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How can I tell my parents that I self-harm without them freaking out?

18 Answers
Last Updated: 02/13/2018 at 10:29am
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
Moderated by

Polly Letsch, LCSW

Clinical Social Work/Therapist

I provide non-judgmental, person-centered, objective therapeutic treatment for individuals of all ages to improve social, emotional, mental and other areas of functioning.

Top Rated Answers
January 13th, 2015 6:34pm
(Been there, as a parent!) If you are seriously injured, you must tell them right away. But if you want long-term support, I would suggest gathering information for parents on cutting and approaching them at a time when you aren't stressed and self-injuring, and at a time when you all have the privacy and time and atmosphere to have a serious conversation. Think about what kind of help you want -- if you know -- and ask for their support. Perhaps start out by saying that you've been upset lately and taking out your feelings on yourself, although you are OK at the moment. And it's OK to tell them that you're nervous about how they'll react but it'd be helpful to them if you all can talk heart to heart and try to come up with a plan. (That's what I would have liked -- instead, my son sent a photo of the self-injury to someone he was involved with and I saw it, just as I was running out the door to give a talk on something quite unrelated.) You may even want to let them know that you've heard of other kids doing the same thing although you weren't talked into doing it by someone else (if that's true)--that way your parent might not react like I did and think it was the fault of the person my son was upset about. Good luck. You don't have to do a terrific job of it -- just let your folks know you could really use their love and support right now. Even if they freak out (we did a little of that), they may recover from the shock (we did) and get you the help you need (we did). Good luck and know that you can find an encouraging Listener here before and after you let them know.
January 18th, 2016 8:04pm
I really don't feel parents are worth telling that sort of thing to. It could be just as dangerous to tell a friend who might then tell a teacher and then your parents find out that way. A lot of times parents are the cause of self-harm to begin with, so it is pointless telling them in that case. I think the best thing to do is meditate or find less harmful ways to deal with pain/enjoy pain. I'm not an expert on this and only someone who has done it and survived could be. The person who cares the most about you is you. Always will be, through your entire life, no matter when you die. So maybe the most important person to tell is you. Say to yourself in the mirror "You are harming me, hurting me" and either "sometimes i like it" or "it helps me express myself" or "I don't like it at all but I cant stop". Then turn it around, so that you are the reflection and say 'I hurt you, I harm you". Then complete it saying "I hurt me, I harm me" This completes the ego cycle so all parts are represented and all had their fair time to express themselves. Really hear whatever is said next.
May 8th, 2015 9:55am
I wrote a letter. I think writing letters is an excellent way being able to get your words out without the confrontation. It not only allows you to process what you are saying more clearly, but it allows you to be able to reword it until it sounds right. I think honesty is the best policy, be open and truthful about how you are feeling..try to get them to walk in your shoes, get them to imagine how you feel right now and hopefully they will be able to be empathetic of your needs and support you.
May 6th, 2015 6:04pm
It can be super difficult telling parents and family about self-harm. But if you choose to do so, I would suggest explaining how it helps you. Show that there is a meaning for doing it, whether it's a coping mechanism, a punishment, a cry for help, explain it to them. However we are all responsible for our own emotions, if parents freak out over self harm, you have to let them deal with their emotion. :)
June 3rd, 2015 10:53pm
Tell them that you had been having some problems, and those problems were making you sad. Say that you felt there was nobody to listen to, so you took the pain away by harming yourself. Tell them that you were scared to ask for help, but now you're ready.
October 18th, 2016 9:55am
Firstly prepare them by arranging a time where you would like to discuss something in important regarding a problem you have. A time is good for everyone to not get distracted and can be more relaxed. When you're sat down explain that you only want them to listen because it is hard for you to tell them what you have to say. Explain what problems you have been going through and the kind of feelings and thoughts you are feeling then telling them how you are dealing with them by self harm. Explain to them it isn't there fault but you really want them to understand and you love them so this is why you have come to them for help. Parents reaction could be self blame of why they didn't see it or annoyed as they hate the idea someone they love is hurting themself. Remember that they love you and they possible don't understand but that is what you are trying to do. Give them time to sink in if they aren't calm. If it is to much for you to deal with after telling them. Tell them that there reaction is to hard to deal with and I need to walk away to try and cope. It's never easy but in the long run they will respect you
June 29th, 2015 8:59pm
When I told a family member about my self-harm, I started a conversation about depression and gradually lead up to confessing. The starting conversation can be about anything, as long as it leads up to that. You could also ask someone else to tell them for you or write them a letter. Any if those could work.
February 13th, 2018 10:29am
Okay, first of all, you matter, and you shouldn't be self-harming, nobody deserves to have something so horrid. Before I start, remember that your parents are there and care for you. 1. Make a script of what you're going to say, and then repeat it in your head to remember it. 2. Make a list of why you self-harm so that they have a possibility to help you. 3. If they are stressed or angry, save your talking for tomorrow. If they are in a good mood, tell them what you do and why you do it. You matter and you are special, if you feel you are a danger to yourself, call 116 123 or go to .
December 30th, 2017 7:28pm
there isn't a possible way to tell your parents that you've self harmed, this is coming from a 16 year old boy and i have self harmed and its near impossible to tell your parents. my parents found out from my teacher who saw the cuts and as soon as you get home they come over to you and demand to see what you did. you can try make an appointment with your doctor or school nurse if you are in school but it is something that every parent is terrified of happening so more than likely they will freak out. you just have to be 100% honest to them about why you have done it and listen to what they say and agree to let them help you even if you don't want it.
February 9th, 2015 2:54am
You can't control how your parents will react when you tell them. But they care about you; try and remember that whatever their reaction may be. The best thing you can do is to be open and honest with them.
July 11th, 2017 6:06pm
At first sit down with them and clearify that this conversation is very important for you and your health. Show them that you are talking to them because you trust them. Tell them in a way that you are comftable with and that you want to get happy with productive soloutions for your issues.
January 18th, 2016 2:38pm
first talk to them about your situation and then gradually explain them why you self harmed. while doing this keep in mind that they will freak out at some level.
October 26th, 2015 11:27pm
If they are not to strict tell them before, promise me you won't freak out or get mad. They may be unaware of this and may take in consideration that you are suicidal. If not kindly explain what self harm is and how its just a bad coping issue and then proceed to say that you need to see some therapeutic help (if that's what your goal is)
May 9th, 2015 4:08pm
I think it would honestly be more alarming if they didn't. But there is a good freaking out and a bad freaking out. And you need to find the right support and hopefully you'll parents will help you get better.
July 5th, 2016 1:13pm
There's no easy way out of this. You should sit down with them and explain your situation and your feelings.
October 3rd, 2016 7:13pm
Explain it to them in a way that they can understand, which isn't too complicated, while giving them information that they need to understand. I know it sounds hard, but it can be done.
June 7th, 2015 5:55pm
Sit them down, tell them what upsets you, tell them you love them and show them make sure they understand that by you going to them and telling them you self-harm and why shows that you are seeking help and they will help you.
July 25th, 2016 1:40am
You can tell them first you have not been very good recently, and that you need help. Then, you can tell them you are hurting yourself and why you are doing it. I think it's important for them to understand that you need help and you are going through a bad phase in your life. Of course they will freak out a little bit in the sense of they care for you.