Living with a skin condition — be it eczema, acne, or psoriasis — can be hard for adults. So it’s not difficult to imagine how difficult it is for kids to process.

I was diagnosed with psoriasis when I was 15, and growing up with the condition ultimately made me stronger. But as a teenager with psoriasis, I felt secluded and incredibly self-conscious.

People didn’t understand why I had spots all over my body, and I didn’t completely understand it myself.

Between physical symptoms, the emotional impact, social and peer pressure, and the overwhelming abundance of treatment options, living with a skin condition can be challenging — for both a child and their caretaker.

Consider these five ways to help your young one or teen navigate, understand, and persevere.

1. Learn about everything

Research and understand as much as you possibly can so you’re prepared to help your child live with the condition, especially if it’s chronic.

Researching treatment options can be overwhelming with the amount of information and choices out there — but being armed with that information at doctor’s visits allows you to be a voice for your child, have knowledgeable conversations, and make informed decisions.

Learn about the ingredients, possible side effects, and application process for any prescribed treatment options. It’s also beneficial to research any over-the-counter (OTC) or beauty products that are recommended to treat the skin including soaps, lotions, and even makeup.

Learn how environmental and dietary factors may impact their skin. For instance, safe exposure to sunlight can be beneficial for those living with psoriasis, but that same sunlight could trigger a flare for someone living with eczema.

There are also medications for acne that make you more sensitive to the sun, so being aware of these external conditions can help avoid future skin irritation or pain.

Certain foods can also be a trigger for skin conditions. Whether you’re looking to add or eliminate foods to your child’s diet, only do one at a time every few days and keep a tracker or diary of all of their reactions.

2. Educate and advocate

Help educate family, friends, classmates, and members of sports teams or extracurricular activities about their condition. Kids are naturally curious, so most will likely just want to know what’s going on and how they can help make it feel better.

Educating the parents and caretakers of your child’s peers and friends can give them the information to answer any questions their own children may have.

If available in your area, connect with other families and organizations that advocate for the condition. It will be beneficial for your child to meet others who are also living with the same condition and understand what they’re going through.

3. Establish a skin care routine with them

In my experience, kids thrive on routine — especially when they get to play a role in deciding what happens.

Explain to your child why a skin care routine matters, and what the role of each step or product is to help them take ownership of the process. Once that routine is established, stay involved. Not only does it signal that you’re in this together, but based on age, they may need gentle reminders on the steps and possibly require help with application on body parts.

4. Treat them normally

Their skin condition does not define them, so don’t treat them any differently because of it.

Focusing too much on the condition can make your child feel different and have a negative impact emotionally. Instead, acknowledge the treatment as a part of their overall daily routine, which should also include basic tasks like homework, brushing their teeth, and washing their hands.

If a dietary change is a recommended treatment option, apply that change to the whole family as it will help your child to not feel singled out.

5. Provide emotional support

Supporting your child includes both their physical and emotional health. Though their symptoms manifest physically, the emotional aspects of a skin condition can lead to low self-esteem and possible depression.

Let your child speak openly and honestly about how they’re feeling and encourage them to tell you about what they’re experiencing outside of the home. Actively listen — but also be on the lookout for stressful situations to ensure that you both have the tools to support them.

Those tools could include:

  • talking to a counselor
  • joining a local support group, especially one focused on kids
  • teaching them breathing and meditation techniques to manage stress when they’re in stressful moments
  • giving them a break from the situation to do something they enjoy for a while

Ultimately, don’t let your child’s skin condition define who they are and what they will become. With the right tools, knowledge, and support, you can overcome these challenges together.

Joni Kazantzis is the creator and blogger behind Just a Girl with Spots, an award-winning psoriasis blog dedicated to creating awareness, educating, and sharing personal stories from her 19+ year journey with psoriasis. Her mission is to create a sense of community and to share information that can help her readers cope with the day-to-day challenges of living with psoriasis. She believes that with as much information as possible, people with psoriasis can be empowered to live their best life and make the right treatment choices.