This can be both easier and harder than talking to younger children. It is easier because they will have more understanding of the physical causes and your experiences. It is harder because teenagers often have so many changes going on themselves it can be difficult for them to step back and realise that you sometimes have to put your needs first.
Here are my ‘Dr Sue pain expert’s 5 top tips for talking to teenagers’
- Give them space. As they negotiate the world around them they will be trying out their independence so make a deliberate effort to allow them to have their own time and time with friends which is away from your pain. Remember they are going through the quite normal process of separating themselves from you and establishing their own individuality. Sometimes, they do not wish to have an open discussion about your pain with you. There is nothing worrying about this, they are just being teenagers.
- Recognise the importance of peer support. Many teenagers will benefit from talking to others in similar situations. If you go to a chronic pain management group or something similar ask if anyone else has a child of a similar age and interests. Perhaps they can meet or communicate online?
- Be prepared to help your teenager manage their fear of your pain. Explain to them how your body is working to cause the pain and what you are doing to manage it. This is a good chance for you to help your child and help yourself at the same time. Unresolved fears and anxieties about your chronic pain will make it feel worse, you will be tense and your muscles will hurt and you will find it difficult to focus on anything other than your pain. Using such things as hypnotherapy techniques to control these fears will help you, and your child will see that you are in control and helping yourself which will make them feel better too. If you want to know more about these techniques then contact me.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. Your teenager will understand that chronic pain can affect your mood so you don’t have to be the perfect parent all the time.
- Your teenager may want to help with those tasks they know you find difficult. It is important to get the balance right of helping for you and your family. Your teenager will probably want to help you, this is part of their growing up and they are likely to feel proud that they can take on more of a role in making your life easier. You will know that they still need their own, freer and less responsible life so watch out that the balance between caring and teenage life is a good one. Talking about this, and even mapping it out on a timetable can help here.
Want to know more?
I am always on hand at my chronic pain management clinics in Bedford and Milton Keynes, so do call me for advice.
Next time, in our series on dealing with pain in the family I will be looking at how you can help children in pain.