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

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

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.

Leading with empathy in 2018 | Guest Column

By James Whitfield Special to the Reporter As president and CEO of… Continue reading

Reflecting on the ‘old’ and ringing in the “New” Year | Book Nook

The final column of KCLS’s interim director, Stephen A. Smith.

Displaced by a hurricane: Disaster relocation lessons

Editor’s note: This is the last of a three-part series by Bellevue… Continue reading

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks with Sound Publishing staff during a meeting on Jan. 20 at the Bellevue Reporter office. Photo by Matt Phelps/Kirkland Reporter
Judge delivers crushing blow to Inslee’s Clean Air Rule

It was the centerpiece of the governor’s crusade against climate change. Now it’s gone.

KCLS unveils its Best Books of 2017

And the envelope, please. Continuing an end-of-year tradition that dates back more… Continue reading

Displaced by a hurricane: The quest for housing | Guest Column

Woman describes challenges of helping family move from Puerto Rico to Bellevue

Firearms banned from state Senate gallery during sessions | The Petri Dish

Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib calls for prohibiting overcoats, large bags

Is someone you love experiencing memory loss? There’s a road map to help | Guest Column

By Shirley Newell Aegis Living At first, it might seem inconsequential, misplaced… Continue reading

What tax reform means here at home | Guest Column

Tax reform proposals swirling around Washington, D.C. right now make some sweeping… Continue reading

Global warming impacts | Letter

10-year-old writes about climate change concerns