At Sundance Canyon Academy, we regularly hear from parents who have discovered that their teen cuts themself, and they don’t know how to help. We are writing on this topic to help parents understand cutting behavior and help their teen who cuts.
It probably came as a shock when you first learned that your teen was cutting. Most parents don’t expect this behavior from their kids, and they don’t know what to make of it. As the parent of a teen who cuts, you need to understand the behavior and learn techniques to help your teen move past this destructive behavior.
First, let’s start with why teens cut.
Why do teens cut?
Teens resort to cutting for a few different reasons. Teens who cut themselves usually deal with many complicated emotions that they don’t know how to express. Thankfully, cutting is not always a sign of suicidal thoughts.
Cutting and other forms of self-harm are often used as a coping mechanism to deal with negative thoughts and feelings. Some reasons that teens resort to cutting include:
Taking back control. Teens who feel like their life is out of control look for ways to regain some power. This is especially true for teens who suffer physical or emotional abuse. Cutting is a way to take charge of what happens to their body without anyone else’s influence.
Feeling something. Some teens who struggle with mental health issues find that they don’t feel the same sensations as everyone else. Whether physical or emotional, life is dulled for them. When they cut, they focus on one specific act and the feelings associated with it.
Feeling less. Teens who get easily overwhelmed and anxious sometimes find that they feel too much. There are too many things coming at them all the time, and they don’t know how to slow down and focus on just one thing. The act of cutting gives them something to concentrate on that includes both physical and emotional focus.
If your teen is cutting or otherwise harming themself, they need to learn positive coping skills to deal with the turmoil that life throws at them.
Helping teens who cut
When you find out that your teen cuts, here are some things you can do to help:
This is easier said than done, but staying calm will help. Most teens who cut are worried about what will happen when their parents find out. They don’t want to be rejected. They need to know that you still love them. Maintain your composure, and try not to freak out.
Talk to them about it
Initially, your teen might not want to talk about it. They are probably embarrassed that you found out they cut, and they’re worried that you won’t understand. Also, teens who cut lack the positive coping skills to deal with negative situations in a healthy way. So, they might not know how to talk about their problems or communicate how they’re feeling.
Give them time, and don’t expect them to open up immediately. Keep the lines of communication open. Let them know that you’re there for them. When you broach the subject, refrain from being judgmental. They might feel guilty about their behavior already, so heaping on more judgment won’t help. Make sure they know that you’re only worried because you love them and want them to be healthy.
Create a plan
If your teen is open to a conversation about cutting, help them make a plan to stop cutting. Your teen probably knows that cutting isn’t a healthy way to deal with their emotions, but they might not know what else to do. Help them identify other things that they can do to head off negative emotions before it gets too bad.
Then create a specific plan on what they will do if they feel like they need to cut. Having concrete steps to follow will help them get through tough times without resorting to self-harm.
Get professional help
Teens who cut need help learning positive coping skills. It can be tough to break the habit of cutting, so they might also need help breaking free of that habit. Talk to your teen’s pediatrician or primary care physician about what’s going on. They should be able to assess the situation and give you some recommendations on the next steps.
If you are worried that your teen might be suicidal, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline anytime day or night to speak to a counselor. You can call them at 1-800-273-8255.
Many teens today feel more comfortable talking over the internet rather than having a conversation over the phone. If your teen would rather type than talk, they can also chat with a counselor online.
Teens who struggle with cutting often have more going on in their minds than they let on. If you are concerned for your teen’s safety or mental health, consider enrolling him in a therapeutic boarding school. Our students receive individualized treatment plans to help them address their underlying issues and learn positive coping skills.
Contact us today to find out if our school is a good fit for your teenage son.