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7 Steps to Help a Child Who Is Cutting

May 31st, 2017     By Pat Thomas | Boys Town Nebraska Family Helpline

Kids and Teens in Crisis, Self-Injury

This article was originally published on

When a parent discovers their child has been self-harming, their natural response can be panic.

Rather than trying to imagine what they are thinking, focus on the behavior and what you can see, hear or measure. It is important to remember the following steps if you find out that your child is cutting.

Try using these types of phrases:

• “I see a cut on your arm; let me take a look at that.”

• “I saw you made a reference to harming yourself in at text. That concerns me and I need to check you to see if you have marks.”

• “I found one of my paring knives under your mattress when I was changing sheets. We need to talk about this.”

Ask them why they are harming themselves. Seldom do we hear they are cutting to end their life. However, it is important to ask.

We hear from kids that they do it because their friends are doing it. Or they do it to relieve emotional pain and pressures. Sometimes they feel numb and it makes them feel something, which is better than feeling nothing.

Let them know you are going to help them figure out why they feel the need to cut. And that you will also help them develop some other ways to deal with those feelings that are healthy and not harmful.

Some healthy ways to deal with these feelings include journaling, talking to someone, praying and exercising.

Other ways to help your child:

• Keep them close to ensure their safety and help them resist the urge to self-harm.

• Keep them engaged and interacting with the family. Don’t allow them to isolate themselves.

• Remove any and all sharp objects from around your home that could be used for cutting. Secure sharp objects where they are not easily accessed. Check your child’s room, back pack, pockets and anywhere else they may have placed a sharp object that can be used. Again, let them know you are doing this to better ensure their safety.

• Schedule an appointment for your child with a mental health professional. Let your child know this is serious and you are planning to do everything in your power to help them better handle the difficult issues life presents.

• Closely monitor your child and all electronic communication they have with others. If they are unhappy with this, again, let them know you will go to any length to protect them and keep them safe, and that this is one way you know is important.

• Have a plan. Take action and don’t panic. Parenting continually challenges us, so be prepared to face that challenge.

You don’t have to do this alone. Contact a mental health professional or the Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000 to guide you through this challenging time.

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