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Thumb Sucking

The Hidden Toll: The Effects of Thumb Sucking on Parents

Explore the effects of thumb sucking on parents, including emotional stress, financial burden, and social challenges. Learn strategies for coping and supporting children through this common habit.

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At Thumbsie we often talk about the consequences of thumb sucking for children. It can cause dental problems and low self-esteem and can lead to an increase in mouth and digit infections.

But what about the impact on mums and dads? As parents, we share the ups and downs of a child’s life. We feel their pain, rejoice in their achievements, celebrate their high points and desperately want to help them through tough times.

The truth is that when a child has a long-term thumb sucking habit, there can be a lot of stress and strain for parents too. Whether emotional or financial, if a child has a hard to break thumb sucking habit, there is often a hidden toll on parents.

We want to address some of these challenges today, and to offer some helpful coping strategies and advice.

Emotional Impact

Thumb sucking is a self-soothing mechanism. Children suck their thumbs to soothe themselves, often in times of anxiety or stress – a new house move, new sibling or new school, for example.

Of course, when our children are anxious this has an impact on us as parents. We want our kids to be happy and care-free. While short-term thumb sucking is not a cause for concern, if it continues beyond the age of 4 or 5, there are often deeper issues.

Over the 11 years we’ve been in business, we’ve heard from many parents about the frustration, guilt and worry they feel. A typical question we hear is: “why is my child still sucking their thumb? Shouldn’t they have stopped by now?”

The side-effects of prolonged thumb sucking can be quite serious: problems with tooth positioning, frequent infections, and sadly, being the victim of childhood bullying. It is inevitable that parents worry about these challenges on behalf of their children.

The most important point to make – and this is hugely important – is that you are not to blame. And nor is your child. Thumb sucking is a totally natural reflex that often starts in the womb. It is the prolonged nature of thumb sucking that can cause long-term issues. But again, this is nobody’s fault. It is a coping mechanism which your child is using. And it is always possible for them to learn new and healthier coping mechanisms.

Financial Strain

There can be an undeniable financial strain associated with thumb sucking, especially if the habit becomes difficult to break. Parents often tell us that they have tried multiple options before buying a Thumbsie. This typically includes new toys, comfort blankets, dummies and other displacement activities. Clearly, the costs can add up.

The costliest treatments come as a result of damaging side-effects like overbites and jaw misalignment. Parents often have to splash out on expensive dental devices or orthodontic treatment. And there are also counsellors and child psychologists who provide useful, but expensive, support.

If a child develops a long-term habit with potentially negative side-effects, which parent wouldn’t want to help them break that habit? As parents, we are often willing to do whatever it takes. But sadly, budgets can be tight, and it is not always possible to afford pricey treatment options.

So, what is a parent to do? The key here is to try and break your child’s thumb sucking habits as early as possible. The sooner the habit is broken, the cheaper it will be. Dental issues are not likely to arise unless the thumb sucking continues over multiple years. There are a number of cost-effective ways of helping your child to quit. Reward systems, like Thumbsie’s® own reward stickers, are a really good option. Children react well to rewards, and they don’t have to be flashy.

If your child goes half a day without sucking, give them a sticker. A full day? Another sticker. Two days? Lots more stickers! Of course, you can develop your own system to suit your child’s needs.

Another cost-effective option is a Thumbsie itself. Thumbsies are fun, they come in multiple designs, and they fit like a snug glove. By wearing a Thumbsie®, a child will be much less likely to suck their thumb and should eventually join the thousands of other children who have stopped thumb sucking thanks to the use of a Thumbsie!

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Social challenges and stigma

One of the saddest elements of thumb sucking is the stigma associated with it. This can be especially obvious among a child’s peer group. Sadly, children do sometimes pick out perceived “flaws” in others and highlight anything considered “different.”

For a child this can be a real challenge in the school playground. Thumb sucking is sometimes seen as being “babyish” and can lead to judgement. Of course, if a child’s self-esteem takes a knock this can have a real impact on parents too.

Sometimes children can feel reluctant to engage in certain activities if they are unsure about how they will be treated due to their thumb sucking. Children who suck their thumbs can sometimes have concentration issues which can lead to them zoning out, and again missing out on certain activities.

Where there are social challenges, our advice is simple: ask for support from your child’s teachers and caregivers. Thankfully most schools now adopt strong anti-bullying policies and should be keen to help. Explain the situation to your child’s teacher – if they are wearing a Thumbsie®, tell the teacher why – and ask for their support in breaking the habit. This also applies at extra-curricular activities, such as dance, music or sport lessons.

Coping strategies

The best way to deal with the challenges presented by thumb sucking are:

  1. Do not blame yourself or your child. We can’t reiterate this enough. Thumb sucking is a natural reflex. Yes, it can cause long-term issues, but those problems can be avoided by breaking the habit at a young age. Have confidence. You can do this!
  2. Try and break the habit ASAP. Try cost-effective options like rewards – and yes, a Thumbsie
  3. Ask for help and support from friends, families and teachers. You may have heard the expression “it takes a village to raise a child.” This is so true! If your close friends, family members and other adults in your community (teachers and carers) are aware of the thumb sucking habit and are able to help, the more the merrier!
  4. Know that we understand. At Thumbsie® we have worked with thousands of families to help break the thumb sucking habit. We know it can be a very stressful time. You are not alone. We, and many others, are here to help. There are solutions.
  5. Seek professional guidance. If you are really concerned about your child’s mental wellbeing, or your own, please do seek help from trained professionals who can help provide additional coping strategies. A few useful links include:

And, of course, the award-winning Thumbsie® –


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Thumbsie® wins Innovation of the Year at the Dental Industry Awards

We are proud to have won Innovation of the Year in the National Dental Industry Awards, Best Business Women Awards for Best Consumer Business 2019 and Best Product in Family Network National Awards 2020.
Dental Industry Awards Innovation of the Year Winner Best Consumer Business Winner TFNlogoWinner2020
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