Approaches to Healthy Living.
Medication, therapy, regular discussions with the doctor, and the support of family and friends are all important to your teen's Schizophrenia treatment plan. Good nutrition and exercise, and learning to deal with family, school, and social situations are important, too.
Maintain balanced nutrition. While there are no specific dietary requirements for patients with Schizophrenia, a balanced diet can provide a consistent level of energy and help protect against other illnesses. A healthy balance should include:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains such as cereals, breads, and pasta
- Lean proteins such as poultry and fish
Also, schedule meals at regular times, and avoid sugary or fatty fast foods and snacks and caffeine-based drinks. Be sure to talk to your child’s doctor before changing their diet.
Engage in doctor-approved exercise. Regular exercise can help manage energy, weight, and stress. It can also contribute to overall health. Talk to your child’s doctor before having them begin any new exercise program.
Stick to a regular sleep schedule. It’s important to go to bed and wake up at a consistent time every day, even on weekends. Disrupted sleep patterns can affect your teen’s behavior.
Adolescents should not drink alcohol or use illicit drugs. Abuse of alcohol or drugs can interfere with your treatment goals. Even a small amount of alcohol or an illicit drug may trigger an episode, disrupt your sleep pattern, and interfere with your medication.
Being the parent of an adolescent with Schizophrenia can be a challenge. Dealing with psychosis, disruptive behavior, and other symptoms is hard, and it is important for all members of the family, siblings included, to understand what is going on and know how to respond properly.
Some siblings may feel that the teenager with Schizophrenia is getting preferential treatment or attention, or “getting away with” things that they could not. Help them understand that coping with Schizophrenia takes a family effort that requires learning and understanding. As part of the family, the siblings play an important role.
Here are a few things you can do to help prevent and manage psychotic episodes of Schizophrenia in the home:
- Create a calm and stable environment and try to reduce stress by using good listening and communication skills
- Set reasonable expectations for behavior and use praise often; reward appropriate behavior
- Be patient and ignore minor negative behavior
- Help your teenager anticipate and prepare for stressful situations by developing coping strategies beforehand
- Encourage and engage the teenager’s creativity by getting them involved in activities that encourage these strengths
- Provide a routine structure with freedom within limits
- Tell your teenager to let you or the doctor know if they notice any changes in their thought pattern or behavior, even while they’re on medication
In the classroom
It is difficult for a teen with Schizophrenia to focus and learn if their sense of reality is altered, if they are withdrawn, or acting out. The disease presents challenges to the teacher, the student, and the classroom environment.
However, there are things you can do, working with your teen and his or her teachers that can help make school a more positive experience:
- Engage your teenager's teachers and school administrators early on, and help them understand how Schizophrenia affects your teenager's learning style
- Ask to have your teenager's homework reduced or modified so that it is manageable for him or her
- Ask your teenager's teachers to give them extra time to finish tests and assignments
- If necessary, work with teachers to establish weekly goals with rewards for achievement
- Ask if your teenager can use a computer for written assignments, and a calculator for math
- Use a "back-and-forth" notebook that travels with your teenager to and from school so that you and the teachers can maintain a dialogue on how he or she is doing from day to day, and to anticipate issues before they become problems
The transition into and through adolescence is stressful for anyone, and your teen with Schizophrenia has the same needs for belonging and acceptance as anyone else.
But a teenager with Schizophrenia is dealing with a new and altered sense of reality that affects their self-image, their perceptions of others, and others’ perceptions of them. These perceptions can damage existing friendships, and make starting new ones extremely challenging.
Consider these approaches to helping keep your teen engaged socially:
Educate existing friends. Helping your teenager's current friends learn about the disease and how it affects them could help support these relationships that already exist.
Use groups to find appropriate peers. Group involvement can help keep your teenager engaged with peers who share similar interests, and who are understanding and accepting of them. For example:
- Organizations like youth groups and sports teams, particularly with peers they already know, can help them stay connected with the outside world
- Group therapy (arranged through your teenager's doctor or therapist) can help them talk about their feelings with people who understand them
- Support groups for people with Schizophrenia can help them meet people who may also be experiencing similar challenges
Don't forget family. Your home is a safe place for your teenager with Schizophrenia to learn and practice good social behaviors. It’s a place where they will have a loving and forgiving audience.
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