Perception on teens in crisis

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Self-harm is a coping strategy, not the problem itself

Another comment on the TCK Problems article was very insightful and could be of use to others experiencing mental health problems concerning their child – expat or not.

Rianne Cornelisse wrote the following:

As a social scientist specialised in child education and parenting, unfortunately this is not the first nor the last time I will come across a story like this.

I think it is a good thing to remember that self-harm is a coping strategy, it is not the problem itself. It is a way of dealing with the problems that a person is challenged with.

In the case of TCK’s that can be fitting in, adjusting to a new environment or relocating and saying goodbye. But in adolescence there a far more challenges to overcome. All of those can cause stress.

To cope with stress there are several strategies. Like analysing, hiding, running, fighting etc. The self-harm of the writer’s daughter is a way of coping with her stress level and gives a small moment of relief of the emotional burden. Unfortunately this relief is usually followed by feelings of guilt and shame.

As a parent, the best way to respond is be understanding about the pain, help develop other ways of dealing with this pain, but NOT to judge the behaviour of your child on how she is coping with her stress right now. Or burden her with your suffering because of her coping strategy. The rule, “You can’t do that anymore” can lock you out of her process of finding a better way to cope with this distress.

Thank you for offering this useful information, Rianne.


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