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Self Harm If you or someone you know is struggling with self harm and needs advice or alternatives, we're here to help.

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  (#1 (permalink)) Old
Ruby Offline
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13 year old son scratching - December 11th 2009, 04:18 PM

I know most of the reasons he has pent up anger, because I was in the hospital for alcoholism, and I know the kind of pressure that put him under.

There were a lot more pressures and stresses in our lives during that time as well.

On top of all that, I have serious chronic pain issues which I know effect him greatly. I don't complain or let on about it, I just have to decline giving him a ride somewhere, participating in family events, etc.

Yesterday, we both went to get our H1N1 (swine) flu shots, and just went in together since it was just a shoulder shot, and would shorten our time there.

Well, when he pulled up his sleeve to receive the shot, I noticed a row of deep gouging scratches on his upper shoulder. I decided to wait until we were alone to address this with him.

I had had some suspicions about this before, but he hides it well.

I decided NOT to be 'overwhelmed' by it, but simply ask him what happened. He just made light of it, and said probably one of the cats scratched him. (the scratches were WAY deeper and wider than a cat's scratches) He wasn't ready to talk about it.

A couple of hours later, I asked him if he wanted me to put any salve on his scratch, because it could become infected. We talked a little more about the actual scratches, but nothing revealing from him. He said something about 'messing around with his friends', getting scratched in the process. Then he said he doesn't actually remember how it happened.

I told him I didn't like anyone to injure him by scratching him, and he said 'it's no big deal, mom'.

I want to get to the bottom of this ASAP, but I also don't want to say things that will push him farther away, or shut him down.

He's a very sensitive kid. And most of the time, he's very loving and compassionate. This is killing me that he may be hurting himself. I don't know for sure what to do next.

I'm thinking I will just let him know that it's not so unusual and that there are ways for him to help himself, and ways I can help too. I've learned quite a bit from this website, but I just don't want to screw it up for him. I've done my share of screwing up already.

He absolutely refuses any therapy. I tried that route before when I first began noticing all the changes (after I got sober).

I know he felt completely abandoned by me by my alcoholism and stint in the hospital.

Please, if you have any suggestions or advice, lay it on me. I'm a big girl and can take criticism. I need all the help I can get. He is the most precious gift that ever arrived on the scene in my life.

If only I hadn't screwed it up with drinking over all the stress (long story).

Ruby
   
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Re: 13 year old son scratching - December 11th 2009, 09:46 PM

Well first of all, I'd like to applaud you on taking the time to post your concern on here. I love it when we see parents trying to find solutions for their kids that may not have found us yet. I'm glad you got help for your alcoholism and you realize how it effected him, not too many people that've been through what you have can admit the painful toll it may have taken on their children. I don't think you really deserve much criticism because from what I can see, you're a pretty awesome mom.

I know when I first started cutting, I did the exact same thing and blamed it on the cats the first few times and messing around with my friends when my mom accidentally saw. She ignored it for a good 3 and a half years, so the fact that you recognize what might be going on is a VERY good thing. Catching the problem early on makes the recovery so, so much easier than if you let it go on for too long.

I'm happy you didn't let yourself be overwhelmed by the initial shock of it and you're wanting to approach it in a subtle way. I think if you acknowledge what is going on he may be willing to tell you the whole story. Self-harm is something that is pretty difficult to keep to yourself. It's possible that one of his friends might already know what is happening. If you know of anyone he's close with and are familiar enough with them to ask about it, that may be a good first step too (although, it may go over the opposite way with your son, depending on how he is. he might find questioning his friend an invasion of privacy, but it's a strategy that worked with one of my friends and their parents).

Also, if you could somehow get him to check out our site, we may be able to encourage him to talk to you about it himself...

Thank you for coming to us and asking for advice. You may have made a mistake, but it's obvious that you're more than willing to do whatever it takes to make up for it, and that's what makes a good mom

-Natalie



"If we make it through, And I can save you
With this heart I know, I will carry us home."


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  (#3 (permalink)) Old
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Re: 13 year old son scratching - December 12th 2009, 03:24 AM

Thank you so much, Natalie, for your thoughtful response. It's encouraging just to know that you have 'been there, done that', and are supportive and giving from your own experiences. Thank you for sharing a part of your journey with me.

I'm so sorry it took your mom so long to come to grips with your self-harm. But as a mom, I can understand the fear involved in opening that can of worms. I'm certainly not excusing it, just that I understand from a mom's point of view how scary that is.

And especially thank you for helping me feel better about myself. I feel like such a failure sometimes.

You mentioned talking with one of his friends, and I had thought about that too. He has two close friends that would surely know, sense they spend a lot of time with him.

But, like you say, it could go either way. My son is very sensitive and private. And I've noticed that he is kind of protective of his time with them.

But they do like us as parents, and like to hang out here, and talk with us about things. At first, I thought maybe I could invite one (or both) of them out for burgers without my son knowing, but I kinda got shivers up my spine thinking about what my son's reaction might be.

I think I'll work up to it myself in a gentle, non-threatening way. I don't know how to explain it, but I just 'know in my knower' when the time is right for me to approach him, and he would be receptive to me.

The main stumbling block is my chronic pain. Like today, I had to take so many pain medications, I couldn't have communicated with anyone effectively.

He was so sweet to me. He came in and said 'I just wanted to come in and say hi and tell you I love you'. Wow. To hear that from his lips (like I said he's very sensitive and compassionate) just made my day! Even though I was laying there in pain, I couldn't have felt any better on the inside!

I sometimes think he's protecting me by not telling me certain things. I just need to spend more time with him and let him see that my pain has no significance when it comes to his well-being. I'm a very strong person. He doesn't have to protect me from the truth.

But once he has been 'nailed' on something, he usually comes clean. I just have to wait for the right time.

I just hope I'm not too late in catching this. I've had my suspicions before, so I don't know how long it's been going on. But I just have to believe that the perfect opportunity will present itself for me to approach this with him. If it doesn't, I know I'll have to create the opportunity myself.

Thanks again for your wonderful response to my post. I'll let you know how things are progressing.

Ruby
   
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Re: 13 year old son scratching - December 12th 2009, 03:54 PM

Thank you for your kind words Ruby. I've been going through a bit of a rough patch, especially with my mom lately, and now I guess I do understand her perspective of it from a mother's point of view.

It does sound like your son may not appreciate talking to his friends, so it's good that you want to wait until you can find a time that feels right for both of you. If your son really is self-harming a good thing to do would be start shopping around for counselors now, one may even be able to help you come up with a solid plan on how to bring the subject up and handle it in case he becomes defensive. This way, if you have on all nice and picked out that you feel the two of you will be comfortable with, he won't have to wait as long to talk to someone. Even if he's resistant at first, you should make him go the first couple of times. You can decide to take a break if he really hates it after a few visits, but typically once you've gotten the chance to talk to someone about it you usually want to go back after a while.

I'm so sorry that your chronic pain is that bad, but you definitely couldn't have a better son and it's good that you appreciate him. I think it's good he wants to help you so much, be sure to let him know though that you're the mother so it's also your job to help him.

I honestly don't think there's ever a "too late." Really no matter how long it's gone on, it's going to be pretty difficult after you've used self-harm as a way to cope with things, but if you have a loving family it makes things so much more easier. If you have an open line of communication about everything between you, your husband, and your son, it'll make the recovery a lot less difficult on everyone.

Take care and I hope things go well,
-Natalie



"If we make it through, And I can save you
With this heart I know, I will carry us home."


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Re: 13 year old son scratching - December 12th 2009, 04:55 PM

Hello there Ruby. My name is Jackson. First off I just wanted to say that your love for your son I quite amazing as many people don't show it nowadays. Your love for him rights all the wrongs you have done.

Onto your son, I have to say well done for taking a gentle, non-threatening way in approaching the matter. I myself am gentle and have always been and that is a very wise thing to do. Just as he showed you by his actions how much he loves you, show him that too. It will go a very long way just spending time with him as you want to. To gentle people, actions speak very much more than words do.

You very much have the knowledge you need, so go ahead.
   
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Re: 13 year old son scratching - December 14th 2009, 10:51 PM

Thank you so much Natalie and Jackson! It's so good to have people to talk to who have been there done that and know how to counsel me.

You've both been so very supportive of the way I'm dealing with this, and that means a lot to me.

Out here in the 3d world, I know many friends and family who would think in a more dramatic way and insist I MAKE him go for counseling whether he wants to or not, or they would really put me down for 'letting him get out of hand' and 'acting out', blah, blah, blah.

His friends always come over for the three-day weekend (their school has a four day week), and they're all here, so it's hard to find any time with him at all when his friends are her.

But my husband, after I talked with him about what I saw and what I was learning, confronted our son, but not in a threatening way. He told him 'let me see the scratches', and my son refused to let him look, and said 'dad, it's not self-harm, okay?'

But if it isn't, then what the hell is it?

He said he and his friends 'goof around' sometimes and sometimes people get scratched in the process of their goofing around.

I don't like that kind of 'play' where people end up getting injured. The scratches were not normal in any way....they looked like deep gouges to me.

When his friends leave tonight, we'll begin the process of communicating in a non-threatening way, giving him the space he needs to come clean. He usually does come clean when he sees our concern over an issue, and he really doesn't want to be dishonest with us. I know that for a fact.

We've raised him to be a free-thinker, and we've also spent a lot of time with him (more than most parents) building relationship.

I hope we find some answers soon.

Thanks for being here for me. I'll always be grateful for that.

xoxoxo
Ruby
   
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Re: 13 year old son scratching - December 16th 2009, 12:11 AM

Well I'm glad that you've gotten the opportunity to get things out there for the moment. It definitely doesn't seem like just "play" if the scratches are that deep.

Most people that self-harm have their scratches/cuts in a pattern that you can easily tell isn't natural of just a random accident. You may want to confront him about that and other facts about self-harming to let him see that you understand what he's doing, then maybe he'll be more open to admit it.

It's natural and only expected for a teen to be defensive about this, especially since your son feels he needs to keep things from you so as not to burden you. But eventually he'll definitely come around.

Keep us updated!
-Natalie<3



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With this heart I know, I will carry us home."


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Re: 13 year old son scratching - December 16th 2009, 12:28 AM

Hey Ruby,

First of all I would like to say im sorry for everything you have gone through but Im glad you are fixing things now. Also, I DEEPLY admire your love for your son and your approach to this situation. I know if my mom find out that I self-harmed she would completely shut down and wouldnt understand it.

I agree that approaching him in a not threatening way and giving him space and time to come clean is great!
Since he doesnt want to go into therapy which is fine I would recommend that you show him this site. Also I would tell him that you will let him create his account alone and you wont ask to know what his screename is because you want him to talk freely here without worrying about you seeing it.
If you wanted to point him my way I would be perfectly fine talking with him since I have self-harmed before because of various issues that were going on with my parents and my dad's health and what not plus I am close to his age which may make him feel more comfortable.

If you do have trouble getting him to tell you about his self-harm you could either talk to him and tell him that you know he is under a lot of stress and you can show him this website and tell him that he can use this as a place to release his stress and get any help he may need and to talk to people with similar problems. OR you can be more direct and say that you suspect it is self harm and that you know that self harm is pretty common so you wont freak out but you would like to help him because it is not a healthy thing to do and of course you can still point him to this website.

I am sooooo impressed with the way you are handling all of this and despite any screw ups you may have had in the past I think you are a great mom.

I hope this helps! Let me know if there is anything I can do for you!


~Samantha~

PM me anytime

Recovering Self Harmer

Rape Survivor 9/28/11

The Day I Met My Soulmate 10/27/11
   
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Red face Re: 13 year old son scratching - December 18th 2009, 03:38 AM

Ruby,

Whether your son realizes it or not yet, he is so very blessed to have a mother who pays attention and notices changes in him. I myself am unfortunately not blessed with parents or any blood related family that have these such qualities. I have been a self harmer in many forms from a very young age due to some trauma I have yet to fully receive healing for. My parents always called me a "cluts" and played my injuries off as accidents.

For you to be observant of your son's behavior and changes in it regarding the physical aspect right now, is to be applauded. For you to follow your family's solution to the "problem" isn't wise - I'm glad you can see that, and it is not how you would handle the scratching/ potential self harm. I'm referring to it as potential self harm simply because I do not know either way, and there is always a possibility that it is not of the self harm nature but excessive rough housing. Back to what I was saying... Forcing your son to go to counselling and see a therapist won't work. My parents forced me into seeing a therapist for the trauma I went through and I was not ready for that. As such, I have actually blocked those years out of my memory because they were painful, and I fought tooth and nail every time an appointment came around. When someone does not want to talk about a difficult subject pushing them only causes them to shut you out, forcing counselling wouldn't be productive because he simply will just not discuss the subject with the therapist.

You seem very in tune with all of these possible outcomes Ruby, that's what makes you a great mother. You sit and think rationally about the best way to approach a topic that can be very touch and go. Pat yourself on the back and feel better about this. Don't beat yourself up for past addictions Ruby, people turn to addictions when reality is too painful to deal with - alcohol abuse is as much of an addiction and self harm is or drug abuse. With that said, it is equally as hard to break the habit, even harder to do so without support that you trust and love.

Continue to slowly talk your way into the subject, trust your heart Ruby - if it feels like this is more than some boys getting too rowdy, then continue to address this with your son. Keep making it known that you are there to support him and that you love him no matter what he does in his life. Comforting and kind, loving words go a long way for a struggling teen. You can always try the back door tactic for trying to get answer about the scratches. What I mean by this is allowing him to speak about anything that he is struggling with in his life right now. Whether it be school, girls, guys, friends, teachers, family, feelings he's not understanding...

You know your son better than anyone, you know his heart, his personality, his attitudes... use those to your advantage, allow them to assist you in working out a way to have him open up to you. It may take time, know when to push, and know when to back away. Continue the solid thinking and not allowing it to overwhelm you. You being calm is the best thing you can do when addressing this with your son.

Take heart Ruby, he will open up to you when it feels right for him. It may not be in your time, but it will happen. You love him and that is very apparent. We are here to support you and love you without judgment. No one is perfect, which leaves no one in a place to judge another.

-M.P.
   
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Re: 13 year old son scratching - December 18th 2009, 04:15 AM

Hey there. I haven't had time to read a lot, but I just wanted to give my point of view. When I was cutting, my guidance counselor at school found out and had to tell my mom. I would never talk to her about it, ever. I have been SH free for a year and two months almost, and we still never have really talked about it. I HATED knowing I was hurting her and whatnot.

Your son might feel that way too. Getting him another person to talk to may benefit him a lot. Good luck!


There is always hope. PM me anytime.
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