Helping the Nervous Child
Perhaps a fourth of the children all over the world bite their fingernails. Nail biting is practically always a symptom of being high-strung , tense or nervous.
Then there are some children with such other “ nervous” habits as picking or pulling at the face, hair or ears , tugging at or biting parts of the clothing, chewing a pencil and the like. There is the school child whose hands and feet must be going on almost constantly, handling some small object, drumming or grimacing according to a pattern commonly called “habit spasms” or “tics”.Night terrors are also nearly always related to some emotional instability.
While we can hardly expect the normal child from two to five to sit still for as long as five minutes at a stretch , we might reasonably expect the normal, healthy child of school age, especially during adolescence, to lol occasionally for noticeable period without signs of useless movements.
Prevention And Correction
Naturally the child who bites his nails or reveals other “nervous” habits is rebuked and nagged , sometimes punished. Such treatment only cause him to grow worse. In the very few cases in which the “nervous” habit ceases in response to such treatment, another similar or worse” nervous” habit may be substituted for it. Since the child does not do these things on purpose and will even try in vain to quit them, the rebuking, nagging and punishing render him more “nervous” and such movements the more inevitable and frequent. The problem, therefore, is to ignore the “nervous” habit and remove the cause.
Provide Calm Atmosphere
The first step is to work on yourself and the family atmosphere. Even the tiny infant feels the slightest nervous strain in any person in his presence and tensions between members of the family. Strive for poise in yourself.Neglect many thing about the home, if necessary, in order to get ample sleep, rest and recreation. Often the mother will need to have a brief vacation. Let the family atmosphere be one of calmness, serenity and cheer, with as few emotional conflicts and as little commotion and needless noise as possible.
Cultivate quiet, mellow voices
Keep the television and radio turned off while the baby or young child is awake, except for non exciting, soft, lovely music , especially when there is conversation , and more especially at meals. Regulate the programs on the air as soon as the child is old enough to operate the dial. It’s the child between five and twelve who may be harmed most emotionally by the television programs of violence, besides saturating him with the notion that human life, so often snuffed out before his eyes, his cheap.Such programs, so popular with children in this age range, are bad for the “nervous” child. Study the child’s emotions. Should he have violent angers or strong fears, find ways of reducing them. Look into his relations with other children of the family. Is there a likelihood that he is suffering from jealousy? This is highly probable if there be a younger child, especially if the “nervous” child seems to need more rebukes and punishment than the younger child; in which vent , find ways to command, rebuke and punish him less , and to approve him honestly and celebrate his achievements more frequently , so he feels more secure as a wanted , worthy and loved member of the family group.
Proceed in like manner if your child stutters, since stuttering nearly indicated “nervousness” or lack of emotional stability.
A Positive Program
In order to protect the child, his parents work out a program of effective control of him. But mere control and forbidding alone won’t suffice. Whether the child is three or twelve, he must find amusement. Encourage him in creative fun alone and with other children. As soon as the baby begins to manipulate objects, give him playthings he can enjoy. As his play grows into putting things together , show pleasure over his achievement . From his scribbling and marks with crayons, stimulate his growth at drawing and later paintings with finger paints and brush and water colours;cutting out pictures from discarded magazines and newspapers and pasting them on pages of a regular or improvised scrapbook. Help him to learn simple non-running games, devoting more and more time to such as he grows older. The more he does with his hands with a plan and purpose, the less excitable he will tend to be.
Nothing is more quieting to the preschool child than listening to stories read to him, especially if he can enjoy looking at good illustrations while he listens. Keep on reading to him as he grows older. Let other adults of the family and an older brother or sister and the baby-sitter share in reading to the child. Set the stage so he will play freely with other children of his age and learn to get on well with them. Encourage him to play out od doors , but not for too long stretches at a time. A quiet period of thirty to forty minutes each day before the evening meal should prove profitable In extreme cases this daily quiet period should be an hour long.
Lots of Love and Affection
Often hold, cuddle or rock the child from tow to six while you read to him, sing to him or talk with him and enjoy him. Affection may prove acceptable to him through your smiles and tender tones, your answering kindly all his questions and listening to what he says , enjoyment of his creations with lines, things or words. How calming and quieting can all these things be to the excitable, “ nervous” child. All this takes time. You may have to neglect many other things less important.
Have the physician check the child’s physical condition and advise you; then follow his advice. In case he advises a specialist, be sure to consult one. See that your child has good routine habits. Often the “nervous” child does not get nearly enough sleep and the quality of his sleeps may be bad.
Look into your school child’s program. See that his out-of-class activities are not excessive at school or in the community. Usually extra lessons, as in music or dancing , should be discontinued. Some “nervous” children are very bright and will engage in more things at work and play than they should attempt.