Cutting is a big problem amongst children and teenagers, and it is often used as a coping mechanism to try and deal with strong emotions and difficult situations. It is important, as a parent, to recognize that cutting is not usually a suicide attempt, but it is concerning self-harm behaviour nonetheless. Oftentimes, cutting is tied to mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, or eating disorders, and it is important to help your child through these issues so that they can recover and leave self-harming behaviour behind. Talking about self-harm can be difficult, but using the tips in this article can help make the conversation and recovery process less difficult for both your child and you.
Having the Conversation
Firstly, expect that your child will probably resist the conversation or react negatively. It is likely that they feel ashamed, embarrassed, or even angry with you for knowing about their self-harming habits. Rather than accusing them outright, you can begin the conversation calmly, and telling them that you know about their behaviour and that you won’t punish them, and they you love and support them and want to help them recover.
Your child or teen may not know whey they self-harm, or may not tell you. Listen and ask questions as long as they are willing to answer, and try to tell them that cutting is linked to mental illnesses. Even if they do not feel comfortable sharing the exact reasons, your showing understanding of the issue may help them feel more comfortable.
If your child shuts down the conversation immediately or becomes aggressive at any point of the conversation, it is important to stay patient and to know when to back off. Tell them that you understand their need for space right now, and bring up the topic another time. It is important to not ignore cutting, or to let your child feel like you don’t care about their self-harm.
Ultimately, you may want to help your child or teen find a mental health professional to help them stop cutting. Depending on the severity of the cutting, you may have to insist on therapy at first, even if your child is not convinced. Therapy can help them develop new coping mechanisms to replace the self-harm, and a therapist can also help rebuild the child’s self-esteem and address mental illness that may be present. Make sure you listen to your child when they give you feedback on the therapist’s methods, and understand that you may have to go through several professionals to find one that is a good fit for your child.