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Supporting Your Teen with Epilepsy: A Guide for Parents

Your child has reached their teen years when they naturally seek more freedom and independence. But as they’re going through adolescence, for some teens there’s something important to keep in mind – their epilepsy

While puberty doesn’t cause epilepsy, the changes your teen is going through may also cause some changes in their seizures and the way they manage their condition

With the help of Nadeem Shabbir, MD, a pediatric neurologist with Banner Children’s, we explore how you can support your teen as they become more independent while living with epilepsy.

Understanding epilepsy in teenagers

Epilepsy is a brain condition that causes repeated seizures. “Think of your brain as a computer that sends electrical signals to control the muscles,” Dr. Shabbir said. “In epilepsy, these signals misfire, leading to seizures.”

There are several different types of seizures. Some may cause people to stare blankly for a few seconds, while others may experience jerky movements or convulsions of the body or a part of the body with a loss of awareness or consciousness. 

During puberty, sex hormones can cause changes in seizures. “For example, if your child had staring spells (also known as absence seizures), these seizures can change into convulsive seizures in adolescence,” Dr. Shabbir said. “On the other hand, some seizures may disappear with puberty.”

As your teen grows up, things like social pressures, school work and becoming more independent can add stress. Stress and anxiety can make seizures happen more often as well.  

“Being under stress either due to sickness, school, social pressures, mental stress or other factors can make seizures more likely,” Dr. Shabbir said. “Things like not getting enough sleep, substance abuse and prescription drug use, eating unhealthy foods and not taking prescribed medications regularly and on time can also make them happen more often.”

Ways to help your teen with epilepsy

As your child grows into their teenage years, you may face the task of helping them become more independent while staying safe. This transition can be difficult. You may not know when to step in with advice and when to hold back.

Here are some ways to help your teen reach their goal of being more independent without getting in the way:

Open communication

Encourage your teen to express their feelings, concerns and experiences about epilepsy. Create a safe space for open dialogue and reassure them they’re not alone in this journey. Avoid judgmental phrases or jumping to conclusions. Be open to discussing drugs, alcohol and substance abuse, peer pressure and sex and sexual health.

Medication management

Encourage your teen to take responsibility for managing their medication, including knowing when and how to take it. Consider using tools like pill organizers or smartphone reminders to help them stay on track. 

Remind them of the consequences of missing a dose. Even one pill can result in a seizure, which could lead to losing the ability to drive (if they are driving age) and possible injuries. They should also be aware of how their medication will interact with alcohol, marijuana and illegal drugs, which can increase the risk of a seizure. 

“They should also know the names of their medications so that if they are in the ER or urgent care, they can inform them about their medications,” Dr. Shabbir said. 

Sleep routine

Teens tend to adopt strange sleep schedules. Sleep deprivation isn’t healthy for anyone, but lack of sleep can trigger epileptic seizures. 

“Activities like going to bed late on weekends, having meals at different times of the day and too much screen use – especially before bed – can decrease sleep quality,” Dr. Shabbir said. “Sleep is very important, and your child needs good quality and quantity sleep.”

Encourage your teen to maintain a regular sleep schedule seven days a week. Establish a calming bedtime routine, avoid screens before bedtime and make sure they avoid caffeine and energy drinks that can keep them awake. 

Driving safety

Getting a learner’s permit and driver’s license is a major milestone for teens. It’s a rite of passage that your teen may worry they’ll miss. 

“Because of the unpredictable nature of seizures, a teen with epilepsy is not allowed to drive or operate machinery unless the seizures are controlled,” Dr. Shabbir said.

States have different restrictions for those with epilepsy. For example, you must be seizure-free for at least three months before applying for a driver license.

Work with your teen to develop safe driving habits, take their prescribed medication and ensure they comply with all legal requirements.


Teach your teen how to advocate for themselves by discussing their needs with their health care provider, teachers, employers, friends and others who may need to be aware of their condition. 

Help them practice explaining their epilepsy and what support they may require. Allow them to have these conversations on their own.


Your child may be nervous about telling someone they are dating that they have epilepsy. Encourage your teen to be open and honest in a serious relationship. Their significant other needs to know about epilepsy and how to handle the situation should a seizure occur. Here are some dating tips and ideas to share with your teen.

Also, talk to your teen about how epilepsy medications can affect birth control. Some epilepsy drugs may decrease the effectiveness of birth control or cause birth defects. They should talk to their health care provider to find the best birth control.

Pursuing goals

Support your teen in pursuing their goals and interests, whether academics, hobbies or career aspirations. Help them explore options for accommodations or support if needed.

Emotional support

Epilepsy may make your teen feel different or embarrassed, especially if they have a seizure in public. The challenges of managing a chronic condition like epilepsy, along with concerns about fitting in socially and epilepsy’s impact on daily life, can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety.

“In addition, some antiepileptic medications may result in mental health issues, tiredness and loss of energy,” Dr. Shabbir said.

Therapy can help them feel better by teaching your teen how to cope with stress and feel more confident. Encourage your teen to connect with others with epilepsy through support groups or online communities. Peer support can provide encouragement and a sense of belonging.


Supporting your teen with epilepsy requires patience, understanding and a collaborative effort. By using these tips and fostering a supportive, open environment, you can empower your teen to navigate life with epilepsy confidently while ensuring their well-being. 

Remember, you aren’t alone on this journey. For additional resources and support, speak with your child’s health care provider or a Banner Health specialist and check out these resources:

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