My 10yo Sister Saw My Cutting Scars - How Should I Explain Them To Her?

Published: June 03, 2015
Dear My 10yo Sister Saw My Cutting Scars - How Should I Explain Them To Her?,

I'm a 19 year old female. I've struggled with cutting for about five years now, and although I'm in treatment and recovery (clean for nearly 3 months, hell yeah!), I still have a lot of scars. Last night my 10 year old sister accidentally saw them. I told her they were cat scratches and covered them immediately, but she kept bugging me to see them, and of course I couldn't show her because anyone would know that a cat can't do that kind of damage. I had to snap at her that I wasn't going to show her; I didn't know what else to tell her. In future situations like this, how should I react and what should I say? I don't want her exposed to this kind of hell at such an early age, but I don't know what to tell her, either.

Dear My 10yo Sister Saw My Cutting Scars - How Should I Explain Them To Her?,

How to communicate these kinds of situations to younger siblings who may not be cognitively or emotionally ready to handle all the information associated with it can be tricky. TeenHealthFX recommends that before discussing anything with your sister, that you start by talking about it with your parents to make sure that they are on board with how you are going to present it to her.

Given your sister’s age, her curiosity about this and the fact that it is very possible she was picking up that you were not in a good emotional place in the past, FX would recommend you explain it in the following way: Let your sister know that this happened during a very sad time in your life where you were feeling helpless about how to express your feelings and how to tell people about your unhappiness and distress. And because it was so hard for you to tell people about what was going on, you began to make cuts in your arms. Then let your sister know that when people saw these cuts, they knew something was not okay with you and they helped you to start talking about the things that were bothering you – and now that you are talking about those things, you are not making the cuts anymore. FX would also recommend that you stress to your sister that self-cutting is not a helpful or healthy thing to do - and that if she is ever dealing with any difficult problems, or feelings very sad or angry about anything, that it is very important to talk to a trusted adult about it and not to do anything to hurt herself.