Self Harm & Being a Parent.

Being a parent who self harms.

There are lots of things to think about when you self harm and have children. You don't just have yourself to think about, and it can be scary. You have these other little people who are dependant on you, and you don't want the things you do to affect them.

What do you tell your children?

Every child is different, and as a parent you will know how much information your child can deal with. I personally found it was better to be truthful with my children, rather than making something up. Children are not stupid, and even when we think we are protecting them by not telling them, in the long run, it will come out. It will be harder to tell them after telling them something made up. Children often have a grater understanding than we think they will - and to be honest, if they have seen scars etc, then they probably have some idea of how they got there. I know my children did.

I thought I could keep it from my children, but when you live with someone it is hard to keep things 100 percent secret. Children are very good at noticing little things we don't expect them to. Expect very blunt questions, that you would never expect from an adult. Also make sure there is someone else they can talk to if you can - someone that they feel they can ask questions to - so that if there is anything they don't understand, or want to know more about, and they don't feel they can ask you (in case they upset you or whatever) then at least you know they have someone you trust to speak to about it.

What if social services get involved?

If social services get involved, the main thing is not to panic. All they want to do is make sure the children are safe, and what you are doing isn't putting them at any risk. They may come to your home and do an assessment, maybe talk to your children. They may ask questions about your self harming. One question that I was asked over and over was whether I self harmed in front of the children. This question always shocked me and upset me, but you have to understand that they are only trying to make sure that the children are being kept safe. They are not there to take your children away, unless they really have to, and it is so much easier if you work with them, rather than fighting against them. It is important to be willing to accept any help they may offer you too. They may be able to offer support for the children, or someone for them to talk to (if you have no-one around to do that). Most of all, try not to panic. They are there to help you, not to fight against you. Be open and honest with them if you can, it will make it so much easier for you in the long term.

I feel like I am letting my kids down.

The feelings that go with being a parent who self harms are much like the feelings that any self harmer has. The guilt, and the accompanying feeling that you have messed up and are letting people down. The main thing to remember is that your self harm does not affect how you are as a parent. It is just one part of you, and it certainly doesn't make you any less of a parent. The thing I found hardest was separating out the two things. Remembering that I am not just a mother, but I am me as well. Focus on your achievements. Do things with your children - talking to them and spending time with them. Answer any questions they may have as honestly as you can, and enjoy them. Don't let self harming get in the way of spending that precious time with them. And remember, have faith in yourself as a parent. You can do this.