It’s back to school time. For many, this time of year is bittersweet – the summer is over but back to school means seeing old friends and making new friends. For children with psoriasis, however, going back to school can be a scary time. They may be embarrassed and worry that other children will make fun of them or exclude them from activities because they are afraid of “catching the disease” your child has. Or their psoriasis could be painful or uncomfortable.
The following are some tips for parents to help their child during the upcoming school year:
- If your child has psoriasis, you probably are familiar with the physical symptoms as well as how the skin condition impacts your child emotionally. But teachers and other school personnel may not be. Print out some basic information on psoriasis to share with your child’s teacher. You may also want to set up a meeting within the first week or so of school to talk privately with the teacher and explain what psoriasis is and how your child is affected – physically and emotionally.
- Talk with your child about how he or she feels about psoriasis. Find out whether he is embarrassed or if he feels uncomfortable throughout the school day. Make sure your child knows that his or her psoriasis has nothing to do with how you feel. Let him know he is completely accepted, just the way he is.
- Ask your child whether he or she feels more comfortable covering up the psoriasis or if it doesn’t matter whether other children see it. If your child feels more comfortable covering it up, help him or her choose clothing that is stylish and comfortable but will keep the psoriasis hidden. Don’t try to make him wear short sleeves if it is going to make him feel self-conscious throughout the day.
- Educate teachers and other school personnel about some of the risks, such as how sun burn can make psoriasis worse or how it is important to avoid strep infections. Ask your child’s teacher to take extra precautions when sending the children out for recess on sunny days and to let you know immediately of any strep infections in the school.
- Some children may feel comfortable talking to classmates about psoriasis. If your child wants to do this, arm him or her with information geared toward children. If your child does not feel comfortable, you may want to ask the teacher to present information to the class about the skin condition so classmates can understand and be more accepting.
- Talk with doctors or other medical professionals about creating a treatment plan outside of school hours. Your child may be embarrassed if he has to leave class to go to the doctor or to the school nurse to receive treatment. Try to schedule around school hours to minimize disruptions to the school day.
- Check the National Psoriasis Foundation website for free books for your child’s school library. These books can be used to help the other children understand more about psoriasis.
- Be aware of bullying behaviors. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, almost half of children with psoriasis reported being bullied, including teasing or name calling, being excluded, being threatened or being hit, pushed or kicked.  If your child is being bullied, it can affect school work and cause deep emotional scars. Some signs of bullying are anxiety, resistance or refusal to go to school, moodiness, appetite changes and difficulty sleeping. Talk to your child and the school if you think your child may be being bullied.