Teens and Diabetes

The teen years can be challenging for kids as they go through developmental and emotional changes — they can be especially trying for teens with diabetes. Teens inherently want to "fit in." Being different from peers in any way can be emotionally stressful.

Teens who previously complied very well with their diabetes management plan may now become rebellious and refuse to comply. They may also experience denial of the disease, or display increasingly aggressive behavior in reaction to the stress of managing diabetes.

Blood sugar control is especially hard during adolescence/teen years. Researchers believe the growth hormone produced during adolescence to stimulate bone and muscle growth may also act as an anti-insulin agent. Blood sugar levels become harder to control and can swing from too low to too high. This lack of control over blood sugar levels can be very frustrating for your teenager.

Helping your teen cope

Open communication between you and your teenager with diabetes is important. You should recognize that your teen wants to be treated as an adult, even if that means letting him take charge of his own diabetes management plan. Parents should also recognize that teens need:

  • Spontaneity. Adolescence/teenage years are times of spontaneity, such as stopping for pizza after school. You can support your teen by helping him realize that managing his diabetes successfully will give him the flexibility he craves.
  • Control. Teenagers want to be in charge of their own lives and create their own identities. To achieve this, your teen may sometimes test limits. A teenager with diabetes can use these experiences to gain valuable insight into managing her disease while learning to gain control over other parts of life.

Reviewed by Kathy A. Montgomery, MSN, CRNP, PNP-BC in December 2013