Teenagers and diabetes
“My teenage son doesn’t want to take his insulin. He rebels against it as if it’s something only I want him to do, not something he needs to do to keep him alive. What can I do?” Jesca Ncube.
Even the brightest, smartest and most driven of teens have a hard time dealing with the day-to-day demands of diabetes. Having diabetes is often the one thing that trips them up.
They feel that their freedom is compromised. They are stuck in a zone where they are constantly asked about their blood sugar and as a result some lie about testing and taking shots: they suddenly experience a sort of “freedom” by lying and getting away with it. A wake-up call is usually when they land up in hospital. Most diabetics are prepared to try and do something to prevent that from happening again.
Because we live in a fast moving world, today’s teens have little time for themselves. Many teens are stressed, tired, and often have difficulty keeping up with the things they want to do, never mind the things they don’t want to do. Teens are risk-takers and struggling for independence – within this struggle, taking care of their diabetes is definitely not a priority.
So to answer your question:
The most important thing is to stay involved.
- Try and coach your teen into some kind of “contract” between the two of you regarding his insulin. Encourage him and make him accountable. Ask him what is helpful for you to do and what is not. Listen carefully.
- Find a health-care provider he likes and let him be educated about diabetes and the optimal treatment. Get him to meet up with other teens who are also living with diabetes.
- If the shots are bothering him, find out why exactly and see if you can change things to make a difference.
- Find out if he could be a good candidate for an insulin pump. Teens love technology and they usually do very well with pumps because they are growing up in a world exploding with new technology.
- Never be afraid to seek counseling. A teen might refuse to look after himself because he is depressed.
- This is the difficult part: you as a parent know the importance of insulin in your teen’s life. Try to explain it to him and ask him to work with you. Baby steps.
The good news is that most teens who have periods of giving up on their diabetes care eventually mature and start to do better again. Be your teen’s best friend: best friends do not judge and always stand by you.
– Jeannie Berg, Diabetes Educator