What to do when your teen is not learning new health-care skills

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Learn some of the reasons why teens may stop doing self-care tasks and what you can do to help them. Also learn about some of the issues that teens with special needs have and how to help them learn new tasks.

Key points

  • If your teen has stopped doing a self-care task or is not doing it well then talk to your teen about it. If that does not help then talk to someone on your teen’s health-care team.
  • Teens with special needs, such as developmental disability, may need more time and help to learn new skills.

There are many reasons that a teen may not be doing well learning or maintaining self-care tasks. Teens can feel unmotivated, find the tasks annoying and interfering, or they may be burned out or overwhelmed. There are also teens with special needs, such as developmental disabilty, that may need additional help and more time to learn new skills.

Teens who are not doing self-care tasks well

Sometimes teenagers suddenly stop doing a self-care task well or stop doing it altogether. Other times, a teenager just does not seem to be able or willing to follow through on a task consistently despite agreeing to take it on. Sometimes, teens are unmotivated and complacent when feeling well and can regard taking care of health-care needs as annoying because they just want to live their life.

If this is the case, and discussions about this with your teen do not help, please share your concerns with someone on your child’s health-care team. Sometimes teenagers find it helpful to talk through an issue with someone outside their family. There are many people on your child’s health-care team who can help your child if they are temporarily stuck.

Remember too that teens can get burned out if they have high health-care needs and are shouldering a lot of the responsibility. They may benefit from parents helping with tasks they are normally capable of doing just to give them a break.

Teens with special needs

Some children have very special needs. In the case of severe developmental disability, they will likely never be able to live independently. Knowing your child will not meet certain milestones is very difficult and is made worse by watching other children meet these goals while your child remains behind.

Few people understand and truly appreciate the losses that parents of special-needs children experience from day to day. Parents of children who have a severe disability worry about their child’s future, especially as they themselves become older and less able to care for their adult children. They can find it very helpful to share their feelings and concerns with other parents in a similar situation.

However, even children with severe disabilities have the potential to learn new behaviours and to take part in their own care. It may take longer for your child to learn some of these skills and you may need to involve many people to help your child learn them.

If you have questions about your child’s potential to help care for their health, or if you want to consider other ways in which your child’s health care needs can be met, please speak with someone on your child’s health-care team.

Last updated: March 3rd 2021