What if a Teen with Type 1 Isn’t Taking Diabetes Seriously?

A certified diabetes educator provides suggestions for how to get self-care back on track during the important transition years.



Certified diabetes educator Jennifer Smith of Integrated Diabetes Services answers your answers about blood glucose management. Send your questions to submissions@insulinnation.com.

Q – What can you do if you believe your teen isn’t taking blood sugar management seriously?

A – Families try various ways to ensure the transition from parent-care to self-care goes smoothly and all bases are covered, but at some point the teen brain likely will skip out on steps needed to manage glucose control. Also, as teens get more independent, some of their management may lapse due to wanting to just live life like everyone else. Teens will not focus on the “complications” they’ve been told could happen if they don’t control their glucose levels because these issues feel years in the future.

Missed steps in glucose control can be worrisome and dangerous, and how parents handle this issue is critical. First, it’s important for parents to remember that managing diabetes is a 24/7 condition; there is no break, no vacation, and the inner monologue of “what do I need to do?” never goes away. Parents understand this from doing everything needed since their child was diagnosed. It’s important to try to remember how exhausting that can feel as you transition control to your teen. It might help a teen if you acknowledge that feeling and share what you’ve done when you’ve felt exhausted about it all.

If you feel your teen isn’t taking things seriously enough, start by assessing what they are already doing well for their own self-care. Then start slowly and gradually add in basic steps in a way that gives the teen the best chance for success, as success builds on success.

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Here are some other suggestions of steps to take:

  • Agree with your teen on guidelines to ensure they are on the same page as you.
  • Aim to have them test their blood glucose without much of any input from you. You can help them with pre-set reminders either in the pump or on a smartphone.
  • Evaluate if they know more than the basics of management. If not, start leveling them up with short lessons that tackle one aspect of Type 1 diabetes management at a time.

If you feel that your teen knows how to manage their Type 1 diabetes largely on their own, but just isn’t taking the steps to stay healthy, then it may be beneficial to set up a weekly check-in. Rather than stressing on a daily basis, set up a day or two per week that you’ll sit down together and go over downloaded or written information. This allows a teen and you time when not every conversation will be about diabetes management throughout the week, but it also provides regular accountability to keep your teen focused on their care.

If you feel you can’t get through to them and you know there is a gap in their management, then have them sit down with a certified diabetes educator who may also have diabetes. Often it helps to know that someone who is giving you advice also has to apply that advice to their own life.

Helping a teen transition to self-care can be frustrating. Be sure to take some time for your own self-care. You will need to be on top of your game to continue the often-thankless quest of helping your teen stay healthy.

Integrated Diabetes Services provides one-on-one education and glucose regulation for people who use insulin. Diabetes “coaching” services are available in-person and remotely via phone and online for children and adults. Integrated Diabetes Services offers specialized services for insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor users, athletes, pregnancy & Type 1 diabetes, and those with Type 2 diabetes who require insulin. For more information, call 1-610-642-6055, go to integrateddiabetes.com or write info@integrateddiabetes.com. .

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Jennifer Smith holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Nutrition and Biology from the University of Wisconsin. She is a registered and licensed dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and certified trainer on most makes/models of insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring systems. She has lived with Type 1 diabetes since she was a child,and thus has first-hand knowledge of the day-to-day events that affect diabetes management.