How To Tell Your Child About Your Dissociative Identity Disorder

For many parents with Dissociative Identity Disorder, it can be difficult deciding when and how to tell your child that you have DID. As parents to a wonderful child ourselves, we’ve faced these questions. This article will go over what we use said, when, and the questions our child asked us. Let’s jump right in!

Should You Tell Them?

First and foremost, your system needs to decide if it’s right (at this time) to tell your child about your Dissociative Identity Disorder. If you’ve read our article on telling others about your DID, you know that we believe sharing your diagnosis is a highly personal matter.

When it comes to your children, we believe that how you tell them is a highly personal matter but that your children do need to know for them to develop optimally. These are four key reasons why we think your system should consider telling your child about your DID:

It Affects Them

While it can be debated how much your diagnosis effects others, it’s no debate that it will affect your child. Every day, your child is being molded by your system’s actions. They are consciously and unconsciously picking up and mimicking your behaviors. Things can get really confusing for a singleton child mimicking a system parent. By your system talking to them about your DID, your child will have the opportunity to adjust accordingly.

**Pro tip: Each and everyone of your alters can still be incredible and amazing parents. Your diagnosis in no way stops your ability to love, protect, and guide your child. You and your alters may face unique challenges that a singleton parent does not but none of this prevents a multiple from being a great parent.

They Will Notice

Your child looks to your system in just about every way in order for them to learn what they should and should not do. They’re watching your system constantly for information that will prepare them for adulthood. While they most likely won’t jump to the conclusion that you’re a multiple, your child will absolutely figure out that something is going on.

By your system telling them about your DID, you’ll be able to make sure that they learn the truth in a loving and factual way. You’ll also be validating what they’ve already been experiencing. Giving your child the truth and validating their reality are powerful ways to empower them as they grow up.

It Builds Trust

Telling your child will not only confirm what they’ve been seeing, it will deepen the respect and trust they have for you as their parent. By being honest and vulnerable with your child, you’ve shown them that respect is a two way street and that you trust them.

Develops Their Compassion

Everyone is different and while that can be common sense to adults, children don’t always understand that concept. Introducing your child to your DID will also show your child that people can be wildly different from them and that it’s okay. By showing them that you are different yet still valid/loving/lovable, your child will be more likely to believe that of other people that are different from themselves.

When To Tell Them

When you tell your child about your diagnosis can make a big difference. While we’ve heard that telling a child younger than eight years old is pointless, we disagree. The logic in waiting until a child is older than eight is that their concrete thinking hasn’t developed yet. So you telling them that you’re multiple is no different than telling them that you’re the Easter bunny.

For us, we decided to tell them much sooner. Our child was around three years old when we started introducing small bits to her and we told her more when she was five. We didn’t want our DID to be some huge truth bomb; we wanted it to just be a fact of life. And so far, it’s gone perfectly. We may wait until she’s older to go into details but whenever possible, we explain in simple and honest terms what is happening around her.

Pro tip: We talk about our DID the same way we talk about our medical issues. We don’t go into the gory details but we don’t shy away from questions, either. We state the truth in a loving and simplistic manner that gives our child the opportunity to understand what is happening and why. Above all else, we emphasize that we love her no matter what.

What To Tell Them

At the end of the day, the exact way you tell your child about your diagnosis is your system’s choice. We’ve found that it’s best to keep it light, short, and fun!

Here are some examples of how our system talks about our DID with our young child:

  • Forgetfulness and information not transferring between fronting alters -> “We have a “forget owie” that can make remembering things tricky. Can you help me remember the things we’ve forgotten?”
  • Triggers -> “Our brains are all really, really smart. If something hurts you, next time, your brain will help you remember to get away from the owie. I once got really hurt and my brain is trying to tell me to run away from the owie. I don’t need to run away from this owie anymore but my brain doesn’t know that yet. My brain doesn’t want me to get hurt so it thinks this is helping to give me the energy to run away. Aren’t brains silly sometimes?”
  • Sometimes not wanting to be touched -> “Sometimes, my body just really wants to make sure that no one is going to come into my bubble. I love snuggling with you but right now, I need to be the only one in my bubble. Letting people into your bubble is your choice and letting people into my bubble is my choice. We can love each other even if our bubbles aren’t touching.”
  • Acting like a “different Mommy/Daddy” -> “Sometimes Mommy will seem different. Maybe I won’t be able to make the same silly voices or I’ll forget our special joke. No matter what, even if I seem super different, I still love you. I might just love you in a different way.”
  • DID related illness or fatigue -> “The same owie that gave me my forget owie can make me really tired. It can be frustrating to be tired when I want to play. When I’m feeling better, I’m excited to play with you again!”

Hands down the most important thing to tell your child is that your diagnosis in no way changes how much you love them.

Pro tip: For most of your child’s childhood, they’re going to be pretty egocentric. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s developmentally the way they’ll be for a large chunk of their formative years. What this means is that, at the root of most of their questions, they’re wanting to know how things will affect them. If you can help them understand that, you’ve done a great job!

What We Told Our Child

For reference, our daughter was three years old when we told her and she has a mother and step father with DID.

While playing around, she commented that she forgot something. We used this as an opportunity to casually tell her:

System: You know, I forget a lot of things too sometimes.

Daughter: Mommy’s can forget too?

System: Yes! Mommies can forget, Daddies can forget. Everyone can forget. It happens all the time and it’s not a big deal. Even if you forget something, I’ll still love you. I’ll love you no matter what.

Daughter: You’ll always love me!

System: That’s right! You know, Mommy forgets a lot of things. Mommy has a head owie that makes it really hard for me to remember things. Mommy always does her best but I still forget a lot of things. But you want to know what I’ll never, ever, ever forget? I’ll NEVER forget how much I love you.

Questions To Expect

Children are inquisitive so it’s very likely that your system will be asked a few questions about your DID. Sometimes it can be very helpful to come up with the answers in advance. Here are some examples of questions our systems have been asked:

  • Why do you have a forget owie?
  • Will I get a forget owie?
  • Does everyone have your forget owie?
  • Why are our brains so different?
  • Will I get a big owie, too?

Pro tip: Your littles are a fantastic resource when trying to understand how your child thinks. Getting their opinion on things can give you a leg up when you have the conversation with your child.

Talk About It Again

While I understand the stress to get this conversation perfect, it’s ok to if things don’t go as planned. That’s because this information is most effective when you have frequent short conversations with your child. Children, especially young ones, do best when you introduce the same topic multiple times in multiple ways in tiny bursts.

Because of that, your system will likely have these conversations several times. Sometimes they’ll be started by your system and sometimes your child will initiate them. By keeping the first conversation casual, your child will be more willing to trust your system with their questions.

What Next?

Now that your system knows how to tell your child about your Dissociative Identity Disorder, where can your system go from here? Check out this article for general parenting tips when you have DID. This article goes over what to expect when telling someone about your DID.



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