Self-harm is a way of managing feelings when they get overwhelming or distressing, or a way of feeling something when feeling numb. If you have just discovered that your child is self-harming, this might be incredibly worrying for you or you might feel very upset by this. Please remember that many young people and their parents/care-givers go through similar experiences and come through it with more coping skills and ways to manage feelings. You and your child will too… Here are a few pointers to help you along the way:
- Try not to panic. Your child is demonstrating “I can’t manage how I am feeling”. Remember that you are modelling more effective ways to cope with feelings, so whilst you can show your upset, try not to show that you feel overwhelmed by those feelings.
- Encourage your child to try some different self-soothing activities, acknowledging that not everything works for everybody and reminding them that we all need a range of things to manage feelings (a cup of tea, walking/talking with a friend, playtime with a pet, watching or playing sport, listening to/playing music)
- Express curiosity about what is going on in your child’s life and world. They may not always know exactly what has led to the point of overwhelm and the choice to self-harm, but talking about things generally, may just relieve things. A little like letting steam out of a pressure cooker.
- The cycle of self-harm can become laden with feelings of guilt, shame and confusion on top of what ever they were struggling with originally. Asking “why are you doing this?” can add to this sense of guilt. Rather try to offer something observational like “I can see that things are tough right now, what do you need from me?”
I hope this helps, but for more info and guidance you could head over to the YoungMinds website, or download the CalmHarm app onto yours and your child’s phone for plenty more suggestions on how to manage feelings.