03-30-2022 12:25 AM - last edited on 04-13-2022 10:33 AM by Philippa-RO
Our 13 year old girl has been gradually changing over the past 12 months, getting more withdrawn from her favourite activities and seeming to be down. We noticed she has stopped wanting to swim (previously one of her favourite activities). She also started to wear long sleeve shirts. Because she is embarrassed of the scars and wants to cover up, she is not doing much exercise and we are worried about her overall health.
She has struggled a little with friendships over the years. Also, our marriage as been difficult and so she has seen and heard too much conflict.
Eventually I approached her and asked if she has been self-harming as I had been reading about that and we had seen some sharp objects in her room. She admitted that she had and although she didn't show us, we have seen some scars on her left arm and also I think somewhere near her groin area. We don't think she is having suicidal thoughts (and that is what she says to us).
Last year she went to see a psychologist we arranged for her but did not like the sessions and so stopped. We have spoken to a few psychologists by phone. She is not comfortable with the school counsellor. She says she wants to talk to someone but we are not sure who the right person is. She is a sensitive type who keeps so much inside. My wife and I feel it is so much our fault for mistakes over many years.
We feel that some of this was made worse by our mistake letting her watch too much on her ipad. She got into goth culture and heavy music and became aware of all the gender issues everyone is talking about. She now seems to be stressed about her gender identity and so that is also part of her struggle and all connected.
1. My first question is whether we should be monitoring her self harm by asking to look at her scars and how much to insist to see them (or take her to a doctor). We are so worried that she will have some serious injury or lifetime scars from this but one psychologist told us it's probably best not to push to check them. I feel like I would like either us or a doctor to take a look at them from time to time but she doesn't feel comfortable showing anyone. When I ask she says she is not doing lately but II think she probably still does sometimes. How hard to we push to find out what she is doing and how often?
2. Should we be actively checking her room for sharp objects? She will be very resistant if she thinks we are checking her.
3. About seeing psychologists, my wife and I are both hesitating because we are scared she might be labelled and see herself as something wrong with her (even more than she already probably does). I have seen kids go to psychologists for years and years and often they don't seem to make that much progress but rather get a bad self image of themselves.
I am sorry this is so long. We honestly don't know where to start with help for our wonderful, talented and sensitive child.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
03-30-2022 06:43 AM
03-30-2022 01:22 PM
Thank you so much for your reply and wishing you all the best with your daughter too. I know we have to stay calm as parents, but it is so hard as feelings of failure and seem to be stopping us from dealing with this in the right way. By the way, I read a blog about a parent who took daughter away on a camping trip for I think around 5 days without any devices. Although child resisted and first few days were tough, after a few days they were talking and made great progress. We are not really camping types but I thought it sounds like one good idea. But every situation and child and parent is different. Thank you again.
03-30-2022 01:29 PM
Thank you for sharing with us and reaching out for some support on what is a really difficult situation for a lot of parents. You're not alone in experiencing worry around your daughter struggling with self-harm and it's wonderful to see how much you really want to support her.
Self-harm is unfortunately extremely common in teenagers, and something many of our parents here have dealt with too. We recently shared this resource around self-harm and teens which also provides links to other articles you might also find helpful.
We would really recommend connecting with your daughter's GP, even just to talk over how she is feeling in general if she is not ready to show anyone her scars as yet. The GP will be able to connect you with psychologists or therapists in your area and make sure your daughter has a great support network to help her. It can take a few tries to find a psychologist that is the right fit, but once you do, it can make a massive difference.
You've also mentioned that your daughter is stressed about her gender identity, is that something she's been able to talk to you about? We have this article about gender that might be helpful if she does open up about this with you.
It's understandable that a lot of parents are wary over their teen's access to technology and the internet. However, there are some ways it can be a really helpful tool as well. We have a selection of recommended apps here, and your daughter may find Calm Harm a good one to try.
(Also just letting you know we've had to edit your post slightly to remove the descriptions of self-harming as per our guidelines.)
03-31-2022 04:27 PM
Thank you so much. That was very helpful and much appreciated. I am not sure whether it is allowed in this group, but if anyone has any suggestions for a good psychologist on the north shore of Sydney who has helped in similar cases please could you let me know.
03-31-2022 11:31 PM
Hi @JosephH we appreciate you reaching out.
We always recommend getting in touch with your GP for suggestions on good Psychologists as they are better able to find the best fit for you.
We just want to remind you that you're not alone and we hope you'll keep us updated with everything that's going on
04-04-2022 02:27 PM
04-10-2022 10:23 PM
Thank you so much. I feel very responsible myself, but social media is doing so much damage. The flip phone sounds like a good idea and I wish you all the best for your daughter.
04-11-2022 01:31 PM
Social media isn't an easy issue to navigate for parents of teens - @JosephH I hear you saying you feel responsible and that sounds really tough.
I think it's been even harder in recent years because of COVID as so much socialising has had to be done online.
We're glad you were able to connect with some other members of the community in similar situations - we're always here to listen if you want to talk.