Adolescence - When you’re too young for half the things you want to do and too old to do the other half.
Teenage years are said to be a phase for the transition of some sort from childhood to adulthood. For caregivers like you, this may pose a challenge. Caring for teenagers is like walking on thin ice. At any point, young patients may find it offensive when you ‘treat them like a child.’ On the other hand, you may also forget that they’re still a few years shy from being an adult and fail to involve their parents.
In an editorial journal article, Caring for Adolescents: Challenge or Opportunity? author Christine Pintz, an Assistant Professor, coordinator, and Family Nurse Practitioner, writes that some nurses find caring for teenagers is a source of frustration rather than an opportunity to help.
In her experience, Pintz tried to change her adolescent patients’ behavior by telling them of the negative consequences of their actions, like counseling them to stop smoking because it can cause cancer. Unfortunately, this strategy didn’t work. For her, it was like speaking in a foreign language that her patients could not understand.
Pintz then tried to get to their level of thinking. “Adolescents also require consideration for their age and developmental level,” she claimed. When she changed the way she interacted with them, she noted improvements.
Similarly, caregivers must consider the way teenagers think and feel to establish trust and connect with them meaningfully. When caring for adolescences, always take note of the following characteristics which are common in this age group:
1. They start to be more independent, especially from their parents.
Adolescence is the time when independence is like winning a prize. Doing something on their own that previously required their parents' help is already an achievement.
When caring for teens, let them be independent as long as they are safe. Provide choices where they can exercise their freedom to choose for themselves. But be sure to keep a balance between their independence and their parents' involvement.
2. They hold their own ideas about the world.
If you are looking for a good conversation starter, here's a powerful tip: Ask them their opinion of an important issue. Talk about a current social problem and ask what they could have done if they're in the same situation. Once they open up this way, it will be easier to talk with them about their health. Also, be considerate of their thoughts and feelings.
3. They identify with their friends.
What their friends say and think about them is what matters the most to them. Adolescents and their peers usually enjoy similar cultures, like pop culture. Teens love to talk about common interests, such as social media content, games, movies, and TV shows.
Also, to win them over, avoid criticizing their friends. It helps to be non-judgmental in their choice of friends, food, clothing, and music.
4. They respect people who are honest and straightforward.
Since teens start to think like an adult and want to be treated more like one, beating around the bush will annoy them. If you downplay a concern, like you would if you were talking to a child, it would likely upset them and shut down communication channels. So instead of saying, "If I move your arm, it may hurt a teeny tiny bit. But you are brave anyway, right?” say, “Your arm may hurt as I move it, but I’ll be as gentle as possible.”
5. They are very conscious about how they look.
The clothes they wear matter. Whether you care for them in their homes or the hospital, it is vital to help them look presentable, especially if they are meeting friends. Help these young patients with their grooming.
Also, they feel very uncomfortable when exposing themselves to others, so expect them to feel shy if you help them change their clothes. Ensure their privacy at all times.
6. How you talk to them will determine if they'll trust you at all.
Here are some communication techniques to follow: Use a normal tone of voice. Talk with them at eye level. Avoid towering over them your patient you speak.
You may also share some of your thoughts with them. This technique establishes a meaningful connection with your adolescent patient. Be careful to avoid going into details. Make the conversation about them.
Speak as naturally as possible. Adolescents would appreciate a calm and friendly tone of voice rather than an overly energetic speech.
Don't be a 'trying hard' caregiver either, or they will likely close the door on you. Be sincere and genuine instead. Respect their opinions. And just as important is listening to them. Let your patient know that you gave them attention by recounting what they just said.
Caring for adolescents offers a rich experience in caregiving. With the right approach, you’ll be able to enter their world and help them with their needs.
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