The Girlfriends' Guide to Pediatric Eczema: The Basics

In Spite of Your Misery, This Is About Your Child, Mom!

If you think that itching is the only thing upsetting your child about eczema, you're deluding yourself, Mom. From a very young age, kids are concerned about their bodies the same as everybody else. Remember, little boys as young as 2-1/2 notice if any of their friends have "lost their penises" -- in other words, they're girls. If they notice patches of angry itchy skin on their bodies and not on their friends', they might start to wonder why. And, as they grow to understand how eczema can interfere with their lives during flare-ups, they will probably feel betrayed by Mother Nature.

My Girlfriend Sherry's little girls both had eczema and, even though the girls are now in college, Sherry can just weep when she thinks about how unkind and ignorant the others in their preschool classes were -- and WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THE PARENTS! As any parent knows, little kids are without social conscience when it comes to pointing out other kids' differences, be they strawberry birthmarks or a physical handicap, but parents can be pretty rough, too. It's our job as moms of eczema kids to educate everybody in our kids' little world to the facts about the condition and stop ignoring the elephant that's sitting in the room.

One of the best ways I've discovered to begin a conversation about eczema with a young child is to give them a piece of paper and crayons and ask them to draw a picture of how they feel when they have eczema. Then give them another piece of paper to draw how they feel when they don't have eczema.

When I've seen drawings like these, I've been shocked by how vividly they depict sadness and anger, and how big and dramatic the rashes look in the first group, and by how happy and clear and social the kids look in the second group.

Take your cues from the drawings. Perhaps you'll want to start a conversation by saying something like, "It looks like you feel like crying when you have eczema. What part of it is the worst part?" Your child may tell you the itching is the worst or having to use medication every day is the worst or being different from other kids is the worst. Then sit back and listen because eczema can have a profound emotional impact and your child needs you to help lessen the blow.

Then help your little one go to his school or daycare armed with confidence and information. You might ask the school nurse, teachers, or aides to join you while you and your child give the class a short, concise lesson on eczema and what it means in your child's life. You might remind the kids that the condition comes and goes, but that it never spreads from one child to the other.

And when it comes to flare-ups, it might be extra nice of the other kids to be even friendlier and more supportive of your child since he might be feeling sad or embarrassed. End the chat by asking the other kids if they have anything, be it eczema, a birthmark, asthma, or any other thing about their body that sometimes makes them feel sad or embarrassed. I promise you will get a vivid response from every little tyke in the room! Just be prepared to become the class's eczema specialist because once the other parents hear about you, they'll start seeking you out.

Vicki Iovine began her writing career after the birth of her fourth child in six years with the publication of The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy. This book struck a chord among women who found maternity an altered state, and Vicki soon became a regular contributor on such shows as "The Today Show," "Oprah," and "The View." She has since published The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy Daily Diary; The Girlfriends' Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood; The Girlfriends' Guide to Toddlers; and The Girlfriends' Guide to Getting Your Groove Back. Vicki has also been an advice columnist for Child magazine for five years. And with nearly twenty years of marriage under her belt, she regularly contributes articles to Redbook as the "Marriage Advisor" on the mysteries of the man/woman thing. Most recently, Vicki has sold a feature film screenplay to Twentieth Century Fox.

Vicki lives in Los Angeles with her husband Jimmy and their four kids, two boys and two girls, ages 8 to 14.

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All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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