It has been reported in 2017 that self-harm in 13-16 year old girls had increased by 68% in three years.
This week, The Children’s Society reported that a quarter of girls and 1 in 10 boys self-harm.
This makes for unsettling reading for any parent. For many, this topic can be terribly scary as they themselves, have little first hand experience of self-harm; resulting in them approaching self-harm from a place of fear.
When a parent finds out that their child has been self-harming they do very often blame themselves. Experiencing feelings of :
It is understandable for parents to be alarmed as reports are quoting rising statistics and also linking self-harm with increased risks of suicide.
So understanding self harm, in my opinion, is key.
What is Self-Harm?
“It is hurting yourself or damaging yourself on purpose.” ~~ ChildLine
Self-harm might manifest as Cutting, Bruising, Scratching, Burning or Hair-pulling. Eating disorders and addictions may also be regarded as self-harm.
Why do people Self-Harm?
Typical responses I have received from children are:
- “It is the way of dealing with emotional pain in a physical way.”
- “It helps release tension.”
- “I have absolutely no idea.”
- “It helps me cope with stress and anxieties.”
Because the teenage brain is still developing they still don’t have the emotional intelligence to deal with their strong negative emotions, and for this reason they aren’t sure how to identify with what they feeling : Confusion, Anger, Sadness, Fear, Guilt …?
The overwhelming feelings of panic and stress can be really frightening, so for many young people, self-harm puts the brakes on, for just a moment, during that tidal wave of negative emotion.
Many young people cite their top three reasons for self harm as :
- Low Self Esteem
( However, self-diagnosis may not necessarily mean that the child is actually depressed. In any situation a GP should be consulted as soon as possible )
“A Person is not their Behaviour.”
39% of parents think that self-harm is a form of attention seeking.
80% of their children questioned, said this is categorically not the case.
Self-harm, may be a cry for help – but I believe that ‘attention seeking’ implies a more manipulative connotation. Most self-harmers try to cover up their scars and want to avoid being ‘discovered’.
So what can parents do?
There is a secrecy and stigma to self harm, so it is important to react in the “right” way.
“It’s not about YOU.”
The fundamental point to remember is it’s not about you.
The child does not want the added responsibility of negotiating their parents’ pain as well as their own. Neither should they have the added burden of guilt for causing even more upset in the home.
Ask yourself : How would I want my loved one to react if this was me?
As a parent it is your role to support rather than to control.
What to Avoid :
- Overreacting : This is not productive
- Judgement : Do not blame yourself or your child
- Jumping to Conclusions : Not every child who self-harms ever considers suicide.
- Issuing Ultimatums : Demanding your child to stop is not effective and will put unnecessary pressure on them.
- Solving the Problem : This is their battle – in which you are performing a supportive role.
What to Do :
67% of parents believe the best course of action for self-harmers is to talk to their parents.
16% of those self-harmers actually said they would consider speaking to their parents.
- Acknowledge : that this is a recovery process and the pace will be dictated by your child.
- Offer Support : invariably you may be part of the problem and as a result you might not be the best person for your child to confide in. Deal with this. Perhaps a trusted relative, a GP, or the school nurse maybe be better placed to support your child.
- Keep Calm : overreacting will just increase anxiety levels.
- Provide Space : Life does go on. There is still homework to complete and sports practices to attend; self-harm is only one part of your child.
- Reassure Them : remind them you still love them and that you are there for them. Many children dread disappointing their parents.
- Be Honest : Above all – if your child is willing to talk to you – just try and listen. If you do not understand – ask them to explain in their own words. However, do not be surprised if your child has difficulty articulating what’s going on for them.
This is a recovery process. Remember like quitting smoking or drinking, the first attempt to quit may not work; but remain positive that they are indeed trying; and with your love and support, they will succeed.
Come on over to my Facebook Group : PARENTS : TEEN Toolbox – where I have addressed Self-Harm in greater depth.
* Sources : The British Medical Journal, The Children’s Society and Childline
Much Love 💕
My parents don’t get me 😞 they think I’m attention seeking 😭 but it’s not tho
Hey There FairyyTail
Thanks for commenting.
I want to make sure you are getting the support that you deserve.
Where are you based in the world?
If you are based in the UK I can signpost you to the right services.
Take Care of yourself.
I Cut so many times and made up so many excuses as to why my cuts were “Accidents”. When My parents finally found out. They Pretended to believe my excuse but told me later that they knew that I was hurting myself. They just think I’m doing this for attention and That I should just get over myself. But I don’t do this for attention….. I do this because I feel alone and misunderstood not for attention. 🙁
Thanks for commenting Isaac.
It can feel very confusing when we aren’t heard.
Many parents don’t know where to start and are equally confused … that’s not an excuse.
Might you be able to start talking about it with them?
If not – is there someone that you trust who might support you?
Please make sure that your cuts are cleaned to avoid infection.
Take Care of Yourself 🤗
Ive self harmed for almost 2 years now. my mom originally found out back in april of 2020. she thought i was attention seeking. my aunt threatened to cut me herself if i didnt stop. Nobody would actually hurt me, as i live in a safe place. She was just scared. Towards the end of 2020 i decided to reach out to my school guidance counselor, and ask her to talk to my mother about why therapy may be beneficial for me. My older siblings went to counselling when i was very young, because my oldest brother passed. I was four. The youngest besides me was my sister, who was then 14. My mom saw that i had experienced no horrible trauma, and therefore saw no reason for her to waste all that money on me. The whole time she thought i was attention seeking. Im doing better now, and will be returning to therapy in january. I wanted to tell a bit of my story, to reassure- it does get better. even if you spend weeks, months- even years feeling helpless. You will find your ground eventually. slowly, you may feel better with time. Everybody is different. If youre reading this, you are loved. i promise. Ill see you when our paths cross again. Ily.
Thank you Brienna for your comment.
Self harm is a topic that needs to be discussed more.
Thank you for sharing a small part of your story – you have inspired me to record a new Podcast episode “Self Harm is Not Attention Seeking”. It will be released next Tuesday.
Thank you so much for your contribution here xx
Take care of yourself 🤗
How do I hide my scars??? I don’t want my parents to find out and get concerned, they allready know but they do not know about my recent self-harm scars.
Hey There Horselover,
Thanks for your comment.
I know that it’s really hard to open up about self harm … but at the same time I do not want to encourage secrecy.
It’s important that you receive the support you deserve – and one of those ways is by opening up to those closest to you.
If you can’t chat to your parents right now – is there another adult close to you who you trust?
Opening up the conversation can be both the hardest and the most rewarding thing that you can do.
Take care of yourself 🤗
My family thought I was seeking attention because I have two siblings (which they need more attention because one of them is an infant and the other is 7) and because I’m lonely. My dad finally believed me when I stabbed myself in the arm and my mom came home and he showed her the cut on my arm. My mom started crying and asked me some questions. I’m under a lot of stress right now. My mom said she would get help. She told me to promise that I wouldn’t hurt myself anymore. It’s been awhile since she’s tried to help. I started hurting myself again. I’ve been trying to commit suicide because I can’t take the stress anymore. I don’t know what to do.
Hey There Holly,
Thanks for contacting me.
It sounds like you have a lot on your plate right now – and this can feel really stressful.
The most important thing is that you feel safe – and that you are receiving the support you need.
It’s great that your parents are wanting to find you that support. Do you have the right procedures in place to help you when you have these big emotions?
There are many help lines and organisations who can help you. I am not sure where you are in the world – but a quick Google search will give you an idea of what is available in your area.
It would also be a good idea to seek help and advice from your doctor.
Is there a trusted adult who could also assist you? Perhaps a family member or a teacher/pastoral care officer at school.
When you don’t know what to do – it can feel upsetting – so finding the appropriate adults who could help you here will be the first step to offering you the support and advice you need.
Take Care of Yourself