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Scratching - start of self harm?

6 replies

Tallesttiptoes · 17/12/2021 10:13

My DD is 11, very intelligent, articulate and generally happy. Has navigated 11 plus reasonably calmly recently but is worried about moving up to high school and isn’t 100% convinced about school choice. We aren’t talking about that much, she’s throwing herself into the last year of primary and enjoying it. Has a typical scrappy relationship with sibling. Yesterday she did something that could have harmed her sibling quite badly at school as a practical joke though so I had to address the situation. I was really disappointed in her actions and told her so, and sent her to her room. When I went up after 15 mins I found her hand covered in scratches from staples.

I tried to stay very calm, gave her lots of hugs, put antiseptic on and took staples away (have since read I shouldn't have, but don’t know if that’s the case for first time something like this happens).

My question is, does this mean she is definitely going to start self harming on a regular basis? Just writing that I can see it is a stupid question, sorry, but I suppose I want to know if others have experienced one offs and then been able to navigate away from the behaviour? DH self harmed badly in his teens and 20s and he is devastated, he sees this as the start of a descent into regular self harm and ‘the end of the happy bit of childhood’. He obviously hasn’t said this to her but privately to me.

So far I have said that you can hurt yourself badly by scratches getting infected and you need to find other ways to express your anger. We talked about writing. She had written ‘I’m a horrible person’ several times. She said she was really angry with herself. This morning she has said her hand really hurts and is worried about people seeing it at school.

I don’t think she really intended to cause harm to her sibling but was acting up and playing the fool in the playground but maybe counselling would help her to work through the aggravation she feels towards her sibling?

I think I probably need a further calm conversation to develop the discussion around strategies to help her diffuse anger or other big feelings but not sure if I should seek external advice from school or elsewhere at this point.

OP posts:
Babyiskickingmyribs · 17/12/2021 10:34

I think you need a physical replacement for the self harming type behaviors. Stress ball? Running? Tearing up paper? Your husband might have some ideas.

ThePlantsitter · 17/12/2021 10:42

If school has a good pastoral system then yes I would tell them.

I know this is frightening because it's happening here too, but it needs to be met very matter of factly in my opinion. You could talk about exactly what the feelings were, and come up with a plan about the staples together. I've also found it useful to point out to DD when she's feeling better that she is feeling better because feelings pass, that's what they do.

Your H's feelings are not your responsibility but you could point out that DD is lucky he has someone like him looking out for her, and that frankly 11 is when the 'happy childhood' phase ends - but other happy things replace it.

Good luck and happy to chat if you want. I do know that you can feel out of your depth quite quickly with this stuff so if you can get help, do, because if you don't end up needing it great - but it's there if you do.

ThePlantsitter · 17/12/2021 10:47

I meant to add that a matter of fact approach is also helpful because it takes the glamour out of it. I'm not suggesting your DD is doing it for glamour reasons but it is awfully 'current' to self harm. There is something about it that speaks to the 'hard-done by edgy tween' image. Again, I'm not being disparaging about your daughter in particular (or mine).

Tallesttiptoes · 17/12/2021 11:39

Thanks so much. That’s really helpful advice. We have a good relationship with the school so I might get in touch after Christmas for a chat.

It is so frightening (I feel sick thinking about it tbh) but the advice to stay matter of fact is really helpful. I’m so sorry you are going through it as well. I don’t think she actually knows self harm is a ‘thing’ as she has no social media and little unsupervised access to internet so I don’t think she will be doing it as part of an attempt to be part of a sub culture but I will keep an eye on that. I’m wary of talking too much about it in case she does start to identify with it. She seemed very scared of herself last night and shocked that she had done it.

OP posts:
ScatteredMama82 · 17/12/2021 11:46

I just want to offer some reassurance. My DS is now 12. When he was 10 we had a similar thing. He was having a tough time at school and my DH was away a lot with work. He did something that I had to tell him off for, and like you I went to check on him a while later and he had been digging his fingernails into his arm. I tried my best to stay calm (outwardly) and we talked about other ways to express his anger. He also said things like 'I'm a horrible person, I wish I was dead'. It was just horrendous to know he was feeling so awful. I went to school about it, they were fantastic. He got 1-1 mentor time with a support teacher and we also took some time to do mindfulness exercises at home. He did the scratching thing maybe 3 times over a period of a few weeks. He's never done it since. It really was 'just a phase'. I think it is more common than people realise.

Hellocrumpets · 17/12/2021 12:15

Where did you read that you shouldn’t have removed the staples? I used to deal with the self-harm cases in work (school) and we always told parents to remove access to sharp objects / pills etc, and that was the guidance and instruction that we were given by CAMHS.

I would recommend talking to her to reiterate that she is not a horrible person, and that you love her very much (even though her behaviour in school wasn’t acceptable).

When she is feeling calm it may also be worth talking about what she did (scratching), why, how did it make her feel, did it make the problem go away. Then move the conversation on to what alternatives could be used when she feels like that, what can she do if she feels this way, what could other people do to help, who can she talk to, where does she feel safe and comfortable etc. (this is the basics of the work that we would do in school after a self-harm incident).

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