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Question:

From Cincinnati, Ohio, USA:

I have a friend whose daughter was diagnosed with diabetes 3 years ago; she is now 17 years old. Her mother has tried many different approaches trying to get her daughter on a schedule for readings and watching her diet. As a teenager she has had a difficult time doing this. She is worried about her weight as she is about 20 pounds overweight but she does not stay on any type diet she pretty much eats what she wants. We know that she has tried alcohol, and smokes lightly.

No matter how much we tell her the damage she is doing she wants to have a normal life. It seems if a doctor or nurse tells her something she does not like to hear, she becomes worse. We have tried group sessions, changing doctors, showing her letters and documents, but it seems to get worse. We are truly worried about her right now because she has had very high readings and she is always tired and sometimes her eyes are dilated.

Answer:

At age seventeen, this young woman/child is struggling to assert her independence. This is her developmental task and is very understandable in that sense. When you add diabetes into the formula, things get more complicated than they usually are!

What does not work is nagging, scaring, pushing, threatening, or trying to control a disease belonging to someone approaching adulthood.

What might be more useful: Enlisting the assistance of a counselor with skills around diabetes management and children, praising responsible behavior, asking how she perceives the "help" everyone is offering, and basically coming to grips with the fact that nobody can make anyone else do anything (even if it would be in their best interests).

I have seen so many young people go through this push-pull stage of diabetes management. It really does get better, but it is so scary for the interim period. Be supportive, be compassionate, and be there. Remember being 17, and then try to imagine the restrictions diabetes places on a time of usual chaos.

One of the most poignant things I found over the years was that almost every young adult I met who grew up with diabetes basically remembered the same 2 realities following their diagnosis:

  1. They remember that their mother cried.
  2. They all felt that they "never got to be a kid again."

How true.

CMB

Original posting 26 Apr 1998
Posted to Behavior

  
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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:58
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