Cutting is the act of using a sharp object like a razorblade, knife, or scissors to make marks, cuts, or scratches on one’s own body — is a form of self-injury.
It can be hard to understand why anyone would hurt himself or herself on purpose. Learning that your own teen is doing it can leave you feeling shocked and upset — and not sure what to do or how to help.
For most, cutting is an attempt to interrupt strong emotions and pressures that seem impossible to tolerate. It can be related to broader emotional issues that need attention. Most of the time, cutting is not a suicide attempt.
Cutting affects many teens and preteens — even beyond those who self-injure. Many teens worry about a friend who cuts or face pressure from peers to try cutting as a daring thing to do.
In many cases, cutting and the emotions that go along with it are something teens struggle with alone. But because of growing awareness, more teens can get the help they need.
Parents can help teens who cut — and the earlier, the better. Cutting can be habit-forming, and sadly, many people underestimate the risks of getting seriously sick or hurt that go along with it.
What Parents Can Do
If your teen is cutting, there ways to help. By coping with your own feelings, learning about cutting, finding professional help, and just being there to love and believe in your teen, you’ll provide the calm, steady support that he or she needs.
Accept your own emotions. If you know or suspect that your teen is cutting, it’s natural to feel a whole range of emotions. You might feel shocked, angry, sad, disappointed, confused, or scared. You might feel hurt that your teen didn’t come to you for help or feel guilty that you didn’t know about it. All of these emotions are completely understandable. But it’s not your fault, and it’s not your teen’s fault.
Take time to identify your own feelings and find a way to express them. This might mean having a good cry, talking with a friend, or going for a walk to let off steam or quietly reflect. If you feel overwhelmed, talking with a therapist can help you sort things through and gain some perspective so that you can provide the support your teen needs.
Learn all you can about cutting. Find out all you can about cutting, why teens do it, and what can help them stop. Some teens cut because of peer pressure — and once they start, they can’t easily stop. Other teens feel pressure to be perfect and struggle to accept failures or mistakes. And still others contend with powerful moods like anger, sadness, worthlessness, and despair that feel hard to control or too heavy to bear. Cutting is sometimes the result of trauma and painful experiences that no one knows about.
It can hurt to think that your child might experience any of these feelings. As difficult as it is, try to keep in mind that exploring what pressures prompt your teen to self-injure is a necessary step toward healing.
SOURCE: Kids Health Org.