Self-Mutiliation and kids.

Tara - posted on 04/15/2011 ( 32 moms have responded )

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I spoke with a mom today who uses self-mutilation to deal with her depression regarding her own childhood sexual abuse by her father. She has 2 daughters ages 6 and almost 9. She is bluntly honest with them to the point that I wonder if it is healthy for her daughters.
When they see that she has cut herself (at least she doesn't do it in front of them) and they ask her what happened she tells them. She rationalized it this way "It's better to tell them that I cut myself and why I do it then to ignore the elephant in the room."
So she will honestly say things like "It's not okay for mommy to cut myself. But your grandpa did things to me when I was a little girl that were really wrong and it hurts me inside so I cut myself because I was never taught a better way to deal with stuff. And I'm trying to stop but it's hard"
But they are so young and this must scare them. She has cuts all over her arms and some on her neck and face. She is scarred all over her body as this has gone on most of her adult and teen life.
She was very candid with all the moms present and feels that this is truly the best way to teach her kids NOT to cut themselves.
Thoughts?

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That type of behavior around children is not acceptable. It will traumatize them. She should be hospitalized and her children should be put in a safe place until she can get her problem under control.
I had a problem with self mutilation as a child/teen. I started around 8 years old. I had a bad childhood and it was the best way i could deal with it. I have hundreds of scars on my right arm and leg. I'm getting a sleeve tattoo as soon as i can afford it to cover them...I hate being asked about it but its pretty noticeable.
As soon as i got pregnant i promised i would never do it again because i didn't want to hurt my baby by exposing her to such behavior. I just found different ways to deal with my issues. I forced myself to feel everything i had bottled up, and confided in people i love and trust. I feel a lot better now...but i still have stuff i have to work on. I haven't cut myself in over two years now.

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I'd report her if you could, Tara. She is telling these kids that she's cutting cuz of what their Grandpa did when she was a little girl, but they are STILL seeing Grandpa?! Yeah, those poor kids are going to be even more messed up than I thought originally. At the very least, definitely talk to her about getting into intensive therapy.

Jodi - posted on 04/15/2011

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Wow, Tara, I am totally horrified to be honest. No, it's NOT okay for her to be so candid with her children. I don't believe it will teach them not to cut themselves. If this is how mummy is dealing with her demons, this is going to be normalised for the children and it will probably be something they will look to in the future when dealing with their own stresses. Children learn so much more from us modelling behaviour. This is like allowing a husband to beat you up, and telling your kids it isn't okay for daddy to do that to you. The kids STILL grow up thinking this is normal behaviour, and daughters STILL enter into relationships with abusive partners, and boys STILL believe it is normal to treat women this way. No matter how much someone tells them it is wrong......

Jane - posted on 04/17/2011

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This is not okay. She needs to get help to stop cutting and she needs to do it now. She doesn't need to traumatize her own children just because she was traumatized, and she doesn't need to make the kids worry about their grandfather, however bad he is.

She needs counseling now, both to stop cutting and to stop telling her kids its okay.

JuLeah - posted on 04/16/2011

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She needs help. She is teaching them to deal with their own problems in the manner. She is causing them harm.

32 Comments

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Stifler's - posted on 04/16/2011

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My friend's mum was like this. It's not okay, it's traumatising for the kids. It won't teach them anything besides the pain of seeing their mum do that to herself. Or they will just do stupid things and cut themselves too.

Rosie - posted on 04/16/2011

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i used to cut myself as well when i was a teenager. it is just as julianne said, a physical escape of my emotional pain. i'd be horrified if people found out, let alone my own kids. what the hell is she thinking? there's no way in hell that is good for those poor kids. i'd say something tara.

Ez - posted on 04/16/2011

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I think I would report her too. She is clearly placing those kids in serious emotional danger by telling them about the cuttiing, AND exposing them to their grandfather. Maybe by reporting her, it will force her to get the help she needs.

Nikki - posted on 04/16/2011

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I feel they are a little young to grasp the reality and the severity and in some ways teach them to deal with problems by cutting or hurting yourself. I really hope the mother gets counsling, it is a long hard road and sometimes there is relapse but it will get better.

Carolyn - posted on 04/16/2011

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Everything we do , all the choices we make can be chalked up to control. The way we eat, exercise, our clothing choices, etc etc in the end all exert control over some aspect of our life. But that doesnt make the need for control the reason why we make those choices.

I get what you are saying Julianne about how it can lead back to control, but i think for many to their primary needs/purpose for cutting do not relate to a need to control, but to put their feelings into a more manageable state. I guess throwing the "control" blanket over it, is like saying I cry to control my emotions, or I talk to my husband about my feelings as a way to control them and relating all coping mechanisms back to control as opposed to a means of expressing and working threw them. There are just healthy and unhealthy behaviours, and some dangerously unhealthy behaviours.

Not all anorexics starve themselves out of a need to control. Some do it because they genuinely have a distorted image of the body and are disgusted by what they see.

i guess i dont see an inability to cope in a healthy way the same as needing to control.

bleh im just thinking out loud. Ive never self mutilated but have work with many who have, so any insight, discussion is helpful :)

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I think your friend needs MASSIVE HELP. I'm a self-harmer when my stress level hits the max. I have borderline personality disorder and ptsd. However, I know my son has NO clue because I do it in areas neither he nor anyone else will see. (Upper thighs, stomach, etc.) So when I say she really needs help, I know from whence I speak. She is terrifying and traumatizing her children by telling them and showing them this behavior. She is showing them that it is a viable way of handling stress even if it isn't healthy.

Jessica - posted on 04/16/2011

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Also, I don't know if anyone else was this way as a kid, but I was extremely sensitive to my parents' moods and it affected how I felt. If my parents were at all stressed, worried, upset etc it really caused a lot of stress for me too! I am trying to put myself in those girls' position and can't imagine how I would have felt if my parents regularly told me things like that. I would have been seriously, seriously messed up.

Jessica - posted on 04/16/2011

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I can see how for me it was a partially a control thing, subconsciously. A lot of my issues were due to bullying/emotional abuse from my dad, I internalized a lot of that and felt helpless in how else to deal with it. I didn't think of it that way at the time, but in retrospect I think it applies. I also had a lot of anger and really just hated myself. I never did it as an attention thing though, that I never understood. I went out of my way to hide it and would have died before admitting it to anyone. For me, it was just a coping mechanism.

Bonnie - posted on 04/16/2011

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I agree with what Carol said. They are too young. I would imagine what the mother is telling her daughters scares them inside. They might feel this is a way to deal with problems and inner pain when they run into a situation.

Mel - posted on 04/16/2011

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I dont think she sounds very fit to take care of those children if shes saying that to them. I dont think they are old enough to be honest to them about this, and I definately dont think she should be doing it when shes a mother. Its one thing for teenagers to do things like that but when your a mum no its not ok. My thoughts on self harm ended the minute I became a mother. Before hand you dont care after you think about it, you think it is right for my children to see me in hospital is it right to do this as a mum no its not and you dont do ever. You have to just deal wth the pain, my way of dealing with stuff is venting vent anger hatred, its not a good way to be but it gets me through. she needs to get some help some serious help before her kids end up messed up she needs to think about the fact that she could do emtional damage to her children the way that person did damage to her. Im sure her emotion scars wont go away but they can fade wth help. So wrong on so many levels

Toni - posted on 04/16/2011

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Julianne - congratulations! 2 yrs is a definite milestone ... stay strong hun!

I agree that this woman is doing more damage than good by being so candid about her condition. Without a doubt her girls are going to need therapy as well and that fault will lay at her feet.

Tara - posted on 04/16/2011

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I agree with everyone here. She is damaging her kids by continuing with the dialogue about cutting and why she cuts. Did I mention that she still sees her dad? And that her kids still spend time with their grandpa, albeit in the company of other adults?
So not only is she cutting and blaming her dad's actions but she is also in a state of denial that her dad is a predator, she really believes it was her fault he did these things. (that's why I was at this meeting, cause I am a survivor and I was there to tell me story of survival with the hopes of letting some of these women know it wasn't their fault and that they have choices with how to deal with their feelings etc.
I don't understand how she can keep doing this, I don't even know if it is something someone can complain to CAS about.
She says she is a good mom otherwise, and one of the women who knows her well says the same.
I just think she is really damaging her girls this way and wish that she would see it.
Thanks for the advice and I'm glad no one condones this kind of open dialogue with their kids about such issues.
Poor girls, I truly hope she gets the help she needs, I think next week I will suggest gently to her that what she is doing is not going to help her or her kids.

Sneaky - posted on 04/15/2011

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What Amber and Jodi said! I'm so beyond horrified that I can't even formulate my own response :o(

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Thats why its about control. Having the ability to control your own emotions. Giving yourself a relief from emotional pain through physical pain.

Carolyn - posted on 04/15/2011

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i dont quite know that it falls into the spectrum of control for everyone, maybe a small portion of individuals mutilate for control the way an anorexic might starve herself.

From my professional experience in dealing with self mutilators, its more of a release. Usually people who self mutilate find their internal/emotional pain to difficult to deal with ( or dont know how to deal with ) and then cause themselves physical pain as a means escape/release the inner pain. Some cutters have described it as a sense of relief when they cut into their flesh and feel the physical pain, because its easier to manage. Some also find it to be an *easier* way to express their inner turmoil. -'look at the pain im in, im hurting so bad i'm hurting myself' - without having to actually say anything.

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Its a control thing. I think that anorexia could be put in the same category as it. Similar mental state.

Jessica - posted on 04/15/2011

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Oh yikes, that isn't good at all! First of all, she needs therapy to deal with her issues, and second of all, way too much information for them! That is something she can explain to them when they are adults and can understand, if she wishes. As children they do not need to know about that or know that she is doing it. How sad :(

It is something I wonder about though. I went through some pretty bad depression as a teen and cut myself as a coping mechanism. I haven't done it in years and have no desire to whatsoever, but I do still have scars all over my arms that are still quite noticeable. I am not sure how I will explain that to my kids when they are old enough to ask. Not going to tell them the truth, obviously.

Merry - posted on 04/15/2011

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Wow, no that's not ok to tell them!
I don't understand the whole cutting thing myself, I never heard of anyone doing it until I was in high school and I was horrified anyone could do that! I could never imagine hurting myself, I was emotionally abused, but I guess my brain never thought of hurting myself to stop hurting from my dad....sounds backwards to me.
Certain types of addictions should be kept from kids knowledge, if they don't know it exists it's less likely they will try it out themselves.
(I'd assume) I'm obviously no professional, nor do I have any personal expertise in addictions.

Ez - posted on 04/15/2011

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That is insane. By all means, be candid about the depth of the problem with other adults. But not young children! Jesus Christ!

[deleted account]

That is frightening. She needs to get her butt to counseling (preferrably inpatient) asap. IF they were scars from her past then I would have no problem w/ her being honest w/ her kids about how she overcame this problem. Talking to them about how it's not ok to do WHILE she's doing it is just going to screw those poor kids up. :(

Jocelyn - posted on 04/15/2011

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Wow yeah. All she's teaching them is "this is how mommy deals with issues" so what does she think her kids are going to do the minute a situation occurs [to them] that is stressful?!
She's not teaching them coping skills (because she clearly doesn't have any herself).
What she is doing is validating that self mutilation is ok.
I use to cut, and yes, when the time comes I will tell my kids why I have scars (if they're not covered up with tattoos by then lol) but, like Kate said, I would certianly NEVER cut in front of them , or let them see the aftermath.

Kate CP - posted on 04/15/2011

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Yea, that's not okay for her to be that open about it. She needs professional help ASAP. If she's not going to get the help she so obviously needs then she needs to cut in a different place so she can hide the marks better. I used to be a cutter and I know how hard it is to stop but damn...I'd never do that in front of my kids or let them see the results of a cutting session. Jesus.

Carol - posted on 04/15/2011

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Kids imitate what their parents do. I think this is too much information for her young daughters to handle right now. She should have gotten help with her issues before she had children. There is a good chance that her daughters will deal with their own problems this way. This makes me sad and, I hate to say it, a bit disgusted with the mom. She should have gotten help a long time ago for her children's sake.

Carolyn - posted on 04/15/2011

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she is sending a mixed message by saying its not okay to do it , and keep doing it, im trying to stop, but im still doing it.

as a 9 year old, i would think " well its not right to do this, but my mom does it anyways, so it cant be all that bad" and most like do it as well.

they cant understand why its wrong or why she does it in the first place. Most adults have a hardtime understanding the behavior nevermind children.

She needs to get help, and stop cutting herself where her children can see the cuts. She needs to stop sending them mixed messages by saying the behaviour is bad, but continuing to do it.

thats probably the best way to teach her kids to ingore right and wrong and engage in behaviours they shouldnt, because well, mommy does things she said she shouldnt....

Amber - posted on 04/15/2011

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Is this woman seeking therapy or councelling? I do believe that addressing problems and mistakes with your children is a good thing, but not when it is recurring.
If she had done it, sought help, and was no longer doing it then I might be okay with it. (I'd have to think on it more to really decide.)

A problem that is continuing can cause fear in those children. They know there mom is still hurting herself and I would think that it would make them worry excessively about her. That's not healthy, IMO.

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