3 Keys to Successful Juvenile Diabetes Management

by Alison Karp, Education Coordinator
The Center for Diabetes Care and Information

Early adolescence – ages 10 to 15 – is a critical time for kids with diabetes. Following your doctor’s regimen of blood sugar testing, injections, diet and exercise is daunting while trying to maintain a sense of normalcy in your child’s life. Your involvement as a parent is as crucial as ever since these ages are often associated with deteriorating treatment disciple.

Giving your child increasing levels of independence at this age is normal. It’s often too early to loosen management of daily diabetes care since kids at this age do not have the critical thinking skills and dedication to a daily regimen. Children are generally able to participate in most diabetes tasks at age 13 and up, but many studies show that while you are transferring responsibility for daily diabetes care to your child, they are at greater risk for hospitalizations and poorer blood sugar control.

The normal push and pull between parents and maturing children exacerbates the critical task you have to keep your child’s diabetes treatment on track. Your child may have special problems controlling diabetes related to puberty and growth spurts, and the general pressures of social and emotional turmoil common to all teenagers. Keep in mind these following suggestions as your child matures and takes on more responsibility for daily care:

1. Knowing What Your Child Eats: Proper meal and snack planning is the foundation of non-medical management of your child’s metabolism. This is as important as ever as your child’s metabolism changes into puberty. Your child will likely be eating out with friends more often and snacking outside of your control. Make an extra effort to keep balanced and healthful foods in the house and in packable “go bags.” Diplomatically discuss things with the parents of your child’s friends to better keep track of what they are eating. Be careful about your tone of voice and choice of words when asking what your child has been eating when outside the house since you want them to feel comfortable answering honestly.

2. Quality of Your Relationship: Just about every parent-child relationship gets strained during puberty and the teen years. Having a solid basis for trust and a mutual respect will allow you to get honest answers to questions about your child’s compliance with her treatment when she is out of the home. Your respect for your child will allow her to have the confidence to come to you when she has questions and when she has made a mistake. While proper diabetes care management is sometimes a matter of life and death, it should not define your relationship with your child.

3. Getting the Supplies Your Child Needs: As the parent and primary financial resource for your child, you are responsible to provide them with the necessary diabetes testing supplies, food and medical treatment. For many people, this goes without saying. These are not responsibilities that you can transfer to your child until they are financially independent and grown up. You can work together with your child to monitor her inventory of testing strips, the foods and snacks in the pantry, and coordinating schedules for doctor visits.

"The Role of Autonomy and Pubertal Status in Understanding Age Differences in Maternal Involvement in Diabetes Responsibility Across Adolescence" by Debra L. Palmer, MA, Cynthia A. Berg, PHD, Deborah J. Wiebe, PHD, Ryan M. Beveridge, BS, Carolyn D. Korbel, BA, Renn Upchurch, MA, Michael T. Swinyard, MD, Rob Lindsay, MD, and David L. Donaldson, MD, Journal of Pediatric Psychology 29(1) pp. 35–46, 2004 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14747364

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Some Down to Earth Advice for Parents of Teens and Tweens with Diabetes from the Diabetes Mine blog

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