5 Ways Parents Can Address Self-Harm With Their Child

It can be intimidating and scary for parents to address self-harm with their child. So how does a parent address such a sensitive topic and, at the same time, provide the support and protection they need during this difficult time?

Here, I’m going to talk about 5 ways parents can address self-harm with their child.

1. Do Not Panic


First, as hard as this may be, DO NOT Panic. Your child needs to have a safe space to be heard and listened to before the next steps for how to proceed can be arranged.

If you need your own support and direction to navigate through this process don’t hesitate to find a professional guide or even a confidant outside the family to process with. Practice your own self-care and remember to breathe!


2. Establish Safety & Problem Solve


Second, establish safety and problem solve. Once you have the trust of your child in helping them through this rather than working against them, begin to problem solve with them on steps to take to help keep them safe and break the self-harm cycle.

Seek medical care if needed and make a trip to the pediatrician to assess for mental health issues.

Begin to devise a safety plan which may include removing razors from possession, or them being willing to request their use going forward or shaving together, for example. This helps to have a level of accountability and a support partner in you as the parent.


3. Don’t Police Them


Third, DO NOT police them. Remember they are hurting and in pain. Policing them can cause further push to hide the self-harm and actually work in the opposite direction.

Shaming or guilting for compliance actually has negative effects so use a collaborative approach in this process. Ensure your child knows they can come to you if struggling to talk rather than self-harming.


4. Seek Out a Therapist


Fourth, seek out a therapist to help you both in navigating through this. When choosing a professional, allow your child to also help in the process so they can find someone they may feel comfortable with and actually work with versus feeling that it is being forced.

The rapport you both establish with this provider is one of the most important factors for success in any therapeutic relationship.

Reach out to the school for resources if needed and for immediate support utilize the guidance counselor until you can agree on an outside professional support.


5. Increase 1-on-1 Time with Your Child


Finally, increase your time spent with your child one-on-one and/or involve your child in extracurricular activities of their choice to strengthen connection, community support, and increase confidence.

This will also serve to limit time alone for self-harm practices and can help to reduce symptoms of depression.

Consider the impact of social settings when making these plans as your child may choose more solo group activities, over team sports activities. That is ok, as long as they are doing something positive and encouraging for their growth and development beyond the present difficulties.


In conclusion, it can be very scary and overwhelming to discover that your child has engaged in self-harm and it’s even more important to have support and direction in how to respond and support.

It’s also important to note that early incidents of self-harm increase the risks of suicide attempts in the future so it is important to intervene early on as underlying mental health may be developing.

If you or your child needs extra support in dealing with this serious and difficult topic, please reach out to us today and schedule an appointment.