Experts say one way to protect ourselves from getting and spreading the coronavirus (COVID-19) is to stop touching our face, nose, and eyes so much. Because the virus can spread through this channel.But how? We asked the world's experts on compulsive face touching, hair pulling, skin picking, and more for advice. Getting a child or yourself to stop depends on three things: self-awareness, reducing triggers, and substituting behaviors. Get the details below.
When the CDC issued its COVID-19 guidelines to avoid touching our faces, most of us woke up to just how often we do it (about 23 times per hour!) and how little control we seem to have. But now we can’t do that thing.As we all know,The nose, eyes and mouth are entry sites for viruses and bacteria.For three decades, the doctors and therapists working with The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors have been developing effective therapies for curbing behaviors like skin picking and hair pulling. The good news is that the behavioral tools that treat these disorders can help you – and your young child (including toddlers) – reduce face touching.
Even with hard work, some face touching is going to happen. So be forgiving of yourself and your child as you learn these tips to stay healthy.
Often we touch our faces without even realizing we're doing it. When something itches or feels odd, we automatically touch it before we even have time to think about it. But it is possible to increase your conscious awareness of where your hands are headed. That moment of awareness is what makes it possible to take action to help yourself.
Tools to increase your body awareness
- Set a timer for five minutes and then sit and don't move your hands. Notice any itches you may want to scratch or sensations you want to address. Whatever you do, don't move your hands. Practicing body observation for five minutes a day helps you to be better at observing an urge or instinct without needing to address it.
- Stick notes around the house or reminders on your smartphoneto check in on where your hands are at that moment.
- Wear Band-Aids or other adhesive bandages over your forefingers or thumbsto change the tactile experience when you touch your face.
- Consider an "awareness bracelet."These devices, for adults and children, alert you when your hand rises to your face. The device learns which movements you want to discourage and vibrates when they occur, giving you the chance to make the conscious choice to lower your arm.
- Things in the house must be disinfected regularly,especially things that come into contact with our bodies.Things like pillows, sheets and mattresses in bedding.Infant's pillow, cradle sheet, etc
Reduce temptation: itches and blemishes are finger magnets
It feels nearly impossible not to scratch an itch once you're thinking about it. And most people find it nearly impossible not to pick at a pimple. The mindfulness techniques above can help bring enough self-awareness to allow you to take control. But it's even simpler if you don't experience the trigger in the first place.
Triggers aren't always physical. Repetitive fidgeting behavior can be a response to an emotion such as anxiety or boredom. Noticing such behavior is a chance to check in with yourself about how you're feeling and how you can better address these emotions. So we need to stop this from happening in the first place.First use a face mask or moisturizer to soothe dry, itchy skin.Second,wear acne dots as a treatment and barrier against touching pimples.Third,Pull your hair off your face to reduce ticklish strands.Last, exercise regularly to reduce boredom and depression and practice deep breathing to calm anxiety.
Fiddle and fidget: Give that energy somewhere else to go
When you need to release a little energy, or you crave sensory stimulation, consider fidget toys. But proximity is key. If your fiddles aren't right nearby, you're unlikely to seek them out once you're planted on the couch for an evening of TV bingeing.But you can replace them with something you have on hand.Like the throw pillow or blanket you put on the couch.As long as they keep you from touching your face.
How to help toddlers and young children
Helping young children to not touch their faces is tough. Many of the ideas that help adults can be adapted for even your youngest one. Aim for reduction, not perfection.
Resist getting frustrated, panicked, or angry with your child about touching his face, since body-focused repetitive behaviors tend to increase when children experience fear, anxiety, and uncertainty (boredom and fatigue, too!). Also, it’s good to keep in mind that it’s not about teaching your child to consciously not touch her face. With toddlers and preschoolers, it’s more about training through redirection and helping them meet their sensory needs in other ways.
Use a calm voice and child-friendly terms to describe the situation. You might say, "It's always a good idea to keep our hands away from our face, but right now there are some extra bad-guy germs, and they try to get inside of us through our eyes, nose, and mouth to make us feel sick. Let's see if we can work together to keep the bad-guy germs out."Of course, toys and bed products that children are exposed to need to be cleaned more often than adults and kept clean and tidy.
Children can't avoid touching their face completely, so try to keep your little one's hands extra clean. Make washing hands enjoyable by creating a funny song together, give a rubber ducky a sink bath, or see how many bubbles can pile up on his palm.
What should I do ?
Everyone, and especially children, occasionally pick at a pimple or scab, pull a stray hair, nibble a hangnail, pick a nose. Sometimes, these behaviors become repetitive and time consuming, cause visible damage, or lead to wounds that don't heal. For about 1 in 50 people, picking, pulling, and nail-biting behaviors are more than just a habit: They're a "body-focused repetitive behavior" that may require help to overcome.
The tendency to develop these problems runs in families. Stress, and also boredom, tend to exacerbate these behaviors, so they may increase and become truly problematic during difficult times.
When your child touches his face, don't draw attention to the behavior. Instead, redirect to another fun activity. You might say, "Let's put your sock puppet on!" Or "It's play-dough time!" Or, "Let's draw pictures!"
Any attention to a negative behavior has the potential to reinforce the behavior. Little kids think it's really interesting when their parents are upset, make faces, or sound angry. They often want to see if they can get their parents to repeat their reaction, so they engage again in the undesirable behavior. When you see your child touching his face, try to be neutral and matter of fact.
Remember these things:
Don't get angry or frustrated if your child has difficulty following any of your tips and suggestions. You will just connect negativity with what you are trying to teach him. Keep it light and as much fun as possible.
Don't explain too much
Don't spend time trying to reason with a toddler. Long explanations will not increase compliance. Be short and matter of fact: "It's time to wash our hands! Then you can get a new sticker!"
NOTE: If you’re interested in getting for yourself or your child any of the tools as helpful in preventing face touching, see Moonsea’s good beddings. It includes details and includes link to purchase.
Moonsea understands that the coronavirus pandemic is an evolving story and that your questions will change over time. We'll get the answers from experts to keep them – and you – informed and supported.