Being a teen is not easy. The adolescent years are often characterized with moodiness and a bit of an identify crisis. Teens deal with their emotions in all sorts of different ways, some of which are more destructive than others. One destructive way teens deal with their emotional stress is cutting or self harming. Sadly this activity among teens, especially girls, is on the rise.
What to do if your child is cutting:
Cutting is often mistakenly compared with suicidal thoughts, because one might commit suicide by cutting the wrist. However, this is not normally the case. Self-harm can come in other forms as well, such as picking scabs, banging one’s head, punching, or pinching oneself. It is a self destructive behavior that is intended to inflict pain for various reasons. Those who use this form of self-harm often will make small lesions on their arms, shoulders, legs, or parts of the body that can be easily hidden.
WHAT ARE SOME REASONs FOR CUTTING?
- Preteens and teens often use self-harming measures so that the physical pain will distract from or become a means of handling emotional pain. This is usually the case when the emotional pain is hidden or too difficult to express. It could stem from rejection, physical or sexual abuse, abandonment, or not being properly cared for. Furthermore, the pain is increased when the child feels the things that happened to them are their own fault.
- Some kids will self-harm due to depression or a dislike of themselves. This reason is often brought on in girls my comparing themselves to others and through the use of social media.
- Self-harm can also be seen as a way of self-punishment. If a child is carrying feelings of guilt for something they have done or did not do, they may try and use self-harm as a means to motivate themselves to do better.
I know this can be hard to read, but there is hope at the end!
- Self-harm is often a cry for help. You know that it is hard sometimes for children to bring up difficult subjects, especially if parents are prone to just brush them off. For example, your son or daughter tells you they think they are ugly. Your response might be, “that is so silly”, or “how ridiculous”, because you know that nothing could be farther from the truth. However, all children’s emotions are valid whether we agree with them or not because they are experiencing them.
- Then there is always the possibility that your child is using self-harm in order to manipulate or control a situation in order to get their way. (however, I think this would be the least of the reasons).
Self-harm can also be glamorized among young teens as the thing that people do when they are REALLY sad or depressed. Self-harming tactics need become one of those preteen discussions you have with your children.
What should you do if your child is cutting?
- Start a conversation. Talk to your child using empathy and understanding. Don’t come at them in anger or by telling them that they don’t have a reason for their behavior. Regardless if you think their reason is good or not, emotions are emotions and they don’t just go away. It takes wisdom, understanding, patience, and trust for your child to feel safe enough to confide in you. And that is what you are looking for, their confidence to share with you so that the healing process can begin.
- Ask your child to give you any instrument they have acquired for self harm and put it in a safe place.
- See about speaking to a Christian counselor. Although this type of self-harm is not normally a suicide attempt, it could still be very beneficial to your child to have someone else they can talk to.
What will a Counselor Do?
Most counselors will attempt to find out the source of the problem by building confidence and trust through empathy and listening. They may try to teach your child some coping skills such as being mindful of the present, positive thinking, or writing a positive message on their arm. Sometimes counselors may suggest wearing a rubber band around the wrist and flicking it whenever the desire to cut comes as a less harmful alternative. Seeing a Counselor maybe the perfect thing to enable your child to understand the seriousness of the matter.
A Christian Counselor would hopefully present the gospel to your child. Be open to the fact that your child may not have truly given their lives over to Jesus. Even if they made a profession of faith as a young child, as your child gets a little older they will recommit with a different level of understanding. (In no way am I saying that they were not saved at an early age or that they would lose their salvation. I am simply saying that as we mature, our faith must mature as well.)
The Place True Healing Is Found
There is lots of solace to be found in the Word of God. A person could use scripture to learn about forgiving those who have hurt them, putting on the armor of God, making right professions out of their mouth, and just living in general according to biblical principles. While all of these things are good and necessary, there is something else that must come first. if not these good things can just pile up as empty works that are done in an effort to earn freedom.
In the booklet Cutting: A Healing Response, Jeremy Lelek explains very clearly the true source of healing. That source is a genuine understanding and acceptance of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Jesus came and lived a perfect sinless life while being tempted in every way that we are tempted. He experienced every negative emotion that we experience from grief, to anger, to jealousy, to fear, to anxiety, and sorrow. He was ridiculed, betrayed, rejected, disowned, beaten, mocked, abused, and even cut and yet he survived it all without succumbing to sin.
Well great, you say but I am not Jesus. He was perfect and I am not.
That is the beauty of the cross my friend. We cannot do anything that the Bible ask us to do on our own. We can’t forgive, be kind, stand strong, or rejoice always, it is just not in our sinful nature to do this on our own without them becoming self proclaimed works.
But Jesus, on the other hand offers us His life in exchange for our own.
When we accept Him has our Lord and Savior, we get to switch our life report card with His. Now all of our F’s or failures and transformed to A’s acceptable in God’s sight because we get to take Jesus’s report card and put our name on it. Guess what You Passed!
I know it is too good to be true. but let’s look at what the Word says:
- You have been crucified with Christ, now it is not your life you are living but Christ is living in you. Galatians 2:20
- Because Jesus took all of your sins upon Himself, now you are the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
- You can count everything else in your life that you have drawn your identity from as garbage. Now through faith in Jesus Christ you are seen as His righteousness. Philippians 2:8-9
- He bore your grief, took on your sickness, carried your sorrows, was beaten, cut, pierced, and wounded for your sins. And He did all of this so that you may be healed. Isaiah 53:4-5
Once You Give Your Life to God, Your Body is No Longer Your Own.
This is also a concept that someone who is cutting or self-harming needs to hang on to. Your body is no longer your own.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price, therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
What to do if your child is cutting:
- Love them
- Talk to them
- Listen with empathy
- Help calm their fears with words of affirmation
- Let them talk to a Christian Counselor
- Teach them about God’s great love and the real meaning and benefits of Christ work on the cross.
- Cry with them.
- Hug them.
- Worship with them.
- Pray for them.
- And love them some more!
I hope these words have brought comfort and hope to your situation. Leave me a comment below. I would love to hear from you.