Channel 4's 'Kids on the edge' coping with self-harm

Emily Cherry's advice to parents and guardians worried about their child self-harming

Supporting a young childThis week’s episode of ‘Kids on the Edge’ on Channel 4 featured 2 teenage girls dealing with self harm, a problem that thousands of young people contact Childline about on an annual basis.

There are many reasons why young people injure themselves. And sometimes they aren't sure why they do it.

Symptoms of self-harm

Young people tend to exhibit physical and emotional symptoms when harming themselves. These commonly include:

    • unexplained cuts and burns
    • depression
    • tearfulness
    • isolation
    • keeping themselves covered up in long sleeve clothing, even in warm conditions.

The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to help a young person who is self-harming, the most important of these being talking with them.

Finding out a young person self-harms will have an effect on you but it’s important to stay calm and let them know you’re there to support them.

Coping techniques to help you

Crayon illustrationAs a parent or guardian it’s instinctive to want to keep a constant eye on a child that is hurting themselves, but this can have a negative impact. It’s vital to get the right balance between monitoring them and respecting their privacy. Giving them their own space will help you build up confidence and trust which is essential to their recovery.

Once a child has confided in you and they're in a position to address the issue, try to get to the bottom of what triggers them to self-harm and then find alternative coping mechanisms and activities to help your child break the cycle. This could include:

  • painting or drawing 
  • writing down negative thoughts and feelings and then ripping it up
  • exercising
  • just watching a favourite funny film.

Not all of these will work for everyone, but there'll be a way for you to help your child to cope with their urge to self-harm without them coming to any harm.

Call the NSPCC helpline

If you need more information about self-harm or you're worried about a child, even if you're unsure, contact our professional counsellors 24/7 for help, advice and support.

Call us or email

0808 800 5000

Get the advice you need


Information about why children self-harm, how to spot the signs and what you can do about it.
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