How to Help Teenagers Cope With Diabetes

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The adolescent years can be tumultuous for both teens and their parents. The diagnosis of a life-changing disease such diabetes can escalate normal teenage emotions to new heights. Even if you feel overwhelmed by your teen's fluctuating feelings, it's important that you offer him support and build up his confidence. Help your teen take control of his diabetes and show him that, while his life may be changed, it's for the better. Diabetics can live long, healthy and happy lives. Seek counseling if you are unable to cope with your teen's medical care or mental health.

  • Encourage your teen to take control of his diabetes. When you go to doctor's appointments, let your child be the one to ask and answer questions. If possible, let your teen meet with his physician privately. Your child might feel a greater sense of responsibility if he is treated like an adult. Clarify your teen's responsibilities with his physician. For instance, if your child needs to record insulin shots and blood sugar levels, ask his physician for clear, written instructions.

  • Listen attentively to your teen's concerns. It's normal for a teenager's emotions to run the gamut -- from anger, to frustration, to sadness -- particularly right after his diagnosis. Allow your child to process his emotions without judgment or criticism. Be on the lookout for signs of depression in your teen including a significant change in sleeping and eating habits.

  • Get the whole family involved in a diabetes-friendly lifestyle. Keep junk food out of the house, and stock your refrigerator with healthy whole grains, produce and low-fat dairy products and meat. Sign up for a gym membership or a sporting event so that your teen won't have to exercise alone.

  • Connect your teen with his peers. While a parent's support is invaluable, your teen may need to vent to someone his own age. Ask your physician about support groups in the area. Seeing other teens thriving in spite of their diabetes may motivate your child to take better care of his own health.

  • Go shopping with your teen. Start at the grocery store and help your child pick out appropriate items for meals and snacks. Purchase plastic containers or sealable bags to pack snacks for schools. Next, visit the clothing store and allow your child to pick out exercise clothing and shoes. A new outfit may help your child feel better about fitness.

  • Keep your teen accountable. While giving your child as sense of independence is important, it's essential that his diabetes be managed properly. Avoid nagging and accusations, but do make make health a matter of everyday conversation. Ask your teen questions such as "How are your sugars today?" and "Do you need food for snacks or a new insulin prescription?"

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