Here's How To Tell Your Parents You Self-Harm

Last Updated
March 19, 2023
A girl who inflicted a self injury

How To Tell Your Parents You Self-Harm
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- Choose a good time and place
- Write down what you want to say
- Plan for emotional support
- Consider involving a third party
- Have the conversation
- Seek professional help

Self-harm is a complicated subject, and telling your parents about it can be challenging. The average age of onset for self-harm is 13 years old [10], and it is often used as a way to cope with difficult emotions, such as anger, sadness, or loneliness. [11]It's never easy to have these types of conversations, but having a network of friends or family who can support you and understand what you're going through is crucial.

Here are some suggestions on how to approach telling your parents about this in a way that fosters open communication and paves the way for emotional recovery.

Children with self-injury

Prepare to talk to your parents

Choose a good time and place

Choose a moment in time when your parents or a trusted adult are likely to be at ease and available and choose a quiet location where you may speak without being interrupted. Keep in mind that self-harm is more common among children who have experienced abuse or neglect [12], so it is essential to find a safe and supportive environment for this conversation.

Interesting Fact: Unhealthy coping mechanisms like self-harm are often used to manage intense emotional pain, offering temporary relief but causing long-term physical and psychological harm

Write down what you want to say

Writing down what you want to say will help you arrange your feelings and thoughts. You should mention how long you've been using self-harm as a coping mechanism, how frequently you practice the behavior, and what triggers you to hurt yourself.

You can also list your justifications for wanting to speak with your parents and any queries or worries you might have.

Practice what you want to say

Writing down what you want to say will help you arrange your feelings and thoughts. You should mention how long you've been using self-harm as a coping mechanism, how frequently you practice the behavior, and what triggers you to hurt yourself.

You can also list your justifications for wanting to speak with your parents and any queries or worries you might have. Include statistics, such as the fact that about 2.5% of children who self-harm will go on to attempt suicide[13], to help your parents understand the gravity of the situation.

Plan for emotional support

You may need emotional support after the conversation, so plan for this. This can entail making a helpline call, speaking with a friend, or scheduling a therapy session. [1]

Consider involving a third party

If speaking with your parents alone makes you uncomfortable, consider contacting a dependable outsider, like a school counselor or family therapist.

As you and your parents talk, they may offer support and assist you in overcoming any difficulties that may come up. [3]

A girls parents found out their child self harms

Have the conversation

Start with a statement

To start the conversation, tell your parents you need to talk to them about something important. This can establish the conversation's tone and prepare them for what's to come.

Use "I" statements

When talking to your parents, try to use "I" statements instead of "you" statements. This can help you express your feelings without blaming or accusing your parents. For example, you might say, "I've been struggling with self-harm, and I need help," instead of, "You don't understand what I'm going through."

Be honest and open

Being upfront and honest with your parents about your self-harming is of course crucial. How long have you been self-harming, what it is, and how it makes you feel should all be explained.

Be patient and understanding

Your parents may have a range of reactions and emotions to the news that you are self-harming. That is perfectly normal. They may be shocked, afraid, angry, or sad. It's essential to be patient, understand their responses, and give them time to process the information.

Try to answer their questions honestly, take hard time, and be open to hearing their concerns.

Be prepared for a range of reactions

The news that you are self-harming may cause your parents to respond in various ways. They can be alarmed, angry, or depressed. It's crucial to provide them time to comprehend the information and to react with patience, calm, and understanding.

When responding to their inquiries, do your best to be truthful, helpful and receptive to their worries. [3] [4]

A child who self harms talking with a family member

What happens next?

Seek professional help

Self-harm is a significant problem that can adversely affect one's physical and mental health. The first step in receiving the required support is to seek professional assistance. Think about conversing with a mental health expert therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.[5]

Create a safety plan

It's crucial to make a safety plan that specifies what you'll do when you experience the urge to injure yourself. This plan might include strategies for distracting hurting yourself, reaching out for support, or engaging in healthy coping mechanisms. [6]

Involve your parents in your recovery process

Your parents can be an essential source of support as you work towards healing from self-harm. Consider involving them in your recovery process, such as attending therapy sessions or discussing strategies for managing triggers and stressors. [7]

Build a support system

Your ability to recover from self-harm may depend on the strength of your support network, which should include friends, family, and mental health experts. If you or someone you know is struggling with self-harm, consider contacting a support group or online community. [8]

Practice self-care

Self-care is a crucial component of your healing from self-harm. This could involve doing things you enjoy, like creating art or music, taking care of your physical health by exercising and eating right, and practicing mindfulness or relaxation techniques. [9]

Pro tip

When anger sparks self-harm urges, try deep breathing, counting to 10, or stepping outside. It's important to seek professional help if you're resorting to self-harm to cope with emotions.
A depressed boy sitting in his room

Questions and concerns

Why are you self-harming?

Your parents might not understand why you hurt yourself. Tell them that self-harm is frequently used as a coping technique for dealing with challenging emotions or situations. Tell them that you want to get some assistance, so you can better understand and control your emotions.

Is it our fault?

Your parents may feel guilty or responsible for your self-harm behavior. Reassure them that self-harm and depression is a complicated issue frequently influenced by several factors. Tell them you are working on healing and don't hold them responsible for your self-harm.

What can we do to help?

Your parents might be curious about how they might assist you in your recovery. Let them know that their support and understanding are essential to you and that you may need their help accessing professional support or creating a safety plan.

Can we tell anyone else?

Your parents could feel overburdened and seek support from other family members or acquaintances. Discuss with them with whom you feel comfortable sharing your struggles, and with whom you prefer to keep your self-harm private.

How can we prevent this from happening again?

Your parents might be feeling curious about what they can do to help you from self-harming in the future. Discuss with them healthy coping mechanisms that you can use when you feel overwhelmed and ways that they can support you in practicing these coping strategies.

A boy explaining to his parents that he self harms

Recovery From Self-Harm: Personal Stories


Once, there was a straight-A student who had never received detention and held the position of head girl at her school. She was always pushing herself to achieve the best, even if it meant staying up until 3 in the morning to study. She felt an immense amount of pressure to succeed and believed she had no right to feel sad or overwhelmed. Unbeknownst to her, she was causing herself significant internal harm.

As a result, she started to self-harm, driven by guilt and the misguided belief that it would release the horrible feelings that had built up inside her. She worked hard to hide her struggles from everyone, not wanting to burden anyone else. Eventually, she found solace in talking to someone who helped her explore the judgments she was placing on herself, and defuse their power. If she could speak to her younger self, she would tell her to identify and understand her feelings, and that it was okay to feel uncomfortable emotions without judging herself for it.

View Emily's Full Story.

Kayla Chang

Kayla Chang, has been in recovery from self-harm for about four years. She shares two key elements that helped her the most during her recovery journey: accountability and creating a life without self-harm. Kayla emphasizes the importance of finding someone patient, encouraging, and supportive to hold you accountable for your actions, but also setting up consequences that you genuinely fear facing.

The second crucial aspect of Kayla's recovery was developing a full, meaningful sense of self outside of self-harm. As self-harm can take over one's personality, thoughts, and relationships, Kayla encourages others to challenge themselves to expand their minds and open up their lives in ways they couldn't before. She acknowledges that her advice might not work for everyone but stresses the importance of finding what works for you and making an effort to prioritize mental health.

View Kayla's Full Story.


It's important to remember while talking to your parents about self-harm, you should not be ashamed or embarrassed. Self-harm is a very common feeling and can easily be turned into a positive action by reaching out and speaking up. Taking the steps to explain this issue severely limits the cycle of pain and guilt self-harm can bring if left untreated.

To take further action on learning more about self-harm, we recommend taking the time to read Understanding: Why Does Self Harm Feel Good & Breaking the Cycle. It contains valuable insight that can help better inform you about the psychological force behind cutting or other forms of self-injury.


What if my parents don't understand why I am self-harming?

Let your parents know that you don't expect them to understand everything, but explain how important it is for them to listen and be supportive. Consider talking to a therapist who can help work through the root causes of the self-harm and help your parents to understand and deal with it better.

How can I overcome my urges to self-harm?

Try to divert your attention from anxiety, to things like socializing with friends, exercising, or listening to music. You can also try deep breathing and relaxation techniques, journaling your thoughts and feelings, or finding a supportive online community.


  1. NHS: How to tell someone about self-harm
  2. 7 Cups: How can I tell my parents that I self-harm without them freaking out?
  3. Hidden Strength: How Do I Tell My Parents I Self Harm?
  4. Mallory Grimste: How to talk to your parents about your self-harm
  5. Self Harm + Therapy FAQ (ft. Julia Kristina Counselling)
  6. themaddiebruce: SELF HARM Q&A
  7. Mumsie Beaver: Reasons You Should Tell Your Parents You Self Harm/Are Depressed
  8. NSH: Why people self-harm
  9. Call Mind: Self-harm
  10. Call Mind: Self-harm
  11. National Library of Medicine: Self-injury Age of Onset: A Risk Factor for NSSI Severity and Suicidal Behavior
  12. Pubmed: Depressive Symptoms and Deliberate Self-Harm in a Community Sample of Adolescents: A Prospective Study
  13. Pubmed: Child Maltreatment, Non-Suicidal Self-Injury, and the Mediating Role of Self-Criticism
  14. CDC: Suicidal Ideation and Behaviors Among High School Students — Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2019
  15. Nip In The Bud: Emily...her journey to recovery from Self-Harm
  16. HealthyPlace Mental Health: Sticking with Self-Harm Recovery | HealthyPlace

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Jamie Armstrong
I have a passion for writing. I work as a Senior Marketing Manager for Islomania LLC. I have developed a strong interest in writing articles and website management during my time here. I enjoy both article writing, poetry, and story writing. In my role as a marketing manager, whether I’m writing an article, or a story, or improving other writers’ content, I always try to engage my readers and give them something to think about.
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