Am I A Good Parent If I Pick?
You’re a parent. It’s the hardest and most important job you will have. You work hard to do the right things for your child. You’ve probably spent countless hours worrying whether you’re making the right choices and providing the right guidance. You want to do and be the best for them.
If you’re a parent who lives with a body focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) like skin picking, you probably also worry about how it may affect your parenting and your child:
Will they inherit your skin picking?
Will your picking affect your ability to parent?
Can they learn skin picking from you?
Will your skin picking affect your relationship with your child?
These are all normal concerns to have and you’re not alone. These are concerns voiced by many parents and parents-to-be who live with skin picking. Some courageous parents share their insights on various platforms and pages. What are they thinking and feeling? What are their concerns and insights? What can we learn from their experiences?
The good news is, there are things you can do to alleviate some of those concerns and allow yourself to be the best parent you can be.
Pregnancy and Skin Picking
Pregnancy brings changes to the body not just physically but biologically and emotionally too. Hormones are changing and post-partum, the body is seeking to regain hormonal balance. Some new moms find that their skin picking gets worse.
New moms describe various things that seem to trigger an increase in urges and skin picking:
- Fatigue and lack of sleep
- Picking as a distraction while nursing
Being a new mom means adapting to the schedule of a newborn. It can be physically and emotionally taxing. Some moms find that their skin picking escalates during this time. Asking for help can be hard but having some support can help ease the stress. Asking for help is not a reflection of your ability. It’s ok to ask for help.
For some new moms, their urges to pick may increase even before the baby comes. Pregnancy brings so many changes and stressors. For moms-to-be who may also have other medical or mental health concerns, symptoms can worsen and sometimes exacerbate their skin picking too. It’s important to work with your healthcare team to find solutions that are right for you.
Worries About Passing It On
One of the biggest worries people with a disorder of any kind have is whether they can pass skin picking on to their children. For skin picking and other BFRBs, the answer is not a clear yes or no. Twin studies have found that genetics may be a factor. About 40% of people with a BFRB like skin picking have a first-degree relative with a BFRB.
Now, this doesn’t mean that having a genetic predisposition means your child will develop a BFRB too. Other factors such as temperament, environment, and family stressors are factors too. It simply means that there is an increased risk. In other words, it is something to be mindful of.
Worries About Bonding and Parenting
Anxiety and feeling “not worthy” is a common struggle for parents and can sometimes get in the way. One of the fears you may have is being able to form a healthy bond with your child or not feeling worthy of being their parent. One of the most significant factors that influence parent-child relationships is the degree of parental bonding. Parental bonding is the attachment that forms between parent and child. It is this bond that creates a sense of security, connectedness and being cared for. These bonds develop over time and set the stage for the child’s later adjustment and functioning.
If you find that you’re struggling to connect with your child or feeling unsure how to parent them, a family therapist can help you work through those feelings so that you can create a healthy bonding experience.
Am I Teaching Them to Pick?
Worry about whether your child will learn to pick from watching you is a concern voiced by many parents who pick. A number of people who pick have shared their belief that their picking is, at least in part, learned behavior from seeing their parent pick their skin. In some cases, picking was seen as a “bonding experience” of sorts.
It’s true, children learn, in part, by watching others. Social learning theory suggests that children learn from by observing and imitating the behavior of those around them. It’s also important to know that children learn what not to do by observing too. There’s more at play than just observation. Behavior that is rewarded is more likely to be imitated than behavior that is not.
Even if your child sees or knows of your picking behavior, there is more to developing a skin picking disorder than simply observation and imitation. There may well be other factors in play including genetics, temperament, stressors in the family, and other factors.
What can you do as their parent? Be mindful of what your child is exposed to and what you share with them. It’s imperative to set clear and healthy boundaries with them. They may have questions about what you’re doing or the skin damage they see. It may be confusing or frightening to see their mom or dad with an injury. It’s ok to share age appropriate information with them and reinforce healthy ways of dealing with feelings. If you’re not sure how to do that, a therapist can help you navigate the hard conversations.
The bottom line is this: you are not your skin picking disorder. You are worthy and capable of parenting your child in healthy ways. Even if your child develops a BFRB like skin picking, it is not your fault. There are so many factors that go into the development of a disorder. Instead of worrying about the what ifs, focus on the time you have with your child now. The greatest gift you can give your child is a parent who is loving, engaged, and doing their best to model healthy ways of coping.
If you find yourself struggling with parenting or with your own emotional coping, it’s ok to reach out for help. Parenting is hard on a good day, and everyone needs support sometimes. Whether it’s connecting with other parents who share similar experiences or finding a therapist to help you sort things out, there is help and support out there. And remember, being a parent is the most important job in the world and you are enough.
1. Reddit. (n.d.). Reddit - Dive into anything. https://www.reddit.com/r/Dermatillomania/comments/14ig0ns/my_picking_has_gotten_worse_after_having_my_baby/
2. Hartlin, A. (2022, September 29). My challenges during pregnancy. Skin Picking Support. https://www.skinpickingsupport.com/blog/challenges-pregnancy/
3. Monzani, B., Rijsdijk, F., Cherkas, L., Harris, J., Keuthen, N., & Mataix-Cols, D. (2012). Prevalence and heritability of skin picking in an adult community sample: A twin study. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, 159B(5), 605-610. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ajmg.b.32067
4. Reddit. (n.d.). Reddit - Dive into anything. https://www.reddit.com/r/Dermatillomania/comments/1574u5p/dermatillomania_makes_me_feel_like_im_not_worthy/
5. Murphy, Y. E., & Flessner, C. A. (2015). Family functioning in paediatric obsessive compulsive and related disorders. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 54(4), 414-434. https://bpspsychub.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bjc.12088
6. Reddit. (n.d.). Reddit - Dive into anything. https://www.reddit.com/r/Dermatillomania/comments/15zbva2/anyone_else_picked_up_their_habit_from_their/
7. Mcleod, S. (2008, February 5). Albert Bandura's social learning theory. Study Guides for Psychology Students - Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/bandura.html