PsoriasisNet Article
Helping Your Child Cope With Psoriasis

Like adults affected by psoriasis, children who have the skin condition often have a difficult time coping with the realities of the diagnosis.

Children - especially young children - rely on their parents to find solace in not only their symptoms, but also the emotional challenges of having skin that looks different than other childrenís skin.

More than Physical Wounds
While some children show little in the way of an emotional reaction to psoriasis, others feel embarrassed, angry or sad. Children often become anxious about recurring episodes, worsening of the psoriasis and being rejected by other children their age.

Itís difficult to predict how or when children will react to having psoriasis. Their moods and reactions often swing with the manifestations of the disease. Remember that having psoriasis at a young age impacts the patientís body image more severely than in adults.

You Can Help Your Child Cope
One of the best things parents of children with psoriasis can do is become educated about the disease, so they can educate their children. While a young child might be satisfied with a parent as a constant information and comfort source, older children and teens might also turn to friends or counselors who know about psoriasis for support. Regardless of the person doing the educating and comforting, a support network is important for the child to successfully cope with the disease.

The way you educate your child should be based on the childís age and level of understanding. Sending the same message in different ways over and over again might be necessary to get them to comprehend their situation. Always be truthful but hopeful.

Encouraging points to get across include:

  • Psoriasis is not life threatening.

  • You are not alone. Millions of people have psoriasis.

  • Psoriasis is not contagious. Your friends donít have to be afraid of catching it from you.

  • There are excellent treatments available through a dermatologist.

Your openness and willingness to educate, support and address questions head on will, in most cases, make your child stronger and more willing to do the same for himself and others with the disease.

Start from the basics. It is key to educate your child about the normal process of cell production and how that goes awry with psoriasis. One way to describe psoriasis to younger children is to say: ďPsoriasis is a condition that makes your skin behave and look differently than normal skin. Normal skin cells take four weeks to go from the bottom skin layer to the top skin layer, where they die. In skin with psoriasis, it happens in only three to four days, so there is not time for the old cells to wear away, and the outer skin layer piles up into thick plaques that become silvery white scales. Because the exact cause of psoriasis is not known, there is no cure, but there are many treatments that can make it go away for while or at least make it feel and look better.Ē

Some other things to communicate include:

  • Abating myths, such as those making the child feel like the psoriasis is her fault because she doesnít eat right, keep clean or has an abnormal personality. Assure your child that they did not bring on psoriasis. Itís not their fault.

  • Preparing your child for the chronic nature of the disease and that it goes through cycles.

  • Helping your child to understand that while this is a genetic disorder, we donít know why some people have it and some donít.

  • Enforcing the importance of the medications and lifestyle modifications (if any) prescribed by the childís dermatologist. Tell your child how important it is that they use the medicines properly or to control the psoriasis.

  • Encouraging questions and inquisitiveness. Some children are better off writing down their questions. Teens might be interested in camouflaging techniques and other things that help them to feel more in control of their condition. Ensure that they get the answers to their questions from their dermatologist. Discuss their condition, both physically and emotionally, with the dermatologist.

  • Encouraging your child to reach out for support whenever needed and making sure the support is there.

  • Teaching your child patience, with the understanding that some treatments work better than others for them.

  • Making sure the child understands that while psoriasis might be part of who they are, itís not all of who they are.

Donít Forget to Recognize the Childís Feelings
Itís one thing to communicate the medical side of psoriasis, but itís just as necessary to talk about the intangiblesóthe feelingsóthat the child experiences.

Tell your child that his feelings are validated by saying, ďItís OK to be angry, sad or frustrated, and itís OK to share those feelings with others.Ē

Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to feeling betrayed by their skin and isolated from their peers. Remind the teen to educate others so that they are more accepting and understanding.

Empowering your child with information and support will help them through the difficult times of the disease. One place that will help is the National Psoriasis Foundation, which offers youth programs tailored to three age groups: kids (ages 5 to 8), youth (ages 9 to 12) and teens. There are games and puzzles for young children, as well as stories, that might help them to grasp your messages as a parent. The youth and teen sections offer several subsections, including opportunities for online chats, where kids can meet others with the disease, and participate in question and answer sections.

Source:
The National Psoriasis Foundation

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology

 

For an overview, visit the AAD pamphlet Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis.

 

 

 
 

 
 

 

 

 

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