The teenage years are never easy for a young person, with all the emotional upheavals of puberty and the physical changes it presents. But the teenager with diabetes will be forced to endure an even greater burden, with the stress of change making their diabetes worse and their condition increasing stress levels, it can seem like a vicious circle for many.
Youngsters who have for years adhered to a management plan may begin ignoring their regime and denying their diabetes as a reaction to the physical and mental changes they are going through. During this period, when blood glucose levels are already becoming harder to regulate, problems can arise from a failure to apply the guidelines.
Such problems are compounded for young women, especially around the time of their menstrual period, when hormone levels influence glucose levels and can cause an irregular cycle.
Teenagers inherently want to fit in with the crowd and their diabetes, with its associated management techniques including injections, special meals and rigid timings can hamper the opportunity to conform, having a negative impact on a teenager’s self image.
It is important during this period for parents to support their children and emphasize the skill and judgment they need to develop, without denying them the freedom to express themselves. Being open with your teenage is especially important now and you should stress the potentially harmful long term effects and consequences of not being aware of their condition.
Be prepared for a tough fight and don’t expect them to understand your warnings about the future. But it is important to stress the damaging effects of a high incidence of glucose levels and how it can be harmful to them. Educators have an important role to play in this period, as does literature. There are many excellent books written especially for teenagers, outlining how diabetes affects them, and it’s probably a good idea to give your child access to at least one of them.
Most importantly, talk with your child. If you are diabetic yourself discuss openly your own feelings and how you manage the condition.