Teenagers with SCI
During their early teens, children naturally start separating from their parents. They begin to take responsibility for themselves and learn how to develop their own identity.
A child with SCI may have conflicting emotions if they think they have little or no control over their own care or home life. During this period of their life, your child will also be learning how to socialise with peers and will be very conscious of their body image, sexuality and peer relationships.
It’s a difficult period for all teenagers and can be more so when they are also adjusting to living with an SCI.
“I can’t believe it! I was all set to go to college – got my accommodation sorted out and everything – couldn’t wait to leave home – and now mum and dad are saying I can’t! No way can I leave home “in the condition I’m in”. They don’t need to make it worse by trying to turn me into a baby again! Can’t they see that I’ve lost my boyfriend, the career I’ve always wanted and virtually all control of my body – I don’t want to lose my independence as well!”
SIA’s teenage guide to SCI “Wha’ever” addresses the issues teenagers face and also lists many useful websites and contact addresses.
What can you do?
Encourage your teenager to talk to their friends, let them know that they are still the same person and help them to become motivated about all the things that they want to do in their life. It is also important that, as their parent, you should try and support them in moving on with their life and help them to start taking control of working towards specific goals and options that may be open to them in the future. This could be about anything to do with fulfilling educational requirements, taking part in events such as sporting activities, meeting up with friends, starting to think about going to college or university and perhaps becoming involved with projects at home or in the community.
“I think that newly injured teenagers should just to stay positive and think if their friends aren’t being supportive or are avoiding them, they really aren’t worth it”.
There may be times when your child feels that you are being overly protective and they may get angry and frustrated with you. Let them know that you love them and are proud of their progress and that you are always there for them if they need your advice or help.
SIA also publishes a book on ‘Sex Matters – a guide to sexuality for spinal cord injured people’ which may answer some of your teenager’s concerns about relationships and having children in the future. It will take time for your teenager to have confidence in forming a relationship, accepting the changes to their body and understanding that their disability is unlikely to be an issue when forming a relationship. Talking to other young people of a similar age and disability will also be of help. Perhaps they might like to look at the website www.thesite.org.uk which is especially for teenagers.