12-12-2019 01:09 PM
Ask a Child and Family Professional
Question: How can I help my teen who is self harming?
Having a teen who is self-harming can be very worrying and upsetting. It can be confronting and hard to understand why it is happening. Young people self-harm for a range of reasons, but it’s helpful to remember if your teen is self-harming there must be some intense, difficult stuff going on for them.
One of the best ways to support your teen is to create a relationship that makes them feel safe to talk about their feelings. Try to keep calm and create opportunities for them to talk. Make time to connect one-on-one in environments that might make conversation feel more comfortable for them. Be as open as you can and remember they may feel ashamed, or worry about your reaction, so remaining calm and not judging what they share will help them feel safe to discuss their thoughts and feelings.
Try starting a conversation about the self-harm, let them know what you have noticed. Calmly and kindly say something like, “I can see you are very upset, and that things are hard right now. I’m here for you, you can talk to me about this. We can work it out together.” It is important to listen to what they say calmly and without judgement and without trying to ‘fix’. Show support and compassion and let them know you care about their wellbeing and that you want to help them.
If your teen opens up about their self-harm it might bring up big feelings for you. Try to remember that although their strategies for coping are not ideal, their distress is real. Even if you don’t understand the reasons behind an act of self-harm, becoming angry or upset is not helpful. Showing compassion and understanding, actively listening and remaining calm will help build trust for your teen. Show it’s ok to speak to you about their thoughts and feelings.
Use curious, non-judgmental questions to work together with your teen. Support them to work out how they feel and why. Problem solve together – help them think about thoughts and situations that may trigger them to self-harm, other positive coping skills they can use and the ways you might be able to support them. If your teen doesn’t want to talk to you about what’s going on, let them know you are there for them whenever they want to talk and offer ideas about who else they could speak to.
Try to encourage them to get professional support. Explain that you want to help but may not know the best thing to do and try to come up with a solution together (e.g. visiting the GP, a school counsellor, a mental health service). If your teen isn’t comfortable seeing someone face to face, suggest phone or online support services such as the ReachOut Youth Forums.
Supporting someone who is self-harming can be stressful, so it is important to look after yourself as well. Looking after yourself and seeking help will make it easier to support your teen and shows them it’s good to seek help when you are struggling.
If you believe your teen needs urgent medical attention, or talks of suicide, it is important to call 000 or take the to the emergency department of your local hospital.
Some things to think about as a parent:
Child and Family Professional at The Benevolent Society
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We also partner with The Benevolent Society to offer free personalised one-on-one support for parents and carers of teens over the phone and online.
For more information: https://parents.au.reachout.com/one-on-one-support