Teenagers are complicated beings. Teens with diabetes have even more to deal with and can offer greater challenges for parents. They are pushing for independence and parents are worried that poor decisions will have life-threatening consequences.
Finding a balance between your teen with diabetes’ need for independence and a parent’s concern from their health can be a huge challenge. As parents, we have worked for years to maintain good control and teens are often more interested in being teens than teens with diabetes.
Motivating Teens to care about diabetes
Parents of teens with diabetes know it can be hard motivating teens to manage their diabetes care. Sometimes you can luck out and find things that help to motivate them to be a bit more concerned about their diabetes care. You can remind them how horrible they feel when they are high. Perhaps, it will motivate them to know that they perform in both academics and physical activities when their blood sugars are in range.
Sitting down and talking to them about their blood sugar results without pointing blame can also be helpful. Make changes together discussing why you feel something should…or shouldn’t be done. Allow your teen to lead this conversation.
Let your teen come up with a plan for next steps. Be there to guide them rather than tell them what they have to do. When they are open to help, offer suggestions that you know have worked in the past.
Learning to let go of your teen’s diabetes care
When you child is young, you usually know exactly what their blood glucose level is at any time of the day. You would know when they received their insulin and how much food they ate. As they begin to go out on their own and manage their own care, it can be very difficult.
There is a fine balance between allowing them to take control of their disease and manage it their way, and a parent’s innate desire to keep their child safe.
They will make mistakes and they will do it differently than you did, but they will also surprise you. Most young people with diabetes have been quietly absorbing all of the information that has been shared around them. They have been happy to let their parents deal with it all, but when they are on their own, they have a quiet confidence that the support of their parents has allowed them.
They will not check blood sugars as often as you did. The A1c of teens with diabetes is often higher than their parents would like, but if you are there to offer support and guidance, they will get through.
Things to remember
1. Different doesn’t mean wrong
As we said, teens, will make mistakes. They will also do things differently than you do. Different isn’t always wrong, but it can be a challenge for parents, especially if you have always been in charge of your child’s care.
2. Everyone forgets sometimes
We forget where we put our car keys. Sometimes we may even forget if we brushed our teeth. When your teen with diabetes is in range, feeling great, and doing other things, they may forget about their diabetes. It can be scary as parents when this happens, but remember that sometimes…we just forget!
3. Would you avoid things like site changes if it was you?
Site changes. Finger pokes. Injections. They all cause some level of pain. As human beings, we are conditioned to avoid pain. It therefore is not surprising that our teens may put off doing some of these things that cause them pain.
4. What were you like as a teen?
Do you remember being a teen? Did you rebel or were you the model child? Chances are you did a few things that you shouldn’t have. When disciplining and guiding your teen with diabetes, remember that they are teens. They have the same mess of hormones and peer pressure going on as other teens. They also have the added responsibility of living with diabetes. Finding balance can be hard. Be there for them–even when they act like they don’t want you there.
Alcohol and teens with diabetes
We don’t want to think about it, but the reality is that many of our teens with diabetes will drink alcohol. It is terrifying and therefore vital that you keep the lines of communication open. Make sure that you and your teen have a plan. You want them to understand how they can drink responsibly if they feel that they must drink alcohol.
Here are a few tips from DiabetesMine.
- Always eat before drinking.
- Avoid sugary mixed drinks.
- Bolus for alcohol, but only half of what you would normally do for that amount of carbs.
- Check your blood sugar OFTEN.
- Don’t bolus before bed.
- Make sure to check your blood sugar levels during the night.
- Never drink alcohol if your blood sugar is low.
Finding the right doctor for teens with diabetes
A great doctor means everything in diabetes care. The right doctor for your teen with diabetes can do a lot to help with a parent’s well-being as well!
Make sure that the doctor speaks to the teen directly. This is their disease and they have to begin to understand their care, and their rights as a patient.
Most people living with diabetes look at their A1c as a report card. Did they pass or fail? When dealing with a teen, it is preferrable to have a doctor who looks at providing your teen with tools for his/her care first, and considers their A1c to be second.
Your teen’s doctor should be working with them to create a plan that will allow them a successful transition to adult care. They should be setting attainable goals and keeping an open line of communication.
Transitioning to adulthood
As your teen with diabetes moves off to school or simply to live on their own, you will no longer have a say in blood sugar checks. You may not even have access to continuous glucose readings.
Your role in diabetes care will be on the periphery. It will be hard. One day you will no longer know how to work their insulin pump. Perhaps you won’t know their A1c, but they will know that they can still call you when the going is rough–for you or for them. You may feel guilty because now you get a break, but your child continues to carry the brunt of the burden.
No matter where your child lives. No matter what age he/she is, remember to keep the lines of communication open.
Just as when they lived with you, always ask how they are before you ask how their diabetes is. Let them know that you are their for them if they have questions about their care or they just want someone to bounce ideas off of.
Tips for parenting a teen with diabetes
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