As a qualified counsellor I offer a safe space for your child to explore issues that are affecting them and could be impacting family life. Sometimes young people find it difficult to talk with friends or family members, not because they don’t want to, but often because they are connected to you and don’t want to upset or frighten you with what is happening for them. This is where counselling can help. Being impartial allows the young person the opportunity to open up without fear of being judged or ‘told off’, they have the freedom to explore their concerns in a safe, confidential space.
Having worked for numerous years as a registered nurse and then midwife; I then spent over 10 years working in educational settings with young people who were struggling with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties and finding being at school difficult to engage in. I have also supported young people who have experienced sexual abuse and rape empowering them to take back control and gain some understanding as to what has happened. Through all of my previous experiences I am able to empower young people to discuss and explore what is going on for them.
I’m not here to fix, nor is my role to tell your child what they need to do. My role is to allow each individual the time and space to make sense of their world at this time, explore strategies that might help them cope better and enable them to take control of /for themselves and become the best person they can be.
If you'd like to get in touch I can answer any other questions you might have.
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As a parent it can often be shattering to find out that your child is self harming. You can become engulfed in an avalanche of emotions; perhaps anger, denial, guilt, fear, sense of failure, shame and shock to name but a few. These are completely normal responses, especially if it is the first time you have heard the expression self harm. However it makes you feel, the main thing is that you remain calm and let them know that you're there to help and support them.
This document hopefully will help you to start to understand what is happening for your young person. This may help you to process what is happening and to offer unconditional love, support and understanding - even if you don't quite 'get it'. Your role is not to jump to conclusions or provide solutions nor give the impression that their self harming has created a problem for you. Comments like "what have you done to yourself?" are not helpful.
Firstly, self harm is a common problem and not unique to young people. Most of us and some time have participated in self harm of some sort, such as overeating, smoking, taking drugs or drinking (there are many other forms too), but they haven't really had the label self harm stuck to them.
Here we're focusing on the need to deliberately injure oneself.
What is self harm? Ultimately it is a coping mechanism, a way of dealing with and expressing a deep emotional distress (the reasons may not fully be known by the individual.) Self injury can include; Cutting oneself Taking too many tablets Punching oneself Skin picking Burning/branding Banging heads or bruising ourselves Inhaling substances Hair pulling It is NOT A suicide attempt A fad or trend Pleasure activity Attention seeking
Why self harm? The exact reasons why young people self harm aren't always easy to work out, and are often unknown to themselves. They do it to enable uncomfortable internal feelings to be released. It provides a quick relief from the build up of panic, anxiety, stress or tension. It may reduce these uncomfortable feelings and temporarily provide a sense of control in life, a sense of calm and provide a space which enables clearer thinking.
For some it is a way of being able to cope, for others it can provide a way of cleansing - getting rid of feelings of perhaps shame or guilt. For others it can be a way of confirming that they exist, a way of feeling alive, the physical pain is easier to deal with than the emotional.
There are many reason why young people may self harm, these could include; Being bullied Relationship problems with friends or family Low self esteem A way of punishing themselves for things they done or been accused of doing Anxiety Sadness Too much pressure to do well at school Anger Lack of control over their lives Numbness
As a parent this can be very hard to read and digest. Reading this has probably been emotional and has raised lots of questions. There is support available for your young person and for you.
Your young person might benefit from talking with someone; often they feel able to talk with a counsellor, as they provide a safe space to explore what is happening for them without judgement, and explore alternative ways to cope.
For a parent counselling could also help (ethically this would have to be a different one from whom your child.) It helps to talk with your partner, friends or other family members. Try not to take it personally or blame yourself. Concentrate on showing that you understand and want to help.
Understanding that self harm provides a temporary relief, and supporting alternative ways to cope can empower your young person to address some of the underlying issues. Removing scissors or razors is not effective because if anyone wants to hurt themselves they will find a way, it also shows them that you respect and trust them, which will help build their confidence and self esteem.
Alternative coping strategies can include; Encouraging your young person to write a journal/diary Painting/drawing Listen to music Hold an ice cube in their hand until it melts Write down negative feelings then rip up the paper Go for a walk Take a bath/shower Talk with friends or family, or seek counselling. Scream into a pillow, or punch a cushion
They might already have found something that works for them, ask them.
If you as the parent are still finding it difficult, please make an appointment with a counsellor, they can offer a safe place for you too.