Written by Olya Pavlishina, LMFT
As you may already know, an epidemic of self-harm is occurring among teens.
Adolescents and even preteens are engaging in self-injury in record numbers.
Over 10% of our youth are thought to have experimented with cutting or other forms of self-mutilation.
What should you look for?
Since adolescents usually make an effort to cover up their self-harming behaviors, it can be tricky to confirm that a problem exists.
Being observant is key to uncovering early signs of self-harm.
Here is what you are looking for:
1. An abnormal number of cuts/burns on the wrists, arms, legs, hips or stomach;
2. A habit of wearing of long sleeves and pants even in warm weather;
3. Razors or knives left in strange locations;
4. Your teen locked away for long periods of time in their bedroom or bathroom;
5. Frequent ‘accidents’ that cause physical injury;
6. Stories or actual evidence that your teenager’s friends are self-mutilating;
7. Reluctance to be part of a social circle or social event.
How should you respond?
• Take the problem seriously. Acknowledge that this behavior is a cry for help and not simply attention-seeking behavior.
• Approach your teen calmly and lovingly. Reacting angrily may push your teen away.
• Listen to your child if they are ready to talk. Respond to their concerns with understanding and compassion.
• Express your love and concern to your teen.
• Seek professional help.
Can family therapy help with self-harm?
Research shows the most effective way to help a teen move past self-injury is individual and family therapy with an experienced counselor.
It is important to ask questions of a potential therapist to discover their process and success with helping other teens.
It also means that you, too, have the opportunity to see your teen heal when you participate in family therapy sessions.
A good counselor assists in opening up family communication that so often becomes closed down when your child enters their teens.
Can self-harm behavior become a chronic problem?
Self-injury is a behavior that over time becomes habitual, chronic and repetitive.
Like any of us with a bad habit, most self-harmers have a hard time saying “no” to their behavior – even when they realize it is unhealthy.
Once an adolescent is in the cycle of self-injury, the smallest things might trigger self-harm behaviors.
The best time to take action is now!
Connect with one of our teen counselors today!
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