T1D Teachable Moments

Embracing the Positive with a Type 1 Diabetic Teen

T1D Teachable Moments. That’s what we call trying to remain positive during the chaotic years of raising a Type 1 Diabetic teenager. Parenting a teen with Type 1 Diabetes is an emotional roller coaster for both parties.

Is it the hormones?
Is this normal teen behavior? 
Is my teen self-managing well?
Is my teen being truthful?

So many questions, and the constant “fear” of knowing that failure is not an option.

 My son, Tristan, 3 months after
T1D diagnosis. He broke both arms
riding a bike!

Preparing for adulthood with diabetes

We do want them to grow up and ultimately leave the nest. Preparing for an adult life with T1D is the ultimate goal. It’s like taking the training wheels off their bike and letting them ride out of sight.  And if you’re my kid, you come back with two broken arms…

With diabetes, there will be stumbles that will send your heart to your throat and your stomach to the floor. In our case, a couple of serious DKAs and one seriously close call diabetic coma during the night.

We recognize that each and every day is truly a blessing. And yet, we still had to let our teen go out into the real world without us.

Trying to find the positive

Trying to find the positive in the situation is why our family started calling them T1D Teachable Moments. As a parent, it’s so easy to over react out of fear but I found myself saying to people We are so glad this happened while he is still at home.”

You may think  What??? Why would you be glad??…..

Simply answered… so we could learn from it.

We were glad that it gave us an opportunity for a discussion with our son. After the moment of crisis had passed, we would ask a series of questions to prompt our son to THINK. And we would ask him to get back with us at a set time to finish the discussion. Of course, we told him we would THINK about it too but we really wanted to know his perspective.

What’s your plan?

What do you think happened? Do you think you could have prevented this? What would you do differently?

And here is the important one, IF it happens again… what will you do?
Role play a little about options for solutions and seeking help when needed.

The goal was to get our son to realize that a negative diabetes event can (sometimes) be prevented in the future by exploring what happened in the past.

And if it happens again, what is your plan?

Teachable moment for all of us

We also have to recognize that doing a great job of managing our T1s can leave them vulnerable. For instance, my son missed the whole DKA diagnosis stage. Because of our help, he managed to stay out of DKA for over 4 years. His first experience with DKA happened when he was 16.

This time when we asked him “Why didn’t you tell us you were so sick?”  His response was very honest, “I did not know what DKA felt like.” Despite years of talking about it (and preventing it), he did not know what the signs were.

Now that was a T1D Teachable Moment for all of us!

Preparation for college

Since our son was diagnosed at age 12, I always felt “adulthood” with diabetes was looming at us. Empowering Tristan to manage himself was always our goal.

What we did not take into consideration was the burnout, peer pressure and typical “teen” behavior (ie. Independence seeking) that would come into play. As parents, we assumed he could handle it all because he had been doing it so well. But those stumbles were great learning experiences that have prepared him to be off at college on his own.

Tristan will continue to face the day in day out challenges of living with diabetes. We just pray that some of those teen stumbles better prepared him.

Finding the positive

I would not wish any of this on my son.  But we've tried to find the positive from some our experiences with T1.

I encourage your family, when possible, to step back and ask, can we learn from this together?

And you should know that I have already received that dreaded phone call from college.  The one where my T1  said, “I’m sick and I think I need help.”  Thankfully, we had a plan in place and many T1D Teachable moments to help him along the way.

Written by Anne Imber

Anne Imber is the mom to a Type 1 Diabetic son diagnosed in 2009. As the Founder of Type 1 To Go Teen, Anne shares her experiences with other Type 1 families regarding many of the non-medical issues that Type 1 Diabetic Teens face. The website www.Type1ToGo.com provides support materials from her presentations. Anne is also the Co-Founder of Cy Fair Type One Connection, a T1 School Advocacy & Support Group for one of the largest school districts in Texas.

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