Back-to-school: Help boost your child’s body image

I remember being in high school, when just one zit felt like the apocalypse. It’s hard for kids and teens


I remember being in high school, when just one zit felt like the apocalypse. It’s hard for kids and teens to deal with skin issues ‘ everyone is trying to fit in, and looking different can really make you stand out.  And it’s more than just pimples. Cold sores, eczema, vitiligo and rosacea can all wreck havoc on a kid’s self-esteem.

I chatted with psychologist Dr. Linda Papadopolous about this when she made a recent pit stop in Toronto. Papadopolous is the authour of Psychodermatology: The Psychological Impact of Skin Disorders ‘ and she knows a thing or two about how skin issues can affect children. Kids with acne, for instance, tend to have lower career aspirations and higher suicides rates than their peers, she says.

Well, now that back-to-school season is here again, kids are being faced with their judgmental peers every day. So what can parents do to help?

‘Give your kid a toolbox,’ says Papadopolous. She offers a few suggestions for how to equip your kids to deal with skin issues ‘ and it’s more than just putting on some ointment:

Help your child develop self-esteem beyond their looks. Are they smart, funny, sporty or artistic? Papadopolous says kids should learn to focus on those attributes too, so appearance isn’t their only focus.

Teach your kids to question the motives of their peers. Are they being bullied or questioned about their skin? Papadopolous says parents should encourage kids to ask themselves, ‘Why would I internalize someone else’s rudeness or negativity?’ That way, the issue isn’t your child’s skin, but the other person’s rude behavior.

Equip them with a one-liner. If your child shows up to school with a cold sore, they might be met with strange looks. Papadopolous says kids should learn a simple answer to give when someone questions them about their skin problems. For a cold sore, it could be as straightforward as, ‘Yeah, my immune system is low ‘ so I get this for five days.’

Go to a skin specialist. For troublesome skin issues, Papadopolous recommends going to a dermatologist, not just your regular GP. Some treatments she supports include Cold Sore FX (for cold sores) and Accutane (for acne, when used under medical supervision). But she says going to a specialized doc is the best way to create a treatment program designed specifically for your child.

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– Lauren Pelley, editorial intern, Best Health Magazine