Q: My child twirls her hair sometimes. How can I get her to stop?
A: This is one of those harmless little habits that many of us still have as grown-ups, so don't stress if you catch your daughter twisting, twirling, or chewing on her hair. If you're very concerned and want her to stop, start logging what's going on each time your daughter twirls her hair, then look for a pattern. Does she do it when she's tired, bored (like while riding in the car), or nervous about something (like in the waiting room at the doctor's office)? If boredom is the issue, provide her with an interesting activity to keep her hands busy until she grows out of this twirling phase. If it tends to happen when she's anxious, help her to identify another comfort tool, like a small stuffed animal or a handheld puzzle game to use when she feels edgy. If the hair twirling always seems to happen in the evenings, bump her bedtime 15 to 30 minutes earlier to keep her from becoming too exhausted.
Although there are times when hair-twirling can be a sign of an anxiety disorder, in these cases it is usually accompanied by other symptoms, like not wanting to go to school or avoiding playdates and birthday parties. You should also talk to your pediatrician if your child's habit goes beyond twirling and she actually starts pulling out her hair, eyebrows, or eyelashes, which can be a sign of trichotillomania (also known as trich), an impulse control disorder that usually requires behavioral therapy to treat.