Michigan Parents: How To Talk To Children About Self-Injury Treatment

self injury treatment

Are you worried that your child is cutting himself or herself? Have you noticed signs of self-injury? Here at Perspectives Of Troy Counseling Centers in Michigan, we have worked with many parents who are worried about their child’s safety and mental health. Approximately 50% of all self-injury patients start when they’re 14, and some start much younger than that. As a parent, you are likely the first person to address this issue with your child and talk to him or her about getting self-injury treatment moving forward. The guide below will show you how to speak to your child about self-injury in a calm and effective way.

Understand Why Your Children May Self-Harm

It’s best to approach any conversation with your children from a kind and understanding perspective. Being informed about why people self-harm and the benefits they believe they get from self-injury will help you put yourself in your child’s mind. Some of the most common reasons why children self-harm include:

  • Trying to feel in control. When life seems overwhelming and out of touch, some children use cutting as a way to take control of their lives, even if that means injuring themselves.
  • Creating a distraction from depression, anxiety, or painful emotions. The pain of cutting or burning the skin provides a temporary distraction from other issues in life that may feel too difficult to handle at the time.
  • Trying to express feelings or emotions that are difficult to process. Sometimes when a person cannot put his or her feelings into words, he or she will use self-injury as a form of expression.
  • Punishing oneself or finding relief from guilt. If a child does something he or she feels was wrong, self-injury can be seen as a form of self-punishment. This may happen in a surprising way, like a bully who goes home and practices self-harm after beating up another child at school.
  • Relieving the sense of numbness. For some children, the pain from self-injury gives them a chance to feel something – anything – rather than feeling numb or disconnected from the world. These feelings are common for patients with childhood depression or anxiety.

Listen With Genuine Compassion And Caring

Your child may choose to self-harm because he does not know how to express his feelings, emotions, thoughts, etc. He may also do this because he feels that he has no one to talk to. Thus it is important to keep your heart, mind, and ears open throughout the course of your conversation. Do not shut your child down because you disagree with what he has to say or because you feel defensive (like when your child is combative against your parenting practices). Give him a chance to speak out and be heard so you can gain a true understanding of what is going on in your child’s life.

Remain Calm And Do Not Overreact

It is natural to feel upset or even panicked when your child talks about hurting himself, but you must avoid acting out on those emotions. Having an intense reaction will only make the situation worse, and it may cause your child to become more reclusive. Stay as calm as possible, even if your child begins to get vocally or physically upset. This is part of the healing process, and your patience will pay off in the long run.

Do Not Act Repulsed By The Action

Regardless of what your personal opinion may be, you must avoid acting like you are shocked or repulsed by your child’s self-harm. One of the biggest reasons why children do not reach out for self-injury treatment is because they feel ashamed of or embarrassed by their actions. By making your child feel “gross” about the situation, you will only make those feelings of isolation stronger. Keep an open mind like we mentioned above, and do your best to make your child feel accepted no matter what.

Avoid Talking About The Self-Harm In Great Detail

While it is important to understand what is going on with your child, you should avoid having him explain what he does in detail. You may ask what type of self-harm he uses – cutting, burning, hair pulling, etc. – but you do not need to get in depth about the process. Doing so may trigger your child to commit self-harm in the near future. Focus on what makes your child feel the need to self-harm and what kinds of feelings he gets as a result from the action. These are issues that you can work out during self-injury therapy.

Bring Up The Idea Of Getting Professional Help – NOT Forcefully

In order to learn how to better cope with his emotions, your child may need to work with a professional self-injury counselor. This person will be able to get to the root causes of your child’s self-harm so your child can overcome obstacles and get to a better quality of life. You will need to talk to your child about working with a professional, but it’s important not to force the issue on him right away. Your child may be combative at first, but forcing him into therapy may make him react negatively to the process. Some children require several sessions of working with a therapist before they begin to trust him or her enough to actually open up about self-injury, depression, anxiety, and other personal matters. With love, patience, and support, you and your entire family can overcome this difficult time in life and build a new bond with one another.

Perspectives offers a teen group for those who self-harm and a parent workshop for adults.  Call 248-244-8644 now to sign-up.