Parenting For a Child Who Self Injures
Parenting is always a tough job and when you see your children in distress it can make it exponentially more difficult as well as heart breaking. Help for cutting means not only understanding the child that self injures but also providing help that is appropriate. There are as many as 2 to 3 million people who engage in self-injury behaviors. As a parent it is a shock and very scary, when you find out your child has a problem with self-injury.
Types Of “Cutters”
There are two basic types of teens who self injure:
1. Attention Seeking Cutter; the attention-seeking cutter as the name implies is a teen who uses cutting as a cry for help. As a parent you should not attempt to minimize the pain your child feels just because they are cutting for the purpose of gaining attention. When people jump up and down and wave their arms yelling fire because their house is burning down does that make the emergency any less severe? If your child is making it obvious that they are engaging in self-harm as with most parenting problems first approach it with love and caring before making judgments.
2. Non-Attention Seeking Cutters; the non-attention is someone who is "addicted" to cutting they do it not for attention but, as a therapeutic outlet. This type of teen who self injures will work very hard to keep their addiction secret and would be absolutely mortified if they got found out. Often times the non-attention seeking cutter will resent the attention seeker but nonetheless both are very severe problems that need professional assistance. Your first instinct could be to lash out at the teen you will need to fight this urge, be very careful and patient with your child.
Top 5 Signs of Self-Injury
1. Scars on Arms and Legs: All teens get cuts and scrapes but repetitive scaring, is a red flag.
2. Acting Mysterious, Secretive and Disappear for long periods of time: Is normal for teens who are trying to find their identity but be sure to have some understanding of what your teen is doing and for what reasons.
3. Wearing Long Sleeves and Pants To Cover Up: Even If it is inappropriate for weather, keeping up with the latest fashions is too much for most parents, but use your best judgment to decide if you child is dressing to hide something without being overly invasive or accusatory.
4. Wear Bracelets Arm Bands and Arm Socks To Cover: Refer to #3.
5. Razor Blades and Glass Hidden Around House: The act of self-injury is often very ritualistic and as such the typical "cutter" will have specific tools they tend to use. Keep your senses attuned to your child and his/her needs.
Obviously as a standalone these signs will no give you definitive proof that your child needs professional help but use these guidelines to give you some insight to see if you should investigate deeper.
Statistics of Self-Injury
As an average a teen that has a problem with self-injury will be a female between the ages of 12 and 20 though self-injury and cutting makes no discrimination to socioeconomic factors or race. Teens with a history of emotional and physical trauma are at a higher risk of self-injury and as many as 700,000 ER visits per year are due to self-injury. Often "cutters" have co-existing problems such as OCD, eating disorders and substance abuse problems.
If you think your child has a problem with self-injury be sure to get professional help for cutting.