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I have just found out my 15 year old daughter is self-harming. How do I help her navigate this?

I have just found out my 15 year old daughter is self-harming. How do I help her navigate this?

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Casual scribe
Paula09

I have just found out my 15 year old daughter is self-harming. How do I help her navigate this?

Tonight I discovered my teen is self-harming. I’m completely floundering - I don’t know how to help her navigate this or even where to go to look for help for her. 
We have been to see her GP recently for another issue and given a referral to a psychologist but they aren’t taking new patients until February next year.

She has shut us both out and I just don’t know what to do to help her. 

Community Manager
Emily-RO

Re: I have just found out my 15 year old daughter is self-harming. How do I help her navigate this?

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Thank you for sharing this with us @Paula09  

 

It sounds like what you are going through is very difficult at the moment and we're glad that you can talk about it here. I am sorry to hear about your daughter and it sounds like a very difficult time for both her and you. 

 

Sometimes self-harm can be very complex and reasons for engaging can be very complicated. I was wondering if you would like to read some resources that may be helpful? Here is a fact sheet about teenagers and self-harm and some tips for supporting your teenager with self-harm as a parent.

 

I also want to check in and make sure that you are supported during this difficult time. Do you have any supports for yourself? (e.g. friends, other family or professional support). Would you be open to us exploring some options with you?  

 

There are many members of our community that have been through similar experiences. You are not alone and we're glad that you're here.

Casual scribe
kidzonia

Re: I have just found out my 15 year old daughter is self-harming. How do I help her navigate this?

Hi Paula, I'm also new to this forum but I'm a mother and college student taking up behavioral sciences.

 

Also, did you notice any other behaviour from your daughter? (i.e., sudden increase or decrease of weight in the past month).

 

In my experience, self-harm can be a method for seeking out attention from absentee parents or a domino effect of an ongoing psychological/mental illness.

 

I'm really sorry you're going through this, it's really tough and I wish nothing but the best for you and your daughter. Chin up Paula! 

Casual scribe
Paula09

Re: I have just found out my 15 year old daughter is self-harming. How do I help her navigate this?

@Emily-RO Thank you for your response and the links to the reading material. I am grateful  for any resources that might guide me in helping K with her current struggles. 

My larger family circle tend to approach problems with a “sweep it under the carpet and hope it goes away” attitude which certainly isn’t helpful. It also means that I’m not very good with knowing what to say or how to say things to encourage my daughter to talk about what is causing her so much pain. Any advice from those who have been in similar shoes  would be most appreciated. 

Casual scribe
Paula09

Re: I have just found out my 15 year old daughter is self-harming. How do I help her navigate this?

Thank you for connecting with me @kidzonia

Along with the self-harm, we have noticed a decrease in what K is eating. She has reduced the size of her meals and tends to avoid eating between meals. We try to eat most evening meals together as a family so I know she is getting at least one well balanced meal per day. She takes lunch to school each day too but I have no way to monitor if she is eating it or not.

 

I suspect one of the major contributing factors is some ongoing bullying from peers at school. Most of the girls in her age group are still very young looking for 15 and could quite easily be mistaken for very early teens. K is quite tall and has already developed a very mature figure which has made her a target. 

I feel her lack of self confidence and skewed self image are definitely contributing factors. How do I help her see herself the way we do? 

Parent/Carer Community Champion
Birdwings

Re: I have just found out my 15 year old daughter is self-harming. How do I help her navigate this?

Hi Paula,

Sorry to hear about your daughter is self-harming. I am mum to a 17 year old son and 15 year old daughter who is in year 10. Obviously, I'll just focus on my daughter and to put you in the picture we live in Greater Sydney and are just coming out of an extensive lockdown which has had a significant and rather complex impact. To the best of my knowledge, our daughter doesn't self harm but we've had periods where she's withdrawn into her room and barely spoken and it's been awful. At times, it's felt like I've needed to leave a trail of crumbs outside her door to lure her out. I have tried to connect with her by trying to walk in her shoes and see things through her perspective and not being critical. recently, she started getting eyelash extensions which she's paying for via her Macca's job. I'm lucky to wear lipstick these days and rarely wear makeup, but she's a dancer and after wearing false eyelashes there, it's a small step to eyelash extensions She also wanted to go blond when school went back, and her hair is really dark and I couldn't see the point. However, she wanted to make an impact when school went back and I sensed some social anxiety so off we went. That turned out to be quite a bonding experience as we went to my hairdresser who is a close friend and we had a wonderful afternoon. Tonight we drove her and two friends out for dinner together and my husband and I went out together and we later drove them all home. I felt like a quiet night at home, but again thinking of how much they'd missed out in lockdown, off we went. It was fun and informative listening to them chat in the car and they chatted a bit with us as well. I am a night owl and often pick the girls up and I never complain because I want them to be safe. These little drives go along way towards connecting with my daughter. 

Obviously food and body image is a huge issue for young women and girls and they tend to cover their tracks well. My daughter is one of the youngest in her year and has a digestive issue which makes it hard to gain weight and she is often sick. However, a friend of mine with an older daughter who had issues with anorexia gave me a few tips. One of them is hiding food in their socks and bra. Her daughter used to hide cheese in her socks. Another one was having a shower after meals to cover up being sick. 

Another issue which might crop up is alcohol. Our daughter bought a bottle of vodka from a boy in year 12 and took it to school and was drinking it straight. Indeed, you could argue that falls into self-harm. It also shows a need to numb some painful emotions. However, that was more of an aberration and a wake up call. The Christmas school holidays gave her a chance to reset. Start over.  

I think that my advice would not to try to be your daughter's best friend but to be a guide and try to be a good role model yourself, which is incredibly difficult. My daughter keeps to herself a lot but I try to get her to come to me with problems and to be part of the solution. Tonight my husband forgot to put her jeans in the dryer to wear out and so I ended up ironing them about four times to sort them out, which is totally against my image of who I am as a person but I knew she was depending on me. It doesn't take much for the teenage world to fall apart, especially with the lockdown. 

I don't know if any of this helps. I guess I just wanted to share some of the ups and downs of our household.

Best wishes,

Birdwings

Mod
Sophia-RO

Re: I have just found out my 15 year old daughter is self-harming. How do I help her navigate this?

Hello @Paula09 , I’m sorry to hear about the situation that you are in right now. It sounds like you are concerned about your daughter and are very supportive of her. It is great to see the support that you have had so far. I’m just wondering if your daughter has any other supports around her at the moment, such as a school counsellor or psychologist? I think that Birdwings has shared some helpful thoughts and comments, that I hope are able to help your current situation.

 

@Birdwings , it sounds like things have been really tough for your daughter lately, and it is great to hear about how supportive you are of her. Things must be quite tough for you at the moment too. You mentioned that your daughter was drinking alcohol at school, were any school staff members aware of this and did they offer your family any support?

Parent/Carer Community Champion
Birdwings

Re: I have just found out my 15 year old daughter is self-harming. How do I help her navigate this?

Thanks for your concern, Sophia. It has been pretty tough with my daughter and thank you for asking. She went into hospital for her digestive issue (gastroparesis) just before lockdown started and missed a lot of school. She was angry and frustrated about her health and there were serious concerns about her capacity to be a professional dancer when she was so unwell. She had a lot to work through there and is back doing her dance, working casually at Maccas and is finding it easier to get her school work done now we're back to face to face. I am needing to be more available for her than I expected and she needs that support. She's quite inclined to hold things in and try to work them out for herself (probably fall out from being a young carer to some extent) but has appreciated when I've been able to help get her out of a pickle. 

It was really good that my husband and I went out for dinner together last night. It's very rare and we need to treat ourselves too. 

Best wishes,

Birdwings

Scribe
Hopeful2021

Re: I have just found out my 15 year old daughter is self-harming. How do I help her navigate this?

Hi!
I came here to write basically the same thing. I found out a few weeks ago my 15yo was self harming through the school. I felt like my world crashed around me.
She wouldn't speak with me either and shut me out completely. We also can't get into a psychologist until late January. It's a ridiculously long wait for someone struggling like this.

It has only been in the last couple of days where she's really started to open up to me. She said she didn't want to tell me because she knew I would cry and that would make her feel bad. And one of the reasons she self harms is because she feels like she's a bad person.
I'm a crier for most things so this is a huge personal challenge for me.
When she showed me her legs, it took everything in me not grabbed her tightly and cry.
The following morning she shut me out again.
I'm not sure if I'm doing this right, but I think it's important to let her drive the conversation and its my job to keep the communication lines open, be ready to listen without judgement or anger and to let her know I'll always be there for her when she's ready.
You are not alone in this. Xxx
Community Manager
Philippa-RO

Re: I have just found out my 15 year old daughter is self-harming. How do I help her navigate this?

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@Hopeful2021 welcome to the ReachOut forums. 
I can imagine the news about your daughter self-harming must have come as a big shock. Heart

It sounds like like you're doing everything you can to try and support your daughter, and I'm wondering do you have support for yourself through this time as well?

Re: the psychologist, I'm sorry to hear the wait is so long, how frustrating. 

Do you think your daughter would consider something like Kids Helpline or ReachOut's youth forums if she needs someone to talk to in the meantime? 

I notice you mentioned you found out through the school - have they been supportive? 

Also, for yourself, there are some resources about self harm and teenagers on our website that might be worth a read if that's helpful. 

We're here to support you. 

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