A 16 Year-Old With Ulcerative Colitis Refuses To Go To Social Events For Fear Of "Accidents." What Should A Parent Do?

John Walkup, M.D., Johns Hopkins

Question: A 16- year-old with ulcerative colitis refuses to go to social events for fear of "accidents." How should a parent respond in situations like this? (Consider other types of medical conditions with embarrassing consequences.)

Answer: When I hear about a 16-year-old with a medical problem likeulcerative colitis, who's afraid to go to social events because of potential accidents -- you know this is a fairly common situation for kids with medical or neurological conditions in general -- and I think the guidance is generally about the same.

For the vast majority of young people who have medical problems, there are real strategies for them to manage their medical problems in a very successful way, in a variety of social and living situations. So if the disorder is not under optimal control, the first thing is to get that medical condition under optimal control.

The second piece is if its not under optimal control and there is some chance of accidents or embarrassing situations. Then, on some level the parents and the child work together to try and figure out "are there strategies that they can use that protect the child from adverse consequences should an accident occur?" That kind of planning strategy will make the youngster feel much more secure about addressing those kinds of issues in real social situations and learn to kind of overcome and deal with their illness.

In the long haul anyone who has a chronic medical condition has to find a way to live in the real world and its very important for moms and dads not to get too protective of this youngster and facilitate them staying at home but provide real guidance and real support for them to go into the world and to manage their medical condition in real world settings.

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