Talking to your kids about a chronic disease can be confusing. You want to make sure you’re using the right type of language but in a way they will understand. With back-to-school right around the corner, I’m giving you some tips and tricks on how to talk to your kids about psoriasis. Hopefully, this will give them the confidence to open up about the disease with others and befriend the new kid or someone who might look different than they do.
It Looks Like Cottage Cheese
That’s what my then three-year-old nephew said when he first saw the plaques on my elbows. That’s their wild and crazy imagination. And I absolutely love it. It was at that moment that I realized kids look at the world differently than we do. Also, another reason why I wanted to write this post.
First, ask them to pronounce the word with you. They are more inclined to listen when it’s about a topic they can say themselves.
Explain to them what is psoriasis; that it is a disease which shows itself on people’s skin like the plaques on your elbows (insert where your plaques are) or you can show them pictures of plaques. The National Psoriasis Foundation is a great resource. You can compare it to when they get a scratch or hurt themselves. You can say that psoriasis can look different on everyone.
You also can use this opportunity to talk about how members of your family are different. They each look different, have different likes, dislikes, interests. But you are all a part of an accepting family.
Encourage your children to ask questions which fosters good communication between the parent and child.
If you’re in the position where your child has the disease, it’s important to talk to your child about how they’re feeling when they experience a flare up. The National Psoriasis Foundation suggests these prompt questions: do you feel anger, frustration or confusion as to why it’s happening again? Or if they ask, “why me?” You simply can say that they are not doing anything wrong and the plaques are just part of the disease.
It is similar in explaining why someone’s eyes might be blue and someone else’s might be green. It’s part of being human and it is not our fault.
Another important thing you can do for your child is to help them be their own advocate. Make sure they use language that’s familiar and easy for them. Maybe that’s using phrases like “it looks like cottage cheese.” Or that it might make them feel icky. Or the itching feels like a bee sting. If they’re asked about it at school, using their own language will make it easier for them to explain what psoriasis is. They may even want to tell others about it.
You can reinforce that if someone looks different than they do, that’s OK. This is your chance to befriend them and make them feel comfortable.
Learn by Imitation
Kids also learn by imitation and are more likely to retain information if they are shown how to do it, i.e. talk to others about psoriasis and what it is. Here is an interactive activity you can do with your child to help them understand how others can be different but still appreciate their differences.
Get the School Involved
Another great way for children to learn about living with a chronic disease is to hear the information from their school. Does your child’s school have a health day? Or parents day? Use this as an opportunity to provide information about living with psoriasis, how it affects your child and even you as a parent.
Children living with psoriasis, psoriatic disease or any other chronic condition can make them an easy target for bullying because of how they look. A lot of the time, teasing and bullying among kids comes from misinformation. Providing your school with pamphlets and brochures on psoriasis can help others better understand the disease and help ward off bullying.
Doctor’s Are Your Friend
Typically going to the doctor for a child can be overwhelming, scary, and stressful. Which in turn can make psoriasis worse. Talking to your child about the doctors appointments is a vital part of managing your child’s psoriasis.
Make the appointments together. Make treatment decisions together. If your child is five and under, talk up the doctor appointments. What really works for my three-year-old son is, “The doctor is going to make you feel so much better. He is going to give you a special medicine to help with your insert where your child’s psoriasis spots are.”
Once they realize the outcome will be positive, they will be more prone to going without throwing a tantrum. They might even provide the doctor with more information that you might have forgotten.
At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that your kids are happy and that they’ve made good choices. We just need to remember to be there for them and actively listen. They see the world completely different than we do. That can truly be an enlightening thing, especially when your child is living with psoriasis.