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Teen Challenged

May 05, 2010

Some days are just more challenging than others! My practice includes many teens with diabetes, and sometimes I wonder if I am helping at all!

I called a respected colleague not long ago for suggestions to help my teenaged patients, and her comment was, “If I can get them through High School alive and not pregnant, I feel I’ve accomplished something!” That is clearly not the response I had hoped for. I was looking for a magic approach that would help me motivate the teens I see. There are, of course, the teens that seem to sail through diabetes, but they appear to be few and far between.

I have attended seminars, conferences and spoken with colleagues to gain wisdom. Some strategies I have used include: frequent visits, text messages, support groups and a thorough education on the consequences of poorly-controlled diabetes. Despite these tactics (and many others!), the majority of my teen patients still struggle with how to make blood sugar control an important part of their life. Sometimes I think even with my passion for working with this group, I may not be the right person…and then……

I receive a phone call from a patient who is now in his 20s. He asks for my help, and he remembers that I am the one who did not close the door when he was ignoring everything I was suggesting. Or, I hear from a father whose daughter is in the emergency room for a mental health issue, and he knows that I will help without judgment. Or, a young woman asks for a letter of recommendation for being a counselor at kids diabetes camp (now, almost a model patient at 17, after some pretty rough times!). Or, I see an overweight teen camper who survived our backpack trip one year, return the following year stating it was the pivotal point in her life…and realized that she could get in better shape and take charge of her diabetes.

These small encounters are what give me hope and keep me going. You know….working with teens is the most challenging AND rewarding part of my job. I’ll continue to look for answers and best practices, refer to behavior specialists, adjust doses of insulin and help teens with diabetes see HOW they can achieve good control.

I just have to remember that not all of our work bears fruit immediately. But perhaps, tomorrow, next week, next year or in the decades ahead, they will remember the tools they have been given and find their way.

Do you have any similar inspirational stories about teens with diabetes? Or, if you have any motivational strategies that you use with teens, please share them with us!

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