Diabetes and Adolescence

By Lindsey Konkel

While diabetes can occur at any age—sometimes in children as young as one or two—most kids with diabetes are diagnosed shortly before puberty. The resulting growth spurts, hormone changes and menstrual periods of the early teen years can make blood glucose readings shoot up and down. Even stress can play a role.

When Beth McNamara's son's blood sugar kept spiking last year, she initially suspected he was sneaking cookies. He wasn't. His blood sugar shifts were actually due to math class worries. With all this physical and emotional upheaval, your tween's or teen's medications and diet may need tweaking. So, it's important to keep diligent records and meet with your child's doctor at least every three months, says Larry Deeb, M.D., a pediatric diabetes doctor at Florida State University in Tallahassee. See the doctor sooner if your child's blood sugar spikes above 250 mg/dL, she's having trouble knowing when her blood sugar is low or if you have other concerns about her well-being.

Your teen may seem ready—and able—to take a more active role in her diabetes management, but adolescents are also wired to feel invincible. "Teens are supposed to feel the need to break away from parents and not worry about their long-term health," says Butler. Compromise by splitting up the responsibilities. Perhaps you manage diabetes care tasks in the home or in your teen's logbook, while she handles everything outside the house.

Set up a simple way to stay connected. For example, "When your teen is out to dinner with friends, have her text you what she's eating," suggests Vandana Sheth, R.D., a certified diabetes educator in Los Angeles. Texting is a great way to stay involved with your teen's overall diabetes care plan, while still allowing him some independence, says McNamara. For example, last summer when son Rob was away from home for a week at camp, she checked with him regularly via text messages to make sure his blood glucose readings were on target.

Teen Driver Image

Diabetes and New Drivers

  • Be sure your son or daughter checks his or her blood glucose numbers before getting behind the wheel and only drives when levels are on target.
  • Stock the car with fast-acting sugars and diabetes supplies.
  • Tell your son or daughter to pull over to treat low blood glucose levels and wait 15 minutes to recheck before driving again.
  • Make certain he or she knows what to do if a diabetes emergency occurs while driving.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 18 Apr 2012

Last Modified: 11 Sep 2015