This is a question I get asked by parents who are concerned about the behaviour they are seeing in their children. Sometimes it can be a temporary thing, other times it can be prolonged. But what causes it in the first place?
A child may scratch at themselves if they are uncomfortable, may have a rash or a cut that is healing which could itch. By scratching and picking at their skin they will be getting relief from pain or itching but this can turn into a habit. Habits with children are the same as with adults, it can be unlearnt. The key though is finding out why they do it in the first place.
Is your child uncomfortable, are they wearing something that makes them feel itchy and irritated? Have they got a rash or an injury that is driving them mad and they cannot leave it alone? Or are they getting some kind of comfort from scratching and picking? Are they stressed and worried about something at home or school? All of these questions could be the reason they keep going with this behaviour.
There may be nothing sinister going on, they just enjoy scratching or picking but it could also be that something has happened to them. Talk to your child, find out why it started and what you can do to help. If you feel that you need some help with this get in touch with a counsellor who works with children who can help to unravel what is going on. Children as young as 6 get stressed and so helping any child to cope with stress is good. They may need their clothes washed in different washing powder, they may need to cut labels out of clothes, they may need cream to soothe or they may need someone to help them cope with their emotions that they don’t understand.