Views of Healthy Living: How Parents Promote Wellness to Their Teens with Physical Disabilities

Last modified by Support on 2016/03/31 10:26


Views of Healthy Living: How Parents Promote Wellness to Their Teens with Physical Disabilities

Summary prepared by:
Beverley J. Antle, Catherine Steele, Wendy Mills, Ilze Kalnins and Beth Rosen

Why did we do this study?
Parents of teens with a physical disability often stay closely involved in many aspects of their teen’s daily life because so many health routines take place at home. We did this study to better understand parent’s views about how they promote health for:
                ∞ All children in their family; and
                ∞ Their teen with physical disabilities.

How did we do the research?
A trained interviewer met with parents of 15 teens with life-long physical disabilities. We recruited participants from Bloorview MacMillan Children’s Centre, a large pediatric rehabilitation centre in Toronto, Canada. The teens’ physical disabilities were diverse and included cerebral palsy, spinal bifida and muscular dystrophy. We asked the parents questions in six areas:
                1. Family makeup
                2. What parents do to help their children be happy and healthy
                3. How parents can tell if their children are happy and healthy
                4. What parents’ concerns are about their children’s health and well-being
                5. How parents promote their children’s health
                6. How parents address issues of substance use and sexuality with their children
We analyzed the responses from parents using the recommended five-step process for this study’s qualitative research method.

What did we find?
Parents’ responses to the above questions reflected three main themes.

1. Traditional lifestyle health promotion. Parents said they encourage good health by
promoting positive lifestyle choices about:
                    ∞ Healthy eating                     ∞ Smoking
                    ∞ Exercise                              ∞ Drinking and Drug use
                    ∞ Sleep and rest                     ∞ Sexual behaviour

2. Social and emotional aspects of health. Parents’ responses to the question about how they could tell if their teen was happy and healthy included social and emotional factors, as well as more traditional signs of health. Their key concerns were:
                    ∞ Having a social life and friendships; and
                    ∞ Preparing for work or some type of productive future.

3. Extraordinary effort to promote health. Parents invest a great deal of effort to promote the health of their teens with a physical disability. Although parents felt that their approach to parenting was the same for all their children, their interviews showed they spend a great deal of time and energy supporting their teens with a disability.

This finding challenges traditional ideas about parents being overprotective. It appears
that some of the extra work that parents do on behalf of their teens may be better
understood as a way to balance:
                    ∞ Independence
                    ∞ Safety concerns
                    ∞ Wise conservation of everyone’s energy.
For example, when a parent drives their teen to school and then helps set-up, it saves their
teen’s energy so they can better concentrate in class.

What do these new findings mean?

  • To parents and families
    • When discussing rehabilitation goals advocate for what is most important to you and your teen. Include discussions about the need to balance safety, independence and best use of energy.
    • Encourage your teen to be a part of these discussions
  • To health care practitioners
    • Be aware of the priorities of parents in terms of healthy lifestyle choices, social and emotional development, and long-term life goals.
    • Create rehabilitation goals that reflect the priorities of teens and parents.
    • Ask questions to uncover the reasons behind a parent’s investment of time and effort that may appear to be “overprotective”. Be mindful of their potential efforts to balance important issues like independence, safety and energy.

What’s next?
Members of our research team continue to do research to better support healthy transitions for young people with disabilities. Our focus is on ways to foster self-worth and give adequate support for young people with disabilities and their families.

For more information, please contact:
Dr. Beverley J.Antle, Department of Social Work
The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada
Email: Telephone: 416-813-6788

How was this study funded?
Bloorview Children’s Hospital Foundation

Created by CRRN CRRN on 2010/02/26 15:54