If you are a parent, the first question accompanying a non-segmental vitiligo diagnosis can be – “How do I tell my children about such complicated skin disorder?” Being fearful, you might like to withhold the news. But before they notice those small patches getting enlarged, being honest and open about vitiligo is usually best. When children know they are being kept informed, they make the experience less frightening.
That being said, sharing your diagnosis can be still nerve-wracking. Don’t stress out. This article will help you start the conversation and give you the tools to keep it going every step of the way.
Breaking the news
The first conversation about vitiligo is often the hardest. Choose a time when you and your kid feel comfortable. What and how much you want to share depends on their age. If you have children of different ages, you might like to speak with your older children first.
Explaining the diagnosis
All you need at this point is being honest and using simple language. Unpredictability about the progression may soon get alarming for young children. But when these things are explained in a simple language, their curiosity is satisfied. It is seen that young children learn by repetition. So, be prepared to repeat your explanations time and time again.
Apart from explaining the possible forthcoming changes in appearance, you can’t afford to miss explaining mood swings and social anxiety in vitiligo. Say “Not going out with you guys as much as before, doesn’t mean I’m sad or angry. It’s me, feeling shy.”
Understanding their feelings
Expect them to feel confused, afraid or guilty. Give them hugs and kisses to let them know that strong feelings are normal. If children become upset, tell them “vitiligo happened on its own. Nobody did anything to make it happen. My doctors are very good, and I am doing my best to get my skin color back.” Explain that vitiligo is not contagious and they can’t catch it like a cold.
Asking questions & discussing treatment
Since different vitiligo treatments may bring about a few changes in your life, encourage your children to ask questions. If children understand that the side effects are part of the treatment and not part of living with vitiligo, they will be able to handle their emotions better. If you don’t know the answer to a question, tell them that you will soon find out and get back to them.
At times, your kid may want to help you, but won’t know how. Giving children simple tasks like reminding you of your medication helps them feel connected. At times, the child may miss your older appearance. By hugging him/her or lying down on the bed, you will make him/her feel that nothing has changed except your skin color. You still love him/her like before. And, that’s what matters the most.
being comfortable in your own skin
Keeping a positive attitude can affect our mental health in vitiligo. So, don’t push yourself aside. Keep vitiligo present through humor or whatever works for you. After all, living with the chronic disorder can be an opportunity to teach your kids a basic tenet of life —“what happens to us may not be completely in our control, but how we handle it is up to us.”