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Effectively managing diabetes is a full-time job. Often, people grow tired of keeping on top of everything they need to to properly manage their health and burn out as a result. This can be detrimental to their wellbeing and is important to try and avoid. Here, Elissa Renouf offers advice and passes on some of her own techniques to avoid burning out.
How do you persuade a 16-year-old to manage his Type 1 better when he’s burnt out from 10 years of living with a pump? Elissa’s son, Sam, shares his insight.
I was diagnosed with diabetes around the same age as your son and I am also on an insulin pump, so I understand the pressures and feelings he may be going through right now. While everyone is different in the way they feel and how they handle their diabetes, the teenage year (particularly the 15-17 age bracket) can be difficult times. I was lucky enough to cope okay, but I’ve found a teenager’s self-esteem plays an important part in the way they manage their diabetes.
People can be very curious when they see you pricking your finger to test your BGL and, while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can make a self-conscious teen feel nervous, awkward or embarrassed. They might then stop testing to avoid attracting attention – as people can stare or ask questions. In my experience, once others understand a bit about diabetes and why your son is testing his blood, 99.9 per cent of the time it becomes ‘normal’ and his friends and schoolmates will barely even notice.
There seems to be a lack of awareness and knowledge in schools about diabetes, so I would suggest your son talks about it with his friends and teaches them a little about it. If he can help them understand the daily challenges he faces, they will realise the importance of testing so he can use his pump effectively and avoid risky highs and lows. Being open about it should overcome the embarrassment issue, plus help in a severe hypo situation.
As for trying to motivate your son to test, if rewards aren’t working then maybe try a different approach – help him realise what he stands to lose if he doesn’t control his diabetes. When I say this, I definitely do not mean making diabetes sound horrible or having a negative approach – it’s extremely important to have a positive attitude towards living with diabetes as it makes the daily management seem like less of a chore. Having diabetes shouldn’t stop you from doing anything at all.
If he has a few close friends, or a girlfriend, perhaps it’s worth having a talk with them and asking them to encourage him as well. I’ve been with my girlfriend for over a year now and, as corny as it may sound, she’s had an unbelievably positive influence on my life and management of diabetes, so much so that in the past year alone my HbA1c has dropped considerably. From a teenager’s point of view, there’s only so much a parent can encourage them to do, so if someone else close to your son can encourage him to better control his diabetes, it might just be the motivation he needs to turn things around.
Diabetic Living Magazine. Issue 46, 2013.
Even though her BGLs are fine and her health is good, my 13-year-old daughter gets very tired and listless with her hectic school schedule. How can I help her cope?
Towards the end of term, I find that my children often show signs of burnout as their energy reserves run low. This is especially true as the end of the school year approaches, when activities such as exams, assignments, sport, music and even the longer days can wear them down to the point of exhaustion. Outside interests like catching up with friends or extra sport can just suck that last bit of energy out of them.
This is something many students experience. But when they also have diabetes, it may be the final straw that tips them over the edge. When my kids are tired, they’re liable to get stressed out. Not only are they unable to work well at school but also – and more worryingly – their diabetes management slackens off because they just don’t have what it takes to stay on top of it. Stress can also send their BGLs all over the place, which can cause them even more stress.
To prevent all of this, I try to make sure that they go to bed at an appropriate hour, as sleep is one of the most important antidotes in combating the exhaustion that leads to stress. I work a little closer with them in helping to manage their diabetes, which may be as simple as setting up the meter for them to do a BGL test or even programming their levels and carb serves into their insulin pump.
If I see my kids are still tired and not coping, I step in fast to make sure they have some time to themselves to recharge their batteries. This may mean skipping a sports training afternoon so they can go straight home after school, or allowing them a day off so they can just veg out. I find this really does the trick and they wake up the next morning with a little more spring in their step.
As you can imagine, ours is a busy household – four of our five children are at school, with three of our boys playing football of some sort and each of them playing musical instruments. My daughter does athletics, dances and also plays piano. Our eldest son is an electrical apprentice and Steve and I are both working. So there’s a lot of potential for stress and it’s not just an issue for the kids! Parenting a child with diabetes is a full-on job and, as parents, we also need to look at our own workloads and pressures, then consider whether we are the ones who really need to take some time out to recharge our own batteries.
Diabetic Living Magazine. Issue 35, 2011. Download a copy of this article as a pdf here.
My 14-year-old son was diagnosed with Type 1 at age 5 and coped like an angel until now. He is going through a teenage meltdown, mostly directed at his diabetes. What can I do?
This is quite a common problem with teens. My 14 year old son at times also selectively forgets to test himself, however he is not rebelling against much and realises he shouldn’t put his diabetes second. At our diabetes clinic they have a clinical psychologist for parents and teenagers to visit, either together or separately, if they are experiencing any problems. I recommend you see a clinical psychologist to address the matter ASAP as they can offer you tactics to tackle problems before they get worse. Also visitwww.diabetescouncelling.com.au.
Diabetic Living Magazine. Issue 16, 2009.
My four-year-old was diagnosed a year ago. Although his health is OK he keeps telling me he’s fed up with diabetes and wants me to take it away. How do you deal with such a request?
As a parent, it's heart-wrenching when your child tells you they don’t want diabetes anymore. When my children have mentioned this to me, I try to put things in perspective in an honest but positive manner. I explain that it must be annoying having to test and have needles all the time, but at least you can still do whatever you like. I tell them to think of a child who is in a wheelchair for the rest of their life - they’ll never be able to run, play footy or climb a tree – at least you can still do those things, and more. If you look after your diabetes, it won’t stop you from doing anything.
Diabetic Living Magazine. Issue 12, 2007.