Living With Eczema – Keeping Your Cool With Your Itchy Kid

Family life is certainly hectic with most of us fighting a constant battle to be in the right place at the right time.  Simply getting out of the house in the morning, with everyone washed and dressed and with the right lunch bag and PE kit can be a challenge, even more so if you’re juggling the pressures of work too.  

Living with childhood eczema from the ScratchSleeves blog

The extra stress of eczema

For parents of children with eczema, life is even more complicated.  Preventing flare-ups and managing the condition adds an extra layer of complexity to your daily schedule, and it’s not surprising that sometimes you can find your patience falling short.  

From personal experience I know that snapping or barking orders at the children never improves the situation, and is a far cry from the calm, happy parent I aspire to be. But sometimes the pressure is just too much, and I find myself doing these things, or rushing the application of emollients and treatments, only to spend the rest of the day feeling guilty and vowing to be a better parent the next day – I suspect that I’m not alone!

It’s comforting to remind ourselves that nobody is perfect and we all have to accept that at times we will have our own little temper tantrums, but it’s also helpful to seek to prevent stress where possible, and to learn to cope better so that you minimise the times when you truly feel at the end of your tether.  Here are some of the strategies which have worked for me.

Be prepared

Work day mornings are one of the most challenging times when your patience is likely to be tested.  It may sound obvious but it’s true that I’ve found that my days are calmer if I’ve got organised the night before with packed lunches, school bags, reading books and PE kits.  Although I don’t always follow through on this one, I know that 10 minutes spent tidying round the house before bed, laying out my clothes and remembering to switch on the dishwasher helps the next day get off to a better start, even though I often have to fight my willpower which simply wants to crawl into bed leaving everything undone!

From an eczema preparation point of view, I’ve learned that you can never have enough bottles of emollient in key places – the upstairs bathroom, downstairs, in the car, in your handbag and in your child’s school or nursery bag.  Simply being able to get your hands on it when you need it saves a lot of running around.  Also, getting into a routine so that your child knows when their emollient will be applied – before they dress in the morning or when they change for bed, for example – means they learn to know what to expect and that makes life easier for them and for you, especially when they get home after a day at nursery or school and simply want to play or watch TV.

More good tips for being organised

  • Make sure you collect any repeat prescriptions for eczema treatments well in advance so you don’t run out.
  • Even though you may be tired, try to leave plenty of time for the bedtime routine, especially if your child’s bath includes eczema treatment, that way you will allow them to get the full benefit.
  • Write down your eczema care routine for other carers, like grand-parents and nursery workers.  That way you can rest assured knowing everyone knows what to do, and you don’t have to repeat yourself too much!
  • If you’re trying to identify/rule out allergens, put together a list of at least 7 meals and get organised with your shop, that way you’ll find it easier to enjoy family meals and the cooking and preparation will be less onerous, particularly after a long day at work.
  • De-clutter – every parent spends a lot of time moving ‘stuff’ like toys and clothes from one room to the next.  While minimalism may be a bit extreme, simply getting rid of unnecessary clutter can work wonders for your state of mind as you’ll spend less time organising it, and less time resenting the amount of tidying you have to do!  Take a look at theminimalists.com for inspiration.

Managing stress

Stress affects different people in different ways but the sheer busyness of everyday life with children can leave you feeling as if your head is going to explode!  While many of our problems are not that big in the grand scheme of things, it’s difficult to keep perspective when you’re juggling so many priorities and trying to keep everyone in the family happy.  

No parent keeps their cool 100% of the time, and so it’s worth spending some time thinking in advance of ways in which you can reduce stress when your blood begins to boil.  Ideas could include:

  • Closing your eyes and counting to 10 – tell your children that you need to take a few minutes to calm yourself down.  They might think you look odd but they will be pleased you haven’t simply lost control!
  • Making time for you – not easy, of course, but worth the effort.  If possible, schedule a date and time when you will be able to do what you want to do, whether that’s catching up with friends, reading a book, getting a massage or going for a walk.  Knowing you’ve got some breathing space to just be yourself will help you cope better day-to-day.
  • Talk to your partner and friends – it helps to know that other people feel the same way, and they are the ones most likely to make you take life a little less seriously.

Being positive

Eczema is an awful condition and it can be very upsetting to see your child suffer.  While it’s not a light-hearted matter, I’ve always felt better about it when I’ve spoken about it in positive terms. My daughter used to like to go ‘crazy with the cream’ whereby we would make a tickling game while applying it to her eczema skin, and we would sometimes draw a happy face on the label to reinforce that the emollient is on her side.  

You will see from the designs of our eczema mittens and pyjamas that we try to do our bit to be positive about managing eczema.  Last year we introduced the Superhero PJs (complete with cape, of course) which are both cute and highly effective.  We all know what a difference a good night’s sleep can make to both parent and child!

Also, you may like to read this blog post with 66 positive things to say to your child – good advice for any parent, not just those who are coping with eczema. When you’ve got a lot on your plate it’s all too easy to forget to give your child the positive reinforcement they need.

What works for you?

Hopefully some of these tips will help you to keep calm on particularly busy days. It would be good to hear how you manage stress and keep your patience – please do feel free to share your experiences in our comments section below.