How do I explain scars when a young child asks about them?
Last Updated: 01/30/2021 at 11:58am
Melissa Hudson, MS Ed, PhD(c), LMFT
Marriage & Family Therapist
I work with clients of diverse backgrounds on a multitude of concerns. My approach is, at times, directive, yet always curious, nonjudgmental, collaborative, and validating.
Top Rated Answers
kids are really curious, and i think it's important to explain difficult things to them in a compassionate way, without scaring or concerning them. this is what happened when a kid (around age 8) asked me a similar question: they asked me what the lines on my wrist were, and i told them they were scars. they asked me how they got there, and i told them that they were from a time when i wasn't very nice to myself. they asked me why i wasn't nice to myself, and i explained that, like how bullies in school aren't nice to other kids, i was a bully to myself because i didn't like myself. the kid was quiet, and then asked me if i like myself now. i said that sometimes i don't, but that i like myself more and more as time goes on. i then go on to tell the kid that if they're mad at themselves, to go do something they like or talk to someone they love so that they don't keep all of those feelings stuck inside with nowhere else to go, because that's showing that you love yourself. the kid said okay, and that they'd promise to do that, and their curiosity was quenched. hope this helps!)
Children are usually creative so telling them straight forward is not the best idea. Try something like "well you see, i was a soldier once and i got through a really big battle and here are my battle scars". The metaphor for this is you, as a soldier in a war/battle (with yourself or the world around who brought you in the state of self harm) and the battle scars which are showing that you were at a bad time in your life but you got through it and now you're healing. I find this method very effective. Kids usually don't ask any more questions after you tell them that. I hope this helps
I was badly hurt there and there but as you can see I healed, but it will just allways be visible, so nothing to fear. Isn't it great that we heal?
Personally, with children at such a young age as elementary school, I would not explain the scars to them. At least, I wouldn't say that the scars were self-inflicted because at the age, as you said, they could be disturbed by it or it could influence them in certain ways. Children can be very suggestible about things. I simply don't think that age group can comprehend what mental illness is about and they wouldn't be able to understand why someone would hurt themselves. At least in my opinion.
Scars are tattoos with a story behind them. Never be afraid of them, they aren't ugly. Don't make fun of anyone if they have any on their face or body. They symbolize bravery. We've all got them : for some they're visible on their body while for others they are invisible to others but yet, emotionally exist and can be felt by the person himself,
Tell them that they're from a battle you won. That is really what they are and it's good to get kids in that mindset. Be proud.
Sometimes its better to keep the real reason secret infront of children,they are innocent,their world is beautiful,no one has the right to destroy it with dark thoughs,so just tell them that you have had an accident
i think when a child asks questions like this, its is a huge opotunity for them to learn. i am not saying they should be told everything because obviously they are just children. although we live in a world where children are silenced when asked about disablity because we get embarressed by there questions though we shouldn't we should take the opotunity to educate them in the world around them. self harm should be no different it affects many people struggling with mental health. If a chlid were to ask me about my scars, i would simply respond, "i was upset and i hurt myself but now i dont do that i talk to people instead, what would you do if you were sad?" this gives the child an honest answer but also gives them a chance to respond it also makes sure you know that they understand what they should do if they are ever sad
When trying to explain my scars to young children I always say that when I was younger I had a very hard time and I was hurting on the inside so much that I began to hurt on the outside.
They're signs of survival. I fell, I hurt, then I healed. The wound may or may not leave a scar. It's good when they heal completely, but it's not always the case, sometimes we just have to wear the scars proudly because it means we've survived.
It depends on how open you are about your scars. Some people say they were in an accident or some people say they are battle scars. Find whatever term you feel comfortable with.
Make up a funny story. Or make up a educational story for them so they are not frightened. For example you could try to explain it to your best abilities.
I wouldn't explain exactly what it is because it is a young child but if it were me, I would say that I got scratched by a cat or I fell..I used to be a cutter myself...and I have all kinds of scars on my body to prove it...and I couldn't traumatize a child like that..They don't understand how cruel the world can be yet...So I would just make up a silly explaination.
Childs are likely to try and do the same thing you did, by curiosity, I wouldn't recommend telling the truth, especially for younger ones, tell them : ''my cat accidently scared my arm'' or ''I fallen from my bike''
This is a tricky question, as it depends on the child and situation. You may be able to get away with saying 'a cat scratched me' or simply by saying that the scars are very old and you don't remember how you got them. You can also go about this in a different way and say that the scars are natural; that they happen when the skin breaks, but they heal up after some time. In my personal opinion, young children don't need to know the real reason behind the scars they ask about.
You could always just say they're battle scars, something that happened when you went through "a hard time", etc etc.
Frankly I have never been in such situations. But once my younger brother saw them and told mom that my hand was hurting. So that time I got around to thinking what should I say if he ever asked about them. We are supposed to tell the truth - I was hurting and I left marks on my self to remind myself that I never want to feel like that ever again.
This is a very tough one, I'll admit. What I tend to do is explain how we get scars when we get hurt, then say that a long time ago I was very hurt because I was very mean to myself. I explain that I had to learn to love myself and take care of myself and then I stopped getting scars. I don't go into too much detail because I feel like it's not necessary., Maybe everyone has a different response, but that's how I handle it.
This is a hard question. It really depends how much you want a kid to know. A lot of small children will be satisfied with "Oh, nothing" (I worked in a daycare over the summer), but some of them won't be. Your best bet is making something up. Kids won't understand self-harm, so give them something they will. "Scratches" or "I got hurt" will usually be enough.
Sometimes it's better telling kids that everyone has some scars from various different events in their lives. If you use a vague enough answer they usually won't ask about it again.
If you want to tell the real reason of them you have to say it in an easy way. If you want to tell him/her somethin else, like an accident, you can.
Tell them that you went to war and that these scars are the little medals that the kings/queens have awarded you for your bravery.
Explain it like this "it's a wound from a war I once fought alone" and since it's a kid they might not fully grasp what ur saying but u can then say "it's a sign of victory or hope"
You could say you tripped over, you don't have to tell a young child the entire truth. It would be best not to.
I think it depends on the situation, and the child in question. When my significant others younger siblings (aged between 5 and 8 at the time) started asking about my scars, I got creative. They're my battle scars, my tiger stripes, thats just how I look, and some people look different. Depending oin the situation I think it's also good to explain to them that some people may loom different, but might not like being asked about it, and they should talk to a parent in private.
You could say these are my stripes, like the ones tigers have. Tigers gain them after battles like I do.
Say they are a map, showing the path you took to become the strongest person you can be. Scars are reminders of how far you have come
This is a hard thing to explain, but what you can do is reassure them that they're normal. Try breaking it down into little sections, start with explaining how they occur. Reassure them that they are natural.
When my godson enquired about my old scars I told him I fell, i was hurt, but now I have healed, isnt that great!
When a young child asks about such a thing, many people freak out and don't know what to say. For me, it makes me happy to take the opportunity to help them get a basic understanding. Often times, they just want a simple answer to satisfy the question. That's often enough. If they care to know, I think it's importand to not hide and keep it from them, but answer in a way they will understand. Something like, "Scars are from when an injury/boo boo heals. Some people who have a lot of them, have been hurt or have hurt a lot." sometimes that'd be enough. If not you could add something like, "they feel hurt inside, and they need help but feel stuck and their hurt goes from inside their body, onto the outside of their body." if they ask how, again simple terms without too many details, " they get there because the person is hurting so much inside that it spills onto the ouside of their body. This happens because when it is too full inside, they make the outside hurt by hurting themselves to make themselves happy for a little while, to fill some of the inside with happy instead of happy and hurt. They want to feel good." then you'd explain its not okay. Children do best with explanations they'll understand.
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