Everything You Want to Know About Teenagers and Diabetes

The teenage years can be challenging. Add together physical, emotional, and intellectual changes and anxiety grows. Throw in a chronic condition like diabetes, and you’ve got even more stress.

teenagers and diabetes

The American Academy of Pediatrics defines the teenage years as those from puberty to adulthood, where “in addition to physiological growth, seven key intellectual, psychological and social developmental tasks are squeezed into these years. The fundamental purpose of these tasks is to form one’s own identity and to prepare for adulthood.”

If there are two things most teens care about they are privacy and independence. So as a parent of a teen with diabetes, how do you give those two things while making sure your child is safe and healthy? Thankfully, the American Diabetes Association has put together several topical guides to help with just that.

Privacy

Dating and Parties

Teenagers with diabetes, just like most teenagers, want to reveal things on their own terms. This includes disclosing their condition to friends and other people they meet. Parents must make the difficult task to respect their teen’s decision, as long as there are some safety measures in place. The biggest concern is that in an emergency, your teenager’s condition is made aware to medical personnel. This is where a medical ID comes in handy. With discreet IDs that look like any other form of jewelry, teenagers can feel confident that they don’t have to disclose their condition unless they want to.

Your teenager might be ready to disclose their condition to friends and dates, but might not know how to do so without being ostracized. The American Diabetes Association has some tips on what to say in various situations.

On a date where there’s a meal? Perhaps: “I have diabetes so I have to plan a little when I eat. I keep track of my blood glucose levels and give myself insulin.”

Offered a drink at a party? Try: “No, thanks – I have diabetes and if I drink or smoke, it can make me really sick. I’d rather be here the whole night and have a good time than have to leave early!”

Independence

Driving

Often the first step to a teen’s independence is the ability to drive himself. Driving is a scary endeavor for any parent, but there are some added concerns when your teen has diabetes. Low blood sugar levels can cause symptoms that lead to a loss of coordination and focus. Set these driving safety rules before your teen gets behind the wheel:

  • Check your blood sugar level before getting into the car.

If it’s low, treat it and recheck. No driving until the blood sugar level is in the right range. Treat your blood glucose even if it means being late.

  • Keep diabetes supplies and snacks within reach. Insulin and test strips can’t be kept in the car because of fluctuating temperatures but be sure to stash some carb snacks to treat lows.
  • Feeling sick or low while driving? Stop immediately and pull over to the side of the road to check blood sugar levels and treat lows.
  • Always bring your driver’s license and wear a medical ID that explains your diabetes.

College

You’ve made it through the tough middle and high school years, but there are still some challenges ahead. Whether your teen was just diagnosed with diabetes right before college, or has been living with the disease for several years, the physical transition to living independently can be a tough one to make. Outside of your household, your teen will have to figure out how to manage her diabetes on her own on a daily basis.

Faced with that exact situation, Christina Roth established the College Diabetes Network in 2009 to provide support for fellow college students with diabetes.

The network provides practical information and tips for students dealing with three major issues they might encounter in college: lack of support system of family, the spontaneous college life (including ups and downs of stress, erratic eating schedules and more), and wanting to be a regular college kid.

One of the ways to ensure your child feels “regular” is by getting a medical ID that fits her lifestyle and fashion sense. Shop teen IDs.

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