Topic Overview

The teen years may be the most difficult time for a young
person with
diabetes and his or her parents. The normal cycle of
rapid growth spurts and periods of slow growth along with the normal teenager
behaviors of going to bed late, sleeping late, and eating meals at varying
times makes it hard to keep a teenager’s blood sugar level consistently
within his or her target range.

Eating “fast foods” often also makes following a balanced diet
and weight management difficult for a teen.

Your teenager may be very mature and assume appropriate
responsibility for his or her diabetes care. If so, your job as a parent of
providing appropriate supervision will be relatively easy. On the other hand,
teenager rebellion is normal. Your teen who has diabetes may rebel by
lashing out at you for the ups and downs of the disease. Try to be empathetic, and imagine the feelings of fear, sadness, anger, and even guilt your teen may be feeling.

Your teenager with diabetes may rebel by:

  • Skipping insulin doses or other diabetes
  • Eating high-fat, high-calorie meals or eating whenever
    and whatever he or she wants, ignoring the daily meal plan.
  • Falsifying or lying about blood sugar test results.
  • Hiding or
    denying the disease when around his or her friends in an effort to “fit

These behaviors may lead to a serious problem with high blood sugar
and even
diabetic ketoacidosis.

Teenagers, especially girls, may try to control their weight by
going on fad diets, vomiting after meals, or eating very little food. Because
insulin can cause a person to gain weight, a teen also may skip doses in
an effort to lose weight. This can be dangerous and may lead to high or low
blood sugar emergencies or to an
eating disorder.

You can do some things that may be helpful and may reduce your tendency to nag
your teenager:

  • Keep the disease in perspective-as only one
    part of a person’s life. Encourage your teen to be as active as he or she
    would like to be in sports and other healthy activities.
  • Don’t back off completely, but do require that your teenager assume total
    responsibility for his or her diabetes care. Accept the fact that ultimately it
    is up to your teen to take control of his or her care. Be there to
    support and guide. If you have encouraged your teen to assume more and
    more responsibility in the past and have given appropriate guidance and
    supervision, this transition of responsibility will be much
  • Allow your teenager to meet with his or her diabetes
    health professional alone. This will encourage your teen to be highly
    involved in his or her care. A registered dietitian can help your teenager build a healthy meal plan.
  • Don’t overreact to high blood sugar
    levels. Everyone with diabetes has them from time to time. Praise your
    teenager for checking his or her blood sugar level and problem-solve ways to
    handle it effectively.
  • Use a flexible insulin dosing schedule
    with a combination of long-acting and rapid-acting insulins. This allows
    greater flexibility for those times when he or she sleeps late, attends
    parties, or alters the meal schedule.
  • Use an insulin pump instead
    of multiple injections. Some young people really like using the insulin pump
    because it is a less obvious way of giving their insulin injections. If
    rapid-acting insulin is used with meals, the pump makes it convenient to give
    an extra dose if needed.
  • Identify a safety support system.
    Because low blood sugar levels are likely to occur, especially if your
    teenager is keeping blood sugar levels tightly within a target range, he or
    she needs to have at least one friend who knows what to do in case of an
    emergency. Help your teenager identify friends who can be a backup for
    safety. Discuss who else needs to know and what they need to know.

Talk with a doctor if you have serious concerns about
your teenager who has diabetes.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rhonda O’Brien, MS, RD, CDE – Certified Diabetes Educator

Current as ofMarch 13, 2017