Most kids love summertime because they get a break from the books and can spend more time with their friends. But for a child with psoriasis, the summer can be distressing. I used to despise the summer because that meant hot weather, and hot weather meant it was time to break out the shorts, sleeveless clothing, and swim suits -- the things I attempted to avoid at all costs so I wouldn’t have to reveal my disease.
If you haven’t lived with psoriasis yourself, you may not be aware of the internal battle your child could be facing. Bullying, low self-esteem, and shame are just a few of the perils that can accompany psoriasis. Every child is different, and will deal with this disease in her own way. Here are some suggestions for how to prepare your child for camp.
Write a letter
Regardless of whether you're sending your child to a sleepaway camp, a religious-themed vacation school, or daily swim lessons, it’s best to write a letter about your child’s condition to the adults who will be in charge. Informing grownups will help them address any issues that may surface between your child and other kids. Additionally, if the adults have never heard of psoriasis, they can research it and be equipped to counter any misconceptions that other kids might have with correct and accurate information. Leaving the adults at a sleepaway or day camp unaware of your child’s condition could lead to further embarrassment for your child.
Inform other parents
If you can converse with other parents at the camp through a message board or email, consider informing them as well. This will allow parents to speak with their kids and reinforce the ideas of tolerance, empathy, compassion, and acceptance. You might even find out that other kids at the camp are living with psoriasis or other skin conditions.
Sit down with your child and role play different possible encounters. You pretend to be someone who doesn’t know them and has never heard of psoriasis. Talk to your child about ways to combat negative or mean comments. Also, help them prepare a 30-second "elevator speech" where they can quickly and precisely explain their condition to someone who may have questions.
Learning how your child feels about his or her condition is more involved than simply asking, “How was your day?” Try asking questions specifically related to their psoriasis: "How do you feel people view you and your condition?" or "Did anyone say anything to you or about you that made you feel uncomfortable?"
Reassure your child that they can trust you. Try to make them feel as comfortable as possible, and remember that some kids elect not to say anything if they are being bullied because they fear what their parents might do, or they hate being looked at as a “snitch.”