Your child is self-harming and you are not sure what the correct steps to deal with the issue it. Take away their phone? Ground them? Talk it out, but where to start? As a parent, do you find yourself rushing to the solution?

I am so excited to have Kerrie Toole back for another episode on this very important topic of how to help your Teen who is cutting. We discuss why it is important that you come from a place of curiosity and how to properly validate your and your child’s emotions.

Meet Kerrie Toole

5 Tips to help your Teen Who's Cutting with Kerrie Toole | EU 130

Kerrie Toole, LICSW is the founder and Executive Director of Castlebrook Counseling Services, Inc. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Columbia University, where she was trained in DBT and has been practicing this treatment protocol for over 20 years (because she started when she was 4, haha!).

She is a DBT-Linehan Board Certified Clinician (one of only 400 in the US) and specializes in treating suicidal and self-harming teens and adults, and their families, with an additional specialty in LGBTQ+ youth.

Kerrie is passionate about integrating DBT into schools, programs, and communities, and especially about supporting parents of teens who are self-harming and/or suicidal. Kerrie founded Castlebrook Counseling in 2013, and the practice has grown to 29 providers, all with different specialties.

Visit her website. Connect on FacebookInstagram and find her on Psychology Today here.

Email to receive your copy of  “5 Things Parents can do better” to support your teen, including the worksheet “What Not To Say and What To Say”. Use the coupon code: PODCAST.

In This Podcast


  • Validate the emotion
  • Don’t rush to find the solution
  • It is not about you right now
  • Come from a place of curiosity
  • Kerri’s concrete tools for parents

Validate the emotion

The main key is being able to validate the emotion, not the behavior,we don’t say to the kid, “Cutting is a coping skill, go ahead”, we’re not validating that behavior, we’re validating the emotion. (Kerri Toole)

You can still validate and work with the emotion that is present beneath the self-harming patterns while setting limits on the behavior.

Don’t rush to find the solution

Even though it is heartbreaking to watch your child suffer, be careful not to rush to find the solution and try to “fix the problem” because this could send a message to your child that the way they are feeling is wrong, or that they are even more of a problem than they feel.

Let them explore what they feel while working to make changes in their behavior. Remember that the brains of teenagers and kids going through puberty are changing and that their prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for logical thoughts, is only developed at age 25.

That ability to think rationally and to truly problem solve, we don’t have that before 25, so these kids are walking around this world completely driven by emotions, and what they’re being modeled. (Veronica Cisneros)

As the parent, you have to be your child’s prefrontal cortex for a while and teach them how to build it.

It is not about you right now

You can – and should – validate your emotions as the parent. It is incredibly painful to see your child suffer, and know that it will take time to heal.

However, you cannot make their lives and their struggles about you. In these moments, you need to be willing to sit back and listen to them, even when you feel heated.

By trying to distract, trying to keep the kid from doing what the kid wanted to do to process their emotions, whose emotions are we actually dealing with right now? We’re dealing with the the parent’s emotions. (Kerri Toole)

Your emotions as the parent need to go on the back burner. Even though your emotions are valid, this experience is not about you right now.

Come from a place of curiosity

Daily, parents need to ask their kids questions like:

  • “What’s that like for you?”
  • “Wow, that really sucks,”
  • “Where do you feel this emotion in your body?”
  • “What was that experience like for you?”

Ask your kids questions because it helps them to figure out what their true experiences and feelings are about an event in life.

Kerri’s concrete tools for parents

Take these words out of your lexicon when it comes to kids that are struggling:

  • But: replace the word “but” with the word “and”

That “but” is a kick in the teeth because it completely invalidates the first part of what you just said. (Kerri Toole)

  • Should: using this word centers your perspective and desires over those of the other person
  • Understand: replace “understand” with “I see what you are saying” or “I see where you are coming from”

Useful links:


Meet Veronica Cisneros

Veronica Cisneros | Empowered And Unapologetic PodcastI’m a licensed therapist and women walk into my office every day stressed and disconnected. As a mom of three daughters, I want my girls to know who they are and feel confident about their future. I can’t think of a better way to help other women than by demonstrating an empowered and unapologetic life.

So I started  Empowered and Unapologetic to be a safe space for women to be vulnerable and change their lives for the better before she ever needs to see a therapist.

Whether you listen to the podcast, join the free Facebook communityjoin the VIP community, or attend our annual retreat,  you’re in the right place. Let’s do this together!

Thanks for listening!

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