Talking to teenagers

Children’s reactions

Talking to teenagers

growing_up_with_SCISometimes teenagers can be moody, difficult and withdrawn, shutting themselves in their room or spending hours talking or texting their friends.

Adolescence is a period where some teenagers suffer from emotional insecurity and feel that they have no talents or value and may find it hard to believe that they are loved or wanted.

They are likely to be at a stage of transition from childish needs to adult desires. Hearing the news that a parent has become SCI is likely to heighten all these normal adolescent feelings, and a teenager may not accept the impact of the SCI as readily as a younger child.

Although this might be really difficult to deal with during a period when you are feeling anxious, it is important to encourage your teenage child to talk about what is worrying them, even if they react angrily towards you.

Some parents find it hard not to take their child’s criticism and anger personally, but you should remember that an angry reaction is probably just your child’s way of dealing with a situation in which they find it really difficult to manage overwhelming feelings.

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It is helpful to try and keep routines and rules in place at home and to stay involved in your children’s lives so that they have a feeling of security, despite everything.

A teenager will have conflicting needs of still wanting parental protection but also wanting to be treated as an adult. They may be very perceptive and ask for detailed information about the person with the SCI and may expect to be told more than their younger brothers and sisters. It may help your teenager to talk to other young people of a similar age who have experience of living with a parent or family member with SCI.

Each SCI Centre is likely to have an arrangement for putting relatives in touch with other families of ex-patients who have a similar level of injury as their family member. Most SCI Centres will have either a counsellor or psychologist who can support a young person and give them the space and encouragement to explore how they really feel.

Understanding the impact of the injury on their parent or sibling may not only help to increase their awareness of disability in general, but also help them to become more compassionate and understanding of the situation.