anything else that’s bothering you or post on the message boards and have the support of other young people online.

Take care,

Sam

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