I Don't Know What To Do!! Help!! - Mothering Forums

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Old 03-21-2008, 06:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We just found out My 13yo daughter has been cuttingherself for about 3wks now. We all had a heart to heart with her and she has promised to never do it again. She said she was doing it because she had felt that lately she was being yelled at all the time. Now I know I'm not a perfect parent and I do yell somtimes but I never thought I had failed her this much. Help I don't know what to do. I feel like I'm on eggshells now. She is refusing treatment and I think at this point forcing her without giving her a chance would do more harm than good. Anyone have any experience with this. Please share if you do.
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Old 03-21-2008, 06:27 PM
 
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I was (am) a cutter since the age of twelve.

She will not just stop because she promised to. It doesn't work that way. I am a grown woman and still cut myself, very rarely, in times of extreme stress, extreme depression, or anger.

It is a stress relief for me, and I have never cut myself seriously enough to require stitches or anything, but your daughter may not be a "harmless cutter," and even so it's not a good thing to do.

Maybe with only 3 weeks of it behind her this can still be "fixed" with counseling. Just don't expect talks and promises to change anything.

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Old 03-21-2008, 09:33 PM
 
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Getting her in to see a counselor is a great idea but make sure it is someone she can trust. I had issues as a young teen and my mom took me to see a counselor but I wouldn't talk because the counselor said that anything I told her she could tell my mom because i wasn't 18. Several years later at the age of 21 I saw a therapist and finally worked through my issues. Sometimes I wished I would have done it sooner. Also read Reviving Ophelia by Dr. Mary Phipher. There is a follow up book of girls reactions called Ophelia Speaks and it is fabulous as well. Good luck with your teen.
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Old 03-22-2008, 06:05 PM
 
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I'm surely no expert here, but it seems like maybe going to a counselor (yourself) could help even if she isn't willing to come with you? Maybe the counselor can help you with ways to handle the situation?? I'm sorry your daughter feels this way (and you too!) Good luck!

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Old 03-22-2008, 06:49 PM
 
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Cutting, like all addictions, is a family system issue. I wouldn't assume the worst. Teens do "try stuff out" for lots of reasons, not least of which are the need to fit in. But I would be vigilant in noticing such things as wearing long sleeves/long pants in hot weather, e.g. Definitely don't take her word for stopping, and educate yourself about cutting and the reasons kids do it. Others on this thread who have cut, can you add some insight as to the things you would have liked/wanted your parents to have done to help you? mama Don't let it freak you out, but don't ignore it either.
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Old 03-23-2008, 10:00 AM
 
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As a former cutter for 16 years, I can say one of the most hurtful things my aunt (caregiver at the time) said to me was, "You're supposed to cut vertically if you wanna do it right." Of course, alluding to the fact that she believed my self harm behaviors were botched suicidal attempts. After all these years I can still feel the sting of how much that hurt. To know that not only did she not understand, but she obviously didn't care since she was instructing me on how to do it "right." And I'm a failure at that too!!

There was a movie on Lifetime years ago called Secret Cutting. I had taped it and my husband and I were watching it. I'd already seen it, but I really wanted him to see it. My aunt walked in and sat down. After awhile she said, "Trying to get more pointers?" In her eyes she was trying to make light of a situation that she found stressful. However... all it did was really hurt me.

Please don't take promises to mean that she'll stop. She might really want to, but its like promising yourself you won't eat anything ever again until you lose weight. It just doesn't happen. You will get hungry. You will cave in and eat. She will get stressed/upset/angry/depressed/agitated/whatever the mood or feeling is because everyones can be different. And she most likely will either cut or self harm in a different way.

It took a long time for me to be able to stop cutting. Years of intense therapy and almost 2 years of DBT classes. Eventually I was able to stop. However I still think about it all the time when I'm upset. Just as much as I think about smoking. (I'm an ex smoker)

Just support her and be there for her. And remember that it might not be YOU that is bothering her. It could be many things. They might be huge major things, and they might not be (to you).

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Old 03-23-2008, 07:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I did tell her that I would be randomly checking her to make sure she wasn't doing it and I gave her a big hug and told her that i would be there to help her. But I'm wondering if she is truly a cutter and I say this for this reason. A few months ago she started hanging out with a vegetarian and all of a sudden she is one now, then when they stopped being friends she started hanging with a cutter and that is when it happened. And she wasn't trying to hide it, she was telling people at school. IDK! I'm going to watch her carefully regardless and we are still dicussing therapy.
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Old 03-23-2008, 09:01 PM
 
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As a former cutter, I think that helping her find other ways to express difficult emotions would be helpful -- Journaling, making art, exercising, something she can hit, etc.

Telling someone you are going to stop doing something and actually being able to stop are 2 different things.

It also sounds like she is a bit lost on her identity -- may be helping her find a hobby, volunteer job, or something else positive in her life would be helpful.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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Old 03-29-2008, 02:38 PM
 
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Others on this thread who have cut, can you add some insight as to the things you would have liked/wanted your parents to have done to help you?
Honestly, I don't know if I can give an honest answer to this statement, or a helpful one, because my parents and I have always had a shaky relationship. Even thinking back I don't know if I ever would have wanted them to know (they didn't and don't, as far as I know.) My parents and I rarely even speak anymore.

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Old 03-30-2008, 10:16 PM
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As a former cutter, I think that helping her find other ways to express difficult emotions would be helpful -- Journaling, making art, exercising, something she can hit, etc.
I'm also a former cutter, and I totally second this.
I also second finding her a counselor who specialty is teen aged girls.
I also second reading "Reviving Ophelia" by DR. Mary Phiper.

I wouldn't necessarily trust her when she says she won't do it again. I said that to myself many times but ran into triggers along the way and cut again.

Good luck to you and your daughter
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Old 03-30-2008, 10:27 PM
 
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Cutting is a coping mechanism. A quite effective one. It produces endorphines from the pain, and makes one feel better. She needs to learn new coping mechanisms. One thing she can do if she is really feeling an urge to cut is to hold on to ice very tightly in her hands.

Another thing that really helped me was journaling. Sometimes I'd be journaling about wanting to cut, but at least it prevented it. And also just learning to sit with uncomfortable feelings. Maybe yoga classes and starting meditation can teach her those things. Or running or rock climbing or some contact sport.

Counseling is good too,for her and you and your family.

Promises not to cut mean nothing. And random checks are horribly invasive. Please don't do them. She would just find another way to hurt her self that didn't leave marks, or that left ones that were easier to explain away.

Here are some things to do instead of cut:
http://www.mirror-mirror.org/selfinj.htm
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Old 03-31-2008, 03:45 AM
 
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Cutting is a coping mechanism. A quite effective one. It produces endorphines from the pain, and makes one feel better. She needs to learn new coping mechanisms. One thing she can do if she is really feeling an urge to cut is to hold on to ice very tightly in her hands.

Another thing that really helped me was journaling. Sometimes I'd be journaling about wanting to cut, but at least it prevented it. And also just learning to sit with uncomfortable feelings. Maybe yoga classes and starting meditation can teach her those things. Or running or rock climbing or some contact sport.

Counseling is good too,for her and you and your family.
Promises not to cut mean nothing. And random checks are horribly invasive. Please don't do them. She would just find another way to hurt her self that didn't leave marks, or that left ones that were easier to explain away.

Here are some things to do instead of cut:
http://www.mirror-mirror.org/selfinj.htm

I agree with this.

I'm not a cutter, but I work with a lot of teenage girls who cut, and I can only recommend therapy with someone experienced with teenage cutting. Even if she is just experimenting, she would probably benefit from therapy. Even if she has every intent on fulfilling her promise to never cut again, she may encounter a situation that triggers her to do it again. I'd be proactive and get her into therapy.
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Old 03-31-2008, 09:24 AM
 
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I second the suggestions to try to get her involved in more activities - sometimes being busy can help - and also seeing a counsellor - although, if she's not comfortable (I never was), you could suggest having counselling sessions as a family, and/or go yourself so you can get some tips on how to help her.

I'm a former (mostly) cutter, and like previous pp's have said, promises to stop don't mean that she will be able to.

I'm sorry that your family is going through this; my thoughts are with you.
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Old 03-31-2008, 04:54 PM
 
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"Most people who self-injure tend to be perfectionists, are unable to handle intense feelings, are unable to express their emotions verbally, have dislike for themselves and their bodies, and can experience severe mood swings. They may turn to self-injury as a way to express their feelings and emotions, or as a way to punish themselves."

This is from the site Fek&Fuzz linked to. It's TRUE. It's complicated, but as a former self-mutilator I can say it was based on a foundation of this: I didn't know where I fit in (niche), I had low self esteem because I was simply not GOOD at anything - like acknowledged, appreciated, awarded good at things. I'd go to my friend Pam's house and she had awards from Tae-kwon-do, and my friend Liz was a whiz at math and had all kinds of things going on in funky things like robotics, and my brother was into music/bands, and ... and I had nada. It was harrowing, really. Being mediocre in a world where I was a perfectionist/high achiever was so hard. Third, I had a crappy relationship w/my mom. I needed someone who could LISTEN, someone who might offer me a shoulder to cry on, a way to figure out the hard stuff like sex and friendship and yeah, maybe a little fashion help lol! I didn't really have a 'best' friend, either, which was hard. I had a group of friends, and I enjoyed hanging out w/them, but they were kinda tame, and I really liked pushing the edges of stuff - experimenting with alcohol/drugs, sex, etc. So instead of having someone to really talk it all through with, I just went and did it all - including cutting.

It doesn't sound like your dd needs more than you are giving her, but maybe she needs MORE of what you are already giving her - time, attention, affirmation, listening/helping with stuff. Letting her know that you (and others!) appreciate her for who she is is great, but who is she? Can you and she talk about that? What is her role in the family? Does she volunteer anywhere? Is she on a team? Does she have a job? These are things that define us (even as adults) and will help her to let go of absorbing other people's (bad) habits (it's just a way for her to experiment, btw - I think you're right that she probably isn't intuitively a cutter if she's emulating). I don't think you can force her to join a team or pick up a new hobby, but you can surely help her explore and see what she might like to try? (rock climbing? refurbishing wooden chairs? tie dying? maybe she can buddy up w/someone and run a little preschool camp this summer - planning out activities now would consume a bunch of time and get her involved in visiting preschools, researching at the library, figuring out costs, etc. - there's endless possibilities!)

For a kid who takes on the attributes of others, you may want to look into something like a visit to a kibbutz for a month this summer (though it's dreadfully hot in the summer there), or a sheep farm in NZ/Aussie - something that will help her find some definition and be productive at the same time. Other ideas are to help through a church (try UU for non-denominational) - whether it's a fundraiser, something for the children, something like a family night (movies/games etc.) or ??? Giving her something that she wants to do, that she loves, that she's committed will really help her hone her skills, stay focused on +++ stuff, and get away from the negative attributes. Some programs will take teens overseas or to central/south Am. for work/travel stuff, and those experiences are really powerful, too. Seeing how hard life is for other kids can be inspirational and really motivating to a child who has it all, kind of thing.

Have you spoken with her counselor at school? Is it possible to (surreptitiously) move her further away from this child who is a cutter, whom she is emulating?

Hugs, mama. I am sure that this will work out in the best possible way, but it may take a bit of effort on the part of you (her parents) and letting her grow and evolve in more ++ ways.

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Old 04-07-2008, 09:16 PM
 
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as a person that has/still cuts I will give the hard truth. EVEN IF SHE PROMISED SHE STILL IS GOING TO CUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SHE NEEDS TREATMENT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IF YOU HAVE TO GIVE HER AN ULTIMATEM. EITHER YOU GO TO TREATMENT OR..... As far as why she cuts she didn't tell you the TRUTH! I said the exact thing she said almost word for word to my parents. She does it cause she feels like the world HATES her. They want you to be in pain so you comply, inside she is SCREAMING for help. PLEASE GET HER TO TREATMENT. YOU WILL BE SAVING A LIFE! And No CUTTING ISN'T SOMTHING YOU EXPERIMENT WITH!!!!!!!!! ANY TIME SELF HARM OCCURS THE PERSON MENT TO DO IT!!!!!!! Sorry to scare you but I didn't cut HATE into my leg jus to experiment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 04-11-2008, 05:40 AM
 
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I did tell her that I would be randomly checking her to make sure she wasn't doing it and I gave her a big hug and told her that i would be there to help her. But I'm wondering if she is truly a cutter and I say this for this reason. A few months ago she started hanging out with a vegetarian and all of a sudden she is one now, then when they stopped being friends she started hanging with a cutter and that is when it happened. And she wasn't trying to hide it, she was telling people at school. IDK! I'm going to watch her carefully regardless and we are still dicussing therapy.
This behavior is so typical, and it usually is just a stupid teenage phase. In my honest opinion and experience, if she's the type who "clones" her friends' behaviors, and if she's running around telling people at school then she's not a "real" cutter. They hide it, they don't brag/exploit themselves. (If that offends anyone, don't yell at me!)

I've had friends who cut, and basically I use the tough love approach right off the bat. But then again when it comes from a friend and not a parent it's always easier to hear and discuss openly. So, when I talk to my friends about it, they feel guilty and admit it's wrong/bad/threatening and really come to an understanding about WHY they do it. But, I imagine if a parent were to do this it would most likely blow up in their face.. =\ I just don't take kindly to problems like this, I have no tolerance for these kind of things. This includes suicide, eating disorders, and all the like. In my opinion there is no excuse great enough to justify or make it acceptable and it only speaks for weakness. (And If this offends anyone, don't yell at me either!)

On the other hand, I do agree with mnwildfans1 somewhat though. But I do believe that teens cut experimentally. And I know that some really aren't kidding around, they mean to do true harm to themselves. This may or may not be your daughter but based on what you said, I don't believe her to be serious.
It's always a threat though, it shouldn't be taken lightly. I think you'd all benefit from therapy, either as a family if you can manage or even just yourself, or her, as most everyone has said. And if it winds up she IS in fact the second type, then the ultimatum/tough love approach is probably all that can help her. You can only hold someone's hand for so long..

In any case, I wish you the best with this issue. I'm sorry you and your family are going through it.
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Old 04-11-2008, 08:12 AM
 
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A counselor is the best thing you could do for her right now. It really, really, really helps to have someone to talk to, someone you can trust, someone who isn't going to tell your secrets to anybody, and someone who seems to understand.

Also, please don't feel like you've failed her. I remember at that age feeling like everyone hated me, like my parents did nothing but criticize and yell at me, and that they didn't like me anymore. In hindsight, I realize it was just ME changing and going through everything, they didn't change at all. You haven't failed her though. *hugs* to you.

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Old 04-14-2008, 04:41 AM
 
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"Cutting" is not the disease, it is the symptom.

I would suggest not focusing on the cutting. Don't act like it doesn't happen, but don't make it the focus of any discussion. The cutting is not the problem, the reason she cuts is the problem. Focus on the reasons.

You are only going to aggravate any negative feelings she has by alienating her about "cutting" and failing to recognize that she's in pain. Maybe if you can relate to her about something self mutilating that you've done (we've all done something), no matter how mild, it'll help her to open up to you or at least make her feel like she's not alone or strange.

With this approach, if she's just doing it for attention or to be like her friend, she'll realize that she's not getting attention for the actual cutting and may stop.

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Old 04-14-2008, 06:33 AM
 
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I did tell her that I would be randomly checking her to make sure she wasn't doing it and I gave her a big hug and told her that i would be there to help her. But I'm wondering if she is truly a cutter and I say this for this reason. A few months ago she started hanging out with a vegetarian and all of a sudden she is one now, then when they stopped being friends she started hanging with a cutter and that is when it happened. And she wasn't trying to hide it, she was telling people at school. IDK! I'm going to watch her carefully regardless and we are still dicussing therapy.
"She will not just stop because she promised to. It doesn't work that way."


"Getting her in to see a counselor is a great idea but make sure it is someone she can trust. I had issues as a young teen and my mom took me to see a counselor but I wouldn't talk because the counselor said that anything I told her she could tell my mom because i wasn't 18."
Ask the counselor to come in for a few minutes durring her first session. WHile they are going over the confidentiality information, then inform her, and yourself, that you will not be asking or recieving any of the things she talks about. That counseling is her special time and you want her to feel comfortable and you will sign a contract that you will not try to invade that.
When I was very young (and being molested no less) I couldn't talk to my counselor because he told me that nothing could be confidential because i was so young and that if my mom asked, he had to tell her. I never disclosed anything that happened to me.

"I'm surely no expert here, but it seems like maybe going to a counselor yourself"

This is trying and emotional for you, if you don't feel it yet, you will soon. Get yourself some extra support.

"Eventually I was able to stop. However I still think about it all the time when I'm upset. "

THANK YOU for sharing this. I feel guilty that I still think about it and have the urge, even though I don't follow through, I feel like crap for considering. So thank you for letting me know I am not alone.

"I think that helping her find other ways to express difficult emotions would be helpful -- Journaling, making art, exercising, something she can hit, etc."
"Another thing that really helped me was journaling. Sometimes I'd be journaling about wanting to cut, but at least it prevented it. And also just learning to sit with uncomfortable feelings."

I discovered this book in college and it was a good start to my healing. http://www.amazon.com/Creative-Journ.../dp/0878771484 Here's her website http://www.healthy.net/CreativeJournal/

"I would suggest not focusing on the cutting. Don't act like it doesn't happen, but don't make it the focus of any discussion. The cutting is not the problem, the reason she cuts is the problem. Focus on the reasons. "


"You are only going to aggravate any negative feelings she has by alienating her about "cutting" and failing to recognize that she's in pain. Maybe if you can relate to her about something self mutilating that you've done (we've all done something), no matter how mild, it'll help her to open up to you or at least make her feel like she's not alone or strange. "
I don't know that I agree with this part. As a teenager, I would have seen right through this approach. Better I think would be to tell her that it is normal to feel pain and normal to try and find different methods of dealing with pain/etc, but hurting herself is not an acceptable or healthy way of dealing with these feelings. As her parents, you are going to help her find some better methods of coping. Then, find them. Do what it takes to help her find a healthy outlet.

As far as what I would have liked to have happen...
-I would have liked to be taken seriously. I was talking about suicide and no one listened, they made me go to counseling at school three times where I didn't talk about the real issues and then when i stopped coming in of my own accord, no one bothered to come and pull me even though that's what they said would happen.
-I would have liked follow through. No one followed up on me. I got lost in the life of the household and no one remembered that I was lost in there hurting.
-I would have liked to have good counseling. Again, with no follow up, I fell through the cracks. I needed someone to do the work for me that I was not mature enough to handle.
-I would have liked a new environment. I was in a poisonous household to begin with and my friends at school were not any better (ok, actually they were better, but that's not saying much). I needed to be in an environment where healthy forms of self expression were encouraged, not just by the "controlling, dumb, mean adults", but also by the "cool, better, popular kids".


***and be careful about the choice to do body checks, kids are resourcefull, I know that when someone threatened to do that to me, Ijust cut where they couldn't ethically make me show them. (They checks my wrist, I cut my forearem, they checked my forearm, I cut my upper arm, ...shoulder, ...ankle, ... thigh, they checked my thigh, I cut between my breasts, and I was NOT taking my shirt off.) It's "ok" to look where a swimsuit does't cover, but it's crossig several boundries to make me strip to the complete nude and look at my butt, inner/upper thighs, breasts, etc... If anyone had tried that, I would have just done a different type of self injury, I.e. wrist banging...***
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Old 04-15-2008, 06:36 PM
 
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I was (am) a cutter since the age of twelve.

She will not just stop because she promised to. It doesn't work that way. I am a grown woman and still cut myself, very rarely, in times of extreme stress, extreme depression, or anger.

It is a stress relief for me, and I have never cut myself seriously enough to require stitches or anything, but your daughter may not be a "harmless cutter," and even so it's not a good thing to do.

Maybe with only 3 weeks of it behind her this can still be "fixed" with counseling. Just don't expect talks and promises to change anything.
i agree with every thing said here. I was/am a self injurer and it is something I still struggle with all the time. I would like to point out that it is how a person deals with things that causes them to turn to self injury, it is not anyones fault. Nothing that you have done "causes" this behavior. She needs help and understanding, but please so not blame yourself for her cutting. You did not cause it. She does it because it comforts her, not to blame anyone.

I hope that things get better for you all very soon

Unschooling Mommy of 3: Lilith (14), Panda (6), and Fox (4)
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Old 04-16-2008, 01:52 AM
 
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I agree with most of the posts here. My baby sister is a cutter, she does it to relieve the pain and anxiety she feels inside. The best thing you can do for her is find a good counselor who has had experience with this.

Second, as others have already suggested, get her involved with something physical, so she can experience a good, healthy "pain" that relieves stress. This will also release the same endorphines but in a positive way. Yoga, track and field, sports, anything really physical like this will have her feeling better and using a better stress reliever.

Oh, and something that really helped my sister was wearing a rubber band on her wrist, and every time she felt like cutting, she would snap the rubber band. It hurt, but it didn't harm her in a physical way, and eventually she stopped doing it.

Good luck, I know it isn't easy.
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Old 04-20-2008, 01:16 AM
 
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i am sure you are a great mom.

teens just are very emotional and touchy.
i have a friend who used to cut, she did it for attention.
so maybe try spending alone time with your daughter, telling her you love her more,and making her feel important!

Good Luck and God Bless
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