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Teenage child self harming

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Casual scribe

Teenage child self harming

My teenage child 15 is self harming.
I tried to talk to them about it. They say they don’t know why they are doing it. They say they are not stressed or unhappy and do not want to see a GP or counsellor. When I try to talk further they shut down completely. Any advice?

Prolific scribe

Re: Teenage child self harming

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Hi @worriedmum720 and welcome to our community!


I'm sorry to hear that your child has been self-harming. I can only imagine how scared and confused you must feel right now. Self-harming is usually a way of coping with pain or strong emotions, so I am wondering if there might be something more going on. You mentioned that you have tried to talk to them, were you able to find any information about what causes them to self-harm?


While it is an Australian website, The Raising Children's Network has some really helpful information on Self-harm and may be worth having a look at. It also has some great tips on what you can do to help and what to look at next.


In saying, as this is such a stressful time for you, I am wondering what supports you have around you at the moment. Is there someone you feel comfortable talking to about this at all?


We're all here for you.

Casual scribe

Re: Teenage child self harming

Thank you for responding. I know that they are unsure about their gender identity they have spoken to me about that but they have insisted the self harming is not about that.

I cannot help but wonder if it is to do with that. They have 3 brothers and are not ready to share their feelings ref gender with them or anyone in the family outside of my husband and myself.

I have told them that their dad and I support them whatever they want and asked what we can do to help.

I want to help but don’t want to force them into anything that they don’t want.

I am disabled with a degenerative spinal condition and I also suffer from depression. I have medication to control that. I have a very supportive husband but we are at a loss how to help when all offers are refused. I feel like all I can do is make sure they know we are here and willing to listen.

I wonder if I should persuade them to see a Dr but don’t want to make the situation even worse.
Star contributor

Re: Teenage child self harming

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Hey @worriedmum720

Sounds like you are both very understanding and supportive. Your active use of 'they/them' pronouns attests to this.

Its very hard for any parent to see their child unhappy let alone self harming so no wonder youre feeling this way. I can see how you would make the link between the self harming and their gender identity issues and whether or not this is truly the case for them, sometimes we have to just continue to be understanding and supportive (like you already are) until they are ready. If we force or push them to seek support when they are not ready, we can sometimes risk pushing them away.

That said, Im wondering how severe the self harming behaviour is. Does it require medical attention? If so, we may then need to intervene regardless to keep them safe or to contact 000 if needed.

There is a great article on gender identity here that may be worth checking out also:
Parent/Carer Community Champion

Re: Teenage child self harming

Hi Worried Mum 720,

Welcome to our Reachout Parent Forum. I've been coming here intermittently for over a year and am Mum to an 18 year old son and 16 year old daughter. Sometimes, I come here to get advice about issues happening for us, and other times, I pop in to reach out. 

I don't have much experience of self-harm. However, I have made good progress with connecting with our daughter lately via going driving in the car. She's learning to drive and finds driving quite calming and we've been on a few 2 hour drives at night. It's not always great, but she's opened up quite a lot. Trying to keep communication going and building that foundation that they is loved and valued, can hopefully counterbalance whatever's prompting the self harm. However, maybe discussing safety and having three phone numbers they can call if things get too much. Finding ways to vent such as exercise, journaling, music. Do you have a pet? 

The other thing I've found helpful is going to seeing professionals on my kids' behalf before and found it very helpful. 

I hope that helps.

Best wishes,