Most families, luckily, don’t know the horrors of living with a child with chronic eczema. However, for those that do, they will tell you that nothing prepares you for the trauma of seeing your child tear their skin off, in a trance like state, while you helplessly watch.
I was that child, and I could not control the urge to scratch, it controlled me. However, early on in life, I realised that I could use this condition to control others. If I was put under
pressure, told off for something or being asked to do something I didn’t really want to do, I would start scratching. Usually, it was when my parents were in a hurry to go to work, or we needed to be somewhere.
I had no concept that my skin condition created stress and trauma for my parents until a few years ago. To me eczema was something I was dealing with, and only me. I never knew it was the reason I was an only child; my parents didn’t want to put another child through the agony of eczema.
I was so focused on being the one with the itch that I never stopped to consider how my parents felt. I have no recollection of the sleepless nights, the blood-covered bed sheets, the screaming at bath times, but to my parents those memories are etched in their brains, vivid, as if they happened yesterday.
As a Naturopath I now support parents, as they try to take back control. The work I have done to support my healing, over the last 30+ years, helps me enlighten parents as to what is going on in the world of their child, not just emotionally but physically. Being the one in the eczematous body is very different emotionally to what is experienced by those caring for someone with eczema.
THE APPROACH IS OFTEN TO FIGHT THE ECZEMA, THIS DOESN’T WORK.
Fighting leads to parents driving themselves mad trying to find that one food that caused the latest flare. They continually remove more and more foods while no real improvement happens with the skin. This approach is stressful, it impacts not only the parent but the child with eczema, and any other children in the household too!
What if we saw eczema for what it was, not a skin condition but a message that our bodies are trying to send us to say, I’m struggling, help! Our skin is the largest detoxification organ of our body, it is also the emergency exit the body will use if our internal detoxification routes are overwhelmed.
Fighting to fix the skin doesn’t fix any internal detoxification weakness, so we can remove as many foods as we want, and the eczema will still be there, bubbling under the surface.
Fighting is tiring, it creates a stressful home environment for the whole family. Decide to take a different approach, work with the body, that way the whole family feels more in control.
GROWING UP OUT OF CONTROL
Childhood is when our beliefs, values and personality are shaped, and there are many behavioural issues that go along with growing up with eczema. As children we are typically
programmed to want to please our parents. When someone tells us to ‘stop scratching’ and we literally can’t, it makes us feel like a failure.
Imagine having no control over your body, you just have to scratch, yet you are surrounded by people telling you to stop, shouting at you or worse, physically restraining you. Wouldn’t you try and control everything else around you to try and bring some kind of order to your chaotic, unfair world?
For a child with eczema this could be control of people around them, objects, or their environment. For some it might develop into OCD behaviours like lining up their toys, grouping them in certain ways, not colouring outside the line etc. If ever they are disturbed or challenged this can result in a complete emotional breakdown followed by uncontrollable scratching.
Know that while the itch is present those behaviours are a coping mechanism for your little one.
So how do we support children who are feeling out of control? Well, it starts with the parents. The problem is that most parents are also dealing with many negative emotions. In fact, when I ask my clients, when they start working with me, how they are feeling, theseare the top four:
Most of them are also dealing with anxiety, stress, sleep deprivation and depression. They are left feeling alone, out of control and wondering “why me, why my child, what did we do to deserve this?”
These emotions lead to a downward spiral not just for the parents and the child with the eczema, but other siblings too. They are feeding off each other’s negativity and no one wins, except perhaps the eczema.
YOUR EMOTIONAL STATE AS THE PARENT HAS AN IMPACT ON THE ECZEMA
As a parent you want to help your child, but often get lost in the world wide web searching for answers that all contradict one another. You are then left questioning everything and feel hopeless when nothing seems to work.
Many people think that eczema is just a little rash, not that big a deal. The Doctor gives the cream and all we must do is pop that on and all will be ‘fixed’. Unfortunately, that is not the reality for many.
This is often where the blame starts; am I doing it wrong? Why can’t I fix my child? We can’t go out looking like this, people will think I’m not trying to help them. My main job is to empower the parents, it’s amazing how a mindset shift for the parent impacts the child’s eczema in a positive way. People think I am crazy when I explain how their emotional wellbeing impacts their child’s eczema, but as soon as they start looking after themselves, even just a little bit, they start to see improvements.
CHANGING YOUR EMOTIONAL STATE
I’m not talking about taking a vacation but small steps to regularly build in self-care is critical. Even those people who think they have zero time can fit something in! Try taking a walk in nature, standing in your garden and taking deep breaths, finding a five minute meditation online.
Get the children involved too, if you lead by example your children want to do what you are doing. They will watch and copy, so if you are looking after yourself and eating well they
will do the same thing.
After many years I learnt to look at my eczema with gratitude; it was my body telling me it was struggling internally. Once I stopped fighting to fix my skin and focused on finding the root of my problem my skin actually started to repair on its own. Like it was breathing a sigh of relief that I finally ‘got it’.
This is how I encourage you to look at the eczema, it removes the need to constantly be searching for what started the latest flare and allows parents to keep their focus on getting the right nutrition into their child knowing that over time, the skin will respond positively.
I often think how differently my life would have been if my parents knew then what I know now, but then I wouldn’t be able to help so many others through this. There is always hope, if after 37 years I can live free from medication, steroids and moisturisers then there is light at the end of the tunnel for all these little ones and their parents struggling to take control