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How To Help A Child With Trichotillomania
I have had Trich since I was a child.
I’m just now overcoming it step by step and making great progress.
It has me wondering how much of this is insecurities leading to a self soothing mechanism?
Insecurities come in a lot of ways.
I know my mother was a ball of insecurities when I was a child.
She was single. She had a mountain of responsibilities and she had her own demons from childhood she was dealing with.
We live in a fallen world and a lot of people are insecure, stressed, and depressed as a result.
I’m not blaming society or your parenting, but insecurity is all around us, in adults and children for various reasons.
Exploring areas of insecurity would be a good start.
Maybe there’s bullying going on? Fear of a situation? All these things cause insecurity in children.
It’s not just insecurity, so don’t think that I’m judging your child, I’ve met confident children with trich too.
Because there are different underlying causes of trichotillomania, there’s a lot of things you can explore to help your child… which is good news.
There’s always hope, especially with kids because they are so resilient naturally whereas adults get a little stuck in their ways.
If you have the resources, going to the BFRB conference with your child is a really cool experience for them. Next year it’s going to be in Washington DC. (check TLC’s event page for updates on this).
How Do You Help Children Who Pull Their Hair Out?
Give Hugs! Lots of Them!
Give your child a lot of hugs and kisses. Please don’t dismiss my “give lots hugs” advice because there is a real science behind hugging that shouldn’t be ignored.
Not only do hugs give children positive affirmation that they need to be whole but hugs have a powerful way of releasing feel good signals to the body.
These are like “feel good transmitters” that go out to the body and it’s the same affect that pharmaceutical drugs try to replicate.
Make a point to give your child a lot of big hugs. Hugs right when they wake up, hugs when they eat breakfast, hugs when they leave for daycare or school, hugs before bed….hugs should be a priority.
You’re sending those “feel good” transmitters all over their body and the urge to pull their hair decreases or is eliminated because their body is getting what it needs.
I encourage you to read up on the power of hugs and make a point to give LOTS of them to your child! Too many people dismiss this advice because they think it’s cliche. All those drugs the pharmaceutical companies want people to take for stress, anxiety and depression have side effects, hugs don’t!
Get Into A Support Group
Finding a support group is going to help because there are so many resources and discussions available to read and it’s nice to be around people who “get it.”
Facebook has a group called Trichy Picky Parenting that is geared towards parents of children with trichotillomania and skin picking disorders and that would be my first choice, but there are others available too.
What I find particularly nice about these groups is that I find tips, products, treatment options and all sorts of things to that I never even know existed.
Are They Aware?
I know with me, it took me actually putting on some habit detecting bracelets for me to finally realize when I was doing it.
So many times I would go to pull my hair and not even realize it.
The bracelets I purchased have been a huge help because they gently buzz me to let me know I’m doing something I don’t want to do, then I can redirect the behavior to something else.
Once your child is able to recognize when they are doing the behavior, they can begin retraining themselves to do something else instead.
Related Article: Read About My Experience With HabitAware HERE
Keep Their Hands Busy
Hands-on activities and sensory crafts are fun and they keep their little hands busy and their minds engaged.
I know people don’t think electronics are healthy but they do in fact keep their hands busy so perhaps in moderation?
I might also look into something like music lessons and playing an instrument because it requires both hands and it gives them a creative outlet.
- Fidget Toys
- Tablets / Smartphones
- Video Games
- Musical Instruments
- Chores 😮
Any sort of activity where they are using their hands continuously is perfect.
I bought this book here to better understand trichotillomania myself and the resources in it are made for children and teens.
There is a whole section on trichotillomania advice for parents that is uber helpful if you’re working through this with your child.
The way it reads is so comforting and easy to follow.
The flow of it is written in a very reassuring tone.
I believe this book will help you understand children and their hair pulling behavior a lot better as someone parenting a child with trichotillomania.
It’s got all sorts of strategies, charts and therapy techniques that can be used as a treatment for kids with trichotillomania.
I love the idea of a sticker chart and using incentives to reward your child.
Read Them A Book
How about a book to read together?
This is a book written by a kid for kids to reassure them that they are not alone.
Jack opens up about his struggles with this hair pulling disorder. There aren’t a lot of books that openly talk about trichotillomania for kids like this one does.
This book fills a need in this niche and it’s a good one to share with other children for open discussion in group settings.
Have You Tried NAC?
NAC is an amino acid supplement and there is plenty of research to support that it has helped children and adults overcome trichotillomania by reducing the urge to pull.
There’s one review on Amazon that always sticks out to me, a woman with an 11 year old son swears that NAC cured her son of his hair pulling.
I personally use NAC and it’s helped me tremendously by curbing my hair pulling urges.
It is not an instant magic pill, it took about 9 weeks for me to notice anything significant difference, so stick with it awhile, don’t give up too soon and increase the dosage if need be.
I am not a doctor, I’m a blogger, so definitely talk to your child’s primary care physician or therapist but go in there knowing that there’s significant research to support that this supplement does work for people with trichotillomania (unfortunately, not all doctors are familiar).
No one knows exactly what causes Trichotillomania, but you can pinpoint triggers!
One way to pinpoint triggers is to keep a Trich therapy journal.
Track diet, sleep, feelings, hair pulling patterns and more!
A journal can help a parent see certain patterns that warrant a change in lifestyle.
Tracking simple things every day is good for the doctor and therapist you might be seeing as well.
Your child’s trichotillomania could be the result of a few things, so a trichotillomania therapy journal will help you see things you may have never noticed before.
Maybe it’s sugar? gluten? a social situation?
Get a journal going to see if you can pinpoint any triggers.
Don’t Say “Stop It”
As much as you want to say “stop it” – it doesn’t help.
I can remember adults slapping my hands when they would catch me doing it and it only made me feel worse.
Children with Trichotillomania cannot just stop doing it.
It’s not a switch that’s easily turned off.
When you say “stop it,” it just makes it worse because it makes them feel like they’re doing something wrong and children immediately take the blame.
They feel condemned when someone says “stop it” because they want to stop it but can’t.
That’s why the HabitAware bracelets are a big help in self detection.
Another nice thing about the bracelets is instead of asking if they pulled their hair today, you can just ask them if the bracelets helped them today?
This also opens up the conversations for any feelings and struggles they may be having.
Know It’s Not Their Fault!
It is not your child’s fault that they are pulling their hair, it’s not something they want to do.
It’s a coping mechanism, it’s something that’s being done for relief.
The best thing you can do is to support your child anyway you can, listen to them, hold them, hug them, encourage them with words of affirmation.
Let the child know that it’s not their fault (because they may be blaming themselves like children often do).
Don’t Be Preoccupied with Trich
The more focus on it, the more the child focuses on it.
Rather than focusing on the child’s Trich, find ways to help the child focus on positive things.
Instead of focusing on the Trich, try to find some busy things for them to do with their hands instead.
Kids are loaded with talent, you can explore all sorts of things to help.
Crafts, science projects, cooking, playing an instrument – all these things require the use of their hands and it also gives you time together.
It’s incredible what time, attention and positive affirmations do for a child.
Tell them they are blessed going in and coming out.
Tell them they are your joy and your beloved.
Children are so receptive, even older ones – teenagers want affirmation, too!
Be Their Friend.
Don’t let the world tell you that you can’t be their friend.
Trust me, if you’re not their friend, someone in the world will be!
People are going to have an influence on them just by being their friend – why not you?
Focus on fellowship with the child and be open to hearing their feelings and struggles.
Love Conquers All!
Children need unconditional love.
They need your time, your attention and your love.
Children need to know how valuable they are.
I can’t tell you how much learning about God’s love for me has changed my life.
I’ve overcome a lot of things and it all started when I realized I was loved and I was valued.
God made us to be loved by Him.
We are the object of His affection.
One of the reasons that I created my Trich therapy journal was because I know that one area a lot of people with Trich are lacking in is knowledge of the love of God.
There’s 42-days of really powerful scripture and commentary to show you God’s heart for you in this battle.
God is love.
Over and over again the bible tells us that His loving kindness endures forever.
His steadfast love endures forever.
Jesus paid a price for our wholeness and for the wholeness of every child with Trichotillomania.
I believe with all my heart that this journal I created will help you see that!
I believe I am overcoming Trich by faith.
I found the Keen bracelets!
I started tracking my pulling patterns in my therapy journal and I was able to make some changes based on what I saw!
Those alone have really made me aware and allowed me to change what I’m doing so I don’t pull.
God doesn’t want us to have Trichotillomania, Jesus paid the price to heal us and it was an over payment!
The child you’re trying to help needs know that God loves them and that their parent loves them.
If you feel like you’re just not reaching them with your love, try the book, the 5 Love Languages for children, because there are many ways to show love to a child, perhaps you’re just missing their love language?
Love is so internally healing that it affects the outside of us too.
Once I found out the love of God, I was able to overcome drug use, eating disorders, self-harm and I know that I’m going to overcome Trichotillomania too!
It doesn’t stand a chance.
Love conquers all.
Resources for Parents:
Kids Books Abouts Trichotillomania
These are two books about trichotillomania for kids. My Hair Is Not For Pulling is a good conversation starter about trichotillomania. Hair Twirlers and Pullers is a book about trichotillomania that was written by a kid for kids.
There’s a lot of hope for you and your child, and a lot of resources available.
Be sure to check TLC’s toolkit for parents.