Teens and parties go together like ham and eggs, but for our children with diabetes the combination can be a worry for parents, and a major health problem for their teens.
They begin to plan for their futures and see the importance of grades, health, friends-you know, more mature thinking. They have graduated to abstract thinking, and scientific reasoning becomes second nature. For our children with diabetes, time may be very different. It is precise and rigidly enforced into schedules of blood glucose monitoring, injections, or programming or changing a pump; counting carbohydrates; secrets from peers; fears of hypo- or hyperglycemic events; and more. It means disappointing yourself and others, and having a built-in lack of just that flexibility that peers enjoy.
Research has shown us that teens with diabetes, even those who control it well as measured by HbA1c, feel that diabetes has a negative impact on their lives and is difficult to control. The results of this study, done at Yale University, were that health care teams should give equal attention to the quiet, non-rebellious, controlled teen from a supportive family, as they do to the rebellious adolescent with poorly controlled diabetes.
In a large study in the UK, teens with diabetes were likely to be hospitalized often for complications. In an 8-year follow-up, one quarter of the boys and over a third of the girls had serious health problems. Some teens were smoking and drinking alcohol regularly; they also had high blood glucose levels and many had weight gains.
Margaret Gray, Dr PhD, an associate dean at the Yale University of Nursing has been studying this issue for years. She shares 4 rules that can help parents aid their teenagers with diabetes. You can certainly use these when you speak to your child about what will happen at a party.
– Keep the lines of communication open with your teen.
– Try to avoid talking about ten years in the future in terms of complications of diabetes.
– Give your teen an outlet for being different than you.
– Help your child to handle social situations, aka peer pressure, in a smart way. (Teach your child how to drink reasonably. One glass of wine will not make you feel bad, but two and you may be on the floor as your blood glucose levels drop. Give them the information they need. Explain the insidious nature of drugs and alcohol in the present. How it may affect them that night. Then with their words they will have a better chance of knowing how to handle the situation.)
Your teen is growing up. Parties call. But total independence is thought by many experts to be a myth. As a person with type 1 diabetes, I can tell you that others, friends and family have come to my aid more times than I can count, and thank goodness I had spoken to them about how and when to help. You have shared the information they need. You have discussed the rules for going to a party and the results of over drinking. You have talked about not selling yourself short when it comes to relationships, and respecting yourself. You know the people who are going to be there. You know who will be driving and you have spoken to your child about what precautions they have made to make sure they are safe, just in case. Wave good-by and take a deep breath.
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