Meeting new people at holiday gatherings can be a festive and fun way to celebrate the season. But for those with visible differences it can also present some uncomfortable challenges. Here’s some quick, easy tips (including some from FIRST member and blogger Courtney Westlake) to avoid awkward discussions or situations, and enjoy some good cheer all season long.
1) Create a simple one-sentence explanation for new people you may encounter at a holiday party (or the forgetful.) Try something like, “I (or my child) have/has a rare skin condition, that isn’t contagious, but doesn’t allow my/her skin to function properly. It’s a bear in the winter months!” Try to keep it quick and simple, and move on to the next topic. After all it’s a festive atmosphere, not a medical conference, and most people will gravitate toward easy, light-hearted conversation in these situations. FIRST member Courtney Westlake (www.blessedbybrenna.com), says, “Sometimes, I’ll try to help a person relate to Brenna’s skin, and the winter can be a good time for that because a lot of people’s skin is drier in the winter. Finding a connection can help a stranger relate better. I might say something like Brenna’s skin gets much drier in the winter, just like a lot of people experience even without a skin disorder.”
2) Host at your home – For the most part, neighbors, friends, co-workers and family will be aware of your condition. Hosting a party of your own can be a great way to avoid awkward questions or situations around the holidays.
3) Get plenty of rest and relaxation and avoid the drama - The holidays combine high expectations, crazy relatives, strained relationships and extended time together. It’s the perfect recipe for drama. If the holiday gatherings are a little too woven with anxiety, feel free to say, “All the holiday hoopla is not great for me or my skin. I need to take a step back for a while.” It’s perfectly okay to step back from all the socializing, and enjoy some quiet time alone or with your family. Courtney Westlake also adds, “We’ve learned that if Brenna gets really run down, her skin suffers as a result. So keeping top priority on the health of her skin is also a great reminder for our family not to over-do it with the holiday activities.”
4) Consider it an opportunity to raise awareness and educate – If you feel so inclined, sometimes inquiries that arise in a social setting can be considered an opportunity to educate about ichthyosis, and perhaps even about FIRST. If someone is interested in learning more, give them FIRST’s website address (www.firstskinfoundation.org) or phone number 215.997.9400. FIRST would be happy to provide them with more information.
In the end, it all comes down to understanding what works best for you, at the holidays or any other time of year, and simply informing a supportive community.
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