Helping Teenagers When a Parent has PD
HELPING TEENAGERS WHEN A PARENT HAS PD
ADOLESCENCE IS A TIME OF EXPLORATION, EXPERIMENTATION, AND INTROSPECTION. IT IS A TIME OF INTENSE TRANSITION OFTEN CHARACTERIZED BY DEMANDS FOR INDEPENDENCE THAT CONFLICT WITH THE NEED FOR CONTINUED DEPENDENCE ON PARENTS AND FAMILY. WHEN A PARENT IS DIAGNOSED WITH A CHRONIC ILLNESS LIKE PD, THE ISSUES OF DEPENDENCE VS. INDEPENDENCE AND INDIVIDUAL VS. FAMILY CAN BECOME EVEN MORE DIFFICULT TO NEGOTIATE.
10 TIPS FOR HELPING YOUR TEEN COPE
1. Know that only unpredictability is predictable. Recognize that there are a variety of responses teenagers may have (sadness, fear, anxiety, guilt) and that this range of feeling can vary from day to day even moment to moment.
2. Be accepting of new and different forms of expression. The way your teenager reacts to the news of your illness may seem completely out of character from the way they responded as a younger child. Be careful of the temptation to say, "I want my old Susie back." Allow your child to release his/her emotions in ways they may not have tried before (journaling, music, poetry, painting). Even feelings of anger and defiance can be dealt with in a healthy manner through exercise, counseling or some combination of these avenues.
3. Help your teen manage information. Teenagers are masters of our electronic powerhouse of knowledge, the Internet, and will most likely seek additional information with, and without, your knowledge. While many websites provide invaluable information, it is important that you talk to you teen about the volume of inaccurate information available online. Make sure they know how to best utilize the information they obtain and that PD is an illness that affects each person differently.
4. Allow your teenager to help you. If your teenager expresses interest in helping, allow him/her to participate in caring for you in ways that respect that they are not adults and yet are no longer children. You might consider allowing your teenager to accompany you on a doctor's visit, type some emails for you if you are having difficulty, or take care of the gardening or yard work you finding difficult to manage.
5. Be consistent. Ensuring that the basic rules of your household do not change can non-verbally communicate to your teen that they can still depend on you.
6. Encourage involvement. Make an effort to keep your teen involved in school, extra-curricular activities, and social events. Much of the support they need will likely come from friends, coaches, teachers, etc.
7. Remember, less may be more. We're all familiar with the stereotype of the sullen, non-communicative teenager, you may have one or have been one yourself! Making your illness part of your family's ongoing dialogue—having more frequent, brief discussions— may be more helpful and productive than the occasional, more structured, and emotionally intense family meeting.
8. Help your teenager become an advocate. Some of the best fundraising ideas have been conceived by children and teenagers. Help your teen learn about the ways he/she can make a difference by increasing awareness of the disease and supporting PD research.
9. Be a role model for your teenager. Your teen may struggle (just as you have with family, friends, and co-workers) to know if/when they should share the information about your illness with their friends. When they're ready, help them find the words they need. Role-playing may be helpful.
10. Remind your teenager that they are not alone. A teenager whose parent has PD may feel different and self-conscious. Talking to others who are going through similar experiences can provide your teenager with a sense of support and belonging. You might help your teen connect with others who have similar interests and concerns by encouraging them to participate in a virtual support group (message board/chat room), teen support group (if one is available in your area), or a PD event such as a Walk-a-thon.