Family Support Blog #22 – Are you worried about your child self harming

Are you worried about your child self-harming?

In today’s society we are more aware about self-harming and it may seem that is all you here now. Discovering that your child is self-harming as a parent can be one of the most shocking and heart breaking things. Discovering that your child is deliberately harming themselves can be a minefield.

Why are children and Young people self-harming?

Self-harm is normally a way of trying to manage extremely difficult feelings. Self-harm is often done when they feel life is too hard to cope with and they have lots of distressing feelings which have built up and it becomes overwhelming. In this moment of distress, the sensation of self-harming and experiencing that physical pain can feel easier than feeling out of control emotionally.

Some reasons why children and young people self-harm

  • To cope with stress and anxiety
  • To feel something when they are numb
  • A physical demonstration of emotional pain
  • They feel guilt and self-punish
  • To distract them from intrusive thoughts
  • It has become a habit
  • To try and get other people to listen to them
  • To feel good
  • Copying a friend
  • It may be part of an illness for example borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia or depression

As a parent you may be wondering how can I tell if my child is self-harming. It’s not always easy to notice as children and young people often spend a lot of time in their bed rooms, or you may be so busy as a parent and miss the warning signs.

Here are some signs to look out for if your concerned that your child may be self-harming

  • Unexplained cuts, bite marks, burns, bruises or bald patches
  • Bloody tissues in dust bins
  • Wearing clothes that keeps them covered up, for example wearing long sleeved top or trousers in all weathers, not wanting to get changed in front of others, avoiding activities like swimming
  • Appears low or depressed, for example avoiding or drawing away from friends and family
  • Having angry outbursts or being argumentative
  • Expressing feelings of worthlessness, failure or hopelessness

You’re probably wondering how you can support your child if they are self-harming, although this is a distressing situation to deal with your support will be needed to help get your child through this tough time they are dealing with. You probably confused and can’t understand why they are hurting themselves, but you need to just be there.

How can I help my child if they are self-harming?

  • Listen – Listening is the most important thing to do
  • Don’t Panic – It’s important not to panic. If your calm and are reassuring, your child will have more confidence to tell you more
  • Find out what is causing them stress in their lives and help them deal with it
  • Take time to provide attention to your child
  • Acknowledge their emotions and never belittle or tell them not to be so stupid
  • Spend more time with them doing things together they enjoy like going out for lunch, walking together, watching a movie or a TV programme together
  • If you feel the first steps of listening and encouraging talking are not working, then seek professional help

You can seek help from your family doctor, counsellor, talk to your child’s school and if your child is in danger of immediate harm or their life may be at risk, call 999 or visit A&E.

Useful links or websites are as follows:

Our Family Support Team are here to offer support and advice and are running workshops in your school throughout the year so please get in touch if you would like more information contact are #hereforyou if you need advice, guidance or support – you can contact us via the contact information on our Team page.

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