Emotional Support

While understanding their disease from a medical standpoint is very important, don’t underestimate the importance of your child learning to recognize his or her feelings about psoriasis.

For most people who develop psoriasis, and children are no exception, it not only affects them physically but also emotionally. For some it can change how they view and interact with the world, the activities they choose to take part in, who they become friends with and the interests they develop.

Your child may have many, sometimes conflicting, emotions about their condition. While some children show little emotional reaction others are feel embarrassed, angry or sad. It can cause anxiety, as your child may be apprehensive about their psoriasis getting worse or recurring or about possible rejection by peers. This can become increasingly prevalent as your child moves into the teen years.

Emotional swings

There are a variety of emotional responses that people may have towards having psoriasis, and these responses will probably change throughout a person’s stage of life and current experiences. Everyone reacts differently, so you can’t really predict how your child with psoriasis will act or feel; there is no set response.

As your child’s psoriasis ebbs and flows, so may their feelings and how they express them. This change in feelings can also be confusing for you and your child. Your role as the parent of a child with psoriasis is to help your child communicate effectively about the disease and his or her feelings, as well as to help him or her develop ways to manage the physical symptoms of psoriasis.

Talking with your child

Honesty is a good policy when talking to your child about psoriasis, but it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Clear skin can be a reasonable goal for many patients and giving your child hope is important too. As your child gets older, you can explain more about research and new treatments. Over the years, you will probably need to use many different ways of getting your message, but there are four main points you will want to communicate to your child:

  • It is not a life-threatening disease.
  • Millions of others have psoriasis.
  • There can be periods of spontaneous remission.
  • It is not contagious.

Psoriasis may be part of their life, but it is just that, a part. It does not have to be the centre of their world, nor should it take control of a child’s emotions. By giving your child honest and straightforward information with compassion and sensitivity you are not only answering the needs of your child, you are also being a role model for the way your child handles day to day social situations.

Helping your child cope

Strong feelings about their skin is perfectly natural for children with psoriasis and it’s important that you let them know that their feelings are normal. It’s okay to feel angry, sad and frustrated, and it is okay to show that pain to others. This is a message that you will probably have to give to them often.

Their feelings should not be downplayed or underestimated. Having psoriasis can have a significant effect both emotionally and socially, and this can be difficult to deal with.

One of the most effective things you can do to help your child cope is to educate them about psoriasis. How you choose to do this will depend on your child’s age and level of understanding.

A young child may rely heavily on you as a source of comfort and information, while older children or teens may turn to friends or counsellors for support.

Their support network can help a child successfully cope with the disease by recognizing the feelings that accompany psoriasis.

As more research is done and more is known about psoriasis and its treatment, there will be more to learn. This is an educational process that will continue and develop for both you and your child throughout your child’s life.

Tips to help your child cope with psoriasis include:

  • Prepare your child for the chronic nature of the disease and that it goes through cycles.
  • Help your child to understand that while we know this is caused by genetics, we don’t know why some people have it and some don’t.
  • Assure your child that nothing they did caused their psoriasis. It’s not their fault. It has nothing to do with eating right, keeping clean or their personality.
  • Teach your child patience, with the understanding that it may take trial and error to find a treatment that works for them. They should understand that taking their medications properly is a very important part of managing their psoriasis.
  • Encourage their questions and when you can’t answer a question, ensure that they get the answers to their questions from their dermatologist. Discuss their condition, both physically and emotionally, with the dermatologist.
  • Encourage your child to reach out for support when they need it and help them find and develop their personal support network. Teenagers may find psoriasis especially distressing, as appearance can be extremely important to teens. Educating the people they meet can help teens feel in control of their situation as well as improve acceptance of others with physically visible conditions.
  • Make sure your child understands that psoriasis is part of who they are, but it’s not all of who they are.