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Children and Head Banging

"My son hits his head so hard and so often he has dark bruises on his forehead. He does this when he is frustrated, angry and anxious. What can I do to help him? He has told me he knows it's wrong but just can't stop. Please help me to help my son."

Kids who are emotionally and physically healthy, as well as kids with developmental or sensory issues, may "head bang." It is thought that head banging is a self-soothing process that kids partake in, much like thumb sucking or an attachment to a blanket or toy. Kids that bang their heads have at some point found the rocking or rhythmic sensations calming, and an aid to sleep.

Alternatively, some kids appear to bang their heads in an attempt to stimulate themselves or to bring pleasure. However, head banging may occur in combination with temper tantrums. While this may appear as if the youngster is trying to hurt himself or herself, it is usually the youngster’s way of trying to relieve stress.

Young people who are under-stimulated (those who are blind, deaf, bored, or lonely) head bang for stimulation. Kids who are over stimulated (in an overwhelming environment) find the rhythmic movements of head banging soothing. Head banging may be a symptom of autism, Tourette syndrome or seizure disorders.

You should take your youngster to the pediatrician immediately if he is engaging in head banging for a long period of time and seems unaware of his surroundings. If head banging is the only way a youngster can be soothed, or if he is unresponsive to attempts by you to interact with him, you should seek out medical attention.

Kids who bang their heads excessively and cause themselves harm may have a developmental disability. These kids may have to take medication or wear a helmet to protect themselves from injury. Older kids who bang their heads may need the attention of a psychologist. A psychologist can help the youngster find the source of his stress and teach him ways to cope.

Medical attention is usually not necessary in regards to head banging. However, you should make sure your youngster’s pediatrician is aware of the behavior. Unless the head banging is excessive or causing bumps or bruising, most pediatricians will advise parents to leave the youngster alone and to not interfere with head banging. Most kids outgrow this behavior in a few months.

Typically, healthy children don't seriously injure themselves while banging their head. Pain prevents them from banging too hard. Also, kids under 3 don't generate enough force to cause brain damage or neurological problems. The front or front/side of the head is the most frequently struck. A child’s head is built to take all of the minor head trauma that is a normal part of learning to walk and climb. Healthy infants, toddlers and older children who are head-bangers usually grow up to be coordinated and completely normal kids.

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