How to Establish T1D Boundaries with Parents

Managing a disease like Type 1 diabetes is often done best when done with family support. Many would argue that there is no other way to live with Type 1. But what happens when it’s time to declare independence with your diabetes self-care? How do you do that without a lot of hurt feelings?

I was diagnosed when I was 10 years old, so naturally my parents played a very integral role in helping me learn about how to take care of myself. They helped count my carbs, measure insulin doses, fill my pump cartridges, prick my finger, test basal rates…the list goes on. Even as I grew older, they reminded me to check my blood sugar before eating, before exercising, before going to sleep, and before driving. This sometimes became deeply annoying throughout those angst-filled teenage years, but my diabetes management would’ve been far poorer without them.

Now I am a junior in college, and I recently spent my summer living in New York City, nine hours away from my family. I have learned a lot about what it means to make diabetes management entirely my own, but I have found it a struggle to balance being independent and keeping connected with my support network. I’d like to share three tips I’ve learned about how to transition to managing Type 1 independently, while still accepting and utilizing family support.

1) Understand that diabetes is stressful for your loved ones, too.
This took me a long time to understand, and sometimes I still struggle with this idea. Many teenagers with diabetes complain about their parents’ nagging, but it is important to remember that your family wants the best for you. They know how scary and stressful diabetes can be for you, so they want to help in any way possible. They love you, even if that love translates to repeatedly reminding you to count those carbs.

2) Let your parents know what’s the good kind of help.
I don’t need to be reminded to count my carbs and bolus for my meals. Sometimes I do need to be reminded to prick my finger before eating, though, because I often like to just look at my Dexcom and assume it’s 100% accurate. So I have told my parents, politely, to stop with the bolus reminders and keep it up on the finger pricks. This kind of feedback makes your parents feel involved, and their involvement is helpful to you.

3) Talk about the highlights and lowlights – even when they don’t ask.
I learned to be intentional about sharing with my parents the roller coaster blood sugar days, the frustrating pump site days, the golden-100 days, and the basal-rate changing days. By offering up this information, not only did I get the opportunity to let some of the weight off my shoulders, but my parents could feel they were still in the know without pestering me for information.

I hope these three tips help you as you transition to independent diabetes care. It’s a difficult transition, particularly if you have extremely caring parents, but it is a transition that can be navigated without losing your sanity.

Amy Ford is a junior at Malone University studying Community & Public Health Promotion. She hopes to help those with Type 1 diabetes to manage the condition and promote Type 1 diabetes awareness in the public. She is a recent JDRF National Communications intern, and blogs at when she isn't busy studying for school, devouring novels, drinking tea, or watching lots of episodes of Gilmore Girls.

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