From time to time we get questions from our Keen family that we are pretty sure others are asking themselves as well.
Carl from Miami asks:
My child is a skin picker, mostly on the face and arms. I am wondering, do you have any tips for a first time Keen user who is a teenager? How can I motivate and support my child in this process?
Thank you for writing in and trusting HabitAware as a tool to help your child.
I won’t even pretend to be able to imagine what it’s like to be a mom or dad watching your child afflicted with skin picking (dermatillomania), hair pulling (trichotillomania) or nail biting (onycophagia). All I know is that I want to bubble wrap my two children and protect them from any worldly harm. And I assume the same for you! But, let's face it that’s not realistic or beneficial to anyone.
How can you get your child on board for Keen smart awareness bracelet? This is a great question, and a very difficult one to answer. I’m not sure there is one answer, nor a right or wrong one. Being a mother, being on Keen’s development team and being Keen’s first test subject, I hope these ideas can help.
1. Know what you can – and cannot – do
As a parent the most important thing you can do is to offer your love and support, unconditionally. Your child is the STAR in their behavior change, you have the supporting role as "audience" and "cheerleader."
Know that you can’t control your child’s behaviors but you can control your reaction to their behaviors.
If you see that your child has been doing well for weeks and then goes on a skin picking spree…Hug them. Don’t punish them. Punishing only makes it worse.
If your child had a cold that turned into a sinus infection would you punish them? No, you would care for them. Why? Because the sinus infection is beyond their control.
Your child needs to know that you are on her side.
2. Take care of yourself so you have the energy to take care of your child.
When flying on a plane, the flight attendants says, “put on your oxygen mask first, before helping others." The same goes for parenting. Your child needs you to be strong, in those times when they are weak and gives in to those skin picking urges.
“But how can I be strong?” you may ask. Simple. You need to take time for your own self-care so that you have an outlet for your frustration with this disorder. If you take out your frustration on your child, they will see it as you being frustrated with them. Your child will take that in and tell themselves is they are the cause of their parent’s pain and they will slowly shut you out. You need to show them that it is the skin picking that is robbing your joy, not your child.
3. Educate yourself and offer that to your child - what is a BFRB and what it’s not?
This is one way to help your child choose change and build a belief that change is possible. At the right time, and only you know when that is, maybe after dinner, during bed time, or in the car, you share what you learned from www.bfrb.org & www.habitaware.com. Let your child know that a BFRB is not their fault, just like if they had diabetes or needed eyeglasses. Let your child know you will support them in what they need, as each child is different. Ask them, "what does help look like from me?"
How your child reacts when you start sharing what you learned about hair pulling (trichotillomania), skin picking (dermatillomania) or excessive nail biting is a signal of where they are with their relationship with their behavior. Did they tense up and shut down? Or, did they begin to open up and explore?
As you hear and see more openness from your child, that tells you they are becoming ready.
This is hard work!
They might decide they are ready and then change their mind. It is something you have to left them get to -- on their timeline.
4. Join a support group
It’s hard on a parent to "hurry up and wait" -- which is why you also need your support too. You can find support with other parents going through similar pains. BFRB.org has a support group listing. There are closed Facebook and Yahoo groups specifically for parents to connect. Knowing you are not alone in this and just talking with others can lift the burden and help you regain your sanity.
5. Understand what Keen can – and cannot – do
Keen is not a cure to your child’s undesirable behavior, it is a tool to help them manage it. Keen’s primary intention is to help increase awareness, simply because you can’t change what you don’t know is happening! After that, both you and your child need to understand that it is still THEIR CHOICE to move the hand away. But we find once “awakened” by Keen’s vibration/hug on the wrist, it is much easier to make that new choice.
6. Ask your child if they are ready & if they would like a Keen. Ensure they understand what Keen can - and cannot do.
Before any tool will work, you have to want to make a change and, believe that you can. If someone decides for you that you need to get in shape and buys you a gym membership, it will probably go unused. BFRBs are self-soothing behaviors that serve a purpose. Your child will need to be the one who wants to make a change before Keen (the tool) will be useful. Keep the lines of communication open so that in time, when your child is ready, they feel comfortable enough to let you know.
Help your child understand their current relationship with their behavior
To start now, your child should try to take stock of where they are, what they are doing, how they are feeling when they are hair pulling, skin picking or nail biting. This may help them identify their triggers. If they know what is causing their urges, they can then begin to preempt the urges using more positive replacement strategies, like deep breathing, exercise or fidget toys.
In my case, it took me a long time to realize that exhaustion and tiredness were my big triggers – I would stay up late working on my computer and pull non-stop. Now I’ve found ways to manage my day better (so there’s less to do at night) and to just be OK with shutting down and going to sleep, even if something is time sensitive. I now know, that this is not just ok, but better! Because even though the work will be there in the morning, so will my hair!
Ensure your child’s readiness to change
No strategy is going to help if your child is not ready to take action and make the effort to make their own life better. To get them interested in Keen, I suggest sharing our website and letting them review it on their own. I also encourage parents to watch two of our videos together:
Ultimately, using Keen needs to be their decision. And when they are ready to take control of skin picking or hair pulling or nail biting with Keen, we will be there for them because we know first hand that if HabitAware can help them strengthen their willpower and replace the behavior with our push-button deep breathing guide, they’ll be set up for success against future challenges life may throw.
1. Wear Keen every day.
Just like it’s important to brush teeth, wearing Keen should become part of your child's daily routine. At first you’ll have to remind them, but over time with the right motivation they’ll learn on their own. Hopefully that motivation will be seen in the reduction of redness from the skin picking, or hair/nails growing back. And, if needed, there’s no shame in implementing an external reward system!
2. Talk about the behavior, as much as they are willing
There is so much shame associated with trichotillomania and dermatillomania. It doesn’t have to be that way. Through open conversation, this shame can be quelled.
Asking your child how many times they picked (or pulled, or nail-bit) in a day is likely a tough discussion, since they might be frustrated or anxious if confronted. However, the more discussions you can have - without passing judgement - the more aware they will become - and the stronger your relationship will become. Getting their perspective can help you understand progress and maybe even understand more about when and why they are doing the behavior.
Using Keen as the hook can help jumpstart the discussion. Instead of asking “Did you pick today?” you can simply inquire “How many times did Keen vibrate today?” Keen comes with the ability to track activity, so you can together, review the app analytics. In this way, the conversation is shifted from perceived blame directed at your child to the bracelet’s activity log.
3. Take advantage of Keen’s tracking data
From there, you can then ask questions about the patterns that emerge from the data. Another conversation starter could be “How can you make Keen vibrate less?” From here you can work together to come up with suggestions for replacement behaviors.
We know you are creative and can find many additional ways to motivate your child. We’d love to hear them and share with the rest of the community. The main thing to keep in mind is to stay consistent, positive, and supportive. There will no doubt be ups and downs throughout this process, and it is OK to be disappointed or frustrated at times. When they understand the importance of changing their behavior they will take a more active role and have accountability. This is how you know you’ve made a healthy impact on your child's life and have given them the tools to take on challenges in the future.
If you and your child choose our smart bracelet technology to take control, know that we are here for you. We very much want everyone to succeed on this journey. As always, please feel free to connect with us.
With love & awareness,
Aneela & the HabitAware team
About Keen by HabitAware
HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet that helps manage nail biting, hair pulling, thumb sucking, and other subconscious behaviors. Customized gesture detection brings you into awareness and helps you develop healthier habits.
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