As a teacher, mother and human being, I have dealt with many kids who are cutters. Can you imagine that; what problems could a child have that is so bad they cut their own arm or leg or other body part? A lot!
Children are too young to understand how to deal with pain. Although some may never put a knife or scissor to their arm, many will. It is a way for the person to ignore his/her inner pain and focus on the pain they are inflicting on him or herself.
Teenagers often start this behavior when they suffer from break-ups, or their parents get divorced, or they fail school. Anytime a child is faced with difficulty they may resort to self destructive behavior.
When faced with the challenge of helping a self destructive person, these are the steps I have taken:
- Therapy is great. Sometimes we just need someone to talk to and give the tools to cope with difficulties.
- Supportive family members are super important. Talk to your children. We often get so busy that we put our family on the back burner. A simple talk, a hug and a positive remark could change anyone’s whole day.
- Friends can make or break a child. Make sure your child has good friends surrounding him. Who we surround ourselves with is who we will be like. Don’t be afraid to check on your child; you should be aware of who they play with, where they go and so on.
- They say it takes a village to raise a child so get everyone to help. Talk to family members, teachers and anyone involved in your child’s life. Encourage them to talk positive to the cutter and listen if he/she speaks. Often, children will speak to teachers and friends before they go to their parents, don’t be alarmed by that. Kids often believe their parents just won’t understand.
I decided to write this blog today because my student showed me her arm. I know when she told me it was because she trusted me, but it is also a cry for help. This student was crying for help, but she begged me not to tell her mom or anyone else. And as a teacher, adult, and someone who cares for her, I have to report this in order to get her help. The guidance counselor saw her and I called her mother up. My student was so afraid her mother was going to kill her. Her mom and aunt arrived and were sympathetic. We told them to take her to counseling. I assured them that she wasn’t a bad kid, that this was a cry for help because she didn’t have the tools to help her deal with pain. I gave her my number and told her to call me when she needs me. I hope her mom takes it seriously and gets her the help she needs.
You see, she is not the only one who faces this. I know of a mom who was terrified to learn that her child was cutting so she removed the doors from her child’s bedroom to supervise better. I know of another mother who wanted to put her child in therapy, so when she noticed cuts, the child begged her not to tell her father, so she told her she would keep it a secret only if she went to therapy. And me, I used to cut my arm all the time as a teenager. It’s important you know why: I was in pain and I felt I couldn’t burden anyone with my problems. I also felt like if I cut my arm I wouldn’t think about the emotional pain, I’d focus on the physical pain, and that made me feel strong. I could take the pain of a scissor breaking my skin. But I only told my friends about it, until one time…one time, a guidance counselor asked me, ” What do you want out of life?”
“I want to be dead!”
With that answer, my whole life changed. She made my mother aware of MY feelings. My mother had to take me to a psychiatrist and the school sent me to a social worker. The psychiatrist was a bust, but that social worker saved my whole life. His remedy, he cared. He would talk to me every week and he would do most of the talking. He got me out of trouble in school. He checked my report card and told me it wasn’t bad, but that I could do better. Because of his care, I graduated high school on time and went to college. That man is still in my life today. He made me learn that I had to change my environment, friends, focus on better things and work hard to accomplish goals. Once I did that, I started to feel better because I was successful at things.
I know this is a longer than usual blog, but, cutting can lead to suicide. It is the first cry for help. Listen! Love! Talk! This beautiful child today had a broken heart. And she’s tough and sweet and helpful. Who would have thought she would have cut her arm? But she did, and she trusted me enough to tell me. ME! A past cutter. There is divine intervention in everything that happens to me. I love this kid. I didn’t want to know she was suffering. But I hope I helped save her life.
Sometimes it’s just like the Beatles say, “All We Need is Love!”