The teenage years can be a difficult time for both teens and their parents. On the one hand, parents would like their teen to take responsibility for his or her diabetes management and on the other hand they are scared to let go of the control they have. Teens want to become less dependent on their parents but they also challenge authority and in many ways become more carefree – which might lead to serious health problems.
Tips for parents
Unfortunately, teens, whether they suffer from diabetes or not, often come in conflict with their parents. They tend to rebel against everyone and everything and, in the case of a diabetic, even against the very people and processes that help them to stay well. Teens should be allowed to test the limits as this is part of their growing-up process, but you as a parent should be available to help when needed.
Keep in mind that the teenage body is constantly in flux and that it may be more difficult to control blood sugar under these conditions. Praise for successful management and encouragement to improve management when necessary is important.
As teens are also at greater risk for psychological problems and depression, keep an eye out and step in when necessary. Keep the communication lines open – not an easy thing to do with teens but so important. It is important that teens have someone to discuss their feelings with, especially if they are going through a difficult time. Encourage your teen to develop a good relationship with all family members so that, when you are not available, or the teens does not want to confide in you, there is someone else he or she can turn to. This may be a grandparent, uncle, aunt or even a close family friend.
Teens tend to defy authority figures, including their doctor. At this stage it may be appropriate to change from a peadiatrician to a doctor treating adults. It may be helpful it your child can join a support group in your area. Teens sometimes listen better to advice given by peers than by parents and doctors. If at all possible, have your teen attend a diabetic camp.
Remember that even though your teen may show great bravado, he or she is often scared, vulnerable and uncertain. Your support is essential for his or her well-being.