When my son Cole was five, he began his love affair with ice hockey. How he loved hitting the ice! He could, and would, stay at the rink for hours. In preparation for his practices or games, I would wash Cole’s uniform, pack his gear in his hockey bag, and have a snack ready for him. All he had to do was show up!
Cole is now in college and still plays hockey. He packs his own hockey equipment, of course. He washes his own gear, and I don’t even think about packing snacks; that’s on him! We’ve experienced a shift in responsibility—a necessary one, if you ask me.
In the same way, we’ve changed our routine when it comes to how Cole manages his atopic dermatitis. When he was younger, I’d direct a stream of inquiries at him almost daily: “Did you take your medicine? Which ones?... Let me see… How many?” and “What time?”
It came awfully close to nagging, and I knew it. Thankfully, my role has since evolved from manager to advisor. I think it’s an arrangement we’re all happy with!
Here’s how we made the transition.
Just like in hockey, Cole had to know what to put into his bag. I started small by showing him all of his special soaps, lotions, and medications with their required dosages and explaining why each of them was important. Cole took a photo of each item and saved the pictures to his phone.
As Cole got older and hockey tournaments were scheduled farther away from home, we’d have to think longer term by bringing extra gear and Cole would fill up his weekly pill container and inform us when his meds were running low. He created a travel pack for his lotions, creams, and soaps. Sometimes he ran out, but that was part of his learning process. Often, something crucial was left at the house—it happens! I generally had a few pills saved for such an emergency.
In high school, Cole played on two different ice hockey teams. He had to make sure he had the correct team jersey for the correct game night. Borrowing someone else’s jersey was out of the question because of his condition! Someone else’s laundry detergent might irritate his skin and cause a flare-up.
The summer before his senior year in high school, I taught Cole to take control of all pharmacy refills and drugstore trips for his lotions and medications. He called for his own medicine refills at the doctor’s office and the pharmacy, he picked them up on his own, and he learned how to navigate conversations with insurance companies. It helped him to add doctors’ and pharmacies’ contact information to his phone.
The hardest part was for me to refrain from jumping in to “fix” the situation. The last thing I wanted to do was pester him! Cole still had my guidance but was in charge of his own medication and skincare.
My son’s medical routine has become—well, routine.
With planning and time, Cole is now empowered to take responsibility for his own atopic dermatitis regimen.
He knows what to do, how to do it, and most importantly, what to do if things go sideways. Instead of his mom hounding him all the time, we can simply have a conversation and let him get on with his hockey games.