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Not wanting to hide my arms from my child

(74 Posts)
jaylasw Sun 15-Sep-19 04:00:09

Hello, just looking for some advice. My arms are very, very heavily scarred from self harming as a teenager. It's taken a lot of counseling and medication for me to be in a much better place. It took even longer for me to accept that there's no changing my past and my scars are forever, I can hide under long sleeves or just embrace it the best I can. My DS is 2 and obviously has no idea why my arms look that way, nor does he care. My Father however does. Hes got used to my arms over the years, but ever since giving birth he never stops going on about hiding them from my DS as im 'setting a bad example' , which might lead him doing something similar in the far future. Plus he always asks me what l will tell my DS when he knows they look different, and asks why. Honestly? I don't know what I'll say, but that's the last thing on my mind until he brings it up. I really just don't know what to do, I feel like he's right in ways, i don't want to go back to hiding myself for years and years again, but of course I never want my son to see them as 'normal' and think he should ever do the same, sorry for the long post. just not sure whats best for my DS growing up.

Yellowcar18 Sun 15-Sep-19 04:03:15

I have this exact problem on my arms. My plan of to get tattoo cover ups on them and hopefully they might not be as visable. An idea that only occurred to me last week as never liked tattoos much but have my heart set on the idea now. Maybe something like that might work for you?

LiveInAHidingPlace Sun 15-Sep-19 04:03:57

I understand, I have self harm scars too.

Just explain it to him in easy ways as he gets older and can understand better.

HennyPennyHorror Sun 15-Sep-19 04:28:29

A friend of my Mum's told me she'd fallen off a fence as a child and I believed her. Then when I was old enough to make the connections, I realised myself what the scars were.

asblackasyoursoul Sun 15-Sep-19 05:02:49

It’s a very tricky situation. If I were you, if he asked, I’d just say something like ‘mummy got hurt in an accident’ or that they were cat scratch scars - yes I know not the best lies, but not much else you can say.
When he’s old enough, around 13 maybe, you can sit down with him and try to explain in an easy to understand way about self harm and why people do it. Best not to just leave him to figure it out himself.

Sorry if this advice is bad, it’s just what I would do!

Coyoacan Sun 15-Sep-19 05:08:50

I have scars on my arms that look like self-harm scars but aren't.

You have time to find out about the benefits of telling the truth or not to your child about these scars. But the fact that you have a very healthy attitude to them now is a great starting point.

BoomBoomsCousin Sun 15-Sep-19 05:13:55

I can understand about them being a part of your history and so a part of who you are and not wanting to hide them. I sort of see your Dad's point too, though I certainly hope he expressed it more kindly than the way you outline it here. I think I'd want to know if, generally, children who are exposed to the fact people that love and care for them have self-harmed does in fact normalize it for them and if that then leads to a greater chance of negative outcomes for their lives.

I know that children who see their parents drunk when they are young are more likely to drink heavily when they are older, and those that know their parents took illegal drugs when they were young are more likely to take illegal drugs themselves but also that hiding the fact people struggle with mental health problems can lead to children hiding their own struggles instead of seeking help. The strength you've shown in overcoming such a challenge in your life could also be inspirational for your DC at some point.

So I think you should try to be evidence driven in your decision about how to approach this with your child - find out what are the most likely repercussions of him seeing your scars and knowing why you have them. Perhaps Mind or another support charity have something evidence based - you aren't the first parent to be in this position.

I do think your dad is probably sensible to badger you a bit about knowing what to say. Waiting until your son asks to decide what tack to take is unlikely to lead to the best outcome for him or you.

stayathomer Sun 15-Sep-19 05:28:04

I'd say don't hide them but could you be vague and just say 'they're just scars from when I was younger' if asked. Then you aren't lying but aren't hiding and can talk about them when he's a bit older. I agree with people saying they're part of who you are, you've come through all of it and that's more the take home point and something to discuss when he's older flowers

DidYeAyee Sun 15-Sep-19 06:01:23

I have visible scars on my arms and legs but my 10yo has never asked about them.

If he did, I think I'd just be vague and say they are from when I was younger/ don't remember what I did.

There might be a stage where I'm happy to tell him, but I think 10 is too young.

Sosososotired Sun 15-Sep-19 06:32:56

My 13yo badgered me for years about my scars, and I was always vague and said it was from an accident. I told him the truth when he was about 10-11. My 7yo is just starting to ask and I’ve told her I’ll tell her when she is older. I used to be scared that my kids would copy, but the have a completely different childhood to me and so hopefully they won’t be in a dark place where they try self harming.

My dh has never mentioned my scars. He knows about them but has never ever suggested I cover up or acted ashamed of them. I think I’d really struggle with a dp that makes such a big deal of it to be honest. I’d be telling him to stop mentioning it.

lambdroid Sun 15-Sep-19 06:37:32

Similar situation here, though thankfully my family are supportive.

My plan is not to hide them and to tell the truth, though in an age appropriate way; I’ll start off just saying it’s from when I was ill, then provide more information later.

I personally think hiding it would be worse as there’s no way you can hide it forever and they’re more likely just to accept them as a part of you if that’s all they’ve ever known.

It was also such a massive and stressful issue for me that I actually want my kids to know that it’s something that can happen to people so they know to deal with it, how to talk about it and how to get help.

CherryPavlova Sun 15-Sep-19 06:40:03

I think a two-year-old has a good few years yet before he’d even notice. Little children are programmed for egocentricity; it’s a survival instinct.

I have scars that look like slashed wrist attempts but are actually burns from cooking scars. Nobody notices unless I point them out.

Telling a very young child their mother cut herself is quite a lot to put on someone young. I’d stop worrying and just focus on being a happy forward facing family.

Booboostwo Sun 15-Sep-19 06:41:54

Your father is being very odd about it. I doubt it very much that learning about your self harm will in any way lead your DS to do the same. As you know much better than me, self harming is more complicated than that.

I would tell him the truth in an age appropriate way. I’d start with some thing simple like “I got hurt, but now I am better”, you DS will probably focus on pain and you can reassure him it no longer hurts. As he gets older you can explain more.

I would imagine it would have Korea of an impact if you made a big deal out of hiding your arms, covering them with tattoos, refusing to talk about it and lying.

TheBrockmans Sun 15-Sep-19 06:55:30

Could it be that your father is still feeling guilty about whatever the reasons were behind your self-harming and whilst he on the surface has accepted them, actually this is a new chance to sweep the issues away.

I am not saying that this is a conscious act on his part, he may genuinely think it is to protect his grandson. It may also not be rational for him to feel guilty- I still feel a tiny bit guilty that dd fell and broke her bone, even though it was an accident, from a height where 99.99% of children of her age would be fine. Ten years on she has no memory of the incident and no scars and it is just an amusing anecdote but it is still a reminder that I could not protect her from life.

Of course maybe he was more of a factor in your self harming so even more reason why he might not want to be reminded. You can decide for yourself whether you want to cover up, tell your son a different story, or just say that you hurt yourself quite badly when you were younger but you are fine now and they don't hurt.

LaserShark Sun 15-Sep-19 06:59:52

I went for a tattoo. Partly because of my children; mainly because those scars didn’t feel like me anymore. I am so far away from the person I was when that happened to me and I hated the fact that the visibility of the scars kept it in the present when it was so far in the past. Now I have something beautiful there instead and it reminds me of how far I have come.

FallenSkies Sun 15-Sep-19 07:05:34

My child hasn't asked about my scars yet, but when she does I plan to explain that they are from when I was ill many years ago but I'm all better now. I don't plan to go further into how the scars got there, and will keep it age appropriate as with anything else.

It annoys me that we are made to feel shame about our scars. You survived a terrible illness and should be proud of that.

No one would ask how you plan to hide the evidence from a physical illness.

I self harmed having never seen anyone else's scar, or knowing of anyone else doing it. I don't think your child will do it because you have scars. Mental illness doesn't work that way.

Juells Sun 15-Sep-19 07:06:15

I do think your dad is probably sensible to badger you a bit about knowing what to say. Waiting until your son asks to decide what tack to take is unlikely to lead to the best outcome for him or you.

^^ this

As a pp suggested, I'd try to find out if knowing about it normalizes it for children.

blackcat86 Sun 15-Sep-19 07:09:26

Its useful to think of what to say before hand and I like the idea of a made up accident and then more appropriate detail as your DS gets older. However, more importantly you need a conversation with your DF as its him making an issue out of it and telling you to cover yourself. It sounds like he has an issue with your scars and even if you did make up an accident he may hint at something else. Could you talk to him about what is behind this behaviour? What's his issue?

meuh Sun 15-Sep-19 07:09:36

If you hid them that would mean always locking the bathroom door when you're showering, never wearing a swimming costume in front of your ds, wearing long sleeves every day even while exercising or during a heatwave. That's no way to live.

However it's probably sensible to have some words in mind for when he does ask, which he may do some day.

tinydancer88 Sun 15-Sep-19 07:16:40

I don't know if this helps, but my dad has lots of scars on his arms and legs from self harming. I think when I was very young he just said that he had got hurt a long time ago, and when I was 11 or 12 I must've pressed him on it and he explained. It didn't scare me or freak me out, because I was used to seeing them. I just saw it as a symptom of an illness.

My dad had moderate ongoing mental health problems throughout my childhood, and because of how it was explained to us we did feel empathy for him, but never fear or shame. Daddy was just poorly.

I do suffer from mild anxiety as an adult but I have a lovely life, I love my parents, and I have never self harmed. At the end of the day it's your body and your history and so it's your story to tell in the way you see fit, but it sounds like you have been incredibly resilient to get where you are today, and that should be a source of pride, not shame.

Juells Sun 15-Sep-19 07:26:13

However, more importantly you need a conversation with your DF as its him making an issue out of it and telling you to cover yourself. It sounds like he has an issue with your scars

Guilt, I'd guess. If either of my daughters had self-harmed in their teenage years I'd be eaten up with guilt, and seeing the scars would activate the guilt every time.

icecreamsundae32 Sun 15-Sep-19 07:29:07

My school friend wore lots of bracelets to cover hers and then got a tattoo.

Lillygreen Sun 15-Sep-19 07:29:22

This is derailing your thread a little.
I'm not saying you need to cover them up at all, but in case you didn't know the options in doing so...if you wanted to get rid of, or reduce the appearance of your scars then microneedling is an option. It would take 8-12 sessions.

P.s. I don't think you need to cover them up from your son. He won't care, I think it would be suitable to tell him when he is old enough to understand. But for now, you could just tell him you burned it when you where cooking.

Harrysmummy246 Sun 15-Sep-19 07:30:03

'Mummy's arms got hurt when she was younger, they're ok now'

The actual hurt is irrelevant and you don't ever need to hide them. This is your father's issue. The explanation/ full truth can come much later.

Self harm is much more widely understood now by many individuals

5zeds Sun 15-Sep-19 07:33:10

They’re scars from a time when you were unwell. No more or less shameful than my appendix scar, or the scar I got from falling and having stitches. I’d just tell him that and accept them as part of the patina of life. Be kind to your Dad too, it sounds like he needs a way of thinking about it all as much as your son does.

Most heroes don’t wear capes, and that’s what I would be thinking if I saw your arms. Help your son to see that too.

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