Dear Parent or Gaurdian of a teen who cuts,
First of all, I am so sorry that you're having to face this with your son or daughter. It's an incredibly difficult thing to watch the ones we love the most suffer, to want more than anything to see them heal but feel like nothing helps.
It's important for you to know that you don't have to carry guilt for what your teenager has chosen to do. Although no one is perfect, I'm certain that you love your son or daughter and want to help them tremendously, which is a beautiful thing—even if it's hard. That fact that your teen has a parent who cares as much as you do is incredibly important.
One of the most important things you can do is to continue to learn about the issues your teen is facing—whether that be through research, consulting professionals, or just talking to them and making a safe space where he or she can share what they're going through without judgment.
Although it's hard to listen to loved ones express what they're feeling without immediately offering advice on fixing it (especially when you can so clearly see how their mindset is skewed), sometimes that's vital for them to have that space, to feel like they can trust you. The more you understand what they are experiencing and why they are engaging in these destructive behaviors, the more you'll be able to locate resources to assist in healing.
One of the ways to help your teen heal is to address those root causes rather than focusing on the symptoms. All of those harmful behaviors are just symptoms—not the actual issue at hand. It's easy to focus on just trying to stop your son or daughter from cutting since that's such a clear place where they are hurting. But the truth is that there are wounds far deeper in the heart that are just working themselves out through self-injury.
It's very likely that there are thought patterns and heartaches that are making him or her feel very worthless. Addressing those emotions, anxieties, and concerns will help your teen to see that he or she is so, so worth it (beloved by God, purposed and valued by Him, and loved and accepted by you and other close relations/friends) will help them be able to value themselves and know they doesn't have to hurt themselves.
You may find that talking with counselors or other trusted, key people in your teen's life will be both helpful and encouraging. They can offer support and wisdom as you go through the healing process with your son or daughter. Resist the urge to share details of your teen's struggles with just anyone you talk to, since respecting their trust in sharing with you is a huge deal. At the same time, it's important that you build a team of people around you who can care for your teen and care for you in the process as well.
A church community and pastors can be vital for this, if they are the kind of community that offers grace and understanding to the issues your son or daughter is dealing with. Professional doctors and therapists who are well educated in these struggles may be able to offer more options.
You might not find the right people to fight this battle with you immediately. That's OK; don't give up! Sometimes it takes time to find the right counselor or the right group of people to support you in this. But it's worth continuing to look for until you find it.
When it gets too much and you feel lost and overwhelmed, it's OK for you to make space to get your own head on straight for a bit too. Staying rooted in who God is and how much He loves you will help you be able to love your teen too.
Remember, God is grieving in this situation with you. He's sad too about what your son or daughter is having to experience and go through. When we feel totally lost and stuck, Romans 8:26 says "We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans." You can rest in the knowledge that He is fighting with you and grieving with you that healing has been so long in coming.
I have always loved what Paul says in Galatians 6:9, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." He's saying that he knows it's hard to keep doing the right thing, hard to keep fighting to be representatives of God in a broken world, but that it's so, so worth it.
I want to encourage you in that as well. What you're facing is likely one of the hardest things you have ever encountered in your life. But your son or daughter is worth it, and there is hope for healing, and that healing is worth it.
I hope and pray you'll be blessed by His deep presence and peace with you as you continue to walk this road towards healing with your teen.
Elraen is "a rescued failure" and strives to learn to live a song of redemption. She loves music because she has seen how it can breathe, the way it makes people come alive. She takes pictures and goes to shows and writes for a major Christian music website.