Your Child Has a Tic — Should you be worried?

My daughter had a tic, and I did every thing wrong. I am officially, a horrible parent. A few years ago at the end of the school year, my eight year old was doing this weird thing with her nose many times throughout the day. She would scrunch it up as if she had just smelled something foul, and hold it there for a few seconds. It was I Dream of Jeannie-esqe, but not as cute. I started out laughing at her. “Why are you doing that? What’s wrong? You look ridiculous.” After a few weeks, it became extremely annoying to me. Still, I’m not really sure why. She wasn’t hurting anyone. Maybe, deep down, I was worried it meant something was really wrong. It didn’t seem to be bothering her, but it was driving me crazy. In true Mother of the Year style, I started pointing it out to her every time she did it. “Stop doing that. Control yourself. You are making me nuts with that face.” I said many things that would make for a great Before reel in Nanny 911. I swear, if someone filmed me for a week and edited together all the bad parenting stuff, I would make Mommy Dearest look like Mrs. Ingalls.

mommy dearest

Here are the five things you need to know about tics in children.

1. Tics are when part of the body moves suddenly, uncontrollably and repeatedly. Tics can affect any body part, including the face, shoulders and limbs. Vocal tics, such as throat clearing, describes sounds made involuntarily.

2. Transient Tic Disorder is the most common tic disorder in children and can occur in about 10% of children. These movements often get worse with stress, excitement and fatigue. They will clear up on their own within a few months.

3. Tourette’s Disorder affects less than one percent of children. In this case, the tics may progress, involve different parts of the body and won’t clear up in a few weeks or months. Tics are more common in children with ADHD and OCD, although their presence is far from diagnostic. Only about 5% of children with ADHD have tics.

4. How to handle your child’s tic – Essentially, you should do the exact opposite of what I did. Pointing out the tic simply draws more attention to it, and causes the child more stress, thereby perpetuating the problem. Ignore it. If your child is being teased about it in school or by their insensitive mother, teach him coping skills. Help him educate his peers by telling them that this is something he cannot control. It is simply something that makes his body feel better. It is similar to scratching an itch. With the proper support, in a calm, loving environment, the tic will most likely go away.

5. When to see your doctor – If the tic lasts more than a few months, progresses in intensity, affects more than one part of the body or is negatively affecting her life, see your doctor.


The good news is that despite my pathetic mothering technique, Serena’s nose twitching cleared up on its own. Kids are so resilient. That’s why I love them. Do everything wrong and they will still probably end up o.k. It takes a lot of pressure off. Go ahead, open the wine.

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Doctor, mom of five and founder of Tips From Town.


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