Diabetes Management Tips for Teenagers
Common Health Issues

Diabetes Management Tips for Teenagers

If you are a teenager, you have to deal with all the problems that anyone else with diabetes deals with. But as a teenager, you may also have special concerns. Whether you have had your diabetes since childhood, or are newly diagnosed, you may start to resent all the attention your diabetes gets. You just want to live like any other teenager. 


You want your parents to recognize that you are getting older and you can take care of yourself. That’s normal for any teen, whether you have diabetes or not. And as you go through the teen years, life is full of its ups and downs. Sometimes you want your parents near and sometimes you don’t want to be seen with them. But if you have diabetes, life can be even more challenging. Your parents may dote on you more than other parents. And your diabetes may produce even more emotional ups and downs than for most kids.


Becoming independent is hard for any teen, but even more so if you have diabetes. Your parents are probably even less willing to let go, when they are so concerned. The best way for you to get them to stop bugging you, if that is a problem, is to show them that you can take care of yourself. Keep good records of your blood glucose and show them those records. 


Show them how you take care of any special situations and discuss any problems you may run into. Sometimes enlisting their aid is the best way to show them you can take care of yourself. If you feel they are being overbearing, don’t confront them when everyone is upset. Instead, approach them at a calm moment and have an honest talk about your concerns. If you show that you can handle your diabetes in a mature manner, they will probably treat you like the mature person that you are.

Teens face other problems too. Maybe you want to fit in and don’t like appearing different from other kids. You don’t want your friends to think you are some kind of freak. You may react to this pressure by skipping your blood tests, skipping your insulin doses, or eating things you shouldn’t be eating. But if you ignore your diabetes care plan, you could put yourself in a dangerous situation.


 If you are trying to fit in like everyone else, the worst thing you want to do is throw your blood glucose out of control. If you take care of your blood glucose, you can live just like any other teen and do all the things that everyone else does. But if you trigger an emergency episode of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia, you could set yourself apart more than any simple blood test would.


The best way to deal with diabetes is to talk to your friends about it. Tell them what you do to take care of it. If you have to test or take insulin and don’t feel comfortable around others, excuse yourself and do it in a bathroom or a private room. If you get tired of having to eat all the right things, then talk to your parents or your dietitian about ways to accommodate your particular tastes in your meal plan. You can have a treat every now and then if you make the right allowances or take a little extra insulin. But talk to your health care team about the best way to do this. If you need flexibility, think about trying an insulin pump to free you up.

Making the transition from childhood to adulthood can be tumultuous. You may feel down and out on occasion. This is normal. Sometimes life just stinks and you are going to feel bad. Allow yourself to have those feelings from time to time. Whether you are 14 or 40, you are likely to feel depressed sometimes. But if you have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or despair that just won’t go away, you may have a more serious problem. Here are some danger signs to look out for:

  • Significant weight loss or gain (without trying to lose or gain)
  • Increase or decrease in appetite
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Moving slower than normal or being in constant motion
  • Feeling extremely tired all the time
  • Feeling worthless, hopeless or guilty for no specific reason
  • Having a hard time concentrating or studying
  • Having thoughts about death or suicide

Any time you experience any of these feelings and it goes on for more than a few weeks, you may have depression. Don’t ignore these feelings or hope that they will go away. When this happens, you might be likely to neglect your diabetes care and this could jeopardize not only your health but your life as well. Even if you think those around you don’t care, it is not true. Be assured that your parents, family and friends love you very much. There are some things you can do to help yourself when you are feeling depressed:

  • Keep a journal. Write down your thoughts and feelings
  • Participate in some sort of sport or physical activity. Try yoga or another form of meditation
  • Call a friend or talk to your parents or other understanding adult
  • Have fun. Sometime life with diabetes can seem so serious. Try to relax and do some things you really enjoy.
  • Try doing some volunteer work. Talk to kids younger than you about having diabetes. Build a house with a community group. Work in a soup kitchen or orphanage. Sometimes it helps to see that others are struggling just like you. Doing your bit to help out can help your outlook too.

If you try some self-help measures and nothing seems to work, you may need to talk to someone who is experienced with helping people work through their problems. If you can, talk to your parents about your feelings. If you can’t do that or feel like they don’t understand, find another adult you feel comfortable with: a guidance counselor, your diabetes educator, your pastor or one of your friend’s parents.

Sometimes things may be just too much for you to handle alone. It can help to talk to someone who understands. You may want to talk to a professional counselor who can help you sort through your feelings. In some cases, antidepressant medication may help you through a rough spot.


Sources and References

The Diabetes Problem Solver—Quick Answers to Your Questions About Treatment and Self-Care by Nancy Touchette

Diabetes in Childhood and Adolescence by R Ziegler and A Neu 

Anxiety and Diabetes: Innovative Approaches to Management in Primary Care by A Bickett and H Tapp

Addressing Diabetes Distress in Clinical Care: A Practical Guide by L Fisher, W H Polonsky and D Hessler 


Rich Health Editorial Team

Health Research

Rich Health Editorial Team is made up of medical practitioners and experienced writers who provide information for dealing with health issues in a simple and easy-to-understand manner