MDJunction - People Helping People
Ask a Question
10/30/2011 08:56 AM

Explaining scars to children?

Posts: 3894
Senior Member

I have quite an array of scars on my arms; most of them have faded so they're not even pink anymore. My 10 year old niece has started asking about them occasionally, but I know I can't just keep basically ignoring it/her. She's quite intelligent, but I don't know where she stands with her emotional health and my biggest fear is that I'd be giving her ideas or something. She's the oldest of the kids in my family, but I need to figure out how to field these questions; I have three brothers and they all have kids.

10/30/2011 11:17 AM
Posts: 369
VIP Member
I'm an Advocate

Since she is your niece I would talk to her parents about it and let them know she is asking questions about your scars and see what they say. They might want to talk to her alone about it first and then with you.

s2e Smile

10/31/2011 05:45 PM
AgGhost1Posts: 239

I've had to go through this same situation with my gf's kids. They were the same age. At first it was semi stressful to think about it & what to say. What I saw though was that kids may be very intelligent but they are still very innocent also, and likely have no clue what SI is. I didn't feel it was appropriate to say I hurt myself intentionally. All they wanted to know was how I got my scars. Kids are naturally curious obviously. So we (my gf and I) just said they were from accidents. Then I pointed out times when they had gotten a scrape, or little cut, and said my scars happened the same way. They still may say something now & then if we all go swimming or something due to the size of them, but just the simplest answer seemed to be enough to get by. They didn't change how they acted or felt towards me. It's worked out ideally. They may figure out the truth as they get older, but by that time they'll be mature enough to be more upfront with I hope. If they truly want to know.

A lot of kids injure without anyone introducing SI to them. I was that way actually. For that reason I don't think your behavior will actually cause her to hurt herself directly. DOn't make yourself crazy by over thinking it Wink At least you'll be able to recognize the signs of SI if something did happen. Try to see your own experience as a positive to help your niece IF she ever goes down that path.

Follow your gut. I think that if you show her that your comfortable and keep the explanation short, light and easy going, that she won't think much of it. I don't know if that helps, but I wish you the best =)

Post edited by: AgGhost1, at: 10/31/2011 05:53 PM

11/01/2011 03:29 AM
Posts: 1274
Group Leader

Hi Fragilex - I agree with AgGhost. My children are aged 2 & 3yrs and have started to ask questions. Luckily we have 3 cats and 3 dogs who got the blame lol! I explained that the dog was chasing the cat and when I picked her up to keep her safe she was frightened and scratched me by accident. I dont want them to fear our pets but it was the only thing I could think of at the time! They seemed to take it in their stide! Like AgGhost said - they just need a simple reason and then change the subject to something light hearted to distract them from dwelling on the scars. HTH Smile

11/02/2011 11:53 AM

I wish I had spoken to one of you before my 10-year old started asking questions last year. I was more compulsive back then, felt I needed to engage in SI behavior for hours and hours in one day. This would go on for weeks and months. Sometimes, I'm not careful, when I put on my socks, he had caught a glimpse of the injury I had caused.

My partner has always maintained that you pass on information when they are age-appropriate being a teacher. But she's also put a lot of emphasis on telling children the truth in language that they understand, in language that is kid-appropriate.

Since I pick the skin off my right foot, it's not easy to give an excuse. It took me a long time to answer him because I certainly didn't want to pass on this habit to his life. Kids are young and very impressionable. I didn't have an answer so I told him I will explain later because we don't have time right now.

After a few weeks, when I saw him getting out-of-control mad and furious at his biological parent for blowling him off again, I saw him hitting his head or his fists on the wall. I talked to him about what I'm going through.

I didn't go into elaborate details, but I told him that his feelings were valid. He should be angry and he is entitled to stay angry for awhile. I understand how he feels and how he can't process his anger, pain and frustration.

I briefly shared the story behind what he saw briefly when I was wearing my socks. I explained to him that I am also struggling with being kind and loving to myself.

I then moved on to quickly sharing about practicing self-control and restraint. I also touched on expressing our anger and frustration in other ways that will not bring hurt or pain to ourselves. I also show him that I've been working hard at this, and showed him my progress of healing at that time.

Everytime he feels out of control, my partner and I gently remind him to write about his emotions, talk to us, talk to his therapy, go outside and hit his wood with hammer and a chisel, we're planning to get him a punching bag, etc. I only had that one conversation with him about my struggles and he has not brought it up since then.

I also see a change in him as he is not hurting himself as much anymore when he is angry. He still has a difficult time talking about painful experiences but he is beginning to make better choices. As he sees me make better choices, he has learned that so can he.

By being honest, I allowed him to be honest about his feelings and frustrations with himself. It opened the door for us to talk about changing habits and behavior, changing thinking and practicing mindfulness. And as he saw my weakness and failures, he also saw my victories and strength. In turn, he is able to see that he too can manage his thoughts, emotions and behavior. I told him the truth, I'm not perfect and I struggle, and he related because that was real in his life as well.

I hope I did the right thing, honest to God. That one conversation has strengthen my resolve since the past year to not hurt myself. I need to for my sake and for his. I'm his role-model and I certainly don't want to not live up to my own expectations of myself and his. He needs me to be stable and emotionally there for him, so I work doubly hard each day to be healthy and stay healthy mentally.

If he was not 10 years old, I probably wouldn't have gone through any explanation. I would have just said my feet was dry and I needed to put some lotion. Yet since I saw the same struggle in his life, I used my experiences as a teaching tool, and I hope that is the impression he got. He already has so many issues, I wouldn't want to add another one to it!

Post edited by: AsianGoddess, at: 11/02/2011 12:01 PM

11/04/2011 01:44 AM
Posts: 1274
Group Leader

Hello AsianGoddess-I think you handled the situation very well. Now your step son can speak to you openly about his feelings without worry of being judged! I wish I had had someone like you in my life when I was that age to teach me how to manage my emotions. Its something I hope to be able to do for my children. I have managed to abstain from cutting for 9mts with one small lapse in between that didnt draw blood. So I am glad I no longer feel the need to SI.

I hope it will stay that way for the rest of my life.

Isnt it interesting that you and I have both chosen such positive and self confident names given our predisposition to SI?

If you ever want to talk please PM me. Smile

11/04/2011 10:05 AM
Posts: 1374
VIP Member

I was honest with my son. I just told him that I did them to myself and I couldn't explain to him the reason yet cause he was to little to understand. He is only going to be 7 and I am very adamant that he can't hurt himself because those are the things that can happen if he isn't respectful to his own body. I think explaining that hurting oneself isn't a good thing is important to stress BEFORE the explanation that way they know that we are human and have made the mistakes before and this is what happened to us.

I got more later but I gotta get the kiddo off to school. Smile


Share this discussion with your friends:

Disclaimer: The information provided in MDJunction is not a replacement for medical diagnosis, treatment, or professional medical advice.
In case of EMERGENCY call 911 or 1.800.273.TALK (8255) to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Read more.
Contact Us | About Us
Copyright (c) 2006-2014 All Rights Reserved