Managing Your Teen's Diabetes

Break it down into tasks to get good results.

Karen HargraveBy Karen Hargrave-Nykaza

Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for 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!

January 2011 — When my son, Joel, was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of seven, the doctors would always break it down to the teenage years as the most difficult. I now know that they weren't kidding.

It wasn't as though I thought they were kidding or exaggerating. But I honestly thought that no matter how many hormones were at play, or how strong willed a teen could be, it couldn't really be harder than convincing my 7-year-old to poke himself with needles multiple times a day. I now know that it isn't so much the convincing that would be the issue, but the follow through.

What I didn't know then, because I had never parented a teenager, was that a 14-year-old really can't understand or care about the long term implications of their decisions all the time. Many of them aren't yet capable of understanding that the decisions they make today will affect them for the rest of their lives. But it is our experience so far that even those teens who understand that their decisions have long term implications are not necessarily able to commit themselves to making good decisions consistently to ensure their future good health.

Even as I type, I am thinking of how many adults, without the additional challenge of having diabetes, struggle with that daily. Understanding how demanding it is for any of us to make these kinds of commitments to our future good health gives me the perspective to know that expecting that kind of proactive thinking is certainly a tall order for any teenager with diabetes.

Even as we talk with his doctor about his climbing A1C, our son's biggest concern seems to be that he could end up not being as tall as he might be otherwise because of his high blood sugars. As much as I do hope he can grow to be 6'2" as expected, I have greater hopes of him having a healthy life, free of diabetes complications. And while he may think there is nothing harder than living with diabetes, I silently think to myself: Well, there is one thing that is harder. Being the parent of a child with diabetes who is unable to control their actions or outcomes. While it's not a contest of whose role is harder, I wouldn't wish either on my worst enemy.

When facing any huge challenge, what makes the most sense is to break it down. We take this huge task of managing diabetes and getting good results and break it down into the daily tasks of making sure we are checking blood sugars and their patterns, even more often than we were before. And while in some ways that seems impossible, there is definitely room for improvements.

If we put checking for patterns of highs and lows on our to do list, we will be looking at a week of a bad pattern rather than letting it go for a couple of months before we are doing something to change it. There are so many aspects of this disease that center around just one thing: Never being able to get away from it.

Read more of Karen Hargrave's columns here.

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.

Last Modified Date: July 15, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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