My daughters are both toddlers, which is such an incredibly curious (and crazy) time in our lives. Living with psoriasis and parenting two inquisitive kids means that, naturally, they’ve pointed out my psoriasis (or ’riasis as they call it), wanting to know how I got my boo boos and how they can help make me feel better.
I’m constantly amazed by their empathy and nurturing tendencies at such a young age. We’re also in the “obsessed with Band-Aid stage of life” (yes, that’s a thing) so I’m constantly being offered “Boo Boo Bands” to put on my spots. It’s a funny visual to think about covering my entire body with “Frozen” movie-themed Band-Aids.
When I talk to them about my psoriasis, I keep it simple and honest. They know mommy has ’riasis and takes medicine to make it feel better. But we haven’t gotten into any of the nitty gritty about what it is or even the possibility that they might develop it one day because at this age, they really wouldn’t understand it.
As they grow, the conversation will change and evolve, and I’m sure it will eventually pivot to their friends, classmates, or random kids at the park — we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
If you’re curious about talking to your kids about psoriasis, here are a few of my tips to help guide that conversation.
Describe what it feels like
Talk to your child in terms they can understand. For my toddlers, I might say “each spot is very itchy like a bug bite.” Or I explain that our skin grows just like our hair, but that my skin grows 10 times as fast as normal skin, so it builds up and that’s why you can see it flaking off sometimes.
Talk about your psoriasis and show them how you take care of psoriasis. For instance, my girls know I take a shot for it and that the shot hurts, but the medicine is helping my psoriasis get better (I think it’s also been really helpful for their own doctor’s visits!). They also help me apply lotion to my arms and legs to keep my skin moisturized — and with the amount they put on, it’s REALLY moisturized! They’ve seen firsthand how important it is to take care of your skin, and are even the first ones asking for sunblock when it’s time to go outside. I couldn’t be prouder!
Be age appropriate
Start with the basics and let them ask questions. Kids crave information, so let them ask away! Younger kids will not understand if you start getting into what an autoimmune disease is, but it can be a great time to start educating kids about how inflammation in our body works. If it’s a classmate of one of your children asking, you may want to reach out to their parents to let them know of the conversation and what you talked about.
Let them know that it’s not contagious and they can’t catch it from you, like a cold or chicken pox. It’s also important to tell them that it’s not from bad hygiene or from anything bad you did.
Most of the time when kids are asking questions about psoriasis, it’s not from a malicious place — they’re just curious and genuinely want to know how they can help you. Having open and ongoing conversations with your kids about psoriasis helps them to better understand what it is, and they’ll enjoy the time you spend with them talking about it.
Joni Kazantzis is the creator and blogger for justagirlwithspots.com, an award-winning psoriasis blog dedicated to creating awareness, educating about the disease, and sharing personal stories of 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 for their life.