Teens Cutting Themselves – What Can You Do To Help Them?

This is a difficult but necessary article and a very personal one for me, but before I get started on my story please remember that I am not a doctor and am not providing medical advice.

You see I have a 13-year old little girl whose hormones are all over the place, but I thought it was just a normal teenage puberty thing and paid no attention to it. I already went through the teenage stage of my oldest daughter’s life, but forgot to take into account that my second daughter was nothing like her sister.

I should have paid closer attention and stopped this way before it started, but I didn’t and just recently found out that she has been cutting herself. I was shocked and confused, I mean I have heard about teens cutting themselves, but I didn’t think I would have to worry about with her. She is my good girl and we have always talked about everything, but she didn’t come to me this time.

Teens Cutting Themselves

How do you handle something like this? How do you talk to your baby girl about this without upsetting her more or push her too far?

These are the questions I asked myself when I found out. I wanted to know why she was doing this because her life was not a bad one. She wasn’t alone in anything and she has so many people in her life who absolutely adore her, even strangers take to her very well. She’s beautiful (yes I know I am her mom and we all think our children are beautiful), she has a big heart, and she is usually very strong and has no filter.

I had to figure out how to help her, but I am no psychiatrist and what if what is wrong is something physical or mental and not just emotional confusion. What if what she is doing is just for attention? Are we not paying enough attention to her? Did I do something wrong while raising her to make her feel that she couldn’t come to me about anything? Is there something that I missed?

So many questions and not enough answers and I didn’t know what to do.

I knew that taking her to a behavioral hospital for people that hurt themselves or try to commit suicide would just make matters worse because the school had already tried that with her once before when she said something and they took out of context.

It scared her to death and I thought to myself, that is where I made my mistake because that was about the time she stopped telling me things.

So What Do I Do Now?

I didn’t want my daughter to end up like the other children that have been on the news lately that have hurt themselves so bad that they are no longer a part of this world. I didn’t want to lose my daughter, so I needed to come up with something before that ever happened.

I decided that I would just tell her that I needed to talk to her, that she wasn’t in trouble, I just needed to talk to her about something important.

I had to do it without giving away who told me what was going on because then she would stop talking to them and I didn’t want that either because at least she was talking to someone.

I also found this very helpful book about helping teens who are cutting, it is called “Helping Teens Who Cut” and you can click the link to get the same one. I highly recommend getting this if you are wanting to try helping your teen before taking them to the doctor. Please, again, keep in mind that I am not giving you medical advise and strongly recommend that you see your doctor to get a proper diagnosis.

I Am Not A Doctor

Now I am no professional but I do suffer from depression and anxiety (which this was not helping at all) so I knew some things that she may be feeling and thought that I could at least make her feel that she wasn’t alone in these feelings and give her some pointers on what helps me get through those tough moments.

So, please don’t take my words as the ultimate fix if you are facing these same issues. Take my words for what they are, my experience with this situation. I am not going to sit here and tell you that this will work and your child does not need to see a doctor or take medication. Again, I am not a doctor and therefore cannot give you medical advice, but I can tell you my story and let you know that you are not alone and this is not your fault.

You can also check out this book telling another mother’s story about her teen cutting. It is called “Cutting the Soul: A journey into the mental illness of a teenager through the eyes of his mother” I think it makes for a great read and will also help you realize that you are not alone in this.

How I Talked To My Daughter

So I sat my daughter down and the first thing I asked her was, “What did I do to make you feel that you cannot talk to me about anything?”

She just looked at me and giggled (she does this when she is nervous or uncomfortable) and then said it is just hard and scary.

I told my daughter that she can come to me about anything at all, that she will not be judged, and if I get mad that it was okay because I would not be mad for very long and her punishment would be less severe than if she did something behind back.

Side note: I also found out that she has been curious about going further than just holding hands and kissing a boy so that is why I mentioned being mad thing.

Continuing…… I remained calm and started explaining that no matter what she does or doesn’t do that I will always be here for her and she can always come to me. I told her that I would rather her come to me before she does anything because then I can make sure that she is fully aware of all the consequences of her actions and give her the proper tools to keep her safe. I said that my job is to do everything I can to keep her safe, alive, and to succeed in life. That I was there to help make her dreams come true (she was to go to college and be a photographer).

I may have repeated myself several times but a little different each time but I was trying to get it to sink in that it was okay to talk to me even about things that were uncomfortable because in all honest they are just as uncomfortable for mamma to talk about as it is for her.

This seemed to help because she started tearing up a little and started talking. I did not bring up the cutting at all during this talk, I waited for her to bring it up and she did.

“Mom, would you be mad if I told you that I was cutting?” She asked.

“I would be upset, worried, and sad, but no honey I would not be mad!” I told her. I then asked her why she was hurting herself and she replied that she was upset and stressed out and cutting gives her physical pain that washes away the emotional pain (my daughter is very articulate and intelligent).

I proceeded to explain to her that she could seriously hurt herself doing that by accidentally cutting an artery and she said she knows that. I explained to her about my own depression and what gets me through it and why I don’t hurt myself.

I told her that I don’t hurt myself because of her and her siblings. I knew what it would do to them if I was no longer here and I couldn’t do that to them. I told her that I wanted to be here to see them grow up, to see them succeed, get married, and have children.

She explained that she was scared to come and talk to me, that she was afraid that I would take her back to that scary hospital and I re-explained what I told her earlier about coming to me and she started talking more including about her feelings on being intimate with someone.

I told her that it wasn’t her fault, that she may have to go see a psychiatrist if things kept progressing because I am not qualified. She said she didn’t want to talk to a stranger, she has a hard enough time talking to people she knows.

I Hope That I Have Given Her Another Way

This talk continued for about an hour and I explained to her that a doctor is trained to help her and it is like going to her pediatrician, nothing as scary as the hospital and that the doctor would do everything they could to make her comfortable.

I told my daughter that if we had to take her to talk to someone professional that she can request that I be in the room with her until she felt comfortable to do it without me and that she can request to have a female or male doctor, which ever she felt more comfortable talking to.

However, I did tell her that we can try something else first and only use the doctor as a last result. I told her we can find herself another outlet for releasing her bad feelings.

I told my daughter that anytime she feels like she needs to cut herself to grab a journal and write her feelings and thoughts down in a journal because sometimes just getting it off your chest is enough and that I would make sure to get her one that has a lock so that she can keep them to herself or bring it to me if she wants me to know.

I do recommend possibly getting this workbook that I am also getting for my daughter. I think it will be very helpful in teaching her ways to get through it. It is called “The Mindfulness Workbook for Teen Self-Harm: Skills to Help You Overcome Cutting and Self-Harming Behaviors, Thoughts, and Feelings” 

My daughter also likes to draw so I told her to use that as an outlet as well, she can draw what she is feeling and to continue drawing or writing until the feelings of wanting to cut are gone.

The final thing I told my daughter was to do what I do and think about the very important people in my life and what it would do to them if she were to leave this world, to think about all the things that she won’t be able to do if she hurts herself like going to college and being a photographer. Think about the dreams she has never coming true.

My daughter has agreed to do this, but if you haven’t figured it out, this was an extremely recent thing so I can’t tell you that this has worked for her yet, but I will come back and update my readers to let them know if it worked or if I had to take her to the doctor to get her more help and possibly medication.

I wanted to tell my story to you not for medical advice on how to help your teen, but to help you see that it wasn’t anything that you did to them and you are absolutely not alone. There are many of us out here that have teens cutting themselves and we are here to talk to and help in any way that we can.

I hope that this has given you what little bit of peace of mind you can get and know that I am here for you and I understand what you are feeling. Please leave me a comment, a question, or even your story and I will respond. You can even go here to our forum and talk to other parents.

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8 Comments

  • Kendra

    What a touching article. We had one of my daughter’s close friends go through this as well, and it made us as Mom’s wonder “where has all this cutting come from?” as we did not see it when we were young. I think it points out that there is a strong social component to this tragic activity. We saw waves of it in one high school in our city. I wish you and your daughter the very best navigating through this and finding positive coping skills for life’s stressors, something I’m still working on as an adult. Good Luck

    • Kristena

      Kendra,

      Thank you so much for that! She is doing pretty well right now and hasn’t cut in 3 weeks. I sometimes believe it is mostly to gain sympathy and attention, but I did not want to assume that and be wrong. There are a lot of people these days that do things just for the attention and I do agree that social media is a big culprit for all of it. I am not even going to get started with that. LOL!

  • Andrew

    Wow! Thank you for sharing your story with us.
    It is so hard to help someone when we do not know what they have been through. Even when we are so close, as a parent and child can be, we still do not know what is going on in our child’s life when they are not with us. There are so many pressures on children these days, and social media is often responsible for contributing to a lot of the stress taken onboard by our impressional young teens.
    So, how can we, as caring adults, do the best by our children?
    We can do our best to sort out our own issues first. Then we will be in a better position to be more aware of how our children are doing in life. It’s an impossibility to be 100% perfect all of the time, but if we can work on ourselves first to become better and more aware of our own feelings we will also become more empathetic to the feelings of others. In this way, we will hopefully be able to become aware of minor issues that our loved ones are having before they turn into major issues.

    • Kristena

      Andrew,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my article! Very well said, parents have to remember that what they are feeling or going through will fall on to their children no matter how hard they try not to let them see. Children are a lot smarter and more aware than most parents think. It also seems to be that children are becoming more and more hateful towards each other these days. I mean I had bullies when I was in school but they were nothing like they are now and we didn’t have shootings in our schools (which is saying a lot because I went to schools in pretty bad neighborhoods). Yes, social media is a big culprit because things are more visible to the world now and some of these things that are happening were happening before we just didn’t have social media around for everyone to see it, however, it is also how these children are being raised or not raised that is the biggest culprit.

  • Teo

    A must to read information provided here within the post.
    I feel sorry for you going through this. Understanding how one thinks /at every age/ is so essential for every future parent.

    • Kristena

      Teo,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my story and I am happy to hear that you were able to get from it what I wanted people to get. You are absolutely right that understanding how one thinks at every age is an essential thing for parents. It isn’t all about controlling them or allowing me to do whatever they want. It is about molding them into the right kind of person and making sure they know right from wrong without taking away from their own personalities.

  • Kelsey

    Thank you for being so open and honest as you walk with your daughter through this process. There are many teens that are struggling with cutting or self-doubt and having these stories out there helps encourage parents and teens to find the help they need. I hope that your daughter will stay committed to receiving the help she needs from you and be open to the possibility of going to a professional. Being there for her is the best thing you can do for her.

    • Kristena

      Kelsey,

      You are very welcome and thank you for your kind words. It is a very difficult situation and you are absolutely right there are many teens out there struggling with this and unfortunately are not getting the support and help they need which is why I talked very thoroughly with my daughter so she knows that she can always come to me and I will get her the help she needs if talking to me is not enough. She is open to the possibility and understands that we may need to go that far. I shared my story because I wanted others to know they are not alone and there is someone out there that is willing to help and understands what they are going through. Please feel free to share this article with whoever you think may need to hear it.

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