What do I do if my child is struggling with cutting?

What guidance does the Bible provide?

The Bible doesn't have much guidance when it comes to cutting. During Biblical times, we see that cutting was a sign of false religions (1 Kings 18:24-29). The idea of self-mutilation/self-harm is not addressed much outside of that context. The Bible does speak about the use of our bodies and how they should be used to glorify God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies"(NIV). God wants us to take care of bodies, and purposefully harming ourselves would not be according to God's will. If your child is cutting, have compassion on them (Ephesians 4:32).

Things to think about:

Cutting can also be called self-injury, self-harm, or self-abuse. It is most commonly associated with cutting the skin with some sort of blade, but it is not limited to that. It can also include things like burning, pulling hair out, bruising, or even infecting themselves. Cutting can be associated with depression, but that is not always the case. Students cut themselves for a variety of reasons. They cut because they want to feel something, they cut because they are anxious or stressed, or they cut because they are sad and depressed. They may have feelings of emptiness, loneliness, fear, or the inability to express emotion.1 Self-injury does not always mean that a person is suicidal, but the effects of their self-injury can be lethal. Cutting and self-injury are a physical issue so all of the symptoms will be physically present. Teens will commonly try to cover up the places that they are cutting with clothing. Wearing long sleeves or long pants during the spring or summer could be an indicator that they are hiding something. The child's room or bathroom might have an instrument lying around that they use to cut themselves, and so it is important to be aware of those things as you are in your home.

What do I do now?

If your child is cutting then there are lots of ways in which you can help them, here are a few ways:

  • Pray for them, and ask for prayer support from trusted prayer partners
  • Don't panic - cutting is becoming more common, parents and teens have made it through this hard time; and so can you!
  • Don't be embarrassed - the fact that you have recognized the problem or that your child has admitted to it means that your relationship with your child is still in good standing.
  • Speak to them with love, encouragement, and empathy; not anger, frustration, or confusion.
  • Seek professional help if needed - if the problem becomes too much to handle, find a trained counselor or therapist.

Throughout the process, be patient with your child, set a good example, and be hopeful for their healing.

Want to go deeper?

Here are a few great resources to help:

Cutting and Self-Harm Info - An article with excellent basic information on signs of cutting, and some of the reasons why people cut.

Conquering Cutting - Article from Focus on the Family that deals with cutting, and gives insight from the perspective of someone who has cut before.

Christian Counseling Search - Focus On the Family's search tool to find a local Christian counselor.