I think my 15-year-old daughter with TBI would benefit greatly from attending a support group, but she refuses to go. How can I help her understand that talking to others in with similar issues will help her on so many levels?
This is a hard one, especially at the age your daughter is — early adolescence, with its characteristic extremism in thinking and fears that all young teens have about “being normal.”
Parents involved with our program at Children’s Hospital Colorado, BIG — a support group for children and teens who have had pediatric acquired brain injury — have told me that they practically had to kidnap their teen to get him or her to the first group meeting and from then on the child harangued the parent to make the meetings.
This suggests two things: First, you may have to “sweeten the pot” to get her to go to the first meeting. Maybe make it a mother-daughter outing with a meal together or a walk in the park before or after. Second, the first impression your daughter has of the group will be crucial. Check out the group in advance. Make sure that the group is for children and adolescents — not adults. If there is no group for children-teens who have brain injury, look for an alternative group of adolescents who have any disability. Call the group leader ahead of time and ask the ages and gender mix of the group. Ask for information about what the group usually does and see if there is any written material you could share with your daughter; concrete information helps reduce the anxiety she’ll feel. If the group is made up of much younger children, ask if your daughter could have a junior mentor role, so that she feels more comfortable.
Jeanne Dise-Lewis, PhD is a child clinical psychologist, director of the Psychology Program for the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at The Children’s Hospital, and Professor of Psychiatry and Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.