Date: 02/03/2023


It may be surprising for some to learn that the prevalence of skin diseases in children is quite common. Research from the Contemporary PEDS Journal found that the prevalence of skin conditions among children worldwide is significant. Atopic dermatitis, for instance, can be found in up to 20% of children. On the other hand, acne vulgaris is prevalent from 35% to close to 100% among adolescents. Though some are more common than others and also vary in severity, many children experience issues with their skin, which can eventually lead to other problems in the realm of mental health. For instance, vitiligo — which causes depigmentation — troubles 95.9% of adolescents aged 15 to 17; the condition is associated with increased self-consciousness, depression, and anxiety due to problems with teasing and bullying. It’s essential for parents to talk to them about these conditions, so children can feel more empowered and secure in themselves.

Protecting their mental health

Children with skin conditions often face threats to their mental health. Research from the Wake Forest School of Medicine notes that chronic skin diseases can put children at risk for poor self-image and stigmatization. Without proper care, these issues could lead to suicidal behavior as they grow older. Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Nicole Beurkens, in an interview with The Healthy Skin Show podcast, discusses how they may also face bullying and feel ostracized by their peers. They may often not know how to cope appropriately. Kids may also be unable to bring these concerns to trusted adults, not because they're embarrassed but because they do not know how to talk about it.

As parents, it’s crucial to be the first to discuss their condition and concerns with them. You can work with your child to build confidence in themselves and protect them from factors that can impact their mental health. Equip them with the knowledge they need to inform others about their condition, so they may be able to stand up for themselves and raise awareness.

Building empathy

While children with skin diseases can benefit significantly from knowing more about their condition, kids who don’t share in these struggles can also learn from discussions about skin. Informing children about how skin conditions can affect others and make them feel differently about themselves can allow for new perspectives and insights to take root. Children can be quick to point out and question something that does not seem normal or is different to them, so educating them can let them know how to approach and understand another person’s condition properly.

Explain that pointing out or making fun of how someone looks can hurt other people and that they wouldn’t want to feel the same way. Author and bullying prevention expert Sherri Gordon highlights that letting them know the consequences of their actions can help them reflect on behavior towards others. This helps them build empathy and understanding, fostering kindness instead of harm.

Finding value outside of their appearance

Finding acceptance is a big thing for a child or young adult, and one of the first ways they can feel that is through appearance. They might gravitate towards others who look like them or people whose appearances they like, but their skin condition may hamper the creation of a connection. They may grow to resent themselves and have a negative attitude toward their appearance.

Dermatologist Dr. Zena Willsmore and psychologist Dr. Martha Deiros Collado point out that from a young age, people place a lot of value on appearances. This can take a toll on one’s self-worth and mental health. Parents should teach their children that their worth goes beyond what they look like. Tell your children that they are great human beings who are more than their condition. Compliment them on their hard work, intelligence, skills, and characteristics daily to help them internalize these truths.

Written by  Rae Johns

Exclusively for FIRST


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