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Gaining independence as a teenager post-injury

Gaining independence is an imperative part of a teenage development therefore when a teenager has gone through a potentially life changing injury the process of gaining independence looks very different to that of a un-injured teenager. Your teenage years are meant to be exciting and spontaneous but when dealing with recovery from an injury it makes this milestone more challenging.

We asked Amelia Kenny, 17, to share her views about life as a teenager and the barriers to regaining independence and growing up, post-injury.


"Friendships are a crucial part of a teenager's life; the friends you make at school, university and extracurricular activities can shape a large part of growing up, consequently meaning that for a teenager who is dealing with an injury or participating in rehabilitation, potentially missing school due to hospital admissions or appointments, can lead to them missing out on building the foundations of those friendships. For a teenager post injury it is harder to make plans with friends as they have to think about a multitude of aspects. A teenager post injury may struggle to spontaneously take a trip with friends as they would have to consider accessibility, resilience, pain, fatigue and other aspects that are individual to their injury.

"Romantic relationships are inevitable in a teenager's life and a key part of them growing up and gaining confidence. Experiencing an injury as a child or teenager can make this process even more daunting. The psychological impact of an injury can result in the teenager being more reserved, and having to manage their own stress and anxiety. This can manifest in them not wanting to participate in activities that are important to their peers, such as driving in cars, going out for dinner, drinks or a club.

"Body image is also a major factor when considering how teenagers cope post injury. Being confident in your own body is challenging for all teenagers, especially as they are exposed to so many different social media sites, all of which promote a particular body image as being the ideal. If the teenager does not fit this norm then their ability to socially interact and be confident to develop relationships will be impacted, and their rehabilitation should recognise and be supportive of changing this.

"Parental relationships can also be different for a child who has experienced an injury as their protective measures are likely to be more amplified. For a teenager finding their independence this protective relationship may hinder their own development, and there could be a risk of the relationship being strained as one pushes against the other; but that step to moving towards independence and building relationships is pivotal to the child and teenagers recovery and establishment of norms."


"One of the first steps to gaining independence is to set goals. These goals should be realistic and achievable. However for teenagers it can become extremely frustrating when things are not moving as fast as they would like them to. Recovery times fluctuate so much depending on the injury and simple things such as booking appointment times can often be challenging for teenagers and can cause a conflict of interest for all. If a teenager received an appointment on a Friday evening when they had an invite to be with friends, or to go to a party, then the priorities and engagement with the appointment will conflicted. Parents will prioritise the medical appointment because of the known benefits of the therapy, however for the young person the chance to socialise and be with friend will be more important. It is important for all parties to be aware of the difference in priorities and try and be flexible so that both elements of the rehabilitation are achieved."

Mental and physical health

"The mental health of teenagers is a topic that features regularly within the media and our awareness of mental health, identity and the importance of protecting mental as well as physical health grows daily. In 2021 41% of young people reported feeling depressed and down; if you add in the complication of managing a disability there is an increased challenge for the young person to maintain a positive outlook. The struggles we have spoken about above are known to have an impact on a teenagers mental wellbeing.

"If the physical health of the teenager is also affected this can have a direct impact on their motivation to engage and as such compounds the challenges they are experiencing and can then have a direct impact on their mental health.

"These two elements are so tied up with each other and for children and young people struggling with one element, then this is likely to directly impact the other. You may see them withdraw from therapy, either physical or psychological, or present with a change in behaviour that can be seen as being ‘difficult’ or ‘stroppy; when in reality they are overwhelmed and struggling to cope with what has happened to them, the loss of or delay in independence, social isolation and anxiety about the ‘what next’."

We asked Millie to share her advice to those supporting teenagers post-injury. Millie said:

"Support and rehabilitation for young people should centre around allowing them to achieve milestones of independence, whilst ensuring their recovery is proactive and they are safe and supported. As a teenager, growing up in today’s society my advice to care givers is to allow people space to find their way, guide where needed and above all make sure they have a voice."