Positive Ways To Cope With Self-Harm

Positive Ways To Cope With Self-Harm

Helping a child positively deal with self-harm can seem like an insurmountable task. However, you know it isn’t, even if you’ve run out of ideas of what to do.

There are some ways to approach your child about their self-harm and you may need to try a variety of things to find what works for your child. With that in mind, we have gathered several strategies for you to work through.

Identify Triggers For Self Harming

Some self-harm to relieve stress or to vent feelings of disconnection and loneliness. There are triggers that lead up to these episodes of self-harm. We have gathered some of the main triggers and hope to help you to recognize when self-harming behavior may be more of a temptation to your child.

  • Isolation and loneliness – If your child engages in self-harm to vent feelings of isolation, find out when these feelings come up. There may be a particular time of day your child can identify. If not, observe them closely to see when they seem to draw back.
  • Disconnection – Maybe your child is triggered by feelings of disconnection, which are not the same as isolation. This disconnect can be from their own bodies, associate with feelings of numbness all over or a void inside themselves.
  • Uncontrollable feelings – Adolescences is a particularly trying time as children grow and deal with new hormones and experiences. As their emotions become more intense, they may find it hard to manage the intensity of their feelings so moments of high emotional stress (new school year, moving, holidays) may lead to episodes of self-harm.
  • Relationships – Stress in their personal relationships can a trigger for self-harm, as children attempts to manage their feelings by injuring themselves. This can come from all types of relationships whether romantic or platonic.
  • Percieved failure – Any form of failure, be it a poor grade on an assignment or forgetting to do their chores, can be a trigger for self-harm as the child attempts to punish themselves.

Your child can deal with any one of these triggers and likely finds several of them apply. Once you determine which of these instances are triggering your child, you can work from there on these next stratageies.

Redirect Their Attention

This may act as a stop-gap measure, but the redirection of attention can keep your child safe from their own impulses.

Work with your child before they have an episode that drives them to self-harm and talk instead about what they can do. Talk to them about their hobbies or something new for them to try. Encourage them to turn to these things, rather than injuring themselves.

However, don’t leave it to them to solve their problem. If your child felt they could fix their self-harming without you, they would have already. Start planning weekly regular time together to engage with your child, maybe something new for both of you. Some ideas could be:

  • Arts – Depending on your materials, this could be fairly inexpensive way to spend time with your child. From watercolor painting, pottery or nail art, be open to engage in a lot of different kinds of artistic mediums. YouTube can be a great resource for ideas and helpful tutorials.
  • Outdoors Adventures – Whether you live in a city or rural, there should be public outdoor areas available. Start by mapping out local walking paths, parks, hiking trails and start exploring together. The exercise can boost your child’s endorphin levels and yours too.
  • Volunteering – Maybe you’ve told your child that others have it worse than them. Why not show them instead? Find a place where you both can volunteer, whether it be the local animal shelter or a soup kitchen. Getting outside their own problems and seeing others’ struggles can help them put their issues into perspective.

Many modern hobbies don’t promote much socialization, such as gaming, so you will have to work at finding the social aspect for them so that your child doesn’t close off. If, for example, it is a time between them coming home from school while you are still at work, see if you can enroll them in an after school program. This can help them build new friendships and keep them from having the time alone when they would normally self-harm.

Also, it is unlikely that your child will want to reach out and talk when they are at the point of self-harm, but be sure they know you will always be available for them if they want to talk.


Sometimes people turn to self-harm out of a feeling of neglect, so if your child is someone who wants to reach out, there are ways you should and should not communicate.

Do: make sure they know that you love them by using your words and your actions. If it is your practice to shout a quick “love ya” as you run out the door and rarely any other time, this communicates to your child that you have higher priorities than your kid. Your child needs for you, as their parent, to provide positive modeling of emotional health. Regular expressions of love and concern can do wonders in building their self esteem.

Schedule time to communicate. Institute family dinners or which ever meal you are all home together. Touching base daily can help you connect with your child and keep them from feelings of isolation. While you may feel awkward at first, if you persist, you child will be more likely to come and talk to you when they are struggling.

If family dinners aren’t an option, look where in your schedule you overlap with your child. Maybe its over breakfast or drive to school. What ever the case may be, prioritize daily conversations.

To get the most out of these conversations, practice using open-ended questions. As you learn to communicate more frequently and efficiently with them the questions will come more naturally. Pay attention to things they have mentioned, like assignments or friends, and ask more specific questions about these topics. Knowing that you remember what they have said and cared to ask more later will mean a lot to your child.

Do not : blame them for their self-harm. Accusing them of a lack of self control will contribute to their already-existing feelings of self hatred.

This can be hard. Likely you blame yourself for their self-harm and in stress, you lash out. While you can’t bottle everything up

Do not pretend it will go away in time; that it’s just a phase that will correct itself. There are many guides available to the tech-savvy child on how to hide self-harm. While these were usually written with the intention of helping someone who has overcome their self-harm to hide old scars, it can obviously be utilized by others still engaging in the practice.

Most of all, don’t give up. Helping your child to work through these struggles can be a long process and there will most likely be setbacks. Don’t let that discourage you. Instead, see unsuccessful attempts as a learning lesson and move forward.

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