If epilepsy is a chronic health problem that your child has been dealing with you may be wondering what will happen when the child reaches puberty. Like so many other illnesses, epilepsy may be affected by the changes taking place in an adolescent’s body. As a child enters puberty they face many changes in their biological makeup.
The most noticeable of these being the physical changes caused by the hormones that start to affect their body. These hormonal changes may also cause changes in the child’s brain or metabolism that could affect their seizures. In addition to the biological changes there are also many emotional and psychological changes that take place that may affect your child’s seizures. It will help you to know what to expect ahead of time so that you will be prepared to deal with these changes.
Hopefully, if your child has had epilepsy for a while, they will be on some anticonvulsants that have their seizures under control. Just because they have been controlled in the past does not mean that they will remain under control. There are many factors that occur during adolescence that need to be taken into consideration in order for you teen to remain seizure free. When a child becomes an adolescent they strive to become more independent and to develop a “life” of their own where they start to rely on their friends’ advice more than their parents. Although it is important that as a parent you give the child this sense of independence and help them strive to become a responsible young adult, it will be difficult to do this when they have epilepsy. What can you do as a parent to help?
Questions and problems that may arise during adolescence for your epileptic teen include, break through seizures, maintaining their medication regiment, driving, participation in sports, drinking, whom to tell, and being sexually active, among others.
Physical Changes and Epilepsy
s a teen reaches puberty their seizures may no longer be under control with their current medicine regiment. Take your teen for an exam if things seem to be out of whack. Have the physician check their drug levels to make sure they are at an adequate level to keep their seizures under control. Talk to your teen about the importance of keeping up with their physical changes that may bring on more seizures. Let them know how girls tend to seize more during their menses. Also let them know that lack of sleep, improper nutrition and excess stress may bring on a seizures. Encourage them to develop a strong relation with their physician allowing them to go in by them self for their appointments. At this point in life you should be trying to foster individual responsibility of you teen for an illness they will probably have to deal with the rest of their life.
At this point in their life it is important that they come to realize that their epilepsy is not yours or the doctor’s but it belongs to them. Help them realize that although the epilepsy is theirs, they do not have to be defined by it.
Encourage your child to keep a record of their activities and seizures to help them understand if there are correlations between the activities and their seizures. Show them how keeping track of what is going on in their life, when they take theirs medicines, and when they seize will help them take control of their epilepsy. You may want to sit down with them and help them come up with a form that will help them keep track of these things. Once the two of you come up with one make copies so they will be available for your child.
Depending on how well your teen’s seizures are controlled they may be worried about having a seizure when they are at school or out with friends. Feel them out on this and see what their concerns are; are they are worried about embarrassing themselves or maybe what will happen to them if they have a seizure. If so talk about what they can do to help minimize this. Discuss whether they would feel comfortable telling some of their close friends or classmates so they will not be frightened by them.
First Aid Plan
Discuss with your teen how they want their seizures to be handled if they have one? Although you will not be able to grant all their wishes when it comes to this, have them come up with a list of steps someone can follow if they have one. Encourage them to share with a few trusted friends or teachers at school so if they have one they will not be surprised.
Drinking and Drugs
Discuss with your teen how dangerous drinking or taking drugs can be when they are on anticonvulsants. Explain how much it will increase their chance of having a seizure and if you need to, remind them the consequences of having one. (For example missing important games or dances, or not being able to drive).
Learning how to drive and getting one’s license is a rite of passage for most teens. Most people with epilepsy are allowed to drive if they have not had a seizure for a specified period of time. Know in advance how long this is so your teen can strive to go seizure free and get their license. The times vary from state to state. You may check your state on this website: http://www.epilepsy.com/driving-laws.
Many anticonvulsants have side effects that may affect your child’s ability to study effectively, stay awake or to have the pep they desire as a teen. Make sure your teen understands what the side effects their medicine are and encourage them to talk to you and their physician about this. Many times alternate medicines may be prescribed.
In conclusion, although epilepsy may be a huge challenge for your teen, if you keep open the lines of communication and are supportive, they will be able to live a pretty normal life. Be supportive and always open to their concerns. There is help out there if you need it. Here are a couple of sites you can begin looking for this help.
This article is for informational purposes only. You should contact your doctor with specific concerns or changes to your or your child’s health.