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Help Your Teen Take Charge of Asthma

Whether your teenager has had asthma for several years or he or she was recently diagnosed, you have a challenging role ahead of you—helping an adolescent cope with and manage a chronic condition.

You may need to adjust certain parenting and caregiving strategies that worked well a few years ago in order to help your older child take control of his or her asthma now.

Having asthma isn't easy, and for most kids, neither is being a teen. Here are some common teen issues and suggestions for easing your child's concerns.

Teens don't want to be different:

  • Give your teen the facts. Asthma is the most common serious chronic problem for kids in the United States. The CDC reported that in 2010 more than 10 million children in the U.S. had been diagnosed with asthma. Ask the school nurse or your child's health care providers to help your child meet other kids with asthma. It may help your teen to know that he or she isn't the only one with the condition.

  • Tell your child about celebrities, such as famous athletes, who have asthma.

  • Motivate your teen to follow the asthma care plan by explaining that when asthma is under control, it is less likely to interfere with what he or she wants to do. Teenagers want independence.

  • Involve your child in the asthma action plan. Let health care providers and your teen talk about what needs to happen to get asthma under control as well as what is and isn't working. This will show your child that you respect and trust him or her.

  • Ask your child how much support he or she wants from you. Then let your health care provider help decide how much freedom is appropriate and safe. You can do this in small steps. Let your teen know that freedom comes from proving that he or she can manage medications and peak-flow monitoring and avoid triggers.

Teens sometimes rebel:

  • Instead of facing any resistance from your child on your own, tap into support systems, such as other parents, the school nurse, and asthma care providers.

  • Use facts to build your case. Instead of scolding, help your teen learn by using health information from medical sources to show what can happen if asthma is not treated. Share printed information and website addresses. Ask health care providers for movies or books written for teens. This way, you are not the only voice proclaiming the importance of asthma care.

Teens may believe that they are invincible:

  • Your teen may find it difficult to believe that serious things can happen if asthma gets out of control. Talk about the realities as well as his or her fears. Be honest but provide reassurance that with good care, he or she can feel good and live an active life.

  • Be clear and specific about how each medicine works and how your child's body would respond if he or she stopped taking maintenance medicines. The more your teen understands about the purpose of each type of treatment, the more likely he or she will see the value of sticking with the treatment plan. Emphasize that the problems that come from ignoring the asthma care plan are a bigger nuisance than sticking with the plan every day.

  • It's natural to want to be in charge of things that affect your child, especially his or her health. Handing over some of the asthma management to your teen probably won't be easy. But for your teen, learning how to manage asthma on his or her own is an important step toward being a responsible, healthy adult.