I recently read a conversation from my online type 1 diabetes group about teenage stress and depression. A lot of the parents in the group have kids who are entering their teenage years, and many of them are in the same boat. The kids are having a hard time dealing with school, friends, diabetes maintenance and life in general! The parents are describing their kids as being “apathetic with school,” “checked out,” “getting into trouble,” “having meltdowns” and just “not being happy.” They’re wondering if their kids are struggling because of diabetes, or if they’re just dealing with their adolescence. Some of their kids are in counseling, and some are on anti-depression meds.
Kaitlyn is only 7, but reading this kind of freaked me out! It can’t really be that bad, can it? I know that diabetes is not an easy thing, and being a teenager isn’t easy either, so I guess putting them both together does seem pretty intimidating. I look at my happy little Kaitlyn, and I wonder what the future holds for her. Should I just plow forward with closed eyes and gritted teeth, waiting for the inevitable? Or is there something we can do about it?
I started researching stress and how to help teenagers deal with it. I picked up on a few ideas that I think we’re going to try to incorporate in our family to help us all deal with the years ahead:
1. Encourage exercise. Physical activity has been shown to reduce stress. I know that in my own life, my days and weeks seem to go a lot better when I’ve been physically active. We’re going to try to double our efforts by showing a good example of being physically active ourselves, encouraging organized sports, and planning regular activities as a family so that we can all get out and exercise together.
2. Build confidence and self-esteem. What’s better than a thumbs-up or pat on the back for a job well done, right? We all need to feel that we’re valued and that we can do great things. Hugs and words of praise and encouragement go a long way in helping someone feel confident and loved. I don’t think you can ever be too generous with praise or love when it comes to your own children.
3. Teach them to keep things in perspective. Wow. This is one that I think I could work on. When I’m having a hard day, it sometimes feels like the world is crashing down on me, and it seems I will feel that way forever. That is simply not true. We have good days and bad days, and I want to teach my children that no matter how sad or frustrated or overwhelmed we feel, things are really never as bad as they seem. Tomorrow is a new day, and everything is going to be just fine.
4. Use humor and focus on the positive. This is my husband’s department! I have learned so much from him about how a good sense of humor can help you get through any trial. He brings a ray of sunshine into our home with his funny wit and his positive attitude. He always says, “You can choose to be happy.” Happiness is contagious, and if Evan and I are doing what it takes to be happy ourselves, I’m hoping our kids can learn how to choose to be happy as well.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.