Friday Q&A with Dr Rosina – Inspiring Eczema Kids through Building Creativity

Dr Rosina McAlpine

Having eczema is not only stressful for the entire family, but is also related to lower self-esteem for children with severe eczema. The constant itch and scratching, lack of good sleep may also deter children from concentrating on certain activities they like. Would these affect our kids and how can parents inspire our kids to a fulfilling life, despite the eczema. For this month’s Friday Q&A, I’m honored to introduce you to Dr Rosina McAlpine, who is a mother and an Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, with a masters and PhD in education. She has developed the Inspired Children Program and won numerous national and international awards for her teaching and research work.

Life Skill for our Children: Creativity

It is common for children with eczema to have poor sleep (and for the parents too!). The lack of sleep is related to behaviors such as irritableness, impatience and also associated with poor memory and difficulty in concentration. I am just thinking out loud here, wondering if there’d be any impact on our child’s creativity because of his/ her eczema, for instance:

To be creative, I would suppose you can’t be itching all over because then your mind is bogged down with the itch and you get frustrated with managing the skin condition. So, managing the eczema is obviously the priority, and you can understand more about moisturizing, bathing and allergy tests to help manage the eczema. However, eczema is a chronic condition – so we can’t expect our child to put his dreams or his life on hold till his eczema gets better.

MarcieMom: Dr Rosina, do you have any advice for parents to engage and motivate the child to be committed to a project, despite the daily battle with eczema? Again, I’ve a nagging thought that I may be asking the wrong question here, but the backdrop is that eczema parents and child typically have higher stress level, poorer sleep, (I hope not crankier) and moms are usually thankful the child isn’t scratching (I know I think that way sometimes, and the next thought is ‘whatever else – be it biting her buggy book when she’s an infant or watching a little more TV now – is better than scratching).

In such a context, what can a parent do for himself/ herself and for the child so that mind and body are there for creativity?

Dr Rosina: I can’t imagine how hard it would be to take your mind off a body that is constantly itchy. This must be very difficult for eczema sufferers. You have raised many ideas and there are a few points to look at here.

First, resilience is a key factor in life success, and looking at eczema from a positive point of view in this regard, means that we can see eczema as providing children with the opportunity to build resilience. If children can stay committed to a project despite the obstacles that eczema presents then this will be a valuable life skill!

Second creativity might be just the thing an eczema child might need to take their mind off their body and immerse themselves in something they love. Creativity can come in so many forms including art, music and language … encouraging creativity might support eczema children to shine!

Third achieving goals is a process. Key areas to consider are helping children set realistic but inspiring and meaningful goals, helping them plan how they will achieve their goals, time management and using a diary or calendar and importantly recognizing, counting and rewarding achievements is highly motivating!

MarcieMom: Also, I believe that being creative does not mean being a genius. It’s not buying a poster color set for our child and expecting Picasso painting the next. As I understand from Dr Rosina’s website, goals need to be set, there’s planning and time management involved and parents have to motivate and reward the child’s achievement.

I’m again thinking out loud – eczema requires a lot of discipline to manage, there’s the regular moisturizing throughout the day, bathing, cleaning, extra hygiene steps for laundry and keeping the house clean. Some children may be very understanding and discipline about it, while others may resent and rebel against it.

Dr Rosina, do you think that a child who is disciplined in taking care of her eczema and skin will also be disciplined in pursuing a project that she is interested in? Conversely, for a child who rebels against taking care of his/ her skin, does this risk not being able to persist in other areas of life OR the two could not possibly have any co-relation? Is there an approach the parent can take to motivate the child to be passionate about a project/ hobby or discovering his/ her area of interest?

Dr Rosina: It is not easy to be disciplined for kids or adults! A better way to think about it is to form healthy habits. For example, most people don’t mind brushing their teeth, or showering each day or putting on sleepwear before bed… these are all good habits – we just do these things without too much fuss. Perhaps parents of children with eczema could help their children develop their skin care as part of their daily routines and until it becomes a healthy habit.

It is true that a good habit or discipline in one area of life can be repeated in other areas, but not always! Some people are tidy in the office and messy at home for example! The key is to focus on routines and habits that would have the most benefit to children. For very young children, making up a fun song or game about skin care would help the development of a habit that has a ‘good feeling’ about it. Forcing or demanding will leave a bad feeling about the skin care routine which means children are less likely to want to do it.

Parents can be creative… sing a little tune and add words like:

Wash, wash, wash the itch away

Mois-tur-ise and go out to play

I love feeling clean and fresh I say

Soft, clean skin feels great all day!

I just wrote this one quickly – in the hope this gives parents an idea and some inspiration to be creative and make this routine fun! Perhaps parents can post their ideas on your blog site so everyone can share words and tunes! After all your blog is called eczema blues! I’d be happy to give away a Personal Power Life Skills Home Activity book or an Inspired Children: how the leading minds of today raise their kids book as a prize for the most creative song!

With respect to helping parents find what their children are passionate about – it’s best to start by asking the children what they might be interested in. If they don’t know, it’s try to expose children to a wide range of activities and parents and children will easily see which activities bring a twinkle in their eye and which they have an aptitude for.

MarcieMom: Thank you Dr Rosina – your suggestion of exposing the child to a wide range of activities remind me to let my girl try dancing class, just to see if she prefers that to her ‘big girl gym’ class! Also, I’d start planning on a giveaway post for your book, thank you!

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