How to Support a Self Harming Teen While Still Parenting

Parents of teenagers who self harm have many difficult questions to grapple with, but one that is especially important to answer early on is how these teens should be treated and parented.  Parenting self harming teens can be especially challenging because parents must strike the right balance and strongly support the teenager without pushing too hard or letting the behavior escalate.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind for effectively parenting a self harming teenager.

One thing that parents of self harming teens need to recognize is that drastic actions will not lead to positive results.  Parents who punish their teenagers or otherwise try to coerce them into quitting self harming behaviors may just exacerbate emotions like stress that can lead to self harm.  Parents should understand that self harming is not usually an attempt at suicide.  Although the behavior is clearly cause for concern, parents can provide the most help by talking about constructive improvements instead of trying to force a radical change in behavior.

When parenting self harming teens, it is crucial to be supportive but still set boundaries.  Parents should not try to force their teenagers to open up or seek outside help, but parents should be supportive of these steps and ready to listen if the teenager decides to talk.  Parents should not necessarily let self harming teenagers bend rules or expectations that have already been established about subjects like grades and curfew.  However, parents should avoid putting too much pressure on the teen or being unnecessarily harsh.

There is no simple guide to parenting self harming teens, but parents should respect the fact that there are always legitimate feelings or reasons behind the teen’s behavior.  Parents who show that they are acting out of concern for the teenager’s well-being before anything else may gradually be able to understand the problem and help the teenager through it.  On the other hand, if a teenager cannot open up with parents but is open to seeking outside help, parents should not hesitate to take advantage of any available resources that can help the teenager learn about healthier ways of dealing with personal problems.

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