Adolescents who are faced with acute or chronic illness are likely to have more concerns and fears when their illness or healthcare needs conflict with the following normal developmental issues:
Body Image Issues
Adolescents are normally focused on the physical changes occurring in their bodies. Chronic illness can make these concerns worse because of fears or distortions related to their illness (such as fearing a surgical scar will interfere with physical attractiveness or the ability to wear certain clothes).
Things that may improve these issues:
- Share concerns related to their body and how it may be affected by their illness or treatment.
- Talk about possible physical effects of medications and treatment with your doctor. Discuss ways to reduce or cope with the effect.
Chronic illness often interferes with an adolescent's comfort in becoming less dependent on parents. Parents of chronically ill adolescents often are more resistant to an adolescent's efforts to act independently. Some ways to address the conflict between normal development of independence, while still addressing healthcare needs of the chronic illness, include:
- Adolescents must be involved in health-related discussions (i.e., concerns about their illness, treatment choices)
- Adolescents need to be taught self-care skills related to their illness. This is a process that should start before adolescence if possible.
- Adolescents need to monitor and manage their own treatment needs as much as possible
- Adolescents need to develop coping skills to address problems or concerns related to their illness. Talking with other teens with similar illnesses, healthcare providers or other professional support may be helpful.
Relationships with Peers
Chronic illness and treatment often interfere with time spent with peers or in the school setting, which is an adolescent's primary social environment. Chronic illness and related treatment needs may make self-esteem issues worse. To address these concerns, your child should consider the following:
- Spending time with friends as much as possible
- Plan what to share with friends and how to share that information
- Find ways to respond if teased by peers
- Develop an ability to see humor in the situation in terms of both illness and interaction
- Foster friendships that are supportive