9 Things to Say to Teens Struggling With Self-Harm!

If you're a regular Tribe Member then you know that I L-O-V-E working with teens struggling with self-harming behaviors! Not because I'm some kind of weird freak or anything, but because I love watching the transformation that takes place in teens when they feel supported, valued + loved! There is beauty + power in vulnerability! There's something special that happens when the teen has struggled for so long + finally finds their tribe of supporters! 

I offer weekly group therapy sessions {in addition to individual + family therapy} for teens struggling with self-harm. The group is called {re}connect. I can't tell you how many times I have seen teens themselves establish healthy, meaningful bonds with their peers, support each other through even the worst days + encourage each other to push towards a healthier life! In group, they're given a safe space to explore reasons why they struggle with self-harm. 

What if you can't make it to group? What if you find out your teen is self-harming + can't get an appointment with a therapist until 3 weeks from now? What on earth are you supposed to say to your teen? What if it's your nephew or niece who is struggling + you just found out? Here are 13 things you can say to a teen struggling with self-harm... 

I’m here to listen if you’re ready to talk

This statement simply opens the floor for communication on their terms. Talking about their struggle with self-harm can be difficult. Teens don't know what to say. Adults don't know what to say. Friends don't know what to say. Simply listening is all that is necessary in some cases + guess what.... the conversation doesn't even need to be directly related to their self-harm {if you're uncomfortable with it} 

How are you feeling?

Contrary to what you believe, even if you've struggled with self-harm in the past, you may not know how the teen is feeling. It's best not to assume + to let them tell you how they feel. This question also opens up the lines of communication to start a conversation. 

How can I support you in this?

Everyone has different views of support. When you believe you are being supportive in a situation, you could be hindering progress with your teen. Ask them how they want to be supported. 

I’m glad you wanted to talk to me. I know this is a big step for you.

Praise your teen for their effort + acknowledge their courage! It is most likely that they've been carrying around this secret for some time now! Positive praise also directly combats feelings of isolation + negative thoughts. 

What else can you do instead of hurting yourself? What have you tried?

If your teen is willing to discuss this - help them find alternative ways to cope with stress. {If you need help - snag your free workbook here!} What has your teen tried? How many times have they tried? What was the result? Ask these questions, but don't press if they're not ready to answer these questions yet. 



You won’t always feel this way...

Part of the reason teens struggle with self-harming behaviors is because they're not sure how to make their pain stop. They feel extremely sad, but have no idea what the solution could be. Help them find the solution. If you can't help them, take them to someone who can. 

When do you usually struggle with self-harming behaviors?

Is there a particular time of the day that is more difficult? Is it a certain environment that causes them to feel overwhelmed? Help your teen figure out their triggers by asking these questions. Once you figure out the triggers, you can help them learn to avoid those triggers until they are able to cope in a healthy way. 

Would you rather talk to someone else about this?

Let's be honest here... teens don't talk to their parents about everything. In fact there's a TON they don't talk to their parents about! If your teen doesn't want to discuss it with you, don't get upset. Simply offer them several options of trusted people to choose from + let them pick who to talk to about the issue. 

You are not alone. You matter. You are valued. I love you.

This is the most important part of the conversation! Teens who feel valued, supported + sense of belonging recover must quicker then their peers. Let them know that struggling with self-harm does not define who they are! 

How do you support teens struggling with self-harm? 

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