Those Tween Years

For tweens and teens with diabetes, it can be a tough haul.

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!

November 2008 — We have entered a new phase of life in our house, known as the "tween years". As much as I have always hated that word used to describe the time between childhood and the teen years, I am beginning to get a very clear picture of why someone coined the phrase. It really is its own separate stage, and it is a rocky one. The emotions of childhood coupled with the hormones of a teenager create a turbulent combination. From our perspective, being teens with diabetes makes this time even rockier. One minute your child may want to be treated like a child and have you reminding him to do the diabetes tasks that need to be done, or to be held and comforted. The next minute he may be in serious rebellion, and who could think of something better to rebel against than diabetes? Thinking back to my own teen years, I can't imagine how much worse it would have been on my parents and myself if I was a teen with diabetes.

What happened in our house this morning is a perfect example of what might happen when you put teens with diabetes in charge of their care. My son got up and tested at 320. He gets up about 10 minutes before me on school days. So before I was out of bed, he decided how to treat his 320 and gave himself a bolus for the high blood sugar and also bolused his breakfast. Even though he is normally excellent at completing these tasks independently, his sleepiness and crabbiness over having a high blood sugar had perhaps clouded his judgment. I quickly pointed out to him that there was probably something wrong with his site and changing it and then giving himself those boluses would have probably been a better idea.

The impulsivity of someone entering their teen years can certainly contribute to less than wonderful decision-making during this time. If you combine that with the inability to think in terms of consequences beyond the present moment, it is likely that kids in the tween and teen years will require some supervision. It has really surprised me that my 12 year old seems to require more assistance and supervision in this way than he did when he was 10. There is also the issue at play that he so desperately wants a break from being a teen with diabetes, so he sometimes does the quickest thing he can think of. What could be more reasonable than that? We only wish that we could give that to him. We have even tried to offer to test and bolus for him, but at his age, that feels even more invasive than having to deal with it himself.

So what is the solution? Like so many things, I am not sure there is one. I know that for us, the best we can come up with is to offer him support and empathy about how difficult it must be for him to have diabetes. We can allow him to say that diabetes sucks, because we know it does too. We can allow him to vent his anger at being a teen with diabetes in the first place. We can also point out to him when we are NOT in a heated or emotional moment that if we always try to treat the high blood sugar (or whatever the situation) in the way that makes the most sense, we will be able to be done with it and move on with other things that much sooner. Or as I told him today, when you choose the wrong action for it, it will continue to be a pain and instead of moving on, you just have another consequence to deal with.

But if you choose the correct action it can be over and we can put it behind us. And more importantly, we can move on to the fun things in life. I hope that that makes it easier for Joel to believe that there is more to life than diabetes, even on the days when he would rather pretend he doesn't have to deal with it at all.

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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