Kevin, a five-year old from Salinas, California, is a little boy with eczema. He is a happy kid but from time to time, his eczema flares terribly that require attention of both parents. Whenever he has the flare, he is just miserable. He scratches and scratches till his skin bleeds, and he wakes up at night because of the itch. During these weeks of flares, the parents focus most of their attention on him. This, however, is making his older sister, Nancy, both jealose and upset. She thinks it is not fair that her little brother is monopolizing all the love and care.
Kids naturally like to vie for love and attention of the parents. Sibling rivally is common. However, what many parents do not realize is that siblings of children with eczema suffer emotionally and get very upset with all the attentions on their siblings.
If you have a mid-size family and one of your children has eczema, you should teach the others not to feel like Nancy. Although jealousy is a natural feeling, they must understand that this disease requires a higher level of love and care. They need to know that it is not unusual that your focal point of decision-making revolves around your child with atopic dermatitis.
Whether the family trip is cancelled because of an eczema flare, or the family cannot go swimming because of the same reason, or they may have also observed that you seem to indulge the child with eczema more than you do the rest, like giving more toys or treats than the others get, you need to explain that this is simply because you somehow compensate for your guilt feelings and you want to replace your child’s pain with little moments of joy.
1. Recognizing the Situation
You need be very aware if the situation is getting to your children’s emotions. If this is the case, you have to involve your children. You need to understand how they feel. Coax them and encourage them to tell you what is on their mind. Once this is recognized by the whole family, all of you can start a dialogue. The children can voice out their sentiments and discuss with you what would make them happier.
As a parent, you may realize the fact that some children are not getting the proper attention that they need. A positive result for this approach is that while one parent is focused on treating the sibling with eczema, the other parent can spend his time with the rest.
2. Discussing the Situation
The first step mentioned above will take you to this one—turning the family into a team to address issues that arise. Eczema is a disease whose symptoms re-occur overtime. Sometimes, it gets more aggravated. It is good to note that at this phase, you as a parent would have discussed to your children what eczema is all about. They will be involved in discussions about what it is, how the child with eczema feels physically, and how they can help treat it. The other children will join visits to the doctor and probably hear what the physician has to say.
A child with eczema suffers because of the physical pain and the unbearable itch, once the other children begin to understand this harrowing experience that their brother or sister is going through, they will no longer despise the condition. Once they are deeply involved, they will realize that they are a part of a lifelong issue. They will be bonded deeply to their sibling and family and they will begin to be a part of the solution and not part of the problem.
3. Becoming a Guardian
The best way to reduce the stress that burdens the family is to make the other children become guardians themselves. They can be a proxy to you. They can ask you, the parents, to give them instructions how to administer medications when their little sister or brother is showing signs of itching. They can apply emollient themselves and as time goes by, you can give them bigger responsibilities.
These responsibilities include preparing their brother’s bath, his medicines, administering them, and putting plaster or bandage on affected areas. Soon, they will find this to seem like a game and a great time to improve their relationship as siblings.
Handling a sibling with eczema is no easy task. The other children can get emotionally upset every time the other one is showing signs of aggravation. It will break their hearts to see him suffer. The episodes will take their time and focus away from what they are doing, such as homework or home chores.
As a parent, they need your guidance. They have to understand and accept that this could be a lifelong situation for them, probably until they are old enough to move out of your house and care. The sibling with eczema needs them much more than they think. Most importantly, you as a parent need to support them in taking care of the child with eczema, most especially if there is no nanny at home.