A kid is engaged in self-harm. How can you help?
Why do some teenagers cut themselves, cauterize their skin? It’s not «fashion» or the influence of modern culture. Sometimes teenagers cut themselves, scratch their skin until it bled or otherwise harm themselves. All this is done to relieve stress and to get rid of painful or overwhelming experiences. Research shows that a significant number of teens are self-harming when they try to cope with painful emotions.
Often parents find out that their child hurts himself/herself, begin to panic and try to prevent a repeat of the situation. Some people hope that the problem will disappear on its own, but this is the wrong approach.
We will tell you about 4 steps that need to be taken to solve the problem.
Many parents feel helpless, they are overcome by guilt, grief and anger when they learn about the situation. It is important to think about it and to calm down before you talk to your child. Self-damage is not an attempt at suicide, so it is important not to panic, to deal with your own experiences and only then begin a conversation with the kid.
Try to understand the child
You can’t start a conversation with accusations, it’s better to show that you’re trying to understand the child. Try to find out how self-harming helps him/her and what is his/her purpose. Be careful and considerate.
It is likely that the child is very scared that the parents have learned his/her secret, so it is better to let him/her understand: you are not going to punish him/her. But even if you do everything right, the child may withdraw into himself/herself or get hysterical. The teen may refuse to talk to you because he/she’s scared or ashamed. Don’t push him/her and just give some time – that’s how a teenager would rather decide to tell you everything.
Ask for professional help
Self-damage is a serious problem. If the child is not yet working with a therapist, try to find him/her a specialist for this particular disorder. The therapist will create a safe space for the teenager, where he/she will learn to cope with negative emotions in other ways. The therapist will also help to understand the possible root causes of self-harm – school problems, mental disorders or other sources of stress.
In many cases it will also be helpful for parents to get specialist’s help. It is very important not to blame or to shame the child and also not to blame yourself.
Set an example of healthy self-regulation
When you’re having difficulty or illness, don’t be afraid to show it to your child (at least in such a way he/she can understand it). Express your emotions in words and show how you can deal with them effectively. You actively help your child get rid of the dangerous habit of self-harm by setting an example of healthy emotional self-regulation.
Recovery is a slow process that will take time and patience. As the teenager grows older, he or she will become more psychologically stable. Emotions will no longer be as violent and unstable and will be much easier to manage. Treat the child with sincere understanding and care, then the problem will be easy to deal with all together.
Self-harm is a problem that teenagers periodically encounter. The reason for this is most often strong emotional experiences and the inability to deal with them in another way. We will tell how parents should behave in a situation when you find that the child hurts himself/herself.