Eczema is a chronic condition that causes skin symptoms, such as itchy rash and dry skin.
Some children with eczema experience bullying or other social challenges related to their condition. This may cause stress that can negatively affect their mental health and worsen their eczema symptoms.
Knowing that your child is being bullied may also negatively affect your mental health and well-being.
Read on to learn how you can recognize the signs of bullying and take steps to address it.
Eczema may affect not only your child’s physical health but also their social and emotional well-being, including how they see themselves and interact with others.
“Eczema is a visible illness that makes kids feel different,” Frank J. Sileo, PhD, a licensed psychologist and author of “When Your Child Has a Chronic Medical Illness: A Guide for the Parenting Journey,” tells Healthline.
“Living with a chronic illness can affect their moods, self-esteem, self-confidence, and relationships.”
Children with eczema may experience stigma and bullying related to their condition.
This bullying may:
- be verbal, social, or physical
- occur at school, extracurricular activities, or other contexts
- take place in-person or online (cyberbullying)
Bullying can affect your child’s health and well-being in multiple ways.
“It can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation,” Sileo says. “It can contribute to anxiety, depression, or social phobia, or fear of going out. On severe levels, it could contribute to thoughts of self-harm.”
Stress caused by bullying may also act as a trigger that worsens your child’s eczema symptoms.
Your child may not always tell you if they’re being bullied or experiencing other challenges related to eczema.
That’s why it’s important to “look and listen,” Sileo says. “A child may not tell you what’s going on, but you may see it in their behavior.”
Some of the potential signs of bullying include:
- unexplained injuries
- lost or damaged clothes, books, or other belongings
- frequently feeling sick or faking illness to stay home from school
- arguing or fighting more with family members, friends, or others
- declining interest or performance at school or extracurricular activities
- reduced interest in hobbies, socializing, or other activities they used to enjoy
- sudden avoidance of friends or social situations
- changes in their appetite or eating habits
- frequent nightmares or changes in their sleep habits
- changes in their appetite or eating habits
- self-destructive behaviors
In some cases, these may be signs that your child has developed anxiety, depression, or another mental health challenge. Bullying raises the risk of mental health challenges.
Some children who experience mental health challenges may think about harming themselves. If you suspect that your child is thinking about harming themselves, contact their doctor right away or call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 for free, confidential support 24/7.
If you think that your child may be experiencing bullying or other social challenges related to eczema, consider taking the steps below to begin addressing the issue.
Talk with your child
If you notice changes in your child’s moods or behaviors, talking with them may help you learn about the potential causes while letting them know that you care.
“If you suspect that your child is being bullied, ask them about it,” Sileo says. “Ask them if they’re being left out, teased, or hurt by others.”
Let them know they can talk with you about their feelings and the challenges they’re facing. Validate their emotions and ask them how you can help.
Problem-solve and roleplay
Working with your child to develop a plan to address the bullying may help them feel more in control. Offer to help them brainstorm strategies to address the situation.
It might help to ask them:
- What would make you feel safer or more supported in this situation?
- Who can you reach out to for help when you feel alone, hurt, or threatened?
- What makes you feel better when you feel alone, hurt, or threatened?
Assure your child that the bullying is not their fault and you’re here to help them.
Sileo also recommends roleplaying to allow your child to practice their responses to a bully.
“Ignoring a bully doesn’t work for kids. In fact, it could embolden the bully to go further,” he explains.
“Instead, in my psychology practice, I often teach kids words or scripts where they’re acting bored. Like, ‘yeah, whatever,’ or, ‘tell me something I don’t know,'” he continues. “Acting kind of disinterested can sometimes be helpful for kids who are being bullied.”
If you think the situation may be putting your child’s health at risk, take immediate action by contacting their school or extracurricular leaders.
Educate and engage community members
If you know or suspect that your child is being bullied, it’s important to reach out to their teacher, principal, and extracurricular activity leaders to:
- share your concerns
- learn whether they’ve observed any signs of bullying or other issues
- learn about any policies and support resources that the school or organization may have for addressing bullying and meeting your child’s support needs
- develop a shared plan to address the issue
Educating your child’s teacher, principal, and extracurricular activity leaders about your child’s eczema triggers and how the condition affects them may also help them understand and support your child.
“It’s never too early to start educating the school and other people,” Sileo says.
Manage eczema triggers and symptoms
Taking steps to manage your child’s condition may help reduce their symptoms and lessen some of the challenges they’re experiencing.
If they have eczema symptoms that are negatively affecting their quality of life, let their doctor know. Their doctor may recommend changes to their treatment plan or skin care routine.
You can also work with your child’s doctor, teacher, principal, and extracurricular activity leaders to identify and limit exposure to triggers that may worsen their symptoms.
Eczema triggers vary from one child to another.
Some common triggers include:
- perfumes and other scented products
- dust, pollen, pet dander, and other environmental allergens
- stress, which may include school- or bullying-related stress
Making changes to your child’s environment or day-to-day activities may help minimize the impacts of triggers. For example, your child may need to move further away from the radiator in their classroom or limit their participation in high intensity sports if heat or sweating is a trigger for them.
Actively engaging your child in managing their own condition may also help them feel more in control. Starting from a young age, help them learn the basics about eczema — including how to recognize and avoid their triggers.
Build confidence beyond eczema
Helping your child learn how to manage eczema-related challenges is important — but so is fostering their sense of self-worth and confidence beyond eczema.
“We need to talk to kids about not letting eczema become the focus of their identity,” Sileo says. “Help them focus on their strengths. What are they good at? What do they have control over?”
You can help build your child’s confidence and self-esteem by encouraging them to:
- explore their interests
- participate in a variety of activities
- build different skills
Showing an active interest in your child’s interests, hobbies, and achievements may also help build their self-worth.
Reach out for professional help
Bullying and other challenges related to eczema can raise your child’s risk of mental health challenges.
If you think your child might be experiencing anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges, consider asking their doctor for a referral to a mental health professional who has experience supporting children with chronic health conditions.
A child psychologist or other qualified mental health professional can help your child develop strategies for managing the social and emotional challenges of life with eczema.
In some cases, your child’s doctor or mental health professional may also prescribe medication to help treat anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges.
Caring for a child with a chronic illness can be very challenging. It raises your risk of caregiver stress, as well as other mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression.
To help support your physical and mental health, try to:
- Get enough sleep.
- Get regular exercise.
- Eat a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet.
- Avoid tobacco products and limit or avoid alcohol.
- Make time for activities you enjoy.
- Reduce stress.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your responsibilities, consider asking friends or family members for help. For example, they may be able to babysit or run errands for you. They may offer a sympathetic ear if you want to talk about the challenges you’re facing.
If you’re finding it hard to cope with stress or other mental health challenges, let your doctor know. They may refer you to a mental health professional or other support resources. In some cases, they may prescribe an antidepressant or other medication.
Bullying can add to the difficulties of managing childhood eczema. It may negatively impact your child’s mental health. Stress from bullying could also make their eczema symptoms worse.
If you think your child might be experiencing bullying or other social challenges, talk with them about their feelings and experiences. Let them know that they can turn to you for support and offer to help them brainstorm and roleplay strategies to address the issue.
It’s also important to educate and engage other community members who play a role in supervising and supporting your child, such as their teacher, principal, and extracurricular activity leaders.
If you or your child is experiencing anxiety or depression, connecting with a mental health professional can help.