My 12 year old daughter is self harming - how can I help her?

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Active scribe

My 12 year old daughter is self harming - how can I help her?

I have 2 girls 10 and 12 the last they did was played together and the youngest got tickled.
Parenting has become so much of a challenge I try to keep stress down by having a few glasses of wine which ends up being a bottle.
I came across Reach out from a Google search as i feel like I'm Falling apart from the inside out as my 12 year has started to self harm.
Patience is required for those parents approaching the teenage years.
The best thing about the weekends (when I see them) is NOT going to work!!

Parent Peer Supporter

Re: New member? Introduce yourself here!

Hi @Sunshine, welcome to the forum. I'm so glad you stumbled across ReachOut and I hope we can help you feel supported and not alone in your situation. 


From experience I know how worrying self harming behaviours can be, and I'm so sorry to hear your daughter has started. If you would like to read our fact sheet on self harm you can find it here. You can also find some tips on mananging self harming here


When my daughter was hurting herself, her psychologist suggested, as the fact sheet does, to try using ice. It was suggested to my daughter that she place it on her wrists or arms. Another suggestion, which my daughter did use and find helpful, was an elastic band around her wrist that she could flick, causing a sting, but nothing damaging long term. 


Thank you for sharing a bit about yourself. I agree with you completely that patience is needed raising teens! Parenting is such a huge challenge, and I'm sure many parents will agree that wine helps with the unwinding. Have you ever looked into meditation or yoga as well? We also have a great thread here and here on self care where you may find some other ideas to add to your self care plan. 


ReachOut also offers free coaching to help parents support our teens through tough times. It's very flexible and can give you some ideas that you can implement right away. If that sounds like something you'd be interested in you can find out more and register here.


I hope the links I've provided give some information you'll find useful. And I hope you don't mind, I've moved your post so it doesn't get lost in the intro's. It's an important topic and I'd love you be able to benefit from the experiences of other parents on the forum. 

Parent Peer Supporter

Re: My 12 year old daughter is self harming - how can I help her?

Hi @Sunshine thank you for sharing your story.  

Sounds like a stressful time you have been having with your 12 year old starting to self-harm, and also raising your 10 year old too.

@taokat has offered some great suggestions with the ice and elastic band on the wrist.  Something my daughter was advised to do too.  Provides the same feeling, but without any physical signs.  

Have you sought any professional help for your daughter yet?

Remember to look after yourself during this time, which will help you cope better and help you care for both your daughters. Please keep in touch - it helps to share and get things off you chest sometimes.

Active scribe

Re: My 12 year old daughter is self harming - how can I help her?

Thank you for comments I really do appreciate it. I have informed her school where in which a nurse comes in once a month to speak to her n other students. I have taken her to the Dr Where the nurse who she feels comfortable with gave us advise. She is on a waiting list for child counselling which is 4 weeks.
I am now trying to advise my husband too who wants to lock every sharp away (which is not the answer).
I think I'm going to try an advise her on the elastic band. I have also told her she can talk to me anytime even when I'm at work.
She self harmed for the 2nd time 2 nights ago n I'm scared for the 3rd time.
Parent Peer Supporter

Re: My 12 year old daughter is self harming - how can I help her?

Hi @Sunshine I appreciate how scary this is, and the terrible time your family is experiencing at the moment. It is good that your daughter has a professional who she feels comfortable talking too, and is also on the waiting list to talk to a child counselor. Its also really important that she knows she can come talk to you anytime.  It sounds like you are doing all the right things.

Remember that if you feel that her injuries from self-harm may require medical attention do not hesitate to seek further help from your GP or even emergency department. 

HeadSpace is a another great service that can provide support for kids from 12+ years if you want to check them out.  



Parent Peer Supporter

Re: My 12 year old daughter is self harming - how can I help her?

Good on you @Sunshine, it sounds like you are doing all the right things. 4 weeks must feel like a lifetime away for you at the moment. One day at a time you will get there though. It's so frustrating that the mental health services are so lacking. It's one of the reasons I love the forum. There are compassionate parents to share with who really get what we're going through. It helps keep me going.


As @Zoesplace mentioned, do go to emergency if you become really worried. They may have a mental health care team there that she could see earlier? We have the CYMHS team at our hospital. 


It doesn't solve the situation, as teens are resourceful, but I actually put away everything that could be used, and I'd search my daughter's room when I got the opportunity. It may be worth considering. Crossing my fingers for you and your daughter that the elastic band satisfies that urge. 


It's great your daughter can talk with you at any time. Open lines of communication are so important. Taking the opportunity to talk over tough things can really strengthen the bond I've found. 


Keep in touch and let us know how you get on with the elastic band suggestion. Remember to look after yourself too. 

Active scribe

Re: My 12 year old daughter is self harming - how can I help her?

Thank you everyone, I spoke to her today and told her I am getting help and advice too, she was a bit surprised. I told her about the elastic band (which is a hair and at the moment) n she is wearing it and stated that she would give it a go.
I really appreciate all ur kind words and I'm glad i found this site! So many people these days are so quick to judge u to the point of pointing fingers at ur parenting skills, I now just keep reminding myself that "Being a parent doesn't come with a manual u can only do ur best!" Thank you again!!
Parent Peer Supporter

Re: My 12 year old daughter is self harming - how can I help her?

Good morning @Sunshine Smiley Very Happy

You and your daughter appear to have a wonderful relationship in that you are able to communicate with each other. Having the ability to communicate and relate to your child is so important and something to treasure.  This is a new experience for you both, so it is good that she is aware you are seeking your own help which will benefit you both.  Let us know how she goes with the elastic band? - what I love about this is that it can be with her all the time and can be used anywhere. The ice is good, but not so convenient.  

I agree with @taokat to search her room when you get the opportunity. Perhaps when she goes back to school.  You are right - parenting does not come with a manual unfortunately- even when you think you know what you are doing, circumstances change, your daughter will go through different stages in her life, and you will have new skills to learn and have to adapt your parenting style to suit each situation.  

Parent Peer Supporter

Re: My 12 year old daughter is self harming - how can I help her?

 It's fabulous @Sunshine that your daughter is willing to give the elastic band a go and get started straight away! If you can try and find a rubber band, it'll give more of a sharp sting when flicked. I'm sure you'd be able to buy them, but probably only in large quantities. I buy asparagus from Woolworths which comes with two rubber bands around the bunch - a double bonus if you like asparagus!


I agree with you that so many people can be very quick to judge us as parents when our kids are struggling. It's detrimental in ways they couldn't understand! The compassion and understanding is what I love about the forum, and I'm so glad you found us too! Having a place where we feel safe looking for advice and support is so valuable.


I'm so glad you're backing yourself, because you are so right - parenting doesn't come with instructions, and we're all learning as we go along. And as @Zoesplace said, things are continually changing, so once we think 'right, I've got this' the whole playing field can change! 


I think it's wonderful as well to able to let our kids know we don't always have the answers, but we are getting help to find them. Perfection is not a prerequisite for parenting, as parents are human too! 

Prolific scribe

Re: My 12 year old daughter is self harming - how can I help her?

Hi @Sunshine,

It is super hard being a parent! I agree, patience is required.


My son tried self harm when he was 13 (last year). We are lucky that he has a strong aversion to pain, so he didn't do much. I could see it was a sign of stress, as the times he tried it were after some sort of incident.


I tried not to freak out, or at least I tried not to look like it....even though it scared me a lot. I just talked to him in a matter of fact way, and he told me what he did and how he did it. I did put all the sharps away. Partly that was for myself, as I couldn't sleep at night if I thought he might be up trying to harm himself.


We got through it with counselling and medication, and time. Self harm is not an issue now, but we are still fighting anxiety and some depression.


I too de-stress sometimes with wine. Sometimes I feel guilty or self conscious of that, because it is the type of behaviour I would discourage in my kids! But the guilt doesn't help. These days I ration it. I do the "dry July" thing too, although I modify it Smiley Wink I rarely go out with a mate, but if I get an invite in July I'm ignoring the "dry July"! Life is too short to follow every rule Smiley Happy


I do the falling apart thing too. So far, I keep picking myself son needs me.


Enjoy the weekend, look after yourself