Here's your guide, as a parent, to navigate eczema and its possible effects on your mental health:
We recognize that being a parent or carer is not easy at the best of times. It’s a role filled with complex emotions and a deep-rooted desire to ensure the well-being and happiness of your child. These responsibilities and expectations increase when caring for someone with skin conditions. For this year's Parents Mental Health Day we asked our go to hypnotherapy expert to delve into the crucial role of prioritizing mental well-being for parents navigating the challenges of eczema...
Hello I’m Jennifer an online clinical hypnotherapist, specialising in mental health and skin conditions. After years of trying everything else, I’m finally on immunosuppressants for my skin. I understand what it’s like firsthand. I support people struggling with eczema, steroid withdrawal, and other skin conditions. Together we address their mental health, self-esteem, confidence, sleep, resilience and more. I also have clients who are carers for those with skin conditions, or other chronic illnesses.
|2019, starting phototherapy
|2022, starting my business
The guilt of parents…
I work with many clients who are parents, whether their situation is skin related or not! Time and time again, they report not feeling ‘enough’ for their children. Parental guilt is a prevailing theme in my work, with many parents, absorbed in their children's needs, inadvertently neglecting self-care. Due to guilt, they are reluctant to take time for themselves. Whether it’s meeting friends, having a regular hobby or just a long bath. It becomes a vicious circle. By prioritising their children, they neglect themselves.
Reminder: Prioritising yourself isn't selfish’. When you take care of yourself, and meet your own needs first, you are able to provide better care and support for others.
Mental health impacts one's capacity to provide care and emotional support. Skin conditions are not only painful, but they also bring an emotional and mental weight. Skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis result in visible differences. These may make children susceptible to bullying or self-esteem issues. Lowering their mood and causing isolation or increased dependency (which in turn has an impact you, the parent)
Talking with my own mum, I asked her what she wished other people knew about eczema:
This is echoed by Jemma, who is a mother to a 10-year-old suffering from TSW (topical steroid withdrawal):
“I wish people understood how debilitating this condition is. It’s not just dry skin. It’s a full-time job and I run on zero sleep, but still have the guilt of not being a good mum, wife or friend.”
Caregiving can include medication administration, doctor visits, skincare regimen, and finding triggers. Which are demanding, time-consuming and at times expensive. Many families turn to private tests and therapy, due to the wait-times on the NHS. The pressure of managing their child's condition can take a mental toll. If left unmonitored, it can lead to burnout.
Jemma explained the biggest challenge:
“The daily routines of day-to-day life that people take for granted. You have been awake with your child all night trying to soothe them from scratching. Eventually you settle them then it’s time to wake up for school. Mentally you can see your child struggling with the condition, but as a parent you can only do so much. You want them to have a normal life, but the condition doesn’t allow them.”
Helping your child with eczema
Watching someone you love in pain, and being unable to help, is distressing. I asked my mum what she found hardest regarding my skin condition:
“Feeling helpless. Thinking, “what can I do?”. You just want to make it better, but there’s nothing you can do, except be there. There’s very little I could do to ease the discomfort. It doesn’t feel like you’re doing anything or doing enough. The other thing that’s really frustrating as a parent is seeing your child let down by the medical system. The terrible long waitlists you had whilst suffering and struggling have been heart-breaking to watch.”
I want to remind you; you are not helpless. You are doing your best, and it does make a world of difference. My husband wishes he could do much more than bring me ice-packs and stroke my back. But you know what? Those simple acts not only help my physical discomfort but help me mentally too. So by doing what seem like simple acts of kindness you’re helping more than you know.
Fill your own cup first!
People who experience chronic pain are three times more likely to experience depression. These mental health disorders can impact a person’s ability to manage everyday tasks. Requiring more care and affecting the mood of friends and family as well. Caregivers who neglect their mental health may find themselves emotionally exhausted, impacting their ability provide quality care.
Jemma has been caring for her son’s condition for over 3 years now, so I asked how she looks after her own mental health:
“Looking after my own mental health is what I really struggle with. Having a child who has this condition is mentally draining. I’ve had to work less on my business to get some down time. Fresh air, podcasts and walking helps me.”
Acknowledging, recognizing and attending to your mental health as a parent is crucial and will benefit everyone in the long run. Here are some of my top tips for parents and caregivers of children with eczema and chronic skin conditions:
✔️Professional counselling/therapy (you can self-refer via the NHS)
✔️Use helplines (National Eczema Society 0800 448 0818)
✔️Join support groups and ask friends/family for help
✔️Speak to your GP
✔️Encourage the child to manage their own medication where possible - it will ease your workload
✔️Meditation and deep breathing exercises (Apps like Headspace and Insight Timer are brilliant or check out YouTube for free versions)
✔️Yoga, just 10 minutes before bed will make a massive difference to sleep (YouTube is a great source for these too)
✔️Journalling – writing down the things that made you smile, are proud of or just did well – can really improve your mood
✔️Prioritise your sleep (it impacts everything!)
✔️Lighten your load wherever possible, e.g. hiring a cleaner or bulk cooking healthy meals in advance if you can afford it
✔️Ask your child what they need from you, give simple choices if possible as decision making may be hard for them if they are struggling
✔️Make flexible plans with good friends so you have something to look forward to, but it won’t be an issue if you can’t make it
❌Suffer in silence, help is available
❌Isolate yourself indoors. Even if your child can’t get dressed and leave the house, tag team it with a loved one so you can get outside whenever possible
❌Do everything for your child, if they can do it themselves let them. Encouraging independence where appropriate is healthy for both parties
❌Most importantly - compare yourself or your child's skin journey to others, everyone is different.
Great blog ! Suffered for severe re facial eczema for ten years and my mum tried everything . But I never thought of the impact it had on her or my siblings !! I remember my mum standing at the sink crying whilst telling me to be brave and just get on with things …. She tried everthing for me but nothing worked . Alternative therapies diets etc . But I do remember evenings spent with her or my dad just rubbing my back or hair and night s with them sitting up with me .. your blog and insta page brings it all back . Thankfully my eczema is under control now … but impacts still felt . Thanks for talking about it as a young teen over 30 years ago I was very lonely !
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