Self Harm Awareness Month – Resources for Parents

Recognizing self harm in a loved one can be difficult and overwhelming–especially when it is your own child. In this week’s blog post, we provide a number of resources for parents of children who are self-harming. Read on for more information, including how to identify signs of self harm, how to address an adolescent’s self-harming behaviors, and how to support your child in getting the help they need.

How do I know my child is self harming?

Identifying self-harm in others can be difficult, as those who engage in those behaviors often cover up their injuries and do so in secrecy.  Some of the signs to look for include the following: 

  • Unexplained injuries that appear self-inflicted
  • Isolation or social withdrawal
  • Low self esteem and feelings of hopelessness
  • Declining performance at work or school
  • Wearing clothes that cover their skin fully, even in warm weather
  • Having sharp objects such as razors, glass bottles, knives, needles, or shards of glass in their possession

It is also critical to note that not all individuals who self harm will appear withdrawn or distant. Even young people who appear happy may also be at risk for self injury. 

How do I appropriately address my child’s self-harming behaviors?

Addressing your child’s self injuring behaviors can be intimidating and overwhelming. However, approaching the situation with an open mind and listening ear is the first step to ensuring a positive, safe conversation with your loved one. It can be helpful to begin the conversation while doing an activity or taking a walk together, as it puts less pressure on the child. Here are a few other  items to consider when talking to your child about their self harming behaviors include: 

  • Address the issue as soon as possible. 
  • Validate your child’s feelings by speaking calmly, offering reassurance, and making eye contact.
  • Try not to judge. Even though you may not like what your child is doing, it is important they know you do not think less of them for their behaviors.
  • Do not pressure your child to have a conversation if they are not ready. They may feel ashamed and find it difficult to talk about what they are experiencing. Let them come to you. 

While it is normal to be worried about saying the wrong thing, it is better than avoiding a discussion altogether. You may not get each conversation quite right, but talking with your child shows that you care and are there to support them. 

Supporting yourself and your family

Finding out your child is self harming can lead to a vast range of emotions. You may be experiencing shock, guilt, confusion, worry, and sadness. It is common for parents or caregivers to blame themselves, but it is critical to note that self harming is a common coping mechanism amongst young people. For example, in an article published by JAMA Network, self-injury increased by 166% in girls aged 10 to 14 and 62% in girls aged 15 to 19 between 2001 and 2015. As you work to get your child the support they need, it is essential that you take care of yourself, too. This could look like: 

  • Practicing self-care and maintaining your usual well-being habits. The road to recovery for your child may be long, and it is important that you are well enough to support them. 
  • Setting intentional time aside to have fun with your child. This could involve doing an activity you both enjoy, or simply sharing a meal together. 
  • Spending time by yourself, if possible. Whether you go for a brief walk or relax with a book, taking time to reset can allow you to refresh and recharge so you can continue providing your child with the help and support they need to heal. 

How can I support my child? 

Now that you have identified your child’s self harming behaviors, and maybe even had a discussion with them, you must begin taking steps to support your loved one over the short- and long-term. Some immediate steps you can take include:

  • Helping your child identify their triggers. Find out which situations cause them to feel overwhelmed and discuss ways to address those feelings. 
  • Introduce new ways of coping. This could include journaling, exercising, talking it out, or listening to loud music. 
  • Foster a protective home environment. By modeling healthy behaviors, keeping lines of communication open, and respecting your child throughout the healing process, you can make the path to recovery one that is supportive of your child’s changing needs and emotions. 
  • Seek professional help. Counseling — for both you  and your child–can provide the necessary support you both need. 

New Perspective Counseling is here to help

At New Perspective Counseling, your adolescent will meet with one of our therapists who will create a safe place so they can:

  • Talk about the sometimes painful experiences around adolescence. 
  • Learn to manage a range of emotions and healthy ways of processing and expressing them.
  • Develop skills for coping with disappointments, conflict and stress that are part of life.
  • Learn tools to improve self-esteem and self awareness that will help him or her to build a more positive outlook and life.

Therapy for teens can be very beneficial and effective. It provides your teen the opportunity to learn healthy coping strategies that they can use throughout their life as well as developing a stronger sense of themselves and their strengths. If you are worried about your teenager please give us a call. We are here to help.