Having relaxed parents is essential for a child with atopic skin

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DERMATOLOGIST

Dr Yuko Higaki
Medical Director of Wakamatsucho Mental and Skin Clinic,Japan

Healthcare workers know how much looking after a child with atopic skin can exhaust parents and wear down your psychological resistance. Drawing on close to 20 years of experience with patients suffering from atopic skin, Dr Higaki shares some tested advice.

Time for yourself

When I welcome children with atopic dermatitis and their parents to my clinic, I notice that the parents are often really stressed and sometimes feel guilty for not being able to treat their children. In such a case, I recommend that they find some time for themselves, without their child. It could be five minutes while the child is asleep; it might be reading, listening to music they like, talking to friends, or maybe just relaxing. The objective is to find release from the daily stress and to relax. Parents mental well-being is essential for the treatment of paediatric patients. Children are closely tuned to their parents stress and anxiety. They also become stressed when their parents are stressed, explains Dr Higaki.

Parents' mental well-being is essential for the treatment of paediatric patients.

Positive attitude

It is important that as parents, you reassure and keep your confidence. As Dr Higaki says, “I also suggest that parents focus on improvements rather than the remaining symptoms that need treating. I tell them concretely how they have contributed to the improvement of their child’s symptoms, like "thanks to the emollient you applied every day, your child has dramatically decreased how much she scratches!" The point is that as parents, you must have confidence in what you do, and that you associate your "successful experience" with the children’s symptoms. I also try to empower parents by saying, for example, "I’m so impressed by your efforts when you have three children to take care of!" I think that by reassuring them that they are doing the right thing, and appreciating their efforts, parents can be more confident about themselves. Moreover, we all feel relieved to know that someone understands our situation.

I’m very happy to see when parents of children with atopic dermatitis become less stressed and more confident about what they do after an appointment with me. I try to set them free from the obsession of not making a mistake and that they need to do everything perfectly.”

A heartening perspective…

I also suggest that parents focus on improvements rather than the remaining symptoms that need treating.

Dr. Higaki's three pieces of advice

1. Don’t be a perfectionist, and stay calm.

2. Treat your child as normally as possible. Touch your child’s skin. Physical contact is very important. The best time may be when applying emollient.

3. Instead of telling your child, don’t scratch, ask him "do you want to cool your skin?”

Key points to remember

• Increase the number of 'successful experiences' with your child.

• Don't doubt. You are doing a good job with your child.

• Touch your child's skin, massaging it with moisturising cream.

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