Eczema and Kids: Coping Strategies for Parents to Help
The constant itching and scratching can take a toll. Here are 10 tips on how to support your child, from distractions and 'spa days' to relaxation techniques and simply listening
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5. Bathing, moisturizing and wet wraps
All this is often a source of anxiety for kids. Chatting about the "whys" can help: "Our skin is thirsty and it's taking a drink, and our moisturizer is sealing it in." Having children help rub their moisturizer in, or drawing pictures with it on their skin can help them feel more in control. Novelties may work, too. Some kids bathe with their clothes on; it reduces stinging, and the sheer goofiness makes it fun. Or try a bathing suit or washing in a kiddy pool.
With teens, transform bath time into spa time, where they also listen to some favorite music. If teens find their facial moisturizer too thick, work with their doctor to try to find a lighter one. Some kids hate that goopy, sticky feeling when they're putting on pj's or clothes after moisturizing. Get them a special robe that they wear just while things are soaking in.
For wet wraps and pj's, why not turn those into mermaid or fishy pajamas? If kids are putting bandages on, choose a special color or use super hero tights or princess gloves to make it fun.
6. Soothing the senses
For many, a cool shower can help reduce the itch. A cool washcloth or an ice pack works, too. Do what’s soothing for your child. The idea is to try to “block the itchy messages going to the brain” with other messages, like the cool sensation of an ice pack.
7. Relaxation techniques
There's a stress link with eczema, so if we can reduce stress, that's good. Try deep breathing: even, relaxed breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Or, progressively tense and then relax different muscle groups throughout the body. For example, pretend to squeeze an orange in your hand, as hard as you can, and then let your hand go limp. It helps kids feel the difference between tense and relaxed. Many relaxation CDs and apps can help with these techniques.
8. Using imagery
Guided imagery is another relaxation technique that can also help with the itch. Picturing being somewhere else or a change in your body it can actually produce real changes. Using all of your senses can help. Try a classic beach scene: There's a cool breeze, you hear a seagull in the distance, waves are crashing on the shore, in and out, in and out, and you can taste that residue of the salt from the sea on your lips. The concept is that you start to feel as if you were there. For kids, fun scenes work best—like being on a spaceship. Imagine having a feeling of weightlessness, viewing the Earth below, and looking at the cool control panel.
Or, picture relief. If the eczema feels really hot and burning, you might imagine the look and feel of cool water washing down your skin and melting away those red patches. It doesn't matter if what you're imagining is "correct." It still can work. It's whatever image is soothing for you.
9. Answering peers' questions
Kids don't have to tell everyone what eczema is, but it will come up. When kids have some factual language, they do better. Give it a name. Keep it simple. "It's eczema and it is dry, itchy skin." Some say, "It's like an allergy – you can't catch it." You're setting the tone it's no big deal. Peers pick up on this. Parents can role-play responses with kids so they feel more prepared.
10. Supportive parenting
When kids say "I hate this" or "Why me?" as parents, we want to rush in with answers. Sometimes what's most helpful is to really listen first – to let your child know you understand. Help her realize that there's more to kids than eczema. Get kids involved in activities that improve their self-esteem.
Think about how you talk about your kids. Is it often about eczema, or are you spending as much time talking about the fact that she's a great T-ball player or learning to read? Be mindful of the coping styles that you're modeling, too.