Self harm scars and children *Triggering picture of old scars*

I need some advice. On Sunday I am meeting James’s nephew, who is 6. Obviously, I have scars which are mainly on my left arm, and some are pretty bad keloid scars. I asked James what he wanted me to say if his nephew asked about them, and he told me it was up to me. Now, I am all for being honest, but I am not sure it is a good idea to try to explain to a six year old that someone is capable of injuring themself in that way – first off I’m not sure a child of that age would understand, and secondly, I’m not sure I want to put an idea like that in his head, and spoil his childhood innocence.

How would you guys deal with it? What would you say? I was thinking something along the lines of “I had some bad things happen to me” but then that could open myself up to him asking what things. Like I said, I don’t want to lie as I want him to know I am someone that will always tell him the truth. I also don’t want him to think it is a normal behaviour, something that is acceptable to do.

This is what my arm looks like now:



At what age do you think a child can actually consciously understand the concept of self harm? At what age is it appropriate to discuss it with them? It’s all good if it your own child and they have seen those scars since birth, and they are part of ‘mummy’ or ‘daddy’ but what about when you are interacting with a child who has never encountered it before? Would it be acceptable to say ‘I’ll tell you when you are older’? Like I said, I don’t to lie, but is this situation perhaps one of those where it is better to lie to protect the child because they are too young to know the truth?


  1. You could always go simple – “I got hurt but I’m better now.” If he asks how you got hurt, just change the subject.

  2. I agree with Mental Mama – saying you got hurt. None of them look very new, so that should help. If he persists, maybe ask him if he ever scraped his knees or elbows. He may have a scrape scar to show you. Then you could ask if he still is hurting? The scar just remains even after the hurt is gone. And that’s ok. We all have scrapes and scars, some just look worse than others. The important part is the healing and taking care of ourselves.
    I’m going to be meeting some 4 year olds today. Same thoughts have crossed my mind. They are curious. But kids are usually also very compassionate and accepting. You’ll probably be asked if they still hurt or if you’re ok now. Talking can be reassuring. And he’ll also see by your actions if you seem ok. Kids are very tuned in to body language. Be open to the opportunity. Just allowing it to “be” may also be very healing for you. I hope you have a wonderful time! Please let us know how it goes. XOXO

  3. I have two kids and I think I would freak out if someone introduced the concept of self-harm to my six year old. If I were the parent of this child, I would want the opportunity to broach this myself-I would want you to call me and figure out a truth we could both stick to. If that all works out, he will only seek to confirm what his parent told him and most likely move on.
    If his parents aren’t that involved, it is probably enough to say that scars come from serious wounds and you have had more than your share. Like Hawkruh said, he may have his own scars. You can easily getting him talking about those and distract him from there. Be ready with cookies and/or a book to distract him. I would not bring it up with him, open the discussion or bring the scars to his awareness.
    I would also wear a long-sleeved shirt for the first introduction so that you has the opportunity to let other awesome parts of your personality be what shapes his first impression.
    But kids are shockingly tolerant. If you give him a story that makes sense on his level, he will accept it and move on.
    Just remember, it isn’t your job to teach him diddly about self-harm-it is your job to make him feel comfortable with you.
    The best thing you can do is be super fun and amazingly kind. The rest will work itself out.
    Good luck!

    1. Thank you so much for this feedback, it is just what I needed, to be able to see it from the other point of view. Of course it isn’t my place to introduce this child to self harm. Although his mother isn’t ‘around’, I am not his family. Luckily, he didn’t bring it up, but if he does I will just explain it as ‘I hurt myself’ and leave it at that. Thank you all for your feedback, it is MUCH appreciated.

      1. Good luck and it is wonderfully compassionate of you to be so concerned.

  4. My girls are 8 and 4 and have never really asked. I’ve always decided that if they, or my nieces or nephews asked I would just say that I got hurt, same as was said. A few times they’ve said something small when I had a new cut, I said that I just got cut. They’ve moved on fast.

    My husband has the worst scars I’ve ever seen from when he had cancer. Sometimes he just says that he was sick. Other times he makes light of it. Like he got in a fight with a tiger. He was also in the military so he’ll make up some obviously exaggerated combat story. It’s kinda hard to tell a kid “I had cancer and this is where they took out part of my lung, these are holes where they put tubes in my heart, etc…” This isn’t any different, an illness is an illness. He’s a “kid person”, making up the stories is just a game to divert attention. Not everyone can get away with that.

    Kids pick up on a lot. In my opinion, if we act really serious about it, it’ll just be more scary than if we’re more light hearted. I don’t mean to say, really, that the scars aren’t a big deal. They are. It hurts when people make light of my scars. When it comes to kids though, in my opinion it’s better to pretend they aren’t.

  5. cool tattoo. what does it say?
    i have a few self-harm scars. i would not say anything. i would just say i got hurt. and leave it at that. hugs.

    1. Thank you. It is the italian translation of the lyric ‘nobody said it was easy’ from the Coldplay song ‘The Scientist’ xx

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