"Raising Teens with Diabetes. A survival guide for parents" by Moira McCarthy arrived at just the right time for me. I had heard that she was writing a book and it had been published. Thanks to the interwoven world of Facebook, I had seen her posts in groups that I belonged to as well as comments from mutual friends. I was therefore really excited when the folks at Spry Publishing asked me if I would like to read an advance copy of the book. My son with diabetes is just a few months shy of 16. We are knee-deep into the teen years and tips for handling drinking, driving, and letting go are definitely all things that I welcome with open arms!
Each chapter of this book opens with Moira's own personal stories. In chapter one she gets us started by introducing us to the world of "Hurricane Hormone" and advises us of the horror ride that both parents and teens are about to embark on.
Moira's daughter was young when she was diagnosed with diabetes, so much of the book looks at burnout of both parent and teen after years of dealing with this disease. As a parent of a child diagnosed at two, this was definitely a welcomed perspective. She does not exclude those diagnosed at a later age though or even those who were diagnosed in their teen years or later. Chapter three is dedicated to those children struggling with their adolescence as well as a new diagnosis. Short asides, from people like Moira's own daughter as well as well-known bloggers and the JDRF's own Aaron Kowalski give a wide perspective on this topic.
"Raising Teens with Diabetes" looks at family dynamics, the role of siblings, and the role of friendships--old and new with some great tips and pitfalls that many parents fall into. Moira warns of making your child's friends the "diabetes police" and suggests ways to use friendships to help your child without going overboard. She further touches on the more quiet or shy teen and how to ensure that they tell their friends at least the basics in diabetes management and care.
As the book nears the halfway point, you are now beginning to learn how to set the stage for adulthood. Moira looks at school and letting go--allowing your child to be more responsible for their care in a safe setting, setting limits and having consequences that fit the action. She talks about the rules for driving and how vital it is to stick to them. Since my son will be legally able to begin this process in a matter of months, I read keenly wondering if we can both stick to these guidelines and knowing how important they truly are.
This book even talks about sex! I instantly was hooked when Moira's first suggestion when handling dating and then sex was "...go on every single date with them, forever and ever...and this will not be a worry." I loved it! My sons would definitely not agree however.
By Chapter 10, we are faced with another teen challenge--Drinking! It terrifies me. My son is very private. He does not talk about diabetes. He does not hide his testing or bolusing but he does not advertise it or talk about it either. A few of his closest friends know about it. His best friend has a good idea of what to do but who will help him when he and his friends decide to drink?
This book offers a great chance to talk to your teen about these subjects as you read. I would often bring up topics as they were covered. "Did you know..." or "Wow! This book says..." were great conversation starters. We were even able to talk about erectile dysfunction! In the early chapters, Moira's warns that teen males exposed to tv commercials may quietly be concerned about this complication. My son shook his head and swore this was not something that he had remotely considered or knew about. One problem overcome already!
Drug use was something that I had somehow not considered until it was brought up in the book. It is something that I have thought of and talked to my oldest son about but drugs and diabetes? It was not a topic I had ever considered...how naive was that! I was therefore really grateful to have the topic mentioned. In modern society, it is definitely something that needs to be discussed and prepared for as much as all of the other topics.
I also had my eyes opened to a new view with the section on rebellion. Moira writes about the first time her daughter lied to her about a bg level and how things spiralled out of control until she ended up in ICU. Her daughter said she got a test of "the drug she's struggled with for years. That drug is called freedom. That day,(when she lied about a reading) she realized that I trusted her so much, she could pretty much do or not do whatever she wanted. The idea of not checking was so delicious, she still says today she thinks she must know what drug addicts feel like when they try to detox. She skipped testing more and more...And she told me after she landed in the ICU and almost died, as sick as it made her feel physically, the emotional high of DENYING diabetes any power in her life...made that horrid feeling all worth the while." Even rereading this passage still makes me want to cry. I "get it". It hurts me but I "get it". I understand a bit more why my son "forgets" when he goes away from me. It's not just about feeling so great that you forget you need to bolus/test, it's about denying diabetes. I wish that they could.
I appreciated Moira's honesty when she noted that she had once thought that her daughter would never rebel. That that sort of thing was something that happened to "other families". I have always known that this could happen to us. I have also looked on to some of my friends and wondered, "how did they get such perfect kids? They never seemed to have any issues." I have also watched some parents struggle to do everything that they could with non-compliant teens and somehow manage to come out into adulthood with amazing young people. I know that "this too shall pass" and "Raising Teens with Diabetes" gives some wonderful tips on how to handle the rough ride until it does.
If you have a teen with diabetes this book is for you. If you have a child who will grow up to be a teen with diabetes, keep this book around for later years. It will come in handy! Thank you Moira for giving new things to think about and a wonderful tool to refer back to.