How Do I Tell My Parents I Self Harm?

For a lot of kids and teens, one of the most difficult things about self-harming is struggling to tell their parents. They are afraid to bring up the subject and worry about what their parents will say. It can be tough to know how to start a conversation like this.

But it’s important to tell you parents about what you’re going through. They want you to be safe and happy. So, they are sure to be more sympathetic than you think. Here are some tips to help make talking about self-harm a bit easier.

Take the First Step – Prepare

Before you tell anyone, make sure you’re ready to share. It’s normal to have doubts and, if you need to, give yourself time. There are some ways you can prepare for the conversation. First, acknowledge that you need support. Self-harm is a difficult and damaging behaviour and you are worthy of help to get through it.

It can help to write down what you want to say and the reasons why you feel like you need to self-harm. You can refer to your list of notes during the conversation to help you explain this difficult topic.

Understand There’s Nothing Wrong with Asking for Help

Just like you would ask if you needed help with something at school, there’s nothing to be ashamed about in asking for help with self harm. Everyone has difficulties sometimes and it’s perfectly normal to need help from others from time to time. Your parents most likely want to keep you safe and will want to help in any way they can.

Choose Your Moment to Tell Them

It’s much easier for everyone to talk openly when they are comfortable. So, pick a low-key moment when you can take your time to discuss your self harming when everyone is calm. You don’t want to add any more stress to the situation by rushing through what you want to say. It can help to simply say “I need to talk to you about something when you have time”. Don’t feel like you have to rush into it. You can arrange a time that suits everyone if it makes it easier.

Explain Why You’re Feeling This Way

There’s usually a reason why people self-harm. You might be struggling with school and it’s making you stressed, or something might be causing you anxiety or depression. Whatever is leading you to self-harm, explain it to your parents so they can understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. You might find it easier to start with what’s causing you to feel upset and then open up about self-harming.

Be Clear About What You Need

It’s natural that your parents will want you to stop self-harming. But sometimes, the pressure from other people can actually increase the cycle of self-harming. It can make people feel guilt and shame, which leads to more self-harming. So, be clear about what you want from your parents.

If you want them to come with you to appointments, ask them. Do you need them to help you create a calmer environment at home or school? Or do you want them to respect your privacy and give you space? Explain to them that the way you feel is making you unhappy and that you want to find ways to deal with what’s going on. If you don’t know what you want, you can say this too. Between you and your parents, you might be able to find a solution.

Try Again If You Need To

Sometimes, the first conversation doesn’t go as we plan. If you feel like your parents didn’t understand or brushed off the topic before, you can talk to them again. It can sometimes take parents a while to get the message.

It can also be hard to hear that someone you love self-harms, so they might have found it difficult to know what to say. But don’t be afraid to bring it up again if you need to. You might find that having the support of another trusted adult, like an aunt or uncle, or someone at school like a teacher, can help you talk to your parents.

Remember that the sooner you ask for help, the sooner you can start to feel better. So, don’t wait or put off talking to someone about what’s going on. It can be a big relief to tell someone how you feel. And you’ll feel proud of yourself once it’s done.

Other Options

If you don’t have anyone in your life you feel like you can talk to, there are other options. You can talk to your doctor or reach out to a charity that deals with self-harm for more advice. There are also mental health forums and social media pages where you can connect with people who understand what you’re going through. Always remember that you’re not alone. 

Next Steps

Now you’ve made the brave step of asking for help, what comes next? There are a few things you can do. First, work out ways that you can maintain boundaries with their help. Maybe you can come up with a code word or text them when you’re struggling or if you relapse, so you can keep them updated without awkward conversations.

You can also ask them to help you with appointments or even just to listen when you need to chat. Once you’ve acknowledged you need help, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor so you can start receiving treatment when you’re ready.

Self-harm is more common than people realise. Trusting someone to help you and support you when you need it, could also be the start of your recovery journey. Whatever it means for you, it’s a good idea to tell someone you trust about what you’re dealing with. Either your parents or someone that can support you to tell them. It is a good first step to being happier and safer.


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