"What's very important is distress-tolerance skills," Miller said. "Can we teach them replacement behaviors in lieu of self-injuring? Can you distract yourself, can you soothe yourself, can you weigh the pros and cons of the act before you do it?"
When parents come to suspect that their children are self-injuring, it's difficult.
Miller advises parents to "ask questions gently and assertively." Parents should "ask what's going on and whether they're feeling stressed and is that a way that they're coping." If so, the children should be asked if they would "like to learn some other ways of managing their distress," Miller added.
"The worst thing you can do is be judgmental and angry, even though I understand that parents -- in their fear and horror -- might come [across] that way," he said. "So the parents have to be very careful; otherwise, the kid will go further underground and conceal it more."
Study author Hankin said, "If you have a concern, talk with a pediatrician. That pediatrician can confidentially ask things and make appropriate referrals for mental health specialists."
Because the study involved children in relatively well-off families, the results might not apply to the general population, the researchers noted.
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has more facts on self-injury.
Copyright © 2012 HealthDay. All rights reserved.