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Extra Patience and Compassion Required to Parent Teens with Type 1Diabetes



Take the time teens are typically pushing back against parental control and add diabetes and the mix can be volatile. How can you persevere when your teen is not caring for her diabetes? Like all other parenting decisions how you handle this will be unique to your family. Where will you draw your line in the sand?

Family therapist Joe Solowiejczyk believes counting carbs, always administering insulin for food, and tracking the data either in a logbook or online are absolute musts for proper diabetes care. Depending upon the maturity of your teen, what are the musts in your home? In our house I still maintain the logbook but review it regularly with my son to teach him how to make insulin adjustments.

How do you plan to handle noncompliance? Your teen’s noncompliance might vary from lying about numbers to not bolusing, or hiding poor food choices. This is not yet an issue in my home, but I am naïve to think we will skip this stage. When I interviewed Solowiejczyk for my book, Parenting Joyfully When Your Child Has Diabetes, I asked him how many teens go through periods of not taking appropriate care of their diabetes? His sobering answer was about 90 percent.

Perhaps anticipating a rough patch is step one to surviving it. April Sullivan’s daughter Devyn went through several months of lying to her parents about her data and eating junk food while trying to find ways to maintain a good A1C. Of course her actions were revealed when her blood work was done. How did April and her husband cope? “We approached everything from a place of love and understanding.” And they worked in partnership.

In hindsight, April says she could have nagged less and been more educational. Her daughter was eventually motivated to improve her diabetes care when her endocrinologist required an improved A1C before signing the permission for a driver’s permit.

Devyn is now 18 and caring well for her diabetes. April’s advice if you and your teen are struggling with diabetes noncompliance is, “Nagging and being overprotective just makes them push back more. Find a way to let them manage and make mistakes in a safe environment.”

If you are struggling with your teen, a great resource is Moira McCarthy’s book Raising Teens with Diabetes. This is also the perfect time to reach out to other parents. A psychologist or another member of your team may direct you to programming geared toward helping teens who are struggling to take care of their diabetes.

What has worked to motivate the teen with diabetes in your life? I’d love to hear any tips you would like to share.

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