From a more clinical standpoint, self-harm refers to purposeful behaviors that cause harm or injury to one’s own body.
Self-harming behaviors are generally not attempts to complete suicide, however for purposes here, I will be including suicide attempts and risky decision making under self-harm.
***Risky decision making suggests choices that would place one at risk of further distress, emotional harm or injury.
It takes courage to acknowledge that your adolescent is self-harming. Often times, self-harming is secretive, it’s done behind closed doors, and it’s not communicated about. But worse, it creates that worst case scenario or “what if” questions in your head…
What if I put my foot down?
If I set more rules, I’m afraid they won’t come to me.
The “it” is your biggest fear, the thing you fear the most, and it's that thing that keeps you up at night.
It’s the reason you do everything in you power to save your teen because the reality is you just never know when “it” will happen.
It’s the fear of losing your child, emotionally or physically.
We have the opportunity to reduce teen self-harm, suicide attempts, and risky behaviors. And, we have the power to confront self-harming behaviors with stronger awareness through education and taking action to prepare for the immediate, and long-term “what if” scenarios.
Often times, we know these “what if's” exist, yet we don’t want to acknowledge them for various reasons. Or worse, we’re blindsided by a “what if” so we're not equipped to effectively address the concern because we weren’t prepared.
Although we can’t prepare for every single “what if” scenario, we can better prepare if we’re open to connecting with and communicating about the problem and with our adolescents.
Because the truth is, we can’t prepare for what we don’t know or understand.
This journey may be one of the most challenging journeys you, your teen, and your family may ever face. But, the journey could be less treacherous if we navigate it together. My goal is to support teens and parents to confidently walk into each vulnerable situation together, assess the risks, both short-term and long-term, and take action.
It is together that we can find our way to improved relationships, healthier communication and choices, and quiet those nagging “ifs” and worst case scenarios.
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