What To Do If Your Teen Self-Harms

There are a lot of reasons why a teen would hurt themselves; perhaps they are depressed, stressed or crying out for attention. There is nothing healthy about self-harm and it can put both your teen and the people around them at great risk. Here are some things you can do if you notice that your teen is self-harming.

Notice the Signs

Self-harming is usually done by cutting wrists, arms, legs or other parts of the body, or by burning or beating the body. Signs to look out for include cut marks on the body and blood traces (on the floor or in kleenex in the trash bin). You may also notice your teen intentionally preventing wounds from healing or swallowing chemicals or poisonous material such as household cleaners.

Communicate With Them

Talk to your teen about their life, what they’ve been doing, how school is going and what their friends are up to. Work your way up to talking to them about their emotional state, how they are feeling inside and if they are distressed. Let them know you ask these questions because you love them and are concerned about their well-being and safety. If your teen doesn’t want to talk, don’t push them—it will only make them close off even more.


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Give Them Time to Process

Once you’ve addressed your concerns with your teen, give them some time to process the information. If they are hurting themselves, they are not likely to be in a very stable mindset and will be very emotional, making it more difficult to rationally consider your comments. After some time has passed, readdress your concerns by reiterating your love and concern for them as well as your desire to get them help.

Create A Coping Kit

A coping kit is something that your child can use to comfort themselves when they feel the need to self-harm. This preventative measure relies on positive imagery. You can make a coping kit by filling a box or container with positive, calming items that will boost your teen’s mood and make them think twice about hurting themselves. Examples of items include photos, a journal, a mixed CD full of happy songs and inspiring quotes.

Stressors and Alternatives

Work with your teen to determine what causes them to feel stressed, as well as what triggers their desire to self-harm. Knowing what makes them tick will help them be prepared when they encounter stressors—for example, in anticipation of an upcoming test. You can also provide alternative ways for your teen to relieve their stress, such as ripping paper, holding an ice cube, screaming into a pillow or sucking a lemon peel.

Self-harm can be a dangerous habit, and a difficult one to break. If someone you love is self-harming, remind them that you love them and are there for them no matter what. If issues persist, contact a mental health professional or speak with your family physician.

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