The teenage years are difficult for both parent and child. Raging hormones combined with physical challenges can be a nightmare for the unprepared parent. How can parents help their physically challenged teenager? First, remember that teenagers are in the thrall of hormones.
Between the ages of thirteen to eighteen, these children are growing into young adulthood. Teenagers are finding out new things about their bodies and how to keep from feeling awkward in social situations. When you factor in physical challenges, things can get explosive.
Parents often dread this time in their child’s life because it can be so chaotic. But, parents are not without their resources to help a teenager in crisis. The number one weapon in their arsenal is unconditional support.
Despite their physical appearance, teenagers are not adults. They still react to things in an immature way because they are not emotionally or mentally mature. Everything that happens to them is a tragedy. When a teenager possesses a physical challenge the emotions can be even more intense. This is the time when they begin to realize that they are different and that it matters to their peers.
Because they are unsure of themselves, some teenagers criticize everything about everyone else. We all want to spare our children the experience of being the object of cruelty. Many of these situations happen at school away from the eyes of parents. A child with physical challenges needs to be prepared for the possibility of these situations, just like any other teenager.
Parents help by listening to their teenager. Some of the things they say about themselves could hurt you. Your teenager might express feelings of self-hate because of their physical challenges. You may want to cry but resist the urge. Hurting teenagers need strength and that will come from you. Telling them that they are beautiful to you only adds insult to injury. They expect their parents to make statements like that.
Instead, teach them how to be themselves. This won’t be easy either, but it prepares them for life beyond your walls. Let’s use an example. A teenager with autism may notice that it is hard for them to play basketball because they are not coordinated. They get teased in gym class. Take the time to practice basketball with them at home, not because you want them to show off to their classmates, but to increase their confidence in themselves.
Teenagers with noticeable physical differences are sometimes ostracized by others. Teach them to play to their strengths. What does your teenager like to do? Instead of trying to fit in on someone else’s terms, nurture the artist or musician within them so they can make a name for themselves using their talents. In addition to these things, encourage teenagers to join support groups and attend camps for the physically challenged.
Even if they remain mainstreamed in school, it is also good to get away and interact with teens just like them. Being a teenager isn’t easy and trying to survive as one with a physical challenge is doubly hard. As a parent, show unified support and acceptance even in topsy-turvy times. Your teenager will draw their strength from your faith in them.