Diabetes Teen Angst
Connecting with other parents helps you handle the tough stuff.
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
July 2008 — As my son enters puberty, I find that we are faced with many new physical challenges. But I am also finding that I am worrying about entirely new sets of issues for him related to diabetes that before now I had barely allowed myself to consider. As he becomes interested in a girl, will she decide if she has feelings for him based on who he is or will she be scared off by his insulin pump or testing kit and just decide to move on to someone who is "normal?" When he learns to drive, will our main concern be if he is a good driver or how he can handle a low blood sugar when driving? When he chooses a college, will it be based on where he wants to be in the country, the major he wants to pursue or which school has the best medical facilities?
I think that when our children are first diagnosed, we do our best to focus only on the semi-immediate future. Thinking about any more than that is far too overwhelming. So each time our child enters a new phase of life, we find ourselves thinking about a whole new set of challenges we will face with our child. Physical challenges will always be a part of diabetes, but as we all know, they are only part of it. Not only will those physical challenges change and grow as our children change and grow, but the emotional and logistical challenges will of course change as well. Those can be even more challenging than the physical ones. There tends to be so much more guidance for parents for the physical challenges.
There are many resources for parents to turn to about how to manage diabetes with a physically active child, during sports, how puberty affects diabetes and how to handle it, etc. But I am pretty sure it would be much harder to find resources on how to choose a college with your child with diabetes, dating with diabetes, educating your teen on drinking and diabetes, etc. When my son was first diagnosed, I often wondered why this seemed to be the case. I finally realized that it is because there are plenty of doctors to analyze the medical issues and pass that information on to parents at their child's office visit. This is what they do. But the only people who are going to figure out the everyday life issues (apart from the medical) are the people who live them in everyday life, other parents. This is where our most important resource comes into play. We can learn so much from other parents if we have a way to connect with each other in the first place.
It is so important to remember as the parent of a child with diabetes that none of us exist in a vacuum. There are times when we might be giving information to other parents and other times when we are the receiver of the information. As much as we wish there were a lot of places to turn to get these kinds of questions answered, sometimes other parents are our only resource. It might not be as easy as the click of a mouse to find a parent who can be a good resource for the information you are looking for.
This is why I advocate so strongly for staying connected with your local JDRF chapter and diabetes support group. If you do, you are bound to know someone who can either provide the information you need or connect you to someone who can. Hopefully there is even a group in your area for parenting a child with diabetes. Again, in this setting sometimes you will be the person offering the information and sometime you will be the one receiving the information. Not only can other parents provide you with the information that you need, it is so reassuring to talk to a parent whose child has made it through that next stage of life. It allows you to see that you can do it too.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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