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Helping Parents Stay on Their Teen’s Diabetes Team

Jan 28, 2009

Most times when we talk about teenagers and diabetes we are talking about type 1 patients, but with the large increase in adolescent cases of type 2 diabetes, all practitioners are likely to see these patients. Since there is not as much urgency with type 2 diabetes, parents often do not take it as seriously. This week Laura Plunkett brings us a primer on Helping Parents Stay on Their Teen’s Diabetes Team

By Laura Plunkett


There’s nothing like a warning glance from a fed-up teenager to make a parent retreat. As your child takes more control of his or her diabetes, it becomes ever more tempting to step back and avoid the friction that sometimes comes from being involved. Yet, under the influence of growth hormones, peer pressure, and increasing mobility, your teenager needs your reliable presence more than ever. Each child and each situation is different, but here are a few suggestions for staying on your teen’s diabetes team.

1. Listen to yourself. Your instincts are an invaluable resource. Take time out to distinguish what aspects of diabetes care are hardest for your son or daughter and which are easiest. Put your energy into those that you feel are an absolute priority for your child’s safety and well-being.

2. Listen to the cues around you. Teenagers who are reaching for independence can be reluctant to talk with their parents about the frustrations and difficulties of self-care. Sometimes your child’s siblings, doctor, coach, teachers, neighbors, or friends can give you additional insight.

3. Listen to your teen. In today’s world of cell phones, iPods, and Blackberries, it is getting harder to find quiet, uninterrupted time to talk. Banning electronics during car rides allows for old-fashioned one-on-one conversations. Bedtime presents another opportunity. Find ways to be alone together, ask how the diabetes is going, and then listen without reacting.

4. Make a plan together. Once you have your concerns clearly in mind, include your child in finding solutions. Don’t be afraid to ask, “How do you suggest we do this?” You could present an issue, “Your school nurse says you’re forgetting to test during the day.” Then ask, “What do you think would help you to remember?”

5. Make use of outside support. The best-laid plans are hard to complete alone. Don’t forget to keep your child’s school nurse, medical team, and athletic coach up to date. If your teen is willing, include his peers in a kitchen table discussion to get their support and understanding. They can help reinforce any changes your child is trying to make, especially concerning risks with drugs and alcohol.

6. Don’t back away. Good blood sugar control is vital for avoiding long-term complications. Continue to offer support and encouragement instead of criticism. Find acceptable ways to help. Offer to text reminders if a child is forgetting to test or eat correctly. An older teen might not want to report individual numbers, but won’t mind if you check the meter history once a day, look for patterns, and suggest changes.

7. Take a diabetes break. Make sure you have fun together without talking about diabetes – playing scrabble, shopping, attending a sports event, or shooting baskets. Remember to enjoy this transition into adulthood. Your child will be on his or her own soon enough.