Summer was never my favorite time for fashion as a teenager. Shorts were too short, tank tops too revealing, and dresses didn’t provide sufficient coverage. Or, at least it felt that way. Except for a few select outfits, summer clothing left me feeling exposed and vulnerable. I thought that people were staring at my puffy knees or the weight I had gained from my medications. For years I wished that I was invisible.
It’s no surprise that juvenile arthritis (JA) issues such as joint deformities, swelling, and rashes can cause low self-esteem for young people. Unfortunately, summer clothes can often add to those feelings of insecurity.
Kids with juvenile psoriatic arthritis (JPsA) may feel even more tempted to wear long sleeves and pants during the summer. In addition to dealing with the joint pain and swelling of JA, they also deal with the effects of psoriasis on their skin and nails. Psoriasis can flare due to sunburn, bug bites, and air-conditioning, making summers even more challenging.
Kids with psoriasis regularly face discrimination. They may be bullied by their peers because of their appearance or turned away from public pools or salons by those who assume that their condition is contagious. Even well-meaning suggestions of using makeup to conceal spots or gifts of modest clothing can feel insensitive. It’s no wonder that some kids may want to cover up, even in extreme heat.
Some kids may prefer to wear closed-toe shoes during the summer. Growing up, I’ve received more than my fair share of remarks due to my “toenail fungus,” aka nail psoriasis. I knew that it wasn’t pretty to see, but people looking at me as if I was diseased made me feel worse. I didn’t like to wear sandals or take off my shoes to go swimming.
What can you do?
There’s only so much you can do to help your child. It’s not easy to deal with both JA and psoriasis, especially during puberty when they may be particularly self-conscious. You know that your child is beautiful, and it’s so hard to watch them go through this internal battle.
But covering up isn’t necessarily bad for kids with JPsA in the summer. Some medicines for arthritis and psoriasis, including topicals, may cause sun sensitivity. Even those who benefit from the sun’s rays should be careful about excess exposure. But young people shouldn’t cover up because they feel ashamed of their bodies. Likewise, you shouldn’t pressure your child into showing more skin. Let them know that home is a safe place where they can wear what they like without judgment or comments — except in the case of dangerous heat and the family’s expectations of modesty.
Wear what feels good
It’s important that your child feels emotionally and physically comfortable. While it’s OK to want to wear more modest clothes, it’s essential to do it safely. Help them to choose clothes made of light, breathable fabrics such as linen or cotton. It’s also a good idea to pick loose clothing to allow for airflow because tight clothes may irritate the skin or constrict joints that need room to swell.
And, of course, they should wear what makes them feel good. Whether it’s a graphic tee with a favorite quote or a long, flowy skirt, young people should feel good in the clothes they wear. It may take a lot of trial and error to find looks that give your child confidence, but it’s worth it in the end. Online shopping allows your child to try on clothes in the privacy of their home and requires less stamina and mobility than a trip to the mall.
The biggest confidence boost you can give to your child is to compliment their beauty as a person. For example, “You look so happy” is better than “You look nice.” Teens want to be understood, and being praised for something genuine can mean a lot to them.
Eventually, I stopped being so restrictive with my clothing. I still prefer to dress on the modest side, but I’m not ashamed of my knees or my nails anymore. I wear sandals, and when my nails are doing OK, I paint them. I wear shorts and dresses as often as I can because the styles that I pick make me feel classy and confident. It took a long time, but I finally started to feel confident and comfortable.
Note: Juvenile Arthritis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Juvenile Arthritis News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to juvenile arthritis.