My teenager and diabetes

Posted: November 25, 2011 in Diabetes
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My son turned 13 recently.  It is hard to believe he is this old already.  We made it through the “tweener” stage and now he is in full throttle TEENAGER mode.  As you may already know, my son has a number of health issues, including Type 1 Diabetes.  He was diagnosed a year and a half ago, which was very scary when it happened.  Since then he went on an insulin pump, hoping it would give him more control and flexibility.

I am a little frustrated with him right now, because he doesn’t take the situation very seriously.  I have to fight him to check his blood glucose.  I have to constantly remind him to take his insulin.  If I am not around, he refuses to test or take insulin when he eats.  For the last six months his blood glucose has been extremely high…. probably averaging around 400, which is not good.  I just don’t understand why he is being so stubborn about this.

I have explained to him why it is so important to try to get his blood glucose under control.  He knows that over time it can affect his eyes, his health in general and that it can lead to death.  He doesn’t care.

Those teenage hormones are really testing him.  There are times when he does everything he is supposed to and his blood glucose will be high. There is no doubt that he consciously takes risks and wants to be in control of his life.  The end result is stubbornness.

You can tell he is trying to identify where he fits in this world and what path he will take in this life.  He want’s the independence.  He wants the responsibility.  But he doesn’t want the accountability.  Isn’t that true for any teenager?

Even though it is difficult, I have tried to be patient and I have ensured that he is always comfortable to talk about anything with me.  Sometimes the conversations get stressful.  It is hard to determine when you should step in and take control, or stand back and watch him make his own decisions.   Either way it is a challenge.  You want to protect him.  You want to make sure he is happy.  You want him to have a “normal” life.  Even more so, you want him to have a long, healthy life.  But sometimes, I am not so sure he wants the same for himself.

I have found that the most important thing I have to do is to keep my emotions controlled, which sometimes is not easy.  I get frustrated when he doesn’t do what he is supposed to do, especially with his diabetes.  I try hard to listen to what he is saying, rather than focusing on what he is not doing.  It is important that I see the world through his eyes.  I can tell that his confidence in himself is broken.  He tends to see the bad around him and the bad in himself.  He doesn’t realize that he is a wonderful, talented young man.  He is very warm-hearted, but wears his heart on his sleeve.

I have found that there is nothing worse than being judgmental about his behavior.  Due to the circumstances of his health issues, he has had enough of everyone judging him.  His doctors judge him.  His teachers judge him.  And his peers judge him.  The last thing he needs is his mother judging him.

I think the best way of talking with him is acknowledging the burdens he is experiencing in his life.  Having diabetes is a big hassle and is very serious.  It is always there staring you in the face.  It interferes with almost all of your daily activities.  Even though I try, it is hard being positive.

The worst thing I did was that I made accusations about how he was handling his diabetes.  Even though I may have been right, it did nothing to help him by challenging him and making the accusations.  This just shut the door on our communication, and our honesty with each other.  All it did was shut me out as his care taker.

I am still trying to figure out how to handle this situation.  Currently, I am tackling it by providing education. I help him evaluate situations to identify things that may affect him and what he could do to prevent bad things from happening.  It is also important to give him praise when he is doing a good job with his diabetes.  Sometimes we get so focused on the numbers for his blood glucose and the number of carbs he is eating, we forget about the times when he has made good decisions. I tell him I know that it must be really hard and frustrating to have to be very organized and always thinking ahead.  I tell him that  I appreciate how he tries and that I know he is trying to do a good job.  I also have found, that he needs to feel he has some control and the best way I can support that is to let him make decisions.  The key is keeping that communication open so that you can help him with those decisions.

Obviously, I am not going to let him destroy himself.  It is a balancing act regarding how much you intervene or how much you just let things happen. I know he needs to understand that he has limits, and those limits  keep him safe.  I accept the fact that he is going to protest and will challenge those limits.  But I also know that the most important thing I can do is to monitor those limits.  We both then understand the expectations.

I now see why it is so important to work with your doctor and make it a team approach.  We have just got to the point where I am not controling the interaction at his doctor visits.  I think it is better that he establishes a relationship with his doctor.  This way he hears it from someone who is impartial and who has some expertise with diabetes.  I also feel that he can be more open with his doctor if I am not hovering over him.  This in itself gives him the message that this is his life and he can choose how to deal with it.

Probably the most important thing I want my son to know is that I am here for him if he needs me.  I am here if he asks.  I am here even if he doesn’t ask.  I will eternally love him, and how he handles his diabetes does nothing to diminish that love.


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