Gold, pink, and coral

I knew I needed to get real about teens and self harm the moment I saw the cuts on my sons arm. It was an accident- I turned around just as my son reached out to open the refrigerator. What I saw in that brief moment looked like something out of a horror movie! Multiple slashes mangled the skin starting at his wrist and crawling up the length of this inner forearm. Some of the cuts were fresh, some scabbed over, and the scars were numerous.

I knew my son had been cutting for a while…And I had been clueless. Nor did I know how to address it…

DON’T PANIC IF YOU DISCOVER YOUR TEEN SELF HARMING

If you’re reading this article, you’ve likely discovered your own teen’s self-inflicted injuries and you may be wondering how in the WORLD to address the issue of teen self harm. At least, you will be.

Right now, I’m betting it’s impossible to focus on how to effectively confront your teen about the dangers of self harming! If you’re anything like me, you’re terrified, baffled, and scrambling to remember conversations, facial expressions, behavior changes – anything to help you understand! What caused this? When did it start? What could you have done to stop it? You’re angry, at yourself mostly, but also at your kid. I mean, how could they be this stupid? What are they thinking?- thoughts immediately followed by guilt, sadness…and and an overwhelming sense of fear. 

In one paralyzing moment, all the statistics and news stories on rising teen suicides and accidents involving self injury flood your mind – and panic sets in. You understand with frightening clarity that your worst fears are racing toward reality, and you have no idea how to stop it. 

I’ve been in your shoes mama. This is my story. I know exactly how terrified you are!

What I want to say to you first and foremost, is don’t panic! Take a deep breath. I am here for you, this mother lovin’ community is here for you, and neither you or your teen have to go through this alone!

Kneeling woman on the beach  throws her hands in the air in submission to what she can't change. Typography reads: Relax. Don't stress out. You are not alone.

FIND SUPPORT FOR PARENTS OF SELF HARMING TEENS

Adolescent self harm is a very real and very widespread problem that we don’t like to talk about. Not only does the discussion exposing our teens self injurious behavior embarrass them, but let’s be honest – it’s not really the kind of tea we want to spill at book club or while shopping with our girlfriends either! It makes us look like bad parents. It gives the impression that our kid is crazy AF. And it makes it real easy for friends, teachers – really anyone who knows the truth, to point fingers; possibly leading to DCF investigations or forced inpatient psychiatric programs that sometimes do more harm than good. 

Am I wrong? 

No. I’m not. Wanna know why? Cuz I’ve been through this shit. I know exactly what’s up. 

I know what it’s like to feel like you’re all alone on a burning island trying to rescue your kid with nothing but a life-raft and a prayer – and a whole damn ocean to cross! And then there’s the sharks… 

From experience mamas, it is MUCH easier to cross that ocean in a boat than your puny ass life-raft. The bigger the better… (that’s what she said 😂).

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(FYI, it’s ok to laugh, even if your kid is going through something right now. 😊 As a matter of fact, laughing is probably the BEST way to keep a clear head these days! So for your sanity, as well as my own, I’m committed to randomly cracking inappropriate and off-tone jokes (like the “she said” joke and following gif above) throughout my posts – regardless of how serious the subject may be 😉)

COMMUNITY RESOURCES FOR SELF HARM, ADOLESCENTS, AND PARENTS

Knowing where to find community resources for you and your teen is important, especially when cutting or other forms of self harm are involved. I know – no one wants to go to those support groups; especially me and my already socially awkward self! But as uncomfortable as it may seem, there’s healing and relief in sharing war stories and strategizing with other parents who know exactly what your going through!

If you’re not sure where to find such support groups, start by doing a simple Google search: local support groups {your city}. Alternatively, you can start with the online support groups; both Inspire and NAMI have local chapters and provide information and resources for in person support groups (and more) at the local level.

POSH: Parents of Self Harmers Support Group – Online support group and community on Facebook

Mental Health America – Inspire – Online Mental Health Support Group and Community

NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Health – Online Discussion Groups

One of my goals is to create an online community here for neurodivergent moms and/or moms with neurodivergent kids…if you’d be interested in joining discussion forums and online support groups centered around mental health, education, parenting, and advocacy in neurodiverse families, sign up with your email here.

STAYING CONNECTED TO FRIENDS, FAMILY AND OTHER CLOSE SUPPORT

For parents of self harming teens, it is crucial to stay connected to friends, family and other close, supportive relationships. It’s all too easy to retreat from the people and activities that will be your life-line during this time. Be intentional about maintaining fortifying relationships; try to keep appointments, participate in healthy activities, and practice self care, no matter how much you don’t feel like it in the moment. I’m not saying to drown yourself in busyness or keep a crazy schedule that doesn’t put your families needs first. But for pete’s sake, go to your yoga class. Get coffee with your bestie one morning. Have that family dinner your mom is planning. Keep your counseling appointment. Go to your place of worship, or maybe try one.

Maintaining supportive relationships and healthy habits will help you retain the clarity, strength, and hopefully, some peace of mind as you see your child through this difficult time.

Cuz that’s the first thing you need to get straight if you’re going to get yourself and your child through this. Find a bigger boat! Let your village help you! Have a glass of wine. Vent, cry, pray, scream, run, hit something (not a wall or a person silly – go kickboxing! Yeesh), do whatever you gotta do. Just do it in your boat, with your tribe.  You need to get support before you can give support. Just trust me!

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Not all of us have a strong support system to turn to. In fact, mental and behavioral health issues directly correlate with the level of support a family has. Those of us lacking the most support are usually the ones who need it the most. But don’t resign yourself to going it alone just yet… If you don’t have a dependable network of family and friends or have someone you feel comfortable talking to or asking for help; let me just remind you that that’s why I created this site, and I am here for you!

Here is your boat. This can be your village. We are your mother lovin’ community. I got you fam 😘 

EDUCATE YOURSELF ON TEEN SELF HARM

There is such a negative stigma and so much misinformation out there about teens and self harm. While the term “self harm” tends to conjure images of cutting, the reality is, cutting is only one form of self injury typically used by adolescents. It’s common for teens who cut to do so on their inner forearm, which not only looks scary, but triggers concerns regarding serious injury and suicide.

KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FACT AND MYTH REGARDING TEENS AND SELF HARM

These are valid concerns, however, for your own sanity, it’s important to know what’s true and what’s myth about teens and self harm. The number one misconception about any type of self harm is that it is a suicide attempt or that it automatically indicates suicidal tendencies. In reality most, teens who self harm are NOT suicidal. Self-harm in any form is simply a way to release pent up emotions. Usually, it is a coping response to stress or provides a way to feel when your teen struggles to process or regulate their emotions.  

Read more about Teen Self Harm: Facts Vs. Myth.

RECOGNIZE THE VARIOUS FORMS OF SELF HARM IN ADOLESCENTS

Most of us think of cutting when we think of a teen self harming, but cutting is only one form of self harm. Recognizing the various methods used by adolescents to self injure is crucial to early intervention and the development of alternative, healthy coping strategies. Here are a few methods of self inflicted violence commonly used by teens:

  • Cutting (with or without skin penetration or bleeding)
  • Scratching
  • Burning
  • Engraving
  • Hair pulling
  • Piercing or pricking
  • Inducing friction burns
  • Biting
  • Self striking or head banging

Learn more about Common Forms of Teen Self Harm.

UNDERSTAND WHAT LEADS TO SELF HARM IN TEENS

Understanding why self mutilation is even a thing is the best way to dismantle your current state of panic. So I want you to take a couple minutes to understand what is going on in your teens head when they cut, and why it ends up becoming the bad habit that freaks us out. The best thing you can do is to gain as much knowledge, understanding and humility as possible. Show your teen that you are willing to treat them as an equal and genuinely try to understand their pain, not control it.  That’s the only way you’re going to have a voice in their choices going forward. The best way to do that is to educate yourself on the issues your teen is going through. Including, but not limited to cutting and other forms of self harm in teens.

Here are some great resources I strongly encourage you to visit for more information

OPEN A DIALOGUE ABOUT SELF HARM WITH YOUR TEEN

The second, and probably the most difficult part of addressing teen self harm, is opening a dialogue. If your teen is anything like mine, this can be a challenge in and of itself! The teen years are where your kids – who you’ve fed, clothed, changed diapers, kissed boo-boos for, stayed up with all night during sickness and nightmares; that kid now thinks you suck and exist solely to ruin their life.🙄

They are exploring their independence, which in part means pulling away from us, and relying heavily on their social interactions and relationships to determine who they want to be. It sucks for us on this side, but remember, we went through it too, and it’s totally natural – and necessary for their development, so don’t get too hung up on this! 

LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS WHEN TALKING TO Your Teen About Self Harm

I know that sounds way gloomy. But striking up a conversation about your teens self harming behavior can be difficult for even the most chill parents. Regardless of how cool, easy-going, and understanding you think you are, trust me, you’re not – at least not in your kids eyes. To them, you are the person who understands them the least. I know, I know…it’s ridiculous! But it’s how they feel. They might not open up to you right away. They might never open up to you.  Just keep that in mind, and don’t let it keep you from trying again! 

To start, sit down with your teen in a quiet place where you can both speak and listen without any outside distractions. If your house is as chaotic as mine, a car ride to an obscure and far away ice cream or coffee shop gives you plenty of time to open a dialogue. Plus, you can still get back in their good graces with caffeine and sugar should you fuck it up somehow. 

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#Strategy. 😉

Once you’ve lured them to a calm, quiet place where they can’t escape (just kidding…kind of), CALMLY acknowledge that you know about the cutting. Give it a minute. Just one. Otherwise you’ll lose ‘em. You could be met with any number of reactions here. Anger, the sigh, an eye roll, accusations of invading their privacy, embarrassment, staring off into space trying to shut you out, yelling, crying, smirking…just be prepared. 

SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LISTEN TO YOUR TEEN

The important thing here is let your teen know that you are here to LISTEN. So take another deep breath, and don’t panic. Don’t yell, don’t argue, don’t let any feelings of anger or frustration take the wheel. No matter HOW they respond, let them know that you LOVE them more than anything, and that you are sorry for all the craziness they have to deal with everyday.

Don’t ramble on like an idiot, but do make sure they realize that you are NOT here to judge, punish, or take anything from them. And mean it! Let them know you want to understand, and that you are here to listen. 

Then LISTEN!!!

This is not going to be easy! You will want to discredit their feelings. You will want to give them advice. You will want to downplay their pain, their emotions, their circumstances, and their fears.

DON’T DO IT.

Seriously. Shut the fuck up. If you have to sew your lips shut and wrap a whole roll of duct tape around your mouth, so be it. Kidding! But in all seriousness? Just keep your advice and your opinions to yourself, and LISTEN.

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If your teen seems fairly open to talking to you, you can try to sneak in a couple of open-ended questions. I know! I hate when people say that too, but I don’t know how else to say it so, whatever. 🤷🏻‍♀️ By open ended questions, I just mean ask them questions that aren’t specific and can’t be answered with “yes” or “no”, or any other one word answer. Cuz given the opportunity, they will one word you all fucking day long. 

Ask your teen what they are feeling when they want to hurt themselves. See if they will tell you about their day the last time they cut or engaged in self harm. Try to get a feel for their emotional response to topics like school, friends, and family. The more specific the reaction, the better. An ever so slight eye roll when speaking about their math teacher or looking down when their best friend is mentioned – these are the little things you want to pay attention to! This is where your investigative skills and mom intuition need to play power couple and work their magic. Your teen is unlikely to tell you exactly what’s going on. Heck, they may not even understand what’s triggering these impulses themselves, let alone be able to verbalize those feelings! So it’s up to YOU to decode the body language and read between the lines.

Feel the vibe and follow your instincts. You were born for this mama. This is your superpower! You got this ✊✊🏻✊🏼✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿

ADMIT TO YOUR MISTAKES

Woman with determined facial expression. Text quote, It's ok to be wrong. It's Ok to be imperfect. It's ok to make mistake. What's not ok, is having too much pride to admit it.

Remember What It Feels Like to be a Teen

What I think is super important to understand is that 9 times out of 10, we are part of the problem. Sometimes we’re not part of the problem – we’re the whole problem. That hurts like a bitch, I know. But try to remember what it felt like to be a teen. Remember how it felt to become your own person and still be treated like an incompetent child. Try to remember being frustrated with a situation that felt so unbearably life crushing – only to have your parents brush off your feelings – or worse, make you feel less than human for having them. 😳 Try to remember those little moments where you realized your parents were not just imperfect people; they were, at times, genuinely terrible human beings that you wanted to be NOTHING like. 

Your teens are coming to those same realizations. You are not perfect. Sometimes you suck. And they have never questioned your motives or your ideals until this point in their life. They’re seeing how the world outside their little bubble works, forming their own opinions and coming to their own conclusions on the nuances of this life. And while we as adults tend to come to the realization over time that the world is a terrible place that we want to change for the better, to a teen, the world is exciting, diverse, full of new places, ideas, views, and lifestyles that they want to experience.

Real LIF

(a dumb one, but hear me out)

I remember the first time I realized other families had different dinnertime rituals then mine. I’d spent the night at a friends house, and I was amazed – her parents let her just come out and eat dinner whenever she felt like it! Um, WHAT?!! Her mom would cook dinner and set everything out on an island like a buffet. My friend and her brother could come and go, make conversation with her parents or not, make a plate or just nibble, take food to their room, come back for seconds and go right back to their bedroom – without being questioned or harassed!

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This was an extremely different experience than dinners at my house, where we were forced to have dinner at the table as a family (the actual horror). It felt forced; disliking the meal just wasn’t allowed, and you never knew if a comment or slight movement of the head would offend another family member and birth an evening of awkward silence and brooding.

I wished with every fiber of my being that I could take a plate of food and retreat to the solace of my bedroom! To eat in quiet peace, privacy, and with the freedom to move and speak as I pleased? Heaven. Actual Heaven.

I made the grave mistake of trying to describe my friends cool dinner time habits to my mother – she was FURIOUS! I was so excited at the discovery of something new and different, and saw it as something that could be valuable in our home. But when I suggested we try it, instead of listening to me, or even offering to discuss pros and cons, she immediately took my suggestion as a personal attack on her.

The foundation of our core self may be a blend of genetic factors, moral values, belief systems, and cultural customs established by our parents during childhood. But who we become – the structure built on that foundation is uniquely engineered from various ideas, experience, and perspective discovered from sheer curiosity and outside influences.

– AJ The Chaos Magnet

The teenage mind actually needs social interaction with their peers and exposure to diversity in lifestyles to develop properly. So when your kid doesn’t value your opinion or your advice, or complains about the home life you’ve bent over backwards to give them, don’t get angry with them. It’s not personal! I mean, it is, but it’s not because they don’t love you. It’s because they are learning to see the world through their own eyes, instead of through yours

And that’s a good thing! But as the gap widens in our differing worldviews, our teens feel like we don’t hear them or understand them. Unfortunately, they often perceive this as we don’t care or worse…we disapprove of them.

I realize now that my mother was frustrated because so much love and care went into prioritizing that time to enjoy a home cooked meal around the dinner table every night as a family. And I not only rejected it, but placed a higher value on some other family’s custom; which of course she perceived as being carried out in direct opposition to her priorities – with minimal effort and lack of family engagement. Now I get how it might feel like a slap in the face. But at the time, I only understood 2 things: that my ideas weren’t important or worth listening to and that I was a prisoner to my parents values and opinions.

Those 2 concepts were reiterated to me in almost every interaction I had my parents. And those same 2 concepts drove me make a lot of bad choices, one of which was self harm.

In hindsight, I was a spoiled brat who didn’t appreciate how much my parents did for me. But it didn’t matter whether my parents were right or wrong. What mattered was that they refused to place importance on listening to me, and the message they communicated to me, intentionally or not, was that my ideals were not just worthless, in their eyes, but wrong. Despised even. And that meant I must also be worthless and they must also despise me.

Teen logic. 🤔🤷🏻‍♀️

My point? It’s not to scare you, I promise!

My intent is to PREPARE you for the fact that you might unintentionally be one of the causes of your teen’s impulse to self harm. And to help you understand that the only way to turn that corner is to start listening! See the world through their eyes. Validate their feelings. Value their opinions and ideas. Let them tell you why they believe that concept or want to be a part of that movement or change that rule.

And whether you agree or not, consider it!

Do this, and your teen will not only be much more likely to open up to you, but to value your opinions and advice right back. 🙂

RESPECT YOUR LIMITATIONS AS A PARENT

Much more likely to open up to you” is definitely not a guarantee! If your teen is self harming, and won’t let you in, make sure they know it’s ok, and try to push your hurt feelings to the side. They need to know you are on their side, even if it means you are not part of that equation. They need to see you are not in this for you, you are in it for them, and when they see that, you’re on your way to building trust.

Seek Professional Help FOR YOUR TEENS SELF INJURIOUS BEHAVIOR

But if it’s not you, your teen still needs someone they can trust who will give them safe guidance as they try to overcome. I’m the coolest mom ever 🙄 and while my kids do tell me A LOT – like stuff I really don’t want to know, they don’t feel comfortable telling me everything. My son has built an incredible relationship with his therapist, which I thank God for, because with ASD, it’s not easy for him to make those emotional connections. If it weren’t for his awesome team of mental health professionals, including his therapist, mentors, and case workers, I genuinely believe that my son would not be here today.

Is it because I’m a bad mom? Nope. I mean, I do basically suck at parenting, but listen, we all do. Yes, even you! What’s true is true. Sorry 🤷‍♀️

It’s because even though I used to cut myself, even though I have been through tons of shit and have gained tons of perspective on lots of circumstances, even though I try to be as chill and non-judgmental as possible, even though I’ve unofficially fostered dozens of kids who’ve gone through this and talk to kids in similar circumstances all freakin’ day in the middle school office where I work…I’m just NOT a mental health professional! 

Neither are you mama…AND THAT’S OK!!!!

Remember, we are NOT superheroes! We are human beings. Amazing, sexy, badass human beings, but human beings nonetheless, and faulty AF. Part of parenting is knowing when you are out of your league…

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Find the Right Professional Help

Finding the right professional help is just as important as recognizing you need it. This is, again, going to be a challenge, so be prepared. I’ve been lucky with my son to have mostly great experiences with his various teams of counselors, therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists. While it took a few tries to find a therapist my son clicked with, I can honestly say that taking the time to find the right provider was more than worth it.

KNOW WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A MENTAL HEALTH PROVIDER

It’s easy to be passive about mental health services; we think, Well, they have the degree, and no one goes into this field without a passion for it. Not only is that statement not true, but passion and education are only a part of what finding a provider who can get through to your teen – effectively! Knowing what to look for in a provider can save months – even years of wasted time receiving ineffective treatment.

Of course, finding the right therapist for a teen who is self harming isn’t an exact science. But YOU know your kid. You know how she’ll respond to certain buttons being pushed. You know the communication styles that just don’t work for her.

Just pay attention, and follow your instincts! Start by looking for a mental health care professional who really listens to your teen.

See how this is becoming a theme here?

autism products

GET YOUR TEENS INPUT ON MENTAL HEALTH PROVIDERS

In addition to your own assessment, ask your teen what they think, and again…listen! If they feel a connection with someone but you’re still a bit unsure, give it another shot. Let your teen know you value their insight on who will be involved in prying into their deepest darkest thoughts and emotions. It’s just the right thing to do. 

For help finding the mental health professional for your teen, start here: 

Finding the Right Therapist for your Teenager: Where to Start

Psychology Today: Find an Adolescent Therapist

Looking for more guidance on choosing the right mental health provider for your child? I got you fam! 😉

TEEN SELF HARM REQUIRES PARENTING OUTSIDE THE BOX

Not all teens are going to respond well to being told they need counselling or therapy. In fact, most will fight you on it tooth and nail! Letting them have a voice in deciding who they see is definitely a place to start. But what if they shrug off every suggestion and flat out refuse to speak to anyone, including you?

Here’s where you need to get a little creative, and dare I say, sneaky? 

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REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: WHEN A SELF HARMING TEEN REFUSES THERAPY

A few months ago, I discovered that my 14 year old daughter had “tried” cutting to see what the hype was. While I’d already gone through a self harming stage with my son, I was almost more worried about this behavior coming from her. She’s far less verbal about her pain than my son; her resilience to any form of therapy and the way she shuts down any display of emotion or expression of pain from herself has me worried. She is like a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode!

Her struggles stem from a debilitating combination of Anxiety, ADHD, and PTSD until just recently, when she was also diagnosed with Dysfunctional Mood Dysregulation Disorder. You’d never know it, though. She is bright, bubbly, the ring leader of multiple friend groups, and really, the most fun person to be around! But behind the mask is a hurt, frustrated, scared, angry little girl screaming on on the inside and feeling like no one can hear her. She’s mastered hiding her pain so well, it’s genuinely terrifying to imagine where using self harm to alleviate that pain will lead to…

She started therapy 7 years ago. After trying over 15 different therapists and counselors, she has yet to make any kind of connection with even one mental health professional. It’s another arena in which I’m waaaay out of my league, and I know it.

So we’ve had to improvise. Here’s some tactics that we’ve had a bit of success with…

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TRUSTED CONNECTIONS YOUR TEEN ALREADY HAS

First, see who might be on your team that already has a relationship with your teen. Who are they close to that may can be a resource and/or a positive influence? 

RECRUIT HELP FOR YOUR SELF HARMING TEEN FROM ANOTHER TRUSTED ADULT

Teens often have a somewhat close relationship with another adult – one that’s not you! A grandmother, an aunt, step-mom, a friend’s mom, a neighbor, the lady in the school office (like me!). See if they can shed any light on the situation. Don’t feel the least bit weird about reaching out to this person, even if you’re not close with them. In my experience, trusted adults in your teens world are more than willing help out!

SET ASIDE PERSONAL DISAGREEMENTS WITH YOUR TEENS CONFIDANT

Set aside any personal disagreements you may have with your teens confidant – right now! Kids have a way of aligning themselves with a person you have some kind of beef with. It’s just the way it goes. 🤷🏻‍♀️ For now, forget the beef and focus on collaborating with them for the best interest of your child! They may have insight on a situation or pain point your teen is dealing with that you wouldn’t know about otherwise. A different communication style than yours may be a crucial component in shifting your teen’s mindset as well.

THE SAFETY OF A SELF HARMING TEEN COMES FIRST

If you’re thinking by asking for intel and guidance from your teens confidant feels a little like betrayal, don’t. It’s not. They’ve earned your teens trust, yes, and respecting that is important. But when it comes to their safety, don’t let your teen manipulate you or the confidant into feeling guilty for sharing information that could save their life. If they are mad, oh fucking well! One day they’ll thank you both…so they say.

But what if your teen has withdrawn from those relationships? It’s more than possible, in fact it’s highly likely that a teen who is self-harming has withdrawn in some capacity from positive relationships. If this is the case, you should still reach out to those connections. Whether or not your teen is engaging with them, they are still a person who has earned their trust. They will still have some influence in guiding your teen in the right direction. I would encourage you to surround your teen with as MANY voices of truth as possible. That one grounded voice of reason may be exactly the one they need to hear.

Which leads me to the next strategy that worked for us…

ENLIST FRIENDS OF A SELF HARMING TEEN TO HELP

A teenage girl follows her friend to the end of a dock to talk to her about self harm.
Photo by Yanapi Senaud on Unsplash

Use good judgement and follow your instincts here, but your teen may have a friend or two who have their heads on fairly straight and tend to be a positive influence on your child. Note, this is not the time to seek perfection. Good kids are still kids, and they still do bad and incredibly dumb shit. But consider the girl who, sure, may vape with your daughter before school and has a forbidden boyfriend she hides by using Roblox; but this friend has also been the voice of reason in more than one instant where your daughter has considered doing something absolutely stupid.

Like sneaking out to meet a 19 year old “friend” from SnapChat who sells weed to all the neighborhood kids and is dating a 14 year old….true example. 🙄

Your teens more logical friends can be an ally in serious situations like this. They might already know about the self-harming behavior, and may be able to influence your teen to talk to someone – including them! Don’t discount the powerful influence your teens friends have on them.. Or the value of crying out all your business with a trusted friend. That shit can work miracles. Continue to encourage professional help, but if they’re talking to someone, take the win!

Then again, this friend may be clueless to the situation. Still, they probably know more about your teens world than you do, so do a little digging; see if they will share anything useful. IF you try to utilize a friend of your teen, try to remain objective! This is not the time to freak out about what you may learn…

Depending on your relationship with the friend and your comfort level with speaking directly to a teenager, you might feel better about reaching out to the friend’s parents first. Again, collaboration is essential. If they are reasonable people and don’t immediately label you and your kid as unfit to associate with, they may be one more voice of truth and reason, one more listening ear – one more positive relationship in your teen’s life. 

SEEK OUT COMMUNITY RESOURCES FOR ADOLESCENTS

Teens in self harm group therapy join hands covered in red paint during an exercise
Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

Another avenue to consider? Community services! Look for a mentoring program or support group for adolescents who self harm in your area. These can be lame organizations doing the bare minimum to maintain their non-profit tax status BUT, you might also strike gold here. A young college student gaining hours for their degree in social work might click with your kid and be a great outlet. Just do your research, be sure to meet with the mentor in person before handing your kid off, and pay attention to their interactions where possible. And whatever you do, don’t nag your kid about what they do or say during their time together. 

Also consider helping your teen look for a job or a place to volunteer. If your kid is uninterested or is withdrawing from clubs, sports or other activities they once enjoyed, the incentive of a little spending cash or (if you’re lucky) getting any required volunteer hours for school out of the way might lead to new friendships, new mentors, and new interests. This can be good or bad, but if they’re working, they’re not sitting at home, in their head, and cutting. Take your wins where you can, and let go of the things you have no control over! 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Remember to take a deep breath now and then. Don’t panic! You are on the right track! You are not in this alone, and I hope you will reach out to me here at Mother Lovin’ Chaos if you start to doubt that. 

Continue to seek information and support. Build trust with your teen by giving them the freedom to be honest about their feelings and circumstances. Don’t take any anger directed at you personally; try to remember what it was like to be a teenKnow your limits, and remember you are a badass mom, but not a superhero. There is no shame in seeking professional help for your teen, especially when you are dealing with issues you are not trained or equipped to navigate on your own. Do your research when looking for counselors and other mental health professionals, and fact check anything that doesn’t sit right with you! If you find yourself stuck and your teen isn’t responding to any intervention, don’t be afraid to parent outside the box. If you’re unsure how to proceed, again, there is no shame in seeking help.   

Treat Your Teen Like The Adult They Are Becoming

But the single most important thing I hope you take away from this article is the importance of LISTENING. Let go of what you can’t control. Face the fact that your teen is becoming an adult and will not respond to being treated as anything less going forward. Treat your teen the same way you would treat a friend who reached out to you in a time of need. You wouldn’t make demands and invade her privacy or force her to talk to some random creepy stranger about the vulnerable feelings she is trusting you with. Would you? 

I don’t think so. I think you would let her cry, vent and pour out her soul over a hot cup of tea while you listen. I think you would save your advice and opinions on her actions until she asked for them. And I think you would respect her space and privacy as she dealt with her feelings while still checking in and letting her know you are available for a cry sesh or retail therapy or to binge on ice cream and cookies while watching sad movies -anytime she wants. And those actions would make you a pretty great, uber supportive friend!

No, you’re not your kid’s friend. But you are also not their keeper. Your child is not a child anymore. Guide, protect, and encourage your teen as they make choices and experience the consequences, good or bad. They may think they’re grown, but they DO still need you. Now they just need you differently. Show them you take them seriously and treat their experiences and emotions with the same validity you would for your peers. Try to respect their space and sympathize with their pain (and their reactions to it) the way you would for a friend. 

But most of all, they just need you to listen.  

You got this mama! And I got you 🥰 so don’t hesitate to reach out!


Teen Self Harm Awareness Poster; Never Underestimate the Power of Listening


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