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Helping Your Young Adult Get Ready to Leave the Nest 

Helping Your Young Adult Get Ready to Leave the Nest 

Teens with type 1 diabetes become young adults with type 1 diabetes. Here are some ways you can help them succeed at it. 

The years from 18 to 25 are often considered the time of “high hopes and big dreams.” That’s because as your child prepares for college, the working world, or whatever’s next, there are bound to be big hopes and changes, as well as ups and downs along the way.

As someone caring for a teenager with type 1 diabetes, you’ve both probably been through a lot, pushing through bad times to a better place. So, you’re in a unique place to help them move on. The question is, how can you be the most helpful? 

Help them recognize the skills that diabetes management has taught them 

From learning how to manage their type 1 diabetes, teenagers already built up important skill sets that can help them take those first steps into independence: 

diabetes calendar
  • Planning ahead and setting goals.
    • They can set goals with their care team for A1CA1CA test that gives you a picture of your average blood sugar level over the past 2 to 3 months. The results show how well your diabetes is being controlled. The A1C test does this by measuring the amount of sugar (glucose) that has attached to the hemoglobin in your red blood cells. More sugar (glucose) means a higher A1C., diet, and exercise
    • They know how to plan for supplies they’ll need when they’re away from home
insulin medicines blue
  • Medical terms, knowing the body, and how it works.
    • They already have a head start on medical matters and know how to talk to doctors, nurses, and other medical staff
  • Management skills. They know:
    • How to make decisions
    • What to do in a crisis
    • How to plan a trip
    • How to come back after a setback
    • How to manage technical things like reading meters, setting up a pump, or using an insulin pen
  • Healthy coping.
    • They probably have developed effective tools for managing stress and solving problems, especially if they have had to respond to blood sugarBlood sugarOr blood glucose. The main sugar (glucose) found in the blood, and the body’s main source of energy. emergencies and other issues regarding their diabetes care
family putting food in oven

Give teens the basic tools of successful living

Now is the time to start planning how best to handle your teen’s big change into young adulthood. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Help teens find an adult doctor
    • First, talk to the members of the current care team. Decide together with your teen about when this change needs to take place
    • Collect names of doctors and research their practices. Plan to meet and see if they would be a good fit
  • Teach teens about their own medical history
    • Take the time to go over key facts about your teen’s personal history of diabetes care and episodes of illness. It may make sense to put this timeline in writing
    • Discuss past challenges and how you found solutions. Talk about this so that he or she knows the medical facts about what happened in the past. Knowing these facts can also help with diabetes care in the future
  • Hand over the day-to-day tasks of managing diabetes
    Help your teenager take over managing daily diabetes care by letting him or her:
    • Make appointments with the diabetes care team
    • Order insulinInsulinA hormone made by the beta cells in the pancreas that helps sugar move from the blood into the cells. Insulin is also an injectable medicine that is used to treat diabetes by controlling the level of sugar in the blood. and supplies over the phone or online
    • Decide where to keep important diabetes information and sick‑day supplies
    • Create a sick-day plan, including whom to call and when
  • Teach teens basic cooking skills
    Many young people are so used to eating out or having their meals prepared for them that they feel lost when on their own and faced with a tight budget:
    • Help your teenager learn the basics by helping him or her prepare some simple diabetes-friendly breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Cornerstones4Care’s recipes are a great place to start. The Diabetes Food Hub is another easy-to-use resource
diabetes food hub
  • Load up on basic laundry skills
    Learning the basics now could save teens time (and ruined clothes) later on. It may sound silly, but the more efficient their personal care routine is, the more time they will have left for their diabetes care
  • Provide career-planning help
    Your teen may have a plan for college or further training. Or, he or she may not have any firm ideas. Don’t panic! Make sure to let your teen know that diabetes should not hold them back from virtually any career
mother and daughter eating food together

Tips to share with teens going into young adulthood

Successful diabetes self-management when your grown child is on his or her own will be key. Here are some suggestions you can share:

  • Watch daily calorie intake. It’s a good idea for them to check that their daily calories at each meal are right for the amount of insulin they are taking. If they haven’t done so already, urge them to try to meet with a nutritionist to talk about this and any weight concerns they may have
  • Setting up new routines. Remind them that it takes a while for new tasks to become an automatic part of a daily routine. It can be stressful at first, but it will become less so as time goes by
  • Ups and downs are part of life. When they have a lot going on, it won’t be smooth sailing all the time. Tell them to take lapses in stride—they’re not a sign of failure. Teach them to recognize this, and let them know that if they need you, you can help them get back on track
  • Set goals that are reachable. Advise your teen to be realistic about their goals. Tell them to start small, with something they know they can achieve. As they succeed, they’ll get more confident. If they have many goals, they should focus on one at a time before moving on to the next. Help them decide what they really want, what’s most important, and then get to work
  • Looking toward the future. Explain that fear of the unknown can bring up all kinds of feelings that may affect them and even hold them back from achieving their goals. Tell them to try to stop worrying and realize that they already have many of the tools they need

Take a Quick Quiz

A teenager with type 1 diabetes can get a driver’s license just like anybody else.

Correct!

Sorry, that's incorrect.

Like any teenager, your child is likely going to want to learn how to drive. And that’s great for them (though maybe not for your nerves). However, in some states your child will need to report having type 1 diabetes to the department of motor vehicles. Then they will need a doctor to fill out a medical evaluation form to state that they can drive safely. 

Have a look at the DMV website in your state so you and your teen can talk about what rules may apply.

 

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