How to emotionally support a child with skin problems

June 14, 2017 Swedish Health Team


In this article:

  • Children may feel insecure about a visible skin condition such as acne or eczema.

  • Parents can help by building up their confidence and providing ways to respond to questions or comments from others.

  • Visit a physician at Swedish for treatments or strategies that can help ease symptoms.

Acne, eczema, and psoriasis are just a few common conditions that affect the skin. When your child develops one of those conditions, which can be both physically and emotionally uncomfortable, it’s natural to want to help them deal with it. Talking to your child about their condition can be a sensitive issue, since their appearance may be affected. However, it’s important to learn how to support your child when their skin condition flares up.

How to talk to your kids about seeing a doctor

Opening the lines of communication is probably the first and most important step in supporting your child. Seeing a doctor is part of that support and is sometimes a difficult topic to bring up. When talking to your child about seeing a doctor, here are some tips:

  • Give your child a safe, nonjudgmental space to say how they feel. Doing so allows them to take an active part in their skincare management.
  • Gently make sure your child understands that seeing a doctor is an important part of their overall health and that a physician can offer comfort and treatments for living with their skin condition.
  • Doctors can often reduce the visibility of the skin condition by helping your child learn some of its causes, such as food allergies and reactions to plants or other stressors. Your child may be more motivated to visit a doctor if the visit is seen as a way to provide comfort while living with the condition or finding a solution to clear their skin.

Advice when they’re feeling insecure

Skin conditions, such as acne, often show up on the face, making your child feel insecure about their appearance. When these feelings arise, here is some valuable advice for your child to remember:  

  • Let your child know that having a skin condition is a very common occurrence. In fact, about 80 percent of people will develop acne at some point in their lives, and about 20 percent of children develop other skin conditions. Knowing they are not alone in their concerns is a helpful part of their emotional health and self-confidence.
  • Encourage your child to surround themselves with supportive friends and family. Negative people naturally bring us down; supportive friends make our insecurities seem invisible. We recently talked to CariDee English, the winner of "America's Top Model" television show, about how she's managed living with psoriasis. In the article, she offers insights about her journey and the importance of having an online and offline support system.
  • Remind your child of their gifts and strengths. Sometimes insecurity stems from low self-esteem, so building up their areas of confidence and skill can be a real booster when those insecurities start to creep in.

How to respond if other kids point out their skin condition

Other children may be unfamiliar with skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. As a result, they may ask questions or make comments out of genuine curiosity. Giving your child the language and confidence to explain their skin condition will empower them and make them feel more secure in who they are. Here are a few tips to help your child respond:

  • Remind them not to take those comments personally. The comment or question tells more about the person asking it than it does your child. For very young children, a simple response such as, “Yes, there are many types of different skin” may be enough.
  • For older children or even adults, use the comment or question as a teachable moment to share some basic facts about their skin condition.
  • Let them know they can always ignore the comment or walk away.

What’s important is that your child feels confident in who he or she is and is empowered to open up about their skin condition, when needed. Helping them feel comfortable in their own skin — literally — can help support this process. 

Find a doctor

If you have questions about a child’s skin condition, contact Pediatrics or Dermatology at Swedish. We can accommodate both in-person and virtual visits.

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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