The Teenage Years
The teenage years can be both confusing and stressful. It is the time when people deeply feel the conflicts between growing up and staying children. They long to be dependent and independent at the same time. They are unsure and critical of themselves. They may be overly concerned about their bodies and physical appearance. Being accepted by others in their own age group becomes very important.
Although it can be a trying time for any young person, the teenage years can be especially tough for a person with a bleeding disorder. Having a bleeding disorder may make him or her feel different. The teen may even feel "defective" at a time when self-identity comes from "being like everyone else." If a teen cannot join in a popular sport, she or he may feel left out. If the teen has bruises, he or she may feel embarrassed.
Young people who feel they don’t fit in because of their bleeding disorder may begin to deny their medical condition. They may begin taking needless risks to try to prove they are normal. Boys with hemophilia may ignore the signs of a bleed and delay or avoid taking factor. If you notice your child taking unusual or high risks, calmly mention this to him or her. Help your child to understand that being a daredevil is not the way to prove she or he can handle or do anything.
You can help your child feel better about himself or herself. If he has hemophilia and does not infuse his own factor, encourage him to learn to do so. Learning to treat himself will make him feel self-reliant. Encourage a skill, hobby, or talent that provides opportunities for growth and success. As your child matures, increase his or her privileges and responsibilities. One of the best ways to promote children’s self-esteem and independence is to allow them to make their own decisions as often as you can. When children make right decisions, they will feel good about themselves and feel capable of making other decisions. When they make wrong decisions, they will learn from their mistakes and the consequences.
Guiding children toward being able to make decisions on their own is one of the great tasks of parenthood. The young person who learns to make sound, creative, mature judgments about work and relationships is laying the groundwork for a fulfilling life. Allow your teenager to help fill out the paperwork when you visit the HTC. Your teen will learn about insurance and the other information he or she needs to know.
Handle problems with your teenager early, before the problems become more complex. Be alert for signs of emotional distress. Teenagers are prone to stress overload and depression just as adults are. Talk to your child about illegal drug use. If you notice major changes in your teenager's behavior, do not ignore the changes.
You can encourage your teen to express her or his feelings. One way is to calmly listen to your teen without passing judgment. It is important that she or he feel able to express feelings about having a bleeding disorder. If you have trouble talking to your teen or if he or she seems unable to manage these difficult years, seek outside help. The social worker at your HTC can offer advice or counseling. Another source of support for your child may be group meetings for teenagers with bleeding disorders.
During the teenage years, your child may begin experimenting with sex. Talk to him or her about pregnancy, AIDS and other STDs (sexually-transmitted diseases). The more teens understand about these topics, the better able they will be to protect themselves and others. Teen girls with bleeding disorders may be taking birth control pills to manage heavy bleeding during their periods. They need to understand that the pills will not protect them from getting an STD.
Planning for your child’s career
Middle school or junior high is not too early for your child to start thinking about a career. Career planning is a must for someone whose job options may be limited by physical problems. Your child’s school guidance counselor and counselors at a career guidance center can help in a number of ways.
They can help pin-point your child’s interests and abilities. They can guide him or her in making realistic goals. They can tell about training that is open to him or her. Your child can learn about different careers by having summer jobs or taking part in work-experience programs at school. The experience gained will be useful when she or he later seeks long-term work.
You can encourage your child to work on those skills and interests which show promise. For example, if your child likes to draw, give her or him art lessons and supplies. Do not forget to add words of praise and support when your child gets discouraged. Teach that developing a skill involves hard work.
No field is entirely closed to a person with a bleeding disorder, just certain jobs in that field. A young person may dream of being a professional athlete. However, less physical work such as office duties in managing sports might be better. These jobs may be just as satisfying in the long run.
Let your child know that the bleeding disorder will not prevent him or her from having a fulfilling career. Some areas your child might think about are professional, managerial, clerical, technical, and scientific. A career can give more than just financial security. She or he will also gain a positive self-image and independence.