Kids who self injure need your love, support

Your first clue may be as obvious as the unexplained cuts and bruises on your daughter’s body or as subtle as her odd preference for long sleeves on hot days.

  • Friday, September 5, 2008 3:17pm
  • Opinion

Your first clue may be as obvious as the unexplained cuts and bruises on your daughter’s body or as subtle as her odd preference for long sleeves on hot days.

It always pains us to see our children hurt, but it’s doubly disturbing to find out that those cuts, bruises and burns were no accident. So called “self injury” or “self abuse” can be hard to fathom for parents confronted with this scary behavior in their children, but they’d do well to keep their shock in check.

Sounding the alarm will do your daughter more harm than good. It’s OK to express concern, but try to be calm and non-judgmental about it, giving her your unconditional love and support.

Also know that this problem is more common than you think, and help is out there.

Young people who purposely injure themselves usually are trying to cope, not kill themselves. Still, it isn’t a problem to be ignored or taken lightly.

Once thought to be a problem primarily among girls during adolescence, current research shows that younger children and boys can do it, too. According to some estimates, as many as one in five college students has a history of non-suicidal self-injury, which can include cutting, picking scabs or interfering with wound healing, burning, punching things and hair pulling.

Kids will usually do their best to hide it, but signs of possible self-injury include:

Unexplained cuts, bruises and wounds in places that are usually covered by clothing, including the stomach, upper arms and thighs;

Trouble coping with strong emotions, especially sadness, fear and anger;

Low self-esteem

Wearing long sleeves and pants in hot weather;

If you find out your child is engaging in self injury, don’t react with fear or anger or respond with punishments such as grounding or taking away privileges. It also won’t work to try to analyze or fix the problem. Your role is to listen, offer support and get your child professional help if needed.

A counselor trained in self injury can assess what’s behind your child’s actions and help him or her find healthier ways to cope.

One of the best things parents can do is keep the lines of communication open and give their children opportunities to talk about their feelings.

Patti Skelton-McGougan is executive director of Youth Eastside Services. Since 1968, YES has been a lifeline for kids and families, offering counseling, outreach and prevention programs to help foster strong family relationships and a safe community. For more information, call 425-747-4937 or go to

More in Opinion

Learning to manage emotions with Dialectical Behavior Therapy | YES

Explore the model that’s helping thousands of teens in YES’ care get on track to a healthier life.

King County Libraries are among the busiest in the nation | Book Nook

Every spring, King County Library System presents its annual report to the… Continue reading

Editorial: Tariffs on newsprint a threat to newspapers

U.S. tariffs on Canadian paper have surged costs for newspapers with little benefit for U.S. mills.

Heroin injection sites are not the answer to opioid epidemic | Guest Column

Response to article about Vancouver’s legal heroin injection sites to combat opioid epidemic.

Talking about diversity with kids | Guest editorial

A few tips for how parents can approach the topic of diversity with younger children.

Singles’ Awareness Day | Guest Column

One single person’s view of Valentine’s.

Place on the Eastside where Christmas spirit thrives year-round | Guest Column

Crossroads Mall in Bellevue is a melting pot of people.

Message from new KCLS director | Book Nook

Director excited to oversee completion of $172 million Capital Improvement Plan.

Time to focus on school choice in Bellevue and across America | Guest Column

by Andrew R. Campanella National School Choice Week Next week, schools, homeschool… Continue reading

For opponents of a carbon tax, an initiative threat looms

If legislators don’t act on the governor’s legislation, a plan could land on the November ballot.

Inslee: ‘It’s our state’s destiny … to fight climate change’

In his State-of-the-State address, the governor made the case for an ambitious carbon tax.