It is no secret that being a teenager is difficult. Adding the pressure of diabetes self-care on the shoulders of a teen does not make it easier. This is an important time for the whole family—your teen is eager to achieve independence, getting ready for college or the adult world. But they still need your guidance and support.
It is important to understand that this condition can affect anyone at any age. Having diabetes does mean that you and your child will have additional responsibilities over the years, but that does not and should not diminish your child's quality of life. In fact, the added self-discipline may work in your child's favour.
Even though diabetes can be managed, it is a disease with potentially harmful immediate and long-term complications. It is important that your teen understands that positive steps today may help make a significant difference in their health as they get older. This can be tough for teenagers to relate to—they may feel like they are living within strict limits and cannot see the benefit.
To assure that your child adopts the best possible self-care practices, take advantage of opportunities to educate the whole family. Encourage your teen to get involved with other people who have diabetes his or her own age—and find a parents' group for yourself. If possible, encourage your child to attend a diabetes camp where the child can interact with other children with diabetes and have staff knowledgeable about diabetes on hand.
Talking With Your Teen
This is an especially sensitive time—the teen years are a roller-coaster ride. You cannot begin to guess what they are thinking, and you cannot expect them to know what is on your mind, so make sure you take every opportunity to talk openly about what is going on in their lives.
This is also the time to start talking to your son or daughter like an adult. You cannot just tell them what to do anymore—you have to negotiate rules and involve them in decisions about their self-care.
Tips for Caring for Teens
- Choose words carefully. Do not call blood glucose or blood sugar readings "good" or "bad,"; instead use “high,” “low,” and “normal.”
- When blood glucose is high, decide how to address it. Punishment is not appropriate, and may lead to them not telling the truth next time. If high blood glucose is the result of overeating, praise your teen for being honest about it and create a plan for avoiding the problem in the future.
- Do not make everything about diabetes. Remember to ask, "How was school today?" or "How was practice?"—not just "How was your blood glucose today?"
- Never let your teen use diabetes as an excuse. Explain that if they try to use diabetes as a reason for acting out, it can just as easily be used as a reason to prevent them from doing things they want to do.
- Share your concerns about long-term complications, but do not use them as scare tactics. This can backfire—your son or daughter may begin to believe that thereit is no use in taking care of their diabetes.
- Let your teen talk privately with their health care professional. Not only will they be able to speak more candidly about issues on their minds, but taking direction directly from the healthcare professional can take some of the pressure off of you.
- Most important, consistent limits and discipline are essential for your teen. Sometimes parents feel sorry for a son or daughter with diabetes, and try to make up for it by being lenient in other areas. In the long run, this will not help—and may actually make it harder for your teenager to cope in the real world.