How do I explain scars when a young child asks about them?

159 Answers
Last Updated: 02/08/2020 at 5:59pm
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
Moderated by

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
Anonymous
November 10th, 2017 2:06pm
Answer them honestly, but in a way that does not scare/worry the child. Keep it simple, and non-sugestive. Remember, kids grow up and they will learn, in-depth, about it eventually. Keeping them in the dark will only complicate things for them further on in their life and make them upset or think that it is 'okay'.
Anonymous
November 12th, 2017 9:53pm
With kids, it's often best to be as honest as possible. They are far less judgy than adults tend to be. You could try saying something like "This happened to me when I was having a really bad time. I am doing much better now." - oftentimes that's enough. Hugs!
frankiepamela1
November 14th, 2017 5:10am
Children have trouble understanding why anyone would inflict pain upon his/herself. It is a very unusual concept to them since most are very innocent and have not experienced any intense struggle. For this reason, I think it is best to give them a very vague answer. Something along the lines of, I got very hurt at one point, but I healed and I'm all better now.
NotAGod
November 22nd, 2017 3:01am
"They're my past, they're my mistakes but like all mistakes, we learn from them. These are just reminders to remind me to never be reminded again because I know now so don't worry about it, kid."
Anonymous
December 1st, 2017 9:30pm
I say that they are memories of the past and we all have personal issues. It’s importsnt to remember that not everyone is perfect.
LetMeHelpYouBecomeBetter
December 4th, 2017 12:00am
You can explain scars to a young child when they ask about them as battles scars. Because you went through hard, rough times but made it out alive, some people don't.
Anonymous
December 8th, 2017 10:53pm
I explained them as though they are battle wounds. I told the child that I'd won a battle against a bad guy.
Anonymous
December 8th, 2017 11:28pm
You could say that you were fighting a battle and you won it and it helped you become who you are now
Anonymous
December 9th, 2017 7:11pm
When my kids have pointed out my scars to me I am honest to an extent. What you don't want to do is lie... If you lie and they remember later on, finding out they were lied to, they can start to go through a spiral of what else they were lied to about and trust is a crucial part of childhood. There are ways you can still tell the truth. So some of mine were innocent mosquito bites that I scratched at as a child despite my own mother warning me not to as they can scar. I have one on my face due to a bout of MRSA. Others...due to physical abuse in a marriage and emotional pain dealt with in an unhealthy way as a teenager...I would tell them that they were boo boo's made due to an accident. They'd ask me, what kind of accident. I'd relate/ask them, about how you know how sometimes you think something is a good idea at first, but later find out after you get hurt it wasn't such a good idea? At this they usually relate sharing something they did that they initially thought was a good idea that got hurt. Such as pretending to be Mary Poppins in jumping off the kitchen table with an umbrella or thinking they were fine to stand on a chair until they lost their balance. Them relating really helps. When you share it this way you are not lying because I myself, at the time thought I was doing the right thing. I thought how I was coping with my emotional pain as a teen was my only outlet. I thought that staying with my husband despite the various abuse was the right thing as I loved him. In a nut shell, whether I was pretending to be Mary Poppins or sticking to my husband, both people would be in the mindset that they were "doing the right thing and everything would be alright". This not only answers the child's question, but protects them from feeling lied to later on. If it's your own child that later finds out the truth, not only will they come to appreciate your honesty, they will have a deeper understanding to your mindset at the time you received the scars.
Anonymous
December 14th, 2017 12:01pm
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
SensitiveSpot
January 14th, 2018 10:07pm
I have had difficulty with that also. Sometimes I just tell them it was a bad experience and I don't feel comfortable talkimg about it.
there4u3nyt1m3
January 20th, 2018 10:59am
Explain them with pride and with light hearted responses such as: "These are my battle scars from a long time ago that make me stronger, like a superhero"
MollyCule
January 24th, 2018 10:31pm
An honest answer could be that you got them a long time ago when you were unwell. That's truthful without being graphic.
Emily619
January 26th, 2018 12:46am
It can be rough when young children ask about self-harm scars. It can be easy to lie about it; however, in reality, it's best to be honest regarding your scars. You don't have to go into great depth, but simply letting them know that you went through a time of emotional pain and, as a result, went through some physical pain as well to try to cope with your emotional pain is a good way to put it to a child.
Anonymous
February 7th, 2018 3:19pm
If You feel like they are old/mature enough to know tell the truth, if not you can make up a silly excuse that a young child would believe. Best of luck!
Anonymous
February 7th, 2018 8:16pm
It's probably better not to tell them that it was because you hurt yourself. You can make something up instead: (a funny story, a birthmark, etc.)
Angelsupporter9
February 8th, 2018 9:23am
Sometimes it works when you say they're your battle scars from a difficult time, but not every time. I've used that sentence in the past and it has worked fine.
BerrySunset
February 10th, 2018 5:06pm
I think it depends on the person, how you handle it. You might say something like "they're my battle scars, and they remind me of challenges in my life I had to overcome". Or you could just say "bike accident" or even "let's talk more when you're older".
Anonymous
February 18th, 2018 6:41pm
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
electricbird
February 21st, 2018 4:53am
I think that it could be complex for a kid to understand, but you can actually tell them you were once really hurt and that's why the scars are there, to remind you that you are now better.
Anonymous
February 21st, 2018 8:51am
Depending on their age I usually blame it on a animal (example: the dog scratched me) if you have no animals blame sharp household objects.
Anonymous
February 21st, 2018 6:52pm
Tell them they are a part of your past. I struggle/battle you faced. The scars may look ugly, but in reality they are beautiful. They show all the hardships you have overcome.
Caringheart23
March 29th, 2018 7:50pm
Kids don't need to know the exact answer to everything. If it's a really young kid, you can say you got them from being sad. Or you can make up a really cool story about them :) if they're older it's on you if you want to carefully tell them the truth or no.
Anonymous
March 31st, 2018 5:56am
this has been on my mind as well. tell them, they were battle scars. that you've been in a war and you're still recovering. they'll think that it's an actual battle, until later in their life, they'll understand and make a difference.
ImyourHope127
April 1st, 2018 8:27am
Tell them you fell down or it just a normal scar everyone got. If you're afraid you can tell them the truth as we know child will never lying sometimes child can comfort you as they are pure
Anonymous
April 4th, 2018 7:15pm
Don't try and be very detailed, just be simple and straight-forward, but make sure to have their parent's permission first. If their parents let you just say "when you grow up you get a lot of problems in your head, and some people can't handle all the pain in their head so they hurt themselves in order to let that pain out equally". But be very aware of the mental age of the child since they may think it's a way of relief, and use it on themselves.
Anonymous
April 27th, 2018 3:15am
you can always say that you started to wash a cat and the cat freaked out cause cats HATE water and he scratched you everywhere
Anonymous
May 12th, 2018 4:40pm
Being honest and explaining the child about coping mechanisms and anxiety could be a way, making them aware of other methods and how to be surrounded by supportive people who could help you feel understood so that you don’t have to find these as coping mechanism.. but then again it would depend on the type of scars you have too..
CursesAndMagic
May 18th, 2018 1:33am
You explain in a way that you feel comfortable with which also takes into account the age and character of the child. If you don’t feel ready to explain then don’t force it. One day you will.
Anonymous
May 19th, 2018 10:26pm
That’s a hard one, you can say the truth but they might not understand what your saying. And they might think of it in a different way, you could say the truth or say a story. But once they get older they might connect the dots. Just know what path you chose could effect you for your life. You have to be prepared to do what comes with what you chose weather that be good or bad. Go with your gut on that,