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Type 1 Diabetes and Teens

Information for parents and caregivers

The teenage years can be difficult, even for someone without diabetes. All kids can use some guidance during this transitional time. For example, it may be helpful to remind your teenager that it is up him or her to take charge of his or her own diabetes care. It may take several conversations to make sure that they understand that their actions and decisions will affect their health, both now and in the future.

Working through the conflicts

As you probably know, sometimes when you are parenting a teenager with type 1 diabetes, you have to accept that their blood sugar levels may not be completely within your control. But, understanding the conflicts and challenges they are facing may help you give your teen better guidance. The following are a few conflicts that teens with type 1 diabetes are likely to be working through that you may already be familiar with:

  • Impulse vs. Planning. Teens tend to be impulsive. They want to be able to do things, eat things, and try things on a whim like their friends do. But, as you know, type 1 diabetes does require planning. A teen with type 1 diabetes may need to be reminded that freedom only comes with knowledge and responsibility. One perspective to share is that only by fully understanding and controlling his or her diabetes can a teen with type 1 diabetes achieve the flexibility he or she desires
  • Control vs. Limitations. Teens want to be in control of their lives. To define their own identities. To achieve these goals, they have to keep testing their limits. But, as you well know, testing the limits of their diabetes care plan is not a good idea. You may want to share the idea with them that their diabetes care plan represents power, not weakness. You may want to suggest that they can use the discipline and control they've gained by sticking with their diabetes care plan to gain strength and mastery in other parts of their lives. And, when necessary, they can also adjust their insulin for unplanned indulgences

And, here's a conflict that you may be working through as a parent of a teenager with type 1 diabetes:

  • Protecting vs. Overprotecting. You know that you can't watch over your teen every minute of the day. And, if you try to, you know that they may resent you for it. You too may have to be reminded from time to time that it's your child's type 1 diabetes, not yours. But at the same time, you are aware that you can't turn your back on your teen and allow him or her to jeopardize his or her health

Here are some reminders about things you can do to help:

  • Keep talking with your teen. Be open to discussing the difficult choices he or she is making. Don't be afraid to talk about grown-up subjects, like career, marriage, and alcohol avoidance. This will show your teenager that you think of him or her as an adult. And it can help keep the lines of communication open
  • Help your teen connect. Get your teen involved in type 1 diabetes support groups and diabetes camps where he or she can meet other teens with type 1 diabetes
  • Call for backup. If you believe your child is in serious trouble, don't hesitate to seek professional help
  • Stay positive. You might even find that your own positive ways—like following a healthy meal plan—are contagious. If you are clear and confident about your choices, others are more likely to understand your actions. Try to direct any disappointments to your child's diabetes care team. They are there for you—to hear your fears, concerns, and challenges. Speak to the experts whenever you need to
  • Encourage your teen to live independently. As your teen continues to learn to live more independently, he or she will become established as a person who is living life while managing type 1 diabetes. Talk about it. Or maybe your teen would prefer to email. Encourage your teen to communicate in the way that makes him or her feel most empowered. And, with your permission, have them register here at Cornerstones4Care.com.

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