Protect your child from self-harm

Talking about the self-harm can be difficult but starting a conversation about how to safely manage their emotions and making them aware of where and when to seek help can is a good starting point. See more advice below.

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Talking about self-harm with your child

As a parent it can be be quite upsetting if you suspect that your child is self-harming however, it’s important to stay calm and try to talk openly to them about it.

What to do if you think a child is self-harming

This is a difficult topic to broach with your child and needs to be dealt with sensitively if you’re concerned about their behaviour. Here are some tips to help your conversation:

Find out why

Talk together to try and understand what makes your child start to self-harm. Self-harm is usually a response to something else that is going on in a person’s life. You can work together to address the causes.

Be honest with yourself

It’s not unusual to feel hurt, devastated, shocked, angry, sad, frightened, guilty, responsible, helpless, or powerless. Consider seeing a counsellor or therapist for yourself if you are struggling to cope.

Avoid giving ultimatums

Ultimatums rarely work, and may well drive the behaviour underground, and you might not get any further chances to discuss the topic and really deal with it. Self-harm can be very addictive, and it is important that the decision to stop comes from the person who is self-harming.

Try to avoid taking control

Many people who self-harm feel it is an important way of having some control over their lives. Try to not to take it personally if your son or daughter cannot talk to you because you are too close.

Build their confidence and show you trust them

Give your child space. Show you trust them and build their confidence by resisting the temptation to monitor them too closely. Try and strike a balance between maintaining an awareness of their activities and their right to privacy.

Find out more

There are a growing number of books and websites that can help you understand self-harm. Giving yourself this knowledge will help you be understanding and supportive and show that you are making the effort to understand.

NHS video: Expert shares why talking about self-harm is important
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Get more advice from Mind: What can friends and family do to help?

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