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Self Harm.

Discussion forum for parents in Australia


Self Harm.

We are taking over custody of our 11 year old Niece from her drug and alcohol affected parents and she has started to attempt to self harm.

We just don't know fully what she has been threw and seen while with her mother.

We are out of our depth and already have her seeing a play therapist and keep telling her that she is know safe and that we are going to look after her give her a stable home. 

How should we approach the self harm  with her ? 

Super frequent scribe

Re: Self Harm.

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Hi @Uncle75 


Welcome to the forums. It is so lovely that you have taken in your niece with what sounds like open arms, are getting her the right support, and are wanting to know how to approach her self-harm situation. She is very lucky to have you.


It is good that you have caught the self-harm behaviour early. You mentioned that she is seeing a play therapist. If this therapist has experience/knowledge with self-harm, it may be useful to ask them for advice. If not, then we recommend you see (or take your niece to see) a clinical psychologist. The clinical psychologist can teach her more adaptive coping strategies to use in place of her self-harm behaviours.


We have an article here that may help you better understand self-harm. We have multiple articles here about managing self-harm in teens. This one way may be particularly helpful. Feel free to have a read and tell us what you think!


There are also many helplines and free services available for extra support. For example, some really good resources include Parentline, Kids Helpline and our one-on-one support service.


Parentline is a phone service for parents and carers of children from birth to 18 years old. They offer free, confidential and anonymous counselling and support on parenting issues. The number for Parentline differs per state. Scroll to the bottom of this page to see which number to call if you're interested. 


Kids Helpline is a free Australian telephone and online counselling service for young people aged between 5 and 25. It may be worth passing on their number to your niece. Find out more about them here.


ReachOut Parents One-on-One Support is a free service for parents/carers of 12 to 18-year-olds and  includes up to four sessions with a professional experienced in supporting families. You can learn more about this service here.


Raising children network also has lots of great resources.


Also, just letting you know that I've had to edit out an aspect of your post because it describes a method of self-harm, which is against our community guidelines.

Parent/Carer Community Champion

Re: Self Harm.

Hi Uncle 75,

Welcome to our Reach Out Parents Forum. I'm a parent with a 16 year old son and 14 year old daughter. In many ways, our family seems incredibly sorted out because my husband and I are still together and our kids are doing alright but not without challenging phases and moments. However, our kids have been through fairly extensive trauma due to my ongoing health issues which can be very dramtic, intense and terrifying and have been that way since our second child was born. So, we've had to deal with trauma, the threat of them losing their Mum, none of us coping and then landing back on our feet again as though nothing has happened. Security has been a big issue for our kids through this, anxiety and at times needing to take responsibility beyond their years. 

Without meeting your niece, I can imagine some of the trauma and serious disappointment she has experienced and how she might view her role in all of this. Much of the response to this does belong in the realm of professionals and there are professionals who are well trained and experienced in this area. However, there's so much you are already doing by gaining custody and bringing her into your family and you evidently love her very dearly and are very concerned for her welfare. Please don't underestimate what you're already doing and how you being her uncle and family is making such a difference to her. One of my kids has had some very dark moments where I've had to talk them through. One of the things I used there was having something to look forward to say like a bushwalk, ferry ride, movie. Craft is a good outlet for this age group and colouring in. Find out what she enjoys and is good at and encourage her there. We've been members of scouts for years and that's been fantastic.I would also make contact with her school. It's a bit hard at the moment with covid, but you could at least chat on the phone. 

The other thing with self-harm etc is that it does make you worry, stress and even freak out as a bystander. Try to look after yourself and destress, slow your breathing and do whatever it is which helps you keep a level head. 

I hope this helps, and it's really good that you've come here to touch base and share what's going on. I've found it's really hard to connect with my usual friends due to covid and I also like the anonymity of this forum. 

Best wishes,