Self harming is the name given to when one deliberately inflicts injuries unto himself/herself. This practice is common amongst teenagers and young adults, many of whom sees this as the only way to cope with the problems that are so distressful they may otherwise lead to suicide. The burning, cutting or whatever method they choose is a reflection of the pain they are feeling inside. It is for this very reason that, when dealing with this issue, parents should tread lightly, because they are walking on extremely volatile grounds, and the wrong move may result in more harm than good.
Talking to Your Child
When you discover you child is self harming, the first thing you must do is have a conversation with your child about the issue. It should never be an argument or a lecture; it should simply be you offering a caring ear, like any friend would. Your concern should be motivated by the need to discover the underlying reasons for this act and not just by your desire to see your child quit this harmful practice. Remember: this is about the child and the pain they are feeling. It is not about you the trying to get some piece of mind. Under no circumstances should you be aggressive or impulsive ,as this will only make the situation worst. Understand that it will be difficult for your child to share the secrets he/she has kept bottled up for so long; however, through gentle encouragement and acts of compassion your child will slowly but surely let you in.
Seek Professional Advice
After discovering that your child is indulging in self harming practices, it is important that you consult with a trained professional. Now I am not saying you should ship your child off to therapy. This is simply a fact finding mission for you the gather the information that will help you to understand the reasons behind this behavior, so that you may better relate to your child. Eventually, it might get to the point where your child will need to attend some form of therapy; you may determine this based on the severity of the self inflicted wounds or on the disclosure of any underlying causes such as sexual abuse. There are many therapists who are trained to handle these situations. The challenge you face as a parent is getting your child to commit to this arrangement. It is hard enough for a child to discuss his/her darkest secrets with a parent, so you can only imagine how difficult it is going to be to persuade that child to divulge personal information to a complete stranger. This will require great patience and understanding on your part.
Without being too judgmental, you will want to provide your child with other means of coping with the distress he/she may be feeling. Many persons who have practiced self harming have found the following alternatives very helpful when dealing with overwhelming problems.
- Hitting a punching bag or pillows to vent anger and frustration
- Having a good scream
- An escape into nature
- Physical exercise
- Keeping a diary
- Communicate with friends
Hopefully, by suggesting some of these your child may rethink the way he/she deals with the pressures of this world.
At the end of the day, all that is really required of you as a parent is genuine concern and understanding – things that should be second nature to a parent.