How can Mums help?
Supporting someone who self harms can be very difficult and challenging, more so when it’s your child- that precious little bundle you brought home and promised with all your heart to look after no matter what.
Witnessing your child’s emotional distress can create many feelings including fear, anger, frustration,helplessness and sadness.
Try to make sure you have a way of dealing with your own feelings
Find a good friend – they don’t have to understand self-harm, they just need to listen to you, hold your hand and offer moral support. Your child is going to need all the patience, understanding and support you can give, so you need to be strong.
- It’s not all about you
- Their actions are not intended to make you suffer.
– no matter how much it feels this way!
Your child is in distress and feeling desperate enough to cause himself physical harm.
Stop for a moment and try to imagine how that must feel.
Our children will be feeling ashamed and isolated by their difficulties.
The best support we can give is to reduce this shame and isolation by providing unconditional love and an open and honest relationship. We must allow our children freedom to express their feelings whatever these may be as this might be the key to their recovery.
Don’t ask your child to stop harming themselves ‘for you’. If they are trying to give up self- harm they must do so in their own time and for their own reasons.
- If they try to do it to make you happy it will not last or they may feel more pressure to hide it.
- It may also leave them feeling like you just want them to change; that they are not accepted or understood
- This may in turn lead to them feeling even more isolated and distressed.
- It could leave them feeling overwhelmed with their feelings and experiences and may even lead to suicidal feelings or actions.
But Remember, as we have said before , self-harm is often a way of coping and staying alive. ( not an attempt at suicide or a desire to end life).
People who self harm are more likely to commit suicide than the general public but their harm may be the one thing that keeps them going; we must not therefore take this away from them, encourage them to hide it, or stop for the wrong reasons.
It is really important to remember that self harm is VERY different to suicidal intent, but at times the two may be close. Someone who is suicidal feels as if they can’t take anymore and their only option is to end their life, whereas someone who self harms feels that they can’t take anymore (of whatever they’re feeling) and their only option is to harm themselves in order to stay alive.
If you tell them to STOP when they’re not ready, imagine what they could feel their only option is.
The most constructive way to deal with self harm is to stay calm, try not to be alarmed or show your fears.
There are many things that can help: your child will need the compassionate support of family and friends. She may also need structured therapy from a mental health professional. The most helpful treatment for people who self harm is any talking therapy that usually takes place over a number of months or years.
In the first instance you could tell your child that although you don’t understand why she does this you are there to listen to anything that is bothering her. Remember that she won’t necessarily know why she does what she does- this may be something you both learn later. For now time, unconditional love and a listening ear are what she needs most.
Your child will not want to give up self-harming until the root cause is established, which can take a lot of time, patience and love. Even after recovery there may be a slip now and then. Think about your own habits- do you sometimes fall back on them under stress ?
The main thing is to give them the space they need to be themselves and to get free on their own terms. Half the battle is uncovering the shame they feel and building up their resilience
MASH has produced many articles covering topics such as resilience, conflict, do’s and don’ts etc). For more information simply type a topic into the search box at the top of this page.
When your child is ready to break free of self-harm, there are many distraction therapies he can try. One of our MASH Mums has listed her ideas below and I hope you find them useful. ( you can find more using the search box)
Remember that mountains are conquered one small step at a time, so encourage your child to imagine a world where he doesn’t self harm, and take small steps each day to get there.
STACEY-LEE FLURRY ( MUM & BLOGGER)
I would also encourage the following which is what I have done with my daughter who self-cut for years and it helped her to express herself in new creative ways without harming herself.
1. Encourage them to use magic market (perm or washable) to write anywhere or whatever they want on their body in place of cutting. They will write words that are very deep, dark and scary at times, but it is a form of expressing what they can’t in other ways.
2. Encourage them to write their thoughts and feelings through musical lyrics, raps, poetry. It can be in any form. Ask them to share if they feel comfortable enough, with a close and trusted friend who also like creative works.
3. Give them a photography assignment. Have them take pictures of themselves or of object or words and allow them to go on a editing photography site such as picmonkey.com and see them use creativity with the editing to show another side of their thoughts and feelings and emotions of their daily struggle or hurt or pain.
4. Paint half of their room with black chalkboard paint. I did this along with a wall with white marker board. Give them chalk or markers (depending on what medium paint you used) and encourage them to draw pictures, write poetry or anything that speaks to them on an emotional level.
5. If child is a Christian, ask them to listen to 30 days of Christian music and then at the end of the 30 days, write out what spoke to them the most and what changes did they feel that spoke to them the most. My daughter loved rap, screamo, and rock that was on the dark side. By doing the 30 days, what she noticed the most was a peacefulness that she never experienced before along with a hope that she never thought she could have. It changed her life.
I hope and pray that some of these coping skills will minister to your teens. Even when it seems that they are finally out of the self-harm, be expected to have them fall back into it once in a while because for some, they have been using the coping skill of self-harm for a long time. My daughter has been set free from it for about 1.5 years with two small set-backs. But she continues to grow and mature and find new ways of coping whenever she hits a storm of uncertainty. God bless! Stacey x