Age = Readiness for Responsibility?

Wouldn’t it be great if universal guidelines existed for shifting specific diabetes care tasks to your child? Although we have some ideas about when kids should be doing various things (waking up on their own, taking out the trash, dosing for meals on their own), the research (and my own experience as a human with diabetes) shies away from setting specific steps for when to do what according to physical age because we know age is a state of mind. Taking on diabetes management depends on a person’s emotional/psychological maturity level. It’s also dependent on their self-efficacy: their belief in their own ability to successfully accomplish a task. As much as we wish it would, the mere act of turning 18 years of age does not magically equip someone for "adulting". 

Think about it—you probably know someone whose driver’s license says age 40. Yet under that full beard, you'd swear they were an 8-year-old who didn’t get invited to a birthday party. Some diabetes tasks are physically impossible for small children to do, but you’ll get a sense of what your kiddo is ready for as you work together on diabetes. So where is the best place to start as you look at your child's emotional maturity within the context of diabetes? Begin by recognizing and accepting where your child is at, not where you wish they were or think they should be. This can actually be really difficult. Many of us wish our loved ones were further along, which is okay too--but "shoulding" all over someone ("you should be testing more frequently; you should know how many carbs that is!") does not facilitate teamwork--and make no mistake, diabetes is a team sport. It is also important to note the large body of research showing that children who take on too much of their diabetes care too fast end up with poorer metabolic control and more mental health issues, particularly around diabetes burnout. Why? What shoulding will do is create an environment ripe for shame, alienation, anxiety and depression to bloom. Help your child by accepting where they are right now, and work from there.

Looking for more on how to develop emotional maturity in your child with diabetes? Check out the "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen" Workshop for Parents of Kids with Diabetes  or feel free to reach out! Y

You can also join my free Facebook group, "Independent and Healthy Teens with Diabetes" for those who want ask to questions, share struggles and celebrate successes as a parent of a teen with diabetes who may or may not find themselves on an emotional rollercoaster that shoots up and down like a blood sugar after late insulin delivery for 3 ½ pieces of a grocery store sheet cake.