Helping Teens Deal with Illness

I posted this as a response to a mom on the Momster Facebook page. The mom recently had major surgery. Her daughter did not visit her in the hospital and has not spoken to her mom since she got home. I thought it merited its own post…

When I was 15, my grandmother was in the later stages of breast cancer. When she was well, I hung out with her. But once she was sick and came to live in our home, I distanced myself from her. I recall an angry argument with my mother — one of the few from my teen years. She wanted me to sit with my half-sleeping, half-awake grandmother. I just could not do it. I also could not explain to my mother why I was unable to sit with my grandmother.

When the person who your daughter was staying with asked her to go to the hospital and see you, what did your daughter give as the reason for not going? I’m wondering if she doesn’t like hospitals. Kids deal with illness in different ways. Perhaps, her method of coping is to ignore you until you are back to you.

When kids are little, we read them books about “going to a sleepover,” “having an operation,” or other tough situations. I found a book on amazon about “Essential Guide About Talking to Teens.” Here’s a link.

Your teen may not be the talkative type. How about writing her a letter letting her know you know it is hard to see you sick, or with a bandage, or in hospital. Encourage your teen to respond in whatever way she can: writing you a letter, e-mail, text, or in a journal. My tween and I communicate at times by journal. I will ask her why she is doing something and she will answer me. We have had a few brief but productive discussions.

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I wrote an article over here on explaining death and illness to tweens (applies to teens, too).

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