Sunday, July 19, 2015

Worried mom's 11-year-old is cutting

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,                                           

My daughter, Jane (not her real name) has been acting secretively this summer and won’t come out to the pool without shorts on. Actually, she has been very quiet lately, introverted, and she seems depressed. She wants to be alone and at the same time she told her sister (whom she admires a lot) that she is lonely and no one likes her at school.

She’s eleven and going into sixth grade at a new middle school. Her sister, Jody, is entering eighth grade at the same school. Jody (not her sister’s real name) is very outgoing and a competitive gymnast who wins many awards for her efforts. She is very helpful to Jane, but I can tell she doesn’t want Jane to constantly be around her friends.

Jody told me yesterday that she found the blades pulled out of the plastic razor and blood in their shower. When I confronted Jane and asked what was going on, Jane froze up and shrugged her shoulders. She would not make eye contact with me.

Since then Jane avoids me and reads in her room with the door closed. Jody said she cries all night long and said, “Mom, do something!”

I don’t know what to do.

A Worried Mom 

Dear Worried Mom,

Non-Suicidal Self Injury or NSSI is in epidemic proportions currently. It commonly starts around your daughter’s age, eleven. You need to take your daughter to a doctor and have a complete body check. Be straightforward in your resolve to help Jane.

She needs to then have professional care to address her possible depression, social anxiety and self-harm. Repeated self-injuries may bring relief and even cause a positive state of being which could cause her to sink into addictive behavior with self-harm. Unlike suicide, which is permanent, self-harm is a temporary relief from intense internal pain.

In Jane’s mind, self-injury is the only way she can deal with her social stressors and fears. Loneliness is the number one reason girls are cutting, scratching and scarring their bodies. It’s important that she learns direct communication with her peers and not a pseudo-self presentation on Facebook. Do not allow her to be on Facebook right now.

Allowing Jody to rescue her doesn’t benefit anyone in your family. As her parent, she needs you to guide her towards healthy activities and new friends. Sign her up in classes that develop her talents and create friendships. Encourage her to become involved in sports, theater, art or community service that challenge her to reach out to her peers. Otherwise, Jane will remain a victim and she won’t learn to empower herself as a leader by defining herself.

Strenuous exercise will give her a healthy release of adrenaline. However, be careful not to put her into competing and consequent comparisons classes with her sister, Jody. Jody needs you to steer her towards freedom from unhealthy caretaking at her young age.

Arrange fun activities for your whole family so all of you may enjoy a social connection too!
Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

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