Tips for Parents of Teens
The turbulent teen years can be difficult times for both parents and adolescents. Rites of passage like puberty, dating, driving, parties, and college allow a teen to develop her own sense of self and decision-making skills. When you throw a chronic, potentially life-threatening disease like diabetes into the equation, this move towards independence can be particularly scary for parents and caregivers.
Diabetes may seem to present a parental paradox. How do you allow your child to take responsibility for her own diabetes care and experience the consequences of her decisions—good or bad—when the wrong choices could have serious repercussions for her health? The answer is to provide her with the skill sets and tools she needs to make good diabetes management choices. Some ways to encourage positive self-care in your teen:
- Promote a doctor-teen relationship. Teens should be given one-on-one time with their care provider and other diabetes care team members to take charge of their treatment and to discuss issues they may not feel comfortable sharing with you. That's not to say you shouldn't maintain a relationship with his physician and keep on top of where his diabetes management is if he isn't sharing, but allowing him to take over some of the doctor/patient communication is an important transition towards adulthood.
- Keep it honest. Encourage your child to be honest with you about his diabetes management, and keep your cool when he does and the news isn't good. If he knows you will react in a non-judgmental way, he's more likely to listen to your response and you can discuss strategies for improvement.
- Discuss drinking. Make sure your teenager knows what kind of impact drinking alcohol has on their diabetes control. Let them know that while you don't condone the behavior, you want them to take the proper precautions should they decide to drink.
- Be straight about sex. Your teen needs to know about birth control options (abstinence included) and the implications of a pregnancy with uncontrolled diabetes.
- Seek out support. If your son or daughter has an interest, seek out support groups and camps catering to teens with diabetes.
Reviewed by Francine Kaufman, MD. 4/08
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