Although they won't always express it openly, teens may have trouble coping while in the hospital for an illness or injury. Developmentally, adolescents react to stress and anxiety in a variety of ways:

  • Are sensitive to parents’ or others’ failure to prevent the injury or illness, and can be unrealistic in their expectations of medical providers or beliefs about prognosis, recovery, etc. 
  • Will sometimes act “grown up” and try to protect others from distressing thoughts and feelings.
  • Are sensitive to being excluded from discussions of their condition, treatment, etc. 
  • Are self-conscious regarding looking different or being isolated from friends.
  • Can experience significant pain, anger, or frustration when challenged to do something that was once routine. 
  • Responses can include either withdrawing or acting out (intense anger, emotional outbursts, increased aggression, etc.) in response to stressors.  

To help, the Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress developed worksheets, available in English and Spanish, specifically for teen patients deal with the stress, anxiety, and other emotions they may experience during a hospital stay.  

Do you use any special techniques to help your teen patient cope?