My fifteen year old daughter is cutting her arms on seemingly regular basis. I understand that she has had an abusive relationship when she lived with her mother during her childhood years. She was also sexually abused by her step father at the age of 6 to 9. When I learned this she moved in with me right away. Normally she is a sucuessful achiever and does relatively well in her studies. I have noticed that this cutting began in the last six months and I have open discussions with her regarding this. I am trying to get professional help for her as she is willing but her mothers signiture is required as we share joint custody. My daughter has had no contact with her mother for a year as it has been unsuccessful each time she tries to connect with her mother. In the dead of the night is when the self worthless feelings occur and the cutting takes place. I have never raised my voice to her and repeatedly tell her that she is a wonderful and worthwhile person. I ask her to wake me up when she feel badly about herself or is about to cut herself but that doesn't often happen. I am looking for advice or articles to read that will help me understand this mentality much better. I realize that I can't fix her problems but can and do offer loving encouragement. I am seeking advice on this problem so I can get her the help and support that she deserves. Thank you Chris
Another suggestion which does not require your ex's signture is for you to go to the therapist and learn what you can do as a parent. Often the therapist will also reach out to her mother in a non threatening way to engage her in "family therapy" When teens cut, it is often the pressure cooker exploding about the family.
Try going yourself to help your daughter, and see if the rest falls into place.
Wayne Yankus, MD, FAAP
expert panelist: pediatrics
Thank you so much for sharing your story. What an incredibly hard situation for you. Unfortunately, as you probably know, you (and your daughter) are not alone. Cutting is a coping mechanism that far too many young people (girls AND boys) are using to try to ease pain in their lives. This is especially true for children like yours who have experienced sexual abuse and / or a traumatic relationship with a parent.
Of course you're right that it's really important for your daughter to receive help from a professional therapist. As you continue to work with her mom on this, we have some articles on the website that may help you understand what your daughter is doing. Here are a couple:
Also, what you're doing about asking her to wake you if she feels like cutting is a great idea. Many therapists use this technique and actually make it more formal by creating a written "Contract" that the cutter and therapist both sign. Maybe you could try a contract with your daughter. On the contract you can help her create a list of five or ten things she could try to do instead of cutting (this list should include waking you up to talk but it could also include other things that sometimes help cutters avoid cutting like: holding an ice cube in her fist until it melts, writing a poem about how she feels right then, taking deep breaths, taking a hot shower or bath, punching her pillow, drawing lines on herself with a red marker, writing a letter to her mom or her mom's boyfriend, writting in a journal, snapping a rubber band that she wears around her wrist, etc). On the contract you should ask her to agree to try at least three of these before she cuts. You should agree to love her unconditionally, to continue to support her, not to punish her if she does cut, etc. Then you should both sign it and talk about it often. If she breaks the contract, talk about what happened and create a new one. If she doesn't break it, let her know every day how proud you are of her.
I think it's wonderful that she has an open relationship with you and is willing to talk to you about her pain and what she's doing to manage it. Many children don't share those things with their parents so it says a lot about you that yours does. That's something for you to be really proud of.
Thanks again for sharing. I look foward to seeing what other parents in our community have to say. Please let us know how your daughter is doing.
My son who is fourteen is also a cutter and is gay. You are not alone. I found a parent support group in my local area through the county and school that is very helpful for me. I have been studying about cutting and read that a therapy called "Dialetical Behavior Therapy" and it is the one really good therapy technique that works. There are books you can purchase about it on Amazon but best if you can find a coach. Sometimes expensive. We are also only beginning, but I hope for HOPE. How much sorrow we have for our teens that are suffering so deeply. Don't be afraid to call for help. Try your county, your school, your doctor or 911. Keep trying and try not to react with her. Tell her that I care about her in the internet world. Kinda hard to find help but if she gets it I hear it takes about at least a year before she can fully stop. Blessings....and I really mean it.
im just saying, I used to cut.Everyday, And it was hard.But your daughter wont stop.Therapy doesint help,You need to talk to her about it and make her know theres other coping skills.You see, When people cut its a way to bassically just release pain and anxiety.Whatever you do, DONT tell her its really bad or not normal and that shes just hurting herself.Thats the point, your hurting yourself for a release, But if you tell her its wrong shell take it wrong and think shes weird.Just tell her some coping skills, Like taking a cube of ice and rubbing it against her wrists.If you feel like shes stopping, Dont be so sure.. When I stopped, I started under my stomache again.Check places like her thighs, Or lower stomache.