From time to time we get questions from our users that we can only guess others are thinking as well.
Carrie from Miami asks:
My daughter is a skin picker, mostly on her 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 daughter in this process?
Thank you for writing in and trusting HabitAware as a tool to help your daughter.
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, I know that’s not realistic or beneficial to anyone.
How can you get your daughter 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.
To help your child, there’s some preparation on your part as parent:
(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. If you see that your daughter has been doing well for weeks and then goes on a skin picking spree…Hug her. Don’t punish her. Punishing tactics are for when your daughter knowingly does something wrong - lies, breaks curfew, speaks rudely etc. But when she does something that is beyond her control, like skin picking, punishing only makes it worse.
Your daughter 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.
Your daughter needs you to be strong, in those times when she is 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 daughter, she will see it as you being frustrated with her. She will take that in and tell herself that she is the cause of her parent’s pain and she will slowly shut you out. You need to show her that it is the skin picking that is robbing your joy, not her.
(3) Join a support group
Another thing you can do is to 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.
(4) 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 daughter need to understand that it is still HER CHOICE to move her hand away. But we find once “awakened” by Keen’s vibration, it is much easier to make that new choice.
How do you know if your daughter is ready for this change? How do you prepare her to be ready to use Keen and make that new choice? Here are some tips:
(1) Help your daughter understand her current relationship with their behavior
To start now, your daughter should try to take stock of where she is, what she is doing, how she is feeling when she is hair pulling. This may help her identify her triggers. If she knows what is causing her urges, she 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 pulling away. 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 know now, that this is not just ok, but better! Because even though the work will be there in the morning, so will my hair!
(2) Ensure your daughter’s readiness to change
No strategy is going to help if your daughter is not ready to take action and make the effort to make their own life better. To get her interested in Keen, I suggest sharing our website and letting her review it on her own. I also encourage parents to watch two of our videos together:
How Keen Works:
The story of our journey: “Meet Keen”
Ultimately, using Keen needs to be her decision. And when she is ready to take control of skin picking with Keen, we will be there for her because we know first hand that if HabitAware can help her strengthen her willpower and replace the behavior with our push-button deep breathing guide, she'll be set up for success against future challenges life may throw at her.
Here are some tips for after she begins using Keen:
1. Wear Keen every day.
Just like it’s important to brush her teeth, wearing Keen should become part of her daily routine. At first you’ll have to remind her, 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, but if needed, there's no shame in implementing an external reward system!
2. Talk about the behavior, as much as she is 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 daughter how many times she picked in a day is likely a tough discussion, since she might be frustrated or anxious if confronted. However, the more discussions you have the more aware she will become and the stronger your relationship. Getting her perspective can help you understand progress and maybe even understand more about when and why she is 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 daughter to the bracelet's activity log.
From there, you can then ask questions about the patterns that emerge 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 she understands the importance of changing her behavior she’ll take a more active role and hold herself accountable. This is how you know you’ve made a healthy impact on her life and given her the tools to take on challenges in the future.
If you and your daughter 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,