12 year old daughter self harming

Hello, I would appreciate any advice on this topic please. Our daughter is now 12 year old. At around the age of 9 or 10 she started to become anxious about small things like having a part the school play but before that age she was into everything, ballet, gymnastics, school plays etc. She also stated to be a bit cheeky to us and answered back a lot.

When she was 10/11 year old, I was managing her ‘pre-teen’ behaviour like any parent. I had what I thought were reasonable boundaries and consequences in place. For example, she was able to have her phone and laptop all day from 7 am - 8 pm but at 8 pm we asked her to put her laptop and phone downstairs (we found her on her laptop at 4 am a few times which is why we asked her to put it downstairs). She had an hour or so to do craft, read books etc and bed time was at 9.30 pm. She hated this routine and she argued about it every night when it was time to switch off.

At that time, I asked her not to speak to us like that, and occasionally punished her e.g. taking her laptop off her an hour earlier the following day if she was really nasty to us about turning off at night time so she could go to school. In February last year, I took at look at her phone as she was being very secretive about her phone and I found some awful texts she had been sending on a big group message for her Year group at school, filthy stuff. I was shocked and spoke to her about this, explaining about on line safety and asked her to delete the posts she had made. She was distraught. I should mention both our children were told when they were younger (age 8 - 11) that we would check their phones from time to time to make sure they were being safe on line.

In the spring of this year, 2021, we found out from the school that she had been self-harming. She had took one of her Dad’s razor blades out of his razor, and had cut her left arm very badly, around 50 different cuts around 10 of them were deep. She has also been cutting the tops of her legs. As you can imagine, our world fell apart finding this out and it changed everything. We are what I think of a nice family, we do voluntary work, have a wide range of friends and our daughter has known nothing but love, kindness, financial stability, a stable family home and loving grandparents.

She has now become a very different person that I hardly recognise. When she is at home, she is in her room and can be disrespecful and rude to me and her Dad most of the time. For example, we will go into her room to ask her about something and she says “what do you want? I’m kind of busy here gaming”. She is rarely grateful for things. She has an awful temper a lot of the time and she is nasty to us and her brother who is 14 and has mild Asperger’s syndrome. We think she now has an eating disorder too - she confessed to making herself sick a few times and she is refusing meals and hardly eating.

Sometimes she can be lovely - normally late at night when it’s bedtime. She is a very different person with her friends - charming, happy and fun and thankfully she does go out with her friends and does outdoor activities at a local youth group. She is nice to me in front of her friends.

We are at a complete loss about how to cope with this. We immediately contacted the GP but were told it would be months before she could be seen by CYPS. We found a private councellor and she has had 10 appointments and has ran it’s course now. It may have helped her a bit. Apparently one of the reasons she self-harmed was due to the time restrictions we had put in place about being on line and gaming. Apart from that, we are at a loss as to why she did it - nothing bad seems to have happened in her life so far. It is still on-going. If we refuse her something we find she has cut herself again.

So now, we are in a place where we have very few boundaries and very few restrictions as our goal is to stop her from self harming and scarring herself any further until we can get her help. We have put restrictions to turn off her internet and phone access until 10 pm school days and 1 am on the weekends and she can have them in her room. She can listen to i tunes any time as this isn’t restricted at all on her phone. We know she downloads things on her laptop to watch off line after the internet has gone off. She can’t or won’t go to sleep at night, she will stay up until 4 am and then can’t get up for school. She will sleep in until 3 pm on the weekends, we can’t get her out of bed. We recently saw some texts on her phone and had a quick look as she had left it open and she uses the most disgusting swear words and language to her friends in her text, really heavy stuff. We also found a photo she had sent to her friend of her saying something obscene on the photo written in. She doesn’t have any social media thankfully.

At school, she is top of the class in every topic and won top of the year prizes recently. She is OK at school but does push the boundaries a little bit with socks and clothing, just small things.

CYPS have been useless - she was prioritised for urgent care 2 months ago and nothing since. They are referring her for autism assessment due to her brother having autism but it will be 2 years before this starts.

I just don’t know where to turn. It’s so hard to tell people what is going on as it’s complicated to explain and I don’t want to break my daughter’s confidence by telling others what is going on. I’m struggling to cope and am becoming a bit of a recluse myself not wanting to really see anyone. I am worried sick about her all the time and wonder if we are handling this correctly by giving in to her all the time to stop her self harming any more. My husband feels very much the same.

Hi Joanne,
What a difficult situation you are in.
Have you contacted the school about sources of help - they may well be able to push for a her to be seen by mental health services sooner.

You could also try the safeguarding angle and argue that as you are unable to set limits and boundaries (due to her self harming if you do) you are concerned about her safety online etc )

Just in case you haven’t come across it, Parents Mental Health Support | Advice for Your Child | YoungMinds is a good source of information and support for parents and children/ young children re mental health.


This must be awful for you and I really sympathise. When your daughter started self harming I think you should have been banging on as many doors as you could …. GP, social services, school, etc until somebody stepped up to the mark. I know it’s really difficult because of covid etc but sometimes you have to shout really loud!

As for the swearing, I’m sorry to say it but I believe this is the way of the world now for young people. This seems to be how most of them talk now. I hear kids waiting for the high school bus near my house and the language is vile and much worse than I ever remember my schoolfriends using. They are also a lot more sexually aware and think nothing of sending porno type photos to each other. My niece is a teacher and she says their parents would be totally shocked if they knew how they behaved and how they communicated.

have you contacted any organisations dealing with teenagers mental health?

It’s completely unreasonable to blame her behaviour on your boundary setting. I’m dismayed for you.
Generally, children like to have some boundaries so that they know where they stand, that they are loved, and that their parents really care for them. Surely you’ve ticked all those boxes?!
I suspect you are up against the “client confidentiality” issue now?
It so frustrates me when officials use this excuse to exclude me from things - my son has severe learning difficulties and is eager to please whoever asks him questions.
Some of the things I’ve been told he said to his “advocate” were utterly ridiculous.
Have you asked Social Services for a Carers Assessment?
I’m wondering if there is a parents group in your area to support you, because it must be a very worrying lonely world for you trying to deal with this without any proper support.

Thank you for the replies today, with regards to help from the school, I asked the school if they had support for her mental health but after speaking to the school counsellor, she said her problems were too difficult and needed specialist help, she only dealt with low level councelling. With regards to knocking on doors, I was shocked at how little support there was how blaze CYPS were about it all, It’s all very normal for them as our world falls apart.

We were not prioritised for urgent care at first and we were unable to see a plastic surgeon for her poor little arms, full of nasty cuts. We had to pay for her to see a private plastic surgeon as I desperately needed someone to look at her arms. He said 10 permanent scars and she may want to think about a full arm tatoo when she was older. Our little 11 year old girl, it was very traumatic. We were not even allowed in to that appointment or the CYPS appointment she had as she had a choice and didn’t want us in and so we don’t even know what she said to the plastic surgeon or CYPS. It surprised me how little rights we have as parents in this situation so I know where you are coming from about being excluded from appointments.

We don’t have any contact with social services and I must admit I’m not keen to invite them into our lives from a safeguarding angle if I’m being honest.

It is really helpful to have the insight into how much children swear these days - I am an older parent and possibly a bit out of touch with how young people are these days. It’s also helpful to have insight that our boundary setting was not unreasonble.

There may be some local groups I can access, it’s hard to ask for help isn’t it? Maybe I should look into this. thanks for the link to Young Minds, that will be helpful.

Hello Joanne

Thanks for posting about your situation in the Forum. This has clearly been a difficult and distressing time for you and your family and in addition to the supportive posts from other members we have also sent you an email with some suggestions of additional support.

Wishing you well


I read somewhere today that 3 out of 4 new claims for PIP related to mental health issues, yet nothing positive seems to be going on to help.