Kids who self injure need your love and 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.

  • Tuesday, September 2, 2008 5:13pm
  • 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 okay 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. The behavior can be an attempt to escape painful emotions or numbness, relieve stress and depression, or express shame and self-hatred.

We have a team of counselors at Youth Eastside Services (YES) who are experienced in working with this issue, which thankfully has come out of the shadows over the last 20 years. Much more is known now about why young people self injure and what can be done about it.

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, she says. “With self injury, it’s the emotional experiences behind the behavior that are the most significant, not the behavior itself.”

Patti Skelton-McGougan is the executive director of Youth Eastside Services. For more information, call 425-747-4937 or go to www.youtheastsideservices.org.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@redmond-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.redmond-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Opinion

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Why should the threat to Taiwan concern us in WA? | Brunell

Unfortunately, what happens in Taiwan doesn’t just stay in Taiwan — it… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Election 2021: Closer look at King County races | Roegner

The race for Mayor of Seattle will dominate the regional media, but… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Questions surround vaccine exemptions for state workers | Roegner

With about 4,800 state employees in 24 agencies requesting vaccine exemptions, which… Continue reading

Dr. Jayendrina Singha Ray serves as Faculty of English at Highline College. Her research interests include postcolonial studies, spatial literary studies, British literature, and rhetoric and composition. Prior to teaching in the U.S., she worked as an editor with Routledge and taught English at colleges in India.
What the Afghan wants to say: Arezo’s journey to America | Guest column

In our little Zoom room, I hear my interviewee break into sobs.… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Can a Texas-style abortion law happen in Washington? | Roegner

If politicians really want to anger women voters, the easiest way is… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Reasons to ban Gov. Jay Inslee’s natural gas ban | Brunell

Column: Switching from natural gas to electricity is complicated and will impact everyone.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Vaccinations improve our health and employment numbers | Brunell

It is not surprising that COVID-19, which ravaged the world, was disastrous… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Firefighters vs. the governor’s vaccine mandate | Roegner

We all thought we were in this fight with the coronavirus together,… Continue reading

Providence employees look at anti-vaccine mandate protesters as they cross the street outside of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on Aug. 18, 2021. Olivia Vanni/Sound Publishing
Editorial: A message to the unvaccinated and unmasked

We know you’re frustrated with mandates and advice, but consider our frustrations and, yes, our anger.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Back to the classroom during abnormal times | Roegner

If it didn’t feel so normal, we might forget about the coronavirus… Continue reading

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
What’s up with the real estate market? | Guest column

As we all know, the residential real estate market and prices have… Continue reading

9/11 Memorial in Cashmere, Washington. Photo courtesy of Greg Asimakoupoulos
Twenty years after tragedy brought us together | Guest column

Recently, I was reflecting on where I was and what I was… Continue reading