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Friday, January 17, 2014

How Can a Parent Help a Child Who Self-harms?

Dear Bro Jo,


Did you finish your book called "Bro Jo's Guide to Serious Single Dating?"

- Mom

Dear Mom,

Not quite yet . . . I've got to get my act together!

Thank you for asking is there anything I can help with?

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo

I was wondering about your book, thinking it might be something to try get my daughter to read. (Yes, not all your your followers or FANS are teenagers/young adults!).

Anything you can help with???

I'm looking forward to your topic regarding self-harm . . . I saw that you mentioned it was coming up.

This same daughter that I feel could use help with dating has also been involved with self harm . . . cutting.

Bro Jo, this need to inflict pain seems to be approaching epidemic proportions.

Here in Australia it is claimed 1 in 8 people will inflict self harm on themselves at some time... mostly young girls.

I also read somewhere that 50% of girls who cut have experienced some sexual abuse . . .

There is a definite connection.

We found out that my daughter had been interfered with at age 10 by an older boy about 14 (a Church boy, visiting our home).

By age 19, when everything came out, she had been cutting on and off for about 6 years.

She is nearly 21 now, really pretty, and intelligent.... BUT has low self-esteem..or self-respect, thus causing her to feel unworthy or desirous of aiming high on the dating scene.

Despite counselling with Family Services, I believe she feels inferior and unable to 'compete' with other 'pure' LDS girls.

I believe the cutting has now stopped since getting counselling and finally talking about what happened to her.
Anyway, I tell you all this not so much asking for help but just for your info when covering this topic.

I really cannot get my head around why my daughter needed to watch herself bleed to feel relief and better about herself.

It truly breaks my heart when I see her scars on her arm and upper legs.

Also wondering how much she will be stigmatized and judged as a result . . .

I have wondered if LDS girls who experience sexual abuse have a harder time because they are have been taught how important their virtue is, so they feel more worthless than those who have not been taught this, thus making them more prone to self-harm?

Thanks for your page and website Bro Jo,... you are so right with all your advice!

- Mom

ps. I have raised 4 children, only one left at home... it's tough raising kids in this world.

Dear Mom,

It IS tough!

The horrors of sexual abuse extend to all women and girls, and is not just a Latter-day Saint trauma.

The emotional hurt is so deep that many victims turn to cutting, or other self-harm, as the only way they can control the pain they feel.  (Pain, and a desire to control that pain is at the root of all addictions, and "cutting" falls into that category.)

Counseling and unconditional love are the only things I've found that are helpful.

As she grows to regain her sense of self-worth your daughter will eventually recognize the value that we all see that she has.

It will take time.

And a lot of patience.

Her timetable will be different than it might otherwise have been.

I believe that the Gospel and the Savior's love will go a long way toward helping her realize her divine nature.
For now all you and I can do is love her.

We need to fight our tendencies to condemn her behavior (which, believe me, is my natural tendency) . . . not to condone the cutting, but love and build her esteem (in very sincere ways, of course).

Might I suggest that you seek some help (if you haven't already) from a professional counselor?

A well trained and caring professional can give you some great advice and tools on how to deal with your daughter's issues, on how to better understand what she's going through and what she needs.

Keep up the Good Work, mom!

It’s difficult, but oh so worth it!

Thanks for reading and for your kind words,

- Bro Jo

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