7 Tips For Parents of Teens With Diabetes
Parenting a teen is not always an easy journey. Teens’ struggles with independence, finding ways to express themselves, and tackling new social challenges can make the relationship between parent and adolescent less than pleasant. Add the task of successful diabetes management to the mix and there are sure to be conflicts. Despite what may feel like barriers, there are ways for parents to support their children as they mature while still encouraging positive communication and good blood sugar control. Here are 7 ways every parent can support a teen with diabetes in their lives:
- Don’t treat blood sugar readings as a “scoreboard”. Instead of assigning a set of negative comments to an out-of-range reading, try to stay focused on how the current number should be managed. Teens who feel like every finger stick is an evaluation of their success or failure may resist sharing this information or fail to check their blood sugar altogether. Instead of asking, “What did you eat?” or “What did you do?” say “Thank you for checking.” Then focus on treating the high or low.
- Give your teen organizational tools for compliance. Sports, extracurricular activities, and busy school days can make it hard to stay on top of reading checks and calculating carbs. That’s why experts recommend helping your teen stay organized with alarms or reminders to help them remember to check their blood glucose or take their insulin on time. Giving your teen a checklist of supplies they should carry with them may also help them build good habits they can carry into adulthood.
- Help your teen find a reliable confidant for tough subjects. Some teens may feel open talking to their parents about alcohol, drugs, or sex. If that’s you, then congratulations. If it isn’t, try to find an adult your teen can feel comfortable approaching with these issues. Teens should understand how any of these behaviors could directly and indirectly influence diabetes management.
- Seek outside support. No family wants diabetes to be the only topic they ever discuss at home. That’s why it may be helpful for parents and teens to have an outside support system. This may be your diabetes educator, a support group, or another parent.
- Ask your teen what works for them. Even though you may have been helping your child live successfully with diabetes, ultimately, their choices in management will belong to them. This can be especially hard to accept for parents of children who were diagnosed very young. Instead of pushing your choices and plan on your teen, ask what they think would work best for them and talk through any disagreements.
- Boost self-esteem and self-efficacy. Parents and caregivers should take every moment they can to praise good behaviors and support future choices that will positively impact their lives. For example, if your teen feels ready for an insulin pump, talk to your doctor and look at options together. Some models come with a smartphone-style touch screen, which makes diabetes management simpler. Encourage your teen to learn about and use these tools for better blood sugar management.
- Support, but don’t hover. It’s easy to want to be a helicopter parent—always hovering around to make sure things are going well. But what teens really want is to be supported—not smothered. That means finding the delicate balance between staying involved and letting them know you are there if they need you while still supporting their independence.
As a parent, it’s important to make sure your children have the tools they need to succeed and lead a healthy life. With these tips, learning to help your teen become a healthy adult with proper diabetes management will be an easier task.