Talking To My Teens About Cutting

A couple of months ago I picked up my kids from school, like any other day, asked how their day was, like any other day.  

Q told me that she cried in health that day.  I asked why.  She set it up for me and told me they were talking about good and bad stressors.  They talked about ways stress can be helpful as well as the negative side of stress.  

They talked about eating disorders, alcohol and drug use, and cutting.  

She told me she started to cry when they talked about cutting... because she knew that I did that.  'I didn't know what would be so stressful that you would cut yourself, and it made me sad...'  Something along those lines is what she said.

I had no idea, on that afternoon drive, that would be the day I talked to my teens about cutting.

Of course I'd assumed it would come up some day, some day when they were much older, all of my kids would know this about me.  They would be mature, well past the years of even thinking of doing this to themselves.  It would be an easier conversation because they wouldn't be in 7th and 6th grade, asking about something they have so little life experience to comprehend!  

Yet here I was!  I have nothing to hide, this is a part of me, that is by no means a conversation starter, nor is it anything I like to highlight, but if brought up, is something I am not afraid to talk about. 

I asked how she knew about my cutting, taking in all information, deciding in the few minutes we had, what was necessary to share.

She had read about it on my blog, a draft that has been in there forever, waiting to be finished.  It is written in one post, my '10 things you may not know about me post'.  

Awesome!  After reading my one line, in that draft, she still didn't even really know what it was, until they talked about it more in depth in health.  How are we talking about this in 7th grade?  Are kids doing this to themselves so young?  Do we really need to open this door for them in 7th grade?  Of course, if she hadn't learned that piece of information about me, the whole subject may have just flown right over her head.


Here we go.  How do I fit in all that I have to say, all that I have felt, all of that I have experienced, learned, into my 5 minute drive home?

The answer is... I don't!  Nor do these two need to hear all of that at this point!

Because of my life experience, because of what I believe, because they are mine and I love them and know them, I want them to talk to me, about ALL things!  This thing is no different, and so we talked about it.

I stuck to, and talked about these truths for me.  

1 - Cutting is a way of coping.  

It is an extremely unhealthy way to cope, but knowing it is a way to cope, gives us power to see what it is and make a different choice.  It is used to escape from something else, that's what coping mechanisms do.  There are damaging, unhealthy ways to cope BUT there are also many good ways to escape from that same thing.  That brings me to #2...

2 - Talking is the best release.

I explained my own triggers, feeling like I don't have the words to express myself, not feeling understood, or feel confused by what I am feeling, feeling out of control/like there is no escape.  I expressed to both of them, in all cases when I can just talk and get 'it' out, whatever 'it' is, I am 100% less likely to cut.  Talking is the absolute best release!  

And, (I told my kids) I am so proud of my kids.  They talk so much better than I did/do, so far at least!  

3 - It is ok to feel.

This was taught to me and I think I'm teaching it to my kids.  We feel things!  That is part of this experience.  Trying to get through life without feeling sadness, anger, anxiety doesn't work.  Telling yourself that something is wrong, because you feel this way only creates emotional distress!  We talked about feeling things and being honest with it.  Honoring those feelings, releasing them into the universe gives us freedom!  

If you need to cry, cry!  If you need to be physical, punch your pillow or go for a run, throw a ball into my mitt!  If you need to scream, do it into your pillow, let it out!  If you need to write, do it!  If you need to talk, I am always here, you can kneel down to pray as well, or go to someone else you trust.  Honor those feelings, because they don't magically dissapear!  

It was an interesting experience for me, and I'm sure for them.  

We talked candidly.  There were just a few questions at that point.  They each told me what they have done/do when they get really mad and frustrated.  We came up with healthy things we can all do to relieve stress and negative feelings, when we feel them.

We ended with big, reassuring hugs.  It was a new feeling to be on the receiving end of the reassuring hugs from my kids!

I want my kids to share things with me!  I want my kids to trust me and be able to talk to me, and come to me with things that are hard, embarrassing, things they are sorry for, things they question.  I want it to be safe for us to talk.

This day caught me off guard!  This was a issue of vulnerability for me.  This is a facet of me that demonstrates I don't always have it all together, that I indeed make mistakes, that I haven't always handled life in the best way.   

Of course my kids know I'm not perfect, but as they grow and mature, as we get to know each other better, I'm sure they will see the 'dark and twisty' I've overcome in becoming 'bright and shiny' (Gray's Anatomy fan here).  I hope that my honesty becomes a tool for them.

I hope that sharing this part of me, being honest about it, has built a bridge of trust between me and my kids.  If I want my kids to do it, I'd better be willing to do it too!