Many children and teens self-harm. Most start in their early teen years, but some start earlier. 

What counts as self-harm? Self-harm is when a child hurts their body on purpose. Cutting or burning the skin are common forms of self-harm. Self-harm is more common among girls than boys. 

Most children who self-harm are trying to cope with overwhelming emotions and stressors. Some self-harm to stop intrusive thoughts. Helping your child cope and not turn to self-harm can offer an opportunity to help them feel better about themselves, learn to deal with stressors in a healthy way, and strengthen your relationships. 

Some tips to approach the topic of self-harm with your child with sensitivity, understanding, and an open mind: 

  • Learn about self-harm. Take the time to educate yourself. Understand that self-harm is often a coping mechanism for emotional pain and not a cry for attention.
  • Open communication. Create a safe and nonjudgmental environment for your child to talk about their feelings. Encourage open communication and let them know you are there to listen and support them.
  • Seek professional help. If you suspect your teen is engaging in self-harm, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional. A therapist or counselor can help your teen address the underlying issues causing them to self-harm.
  • Develop coping strategies. Work with your child and their therapist to develop healthy coping strategies to manage their emotions. This could include mindfulness techniques, journaling, exercise, or other activities that help them express feelings in a healthier way.
  • Create a safety plan. Develop a plan with your child that outlines what they can do when they feel the urge to self-harm. This plan should include alternative coping strategies, emergency contacts, and ways to distract themselves from self-harming behaviors.
  • Remove triggers. Identify and remove whatever might be contributing to your child’s self-harm. This could include reducing stress at home, limiting exposure to certain media, or creating a safe space for them to express themselves.
  • Monitor their behavior. Keep an eye on your teen’s behavior and look for signs of self-harm. Be aware of any changes in mood, behavior, or appearance that could indicate they are struggling.
  • Encourage selfcare. Encourage your child to practice self care and prioritize their mental health. This could include getting enough sleep, eating well, and engaging in activities they enjoy.
  • Be patient and supportive. Managing self-harm is a complex process that takes time. Be patient with your child and provide them with ongoing support and encouragement.
  • Take care of yourself. Supporting a child who is self-harming can be emotionally draining. Make sure to prioritize your own self-care and seek support from a therapist or support group if needed.

Remember, every child is different, and what works for one may not work for another. Stay patient, stay supportive, and continue to advocate for your child’s well-being.