Nearly all psoriasis patients have a difficult time coping with the realities of their diagnosis. Children are no exception. Many young patients rely on their parents for solace, comfort and support. Below are a few ways you can help your child deal with the emotional and physical challenges associated with the disease.
For children, the disease is so much more than physical wounds. For most, the emotional aspect can be much more damaging.
While some children might feel embarrassed, angry or sad from the very beginning, others may show very little emotion. It is difficult to say how and when the reality may hit your child, but rest assured that an emotional upheaval will eventually happen. It is common for mood swings to accompany the manifestation of the disease. Be prepared. Be ready to comfort your child as best you can.
What you can do
When it comes to dealing with psoriasis, there are two key roles you will probably play in your child’s life: teacher and comforter.
The first thing you should do is become educated about the disease. Your child will undoubtedly have questions and turn to you for answers.
When you share information with your child, reveal age appropriate information. Adjust the knowledge to their level of understanding. And because it sometimes takes awhile for information to sink in, you may have to relay the same information over and over again.
If your child absorbs nothing else, make sure he or she understands that…
- Psoriasis is not life threatening
- You are not alone. There are millions of psoriasis patients.
- Psoriasis is not contagious so your friends won’t catch it from you.
- There are excellent treatments available.
A good, generic conversation starter could be the following:
“Psoriasis is a condition that makes your skin behave and look differently than normal skin. Normal skin cells take four weeks to move from the bottom skin layer to the top. When it gets to the top, it dies and falls off. For skin with psoriasis, it only takes three or four days to move to the top. In this short amount of time, the skin above it doesn’t have time to flake off. So the outer skin piles up because it has no where to go. Thick scales form and become silvery white patches on your skin. Doctors don’t know what causes your skin to behave this way, so they don’t know how to stop it from happening. There are medicines you can take to make the skin look and feel better for awhile.”
When discussing the condition with your child, make sure you are always truthful, yet hopeful. Being open and willing to address questions head on will make your child stronger.
With your assistance, encourage your child to educate his or her friends, extended family, classmates, and teacher so they will be more accepting and understanding.
Offering emotional support to your child will be important and ongoing. Each flare-up will probably bring with it a renewed bout of emotional distress. While comforting your child, remind him or her of these things:
- This isn’t your fault. You didn’t get psoriasis because you didn’t eat healthy enough foods or take enough baths. It isn’t a punishment for bad behavior.
- You will have this condition for the rest of your life. However, it comes and goes in cycles. Be patient. Some days will be better than others.
- The only way to fight the symptoms is to use medication. It is very important to all ways take your medications and do the things your doctor recommends.
Don’t ignore the importance of sharing emotions. Communicating the medical aspects of the disease is just as important as sharing the emotional aspects. Recognize the child’s feelings. Tell him or her it is ok to be angry, sad, or frustrated.
Also, encourage your child to share his or her feelings with others. This is especially important for teenagers. Whether they share with a counselor or friends, teens need to vent their frustrations. Older children can be especially vulnerable to isolation from peers.
Consider checking out the National Psoriasis Foundation website with your child. There are informational resources, games, and testimonies for children ages 5-8, youth ages 9-12, and teenagers. You can also join online chats and question/answer sessions.
Don’t let your child’s anxiety about recurring episodes, worsening symptoms, and fear of rejection dictate their lives. Help them see that psoriasis is a condition they have, not a definition of who they are.
Guest blogger Doug Adams has a young son who suffers from psoriasis. Doug has found that the best way for his son to release his pent up frustration is through physical activity. Almost daily, they pull out the cornhole bean bags and boards to engage in a bit of recreational therapy.