If your child is self-harming, then talking about it with them might seem scary – but it doesn’t have to be! Here are a few simple steps for starting the conversation with them about self-harm.
1. Pick an appropriate time
Find a time and place that’s right for both you and them. Somewhere you won’t be distracted, and a time you can give them your full attention for as long as it takes. Talking about self-harm can be a big deal for your child, so make sure you show them you’re interested in what they say. Because self-harm is such a personal thing, it’s best to find somewhere private and comfortable to talk to your child.
Talking while having a cup of tea might help, because it feels more like a friendly conversation, instead of an intense one. Try to avoid talking while you’re doing something like cooking or driving, so you’re able to fully engage with the conversation.
2. Check they’re OK to talk
Because talking about self-harm can be such a big thing for your child, remember that they might not be ready to talk about it right now.
If they’re not ready to talk, respect their decision – don’t force them to talk if they don’t feel able to. Let them know that you care about them, and you’re here for them to talk when they’re ready.
It might be that they’d prefer to talk to someone else, like a friend, another family member, or a teacher. Don’t be offended by this – it’s their issue that they’re dealing with, and need to feel comfortable to talk about it.
By helping them find someone to talk to that they trust, you’ll be helping loads.
They might find it easier to write down how they’re feeling, rather than talking about it out loud. Perhaps suggest some other ways they can let you know what they’re going through – maybe something creative like drawing what’s going on with them, or maybe something simple like writing you a letter.
3. Think about your opening line
It doesn’t need to be anything intense – you’re their parent/carer, and you want to make sure that you’re helping your child as much as possible, because you care about them. A few things you could say are:
- “Is it ok if we talk for a minute?”
- “I’ve noticed you haven’t been yourself lately – is everything ok?”
- “How are you feeling today?”
- “Are you coping with everything ok at the moment?”
Try to remember to stay calm when you’re approaching them. It can be upsetting to see your child hurting themselves – but being angry or overly emotional when talking to them can start the conversation off on a bad note.
4. Ask for 3 words to describe their life
Asking your child for 3 words that describe their life or situation is a good way to get them talking.
It also lets you figure out what areas of their life are causing them to feel the need to hurt themselves.
For example, if they say words about anger, it’s a chance for you to ask them about what’s making them angry, and how they’re dealing with it. It’s also a way to help them find the right support. If they’re talking about anger, you can work with them to find positive ways of releasing their anger and expressing themselves. You can find lots of ideas of positive alternatives to self-harm at hatw.co.uk/things-to-try
This article was written by Heads Above The Waves – a non-profit organisation who raise awareness of self-harm among young people, and promote creative ways of dealing with the bad days. Visit their website for advice, information and inspiration.
If you’d like to find out about services available to you and your child in your areas or would like to chat about family matters in general, get in touch with the FamilyPoint Cymru helpline.
- Phone: 0300 222 57 57
- Text: 07860 052 905
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We are open 6pm – 10pm Monday to Thursday and 10am – 2pm Friday & Saturday.