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What Happened When My 9-Year-Old Asked Me About My Self-Harm Scars

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When my kids were born, I knew from the start I wanted to be 100 percent upfront and honest with them. I wanted to answer any questions they may have without lying, but putting it at a level they can understand. I’m not one to sugarcoat anything — ever. Both my son and daughter know this and seem to like it.

Recently, my 9-year-old son had noticed a bunch of scars on my thigh and chest while we were at the water park. He knows — in his words — “Sometimes Mommy gets super crazy sad,” and has to get some extra help. However, I never thought he noticed my scars. Luckily when he asked, he didn’t do it in a rude or disrespectful manner. By nature, my son is a very curious kid.

He asked me, “Mom, what are those white marks all over your leg from? Did you get hurt?” I figured I could handle this one of two ways. I could either lie to him (and him call me out on it) or I could be honest and try or explain this to him at a level that he would understand.

I looked at him and said, in a quiet voice, “For a really long time, Mommy was really sad. I was so sad, I couldn’t get out of bed. My brain was telling me to do awful things to myself, and unfortunately, I listened.” I stood there, waiting for the game of 600 questions I was sure were about to erupt from Monkey. After he processed what I had told him, he simply got a really serious face and said, “OK, Mommy.” I kept walking the stairs with him in silence thinking, That’s what I was worried about? Once we got to the top of the stairs and waited our turn, Monkey turned, looked at me and said, “Mommy, I really hope you never get that sad again. I don’t wanna see you hurt!”

Granted, there may be some of you out there who may not agree with my approach. However, once my son knew what the scars were, he wasn’t so much worried about the outward appearance of them. He was more worried about the fact that someone can get so sad, they do harm to themselves. He was concerned that depression is a dark, ugly place that is awful to dig your way out of.

He hasn’t asked me anymore questions about it. I’m sure though it’s only a matter of time before my 5-year-old daughter starts asking questions. I will answer her with the same honesty I did my son. If your children ask, be honest. I’m not saying to go into details, but don’t lie to them. And tell them it’s OK to not be OK and to ask for help. The more we are able to educate our kids about mental health, the less stigma there will be.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Thinkstock photo via KatarzynaBialasiewicz.

Originally published: July 2, 2017
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