Primary-age children who self-harm

Primary schools are increasingly encountering self-harm amongst pupils who cannot explain why they are doing it, leaving teachers struggling to know what to do.  It is an expression of feeling.

Self-harm tends to be associated with teenagers and schools are more likely to be able to confidently respond to this behaviour.  Unlike adolescents younger children are at the concrete (Piaget) rather than abstract level of thinking and do not usually disguise their self-harm. Very often they cannot explain why they are doing it.  Teachers and parents can be left confused and at a loss as to how to support the children.

The behaviour is more likely to appear as head-banging, scratching and hair pulling than the more premeditated cutting.  It is often linked to difficulties around attachment and relationships.

So what can be done? One intervention that has been positively evaluated is Story Links which involves parents and pupils co-creating stories related to the child’s emotional difficulties. The sessions promote positive attachment between the pupil and parent and the created stories help develop insight into underlying issues.

Read a detailed article from Headteacher Update March 2013: page 1 page 2

Find out more about Story Links