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
May 20th, 2018 6:31pm
It is your choice whether you decide to tell them the truth about them or not, sometimes it can be okay to just tell them that you had a difficult time. Depending on the age of the age of the child they may not understand if you tell them the truth.
May 23rd, 2018 8:58pm
i say i got them from falling while playing football etc and change the conversation to move off of the topic.
May 26th, 2018 5:29pm
You tell them they're from a great battle you've been fighting against evil. Scars happen in battle with bad guys, they're a sign that you're trying.
May 27th, 2018 6:35am
Tell them a cool story of how you got them, like you fought wild animals and survived. They'll be happy, and not scared 😊
June 7th, 2018 9:37pm
The best thing to do is be honest, but possibly take the chance and give them a lesson and yourself one.
June 22nd, 2018 11:34pm
Say that they're battle scars and that you were stronger than the demon you fought and won.
June 29th, 2018 4:29am
Just say " I've had a hard life, but it has gotten so much better, with time, and the help I need. "
June 29th, 2018 11:36pm
Tell them about how you went through a very difficult time in your life and they’re just battle scars you received along the way. Say how they now show you how you survived and got through that difficult time. Tell them how it showed you things had to get worse before they got better and you feel like you can now get through anything.
July 6th, 2018 9:29pm
I always say that something bad happened to me, which is not really a lie. Most of the time, the children will settle for it, or I told them that scars are caused of falls.
July 12th, 2018 11:56pm
Tell them they are you’re battle scars, because in a way, they are. You have suffered battles within yourself and those are the scars you have to show for them.
July 20th, 2018 10:18pm
Just explain them normally. Such as " I was hurting bad inside so I did this to stop hurting, but I'm better now, and nobody should ever do these."
July 25th, 2018 7:38am
the scars shows that im strong and i have made it ,and the scars also reminder that i have passed life test
July 26th, 2018 10:05pm
if it's about your scars, just say a dog or a cat scratched you... if it's about his suspicious scars, explain his it is a way to release the pain in his head, but still harmful to his growing body.
July 28th, 2018 1:03pm
An excuse is you could say its scarification tattoo. If you really wanted to evade the truth. Its hard for a kid to understand.
July 29th, 2018 3:38am
Young children have the kind of faith that most adults don't have. To be honest you can tell them something silly to lighten the mood in the meantime. And when they get older and understand a little more about the world, you can say that life just gets difficult to manage, but the scars you have remind you of how you overcame those hard times, and prospered when it felt impossible to do so.
August 3rd, 2018 6:24am
You can tell the child that you got hurt once and it left a scar behind. You don't have to tell them what happened in great detail, but of course if they insist you can just say something that would be easier to understand like falling down and landing on a sharp object or something.
August 3rd, 2018 12:40pm
I have scars from a horrible accident I was in. People stare all the time, when adults do it, I just say in the midst of the stares, "I was in an accident", and they normally say oh ok and continue on with the conversation. With a young child I tell them I was in an accident, and I don't go into detail, but I ask them if they want to touch them, they always say yes, and it seems to make them feel better because they are using the touch and sight senses. I hope that made sense. :)
August 26th, 2018 5:58am
Scars and explanation about them to children are tough sometimes you can just say that you fought a monster (monster here being either the incident or self harm) some kids will ask about said monster describ any thing you want here - If you want to honest with a you can start with the monster fight thing as an opener Example: Child - What happened to your arm Person - I fought a monster Child - Really Person -yep it was scary and took a long time to beat Child - What did it look like - This you can go two different directions with- 1 person - Well it had sharp teeth and claws and it always came around when I was upset etc 2 person - I was the monster and had to stop myself from hurting me
September 14th, 2018 12:10pm
children might not understand when you tell them. so maybe just lie to them, or just say you are having a hard time. but dont lie to adults who understand. they can help you out.
September 26th, 2018 11:17am
The best way to explain scars to a young child is to tell them the truth, but in a way in which they understand, such as "these happened when I wasn't feeling very well and I needed a way to release my feelings", and if they are old scars then you could follow it by saying "but I haven't had to do that in a long time and I'm feeling much better for it". I think that this would be the best way to explain in, so that they understand what is happening and don't feel like they are being treated like a child.
October 4th, 2018 10:19am
Never lie to a child. Always be truthful but in a way you can sugar coat the truth. You can say in true events what has happened but explain that you are better. Aside from that if you think that this is too graphic for a young child to know about simply but smartly avoid the question because if you dont answer in a way they will understand they will seek the truth for themselves and you never know how that can turn out especially knowing that children are very adventuress. Be honest but secure at the same time.
October 4th, 2018 3:30pm
When a young child asks about my scars, I say I had an accident. I fell and got hurt. I didn't go see a doctor and get help, so now I have scars on my legs. If they keep asking, I'll say it was a bad accident when I was young. It was my fault. I didn't listen to my parents, so I got hurt. I'll tell them if they get hurt, they should tell their Mom and Dad so they don't have scars to. Then, hopefully they will talk to their parents, and won't end up like me.
October 17th, 2018 1:30am
Personally, I would not explain the complexities of emotional pain and self harm to a young child. It’s too difficult for them to understand and it might give them the wrong idea. While it may feel good for a time, you wouldn’t want a child to think that it’s a good way to handle stress/pain. Maybe you could pretend that they are from something else like an old Injury. Rock climbing scars always worked for me. If the young children you’re referring to our your children or very close to you, perhaps one day you could share the struggle with them when they are more capable of understanding.
October 24th, 2018 10:49am
This is a great question. I have a lot of self harm scars, and I actually had a child ask about them in a really blunt way at a grocery store once. I froze for a moment, but then I told her that I was superhero at night and sometimes I got beat up, but that I always got the bad guy, and could she keep my secret for me? The kid was thrilled and the mom was happy with my answer! Children just say what is on their mind, they don't mean any harm by it, so don't worry when they ask!
January 19th, 2019 12:24pm
You could say: "I was fighting off dragons!"A humorous approach may be appropriate. "I was very sick, and that's why i got these scars." After all it's true, you were sick and that's why you resorted to harming yourself. You could say, "I was very sad at one time so I got the scars." If you are talking to an older child you can explain what self-harming is. Never give details or violent information; it might scare them or give them ideas. Sometimes you could say, just ask your parents. Or, you'll fimd out when you're older. Or, sometimes peple get scars when they're very sad.
February 16th, 2019 5:03pm
Tell them that you've been through something and you came out stronger. Explain to them that scars don't make someone weak, but it also doesn't make them "cool", and that they don't want to have scars either. Children are very impressionable, and it's important for them to know that they don't need to put scars on their body to be like others. More and more children nowadays are exposed to and understand selfharm, so it's more than likely that they already know what it is, if they've been in school for a few years. But, if you must explain, say something like "I was hurt, but I'm better now."
April 27th, 2019 3:46pm
I am guessing you are talking about when they ask about scars from self-harm. I understand that this can be a tricky situation. You don't want to alarm the child, but also needs to have something to say that will "satisfy" them. I think you have to consider things like how old they are, whose children they are, and how you feel about things like white lies or half truths. For younger children you could maybe say something simple like "I got hurt". For older children you could consider something like "It is something sad that happened to me" and if you'd like you could add that you don't like talking about it. Or you could tell a completely adventurous story about a journey you took through a jungle once upon a time and you fell, but it was such an awesome place to see... That could get them side-tracked, but you will have to decide for yourself if you'd like to go for something wild and less true or something more cryptic and mundane but closer to the truth.
May 2nd, 2019 6:42pm
Often times this situation happens in public or with a child you're unfamiliar with. Hopefully right off the bat, their parent will pull them away or stop the conversation in its tracks. However, this sometimes is not the case. When you're trapped in this kind of situation it can be incredibly overwhelming. However, keep in mind that young children are innocent and generally think the best of you. They're asking out of curiosity, not to be hurtful. For your sake and the child's, don't be afraid to craft a fun story. For example, you could say they're your tiger stripes or that you're a spy and got hurt on a secret mission. Protect yourself and the child's innocence, but most of all don't let this set you back.
May 22nd, 2019 7:30pm
I have personally told children at work (I worked at an animal handling place) that they are animal scratches, if you have a relevant hobby or job you could link your scars to you could use that, alternatively, you could say you got them from a pet, either yours, a friends, or a made up one as long as they wont find out. Older kids 14+ I have explained what they are, but only when they've been old enough to understand and unfortunately most of those kids already had difficult experiences which is terrible but meant they processed the information better. I always follow up that I'm happy now, I'm doing well, and I make sure I get permission before I tell them from their guardian
June 2nd, 2019 12:07am
I prefer to always be honest with them. I make sure to tell them in such a way that wouldn't scare them, but explain why we get scars, through injury, illness and so on. For example, a family member has several scars as a result of injury from military service, we explained to my son when he asked, that the family member had got hurt whilst working in his job as a soldier, the marks he sees now is where his body has healed his skin back together. We also explained that many people have many different scars for different reasons and that some people get upset by their own scars, as it reminds them of a time that made them very sad.