Summary: This post is the second of two that discusses independence for teens with type one diabetes.
These tips come from “Teen Talk” chapter of the book Kids First, Diabetes Second. Last time I shared the excerpt Moving Toward Independence.
Tips For Transitioning To Independence
- As soon as it’s practical, start giving your child age-appropriate responsibilities in his or her care.
- Lay a strong foundation by establishing routines and good habits early on that will become part of your child’s life.
- Learn to trust your child. When he or she starts asking for more independence, don’t discourage it. Instead, have a “trial period.” Let them be responsible for their care for a specified time period, while you stay “hands off” (yes, it’s tough to do!), and then evaluate.
- Have your child prove his or her trustworthiness prior to a big event or trip. Having a goal can be a great motivator.
- Foster a good relationship between your child and his or her medical care team. When your kids are young, you attend every appointment with them, which teaches them that check-ups are a priority, but one day, they will be responsible for going on their own. Let them participate in appointments by asking questions and sharing concerns, and giving them some time alone, if appropriate. Your son or daughter should feel comfortable talking with the doctor about anything—including issues they may not feel comfortable talking to you about.
- Help your child develop a strong peer group, either through diabetes camps and conferences, or your local community. Close friends who do not have diabetes should be educated on the basics, so they can help your child if necessary.
- Keep communications open and honest. Your teen should never feel a need to hide information from you, or that there’s a risk of punishment for not keeping tight control. Avoid using language such as “good and bad” numbers or “good and bad” food; rather it’s just information that can be used to make adjustments.
- Check in daily—but not just to ask about his or her numbers. Inquire about friends, homework, sports and other things before asking about diabetes.
- Pick your battles. While occasionally indulging in junk food is no big deal, manipulating meters or otherwise lying about blood sugar is not acceptable.
- Be prepared to take a few steps backward on the road to independence. If you give your teen more responsibility than he or she can handle, rein things in for a while. Don’t dwell on mistakes; simply make adjustments and try again.
- Take the long view. Remind teens that they can do anything they want—go to college, have a career, start a family—but they cannot pursue those dreams unless they take care of their health.
- Don’t push for complete independence. Most pediatric endocrinologists agree that teens need some direct parental involvement in diabetes care right up until the time they go to college, and sometimes longer.
If you’d like to learn more about the book, you can read more on the Kids First, Diabetes Second book page. It’s available widely in print and as an eBook from book sellers such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and IndieBound. And if you do read it and find it to be a valuable resource, I would greatly appreciate if you could write a review on any of the online retail sites. Thanks!
Please remember that I never give medical advice. Ask your endocrinologist or pediatrician for advice about your own child. Make your own informed decisions for your own child.