Does Your Child Injure Themselves? Here’s How to Help. Post Header Image

Does Your Child Injure Themselves? Here’s How to Help.

As children grow into their pre-teen and teenage years, they can become overwhelmed with stress and strong emotions. This includes feelings of anger, anxiety, hopelessness, loneliness, sadness, and more.

Some pre-teens and teenagers react to these strong emotions by injuring themselves.

  • Scratching or cutting their skin with sharp objects.
  • Hitting themselves with their fists or hard objects.
  • Pulling out their hair.
  • Burning themselves.

Many parents are shocked when they learn that their child has been harming themselves—especially if it has been happening for long periods of time.  That’s because pre-teens and teens usually try to hide these behaviors from adults.

According to the Adolescent Self-Injury Foundation, parents can watch for some common warning signs of self-injury.

These include:

  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants even in hot weather.
  • Refusing to wear clothing that exposes arms or legs, such as bathing suits.
  • Wearing gloves, arm bands, or other accessories that cover the entire hand, wrist, and forearm.
  • Hiding sharp objects—such as knives, razors, pieces of broken glass, safety pins, tacks, or needles—in their bedroom, backpack, clothing, or shoes.
  • Having an abnormal amount of bruises, scratches, cuts, burns, or broken bones.
  • Often wearing bandages.

Once a young person begins to self-harm, it can be very difficult to stop. They need support, but may not know how to ask for it.

Adults can help by:

  • Understanding that self-injuring is a very serious and risky behavioral pattern.
  • Remembering that young people cannot just “snap out of it.”
  • Asking them what help they need—and do not need.
  • Taking the child for emergency medical care if necessary.
  • Researching self-injury to better understand how and why it begins.
  • Being calm and nonjudgmental.
  • Encouraging the pre-teen or teenager to talk with a counselor or doctor.
  • Helping them to find a self-help group, so they don’t feel so alone.
  • Reassuring the pre-teen or teen about their strengths and hope for the future.

Most of all, adults should be patient with the young person’s recovery. It can take a long time to stop self-injuring—but recovery is possible.

Call Carelon Behavioral Health. 

You do not need approval for individual, family, or group therapy. Also, you do not need a referral from your regular doctor.

English/Spanish interpreter services available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

HEALTHfirst STAR Medicaid: 1-800-945-4644

KIDSfirst CHIP: 1-800-945-4644 


Parkland Community Health Plan