The teenage years are full of highs and lows — and that’s before you consider diabetes! Parents of T1D teens deal with a host of issues beyond the normal teen angst. Body image, independence, and fitting in take on a whole new dimension when blood sugars, carbs, and insulin must be monitored all day, every day.. At this year’s Mother Daughter Weekend, Carb DM invited a panel of moms and their grown daughters to reflect on those crazy teenage years. On the Mother Daughter Panel 2017 were:
Mother Daughter Panel 2017 members Elna Narula, Svati Narula, LIa Noguchi, Phaedra Babel, and Jacqueline Babel
Theresa Klaassen, panel moderator, is the former Executive Director for Camp Leo for Children with Diabetes, a nonprofit running summer camps and educational programing for families and children with T1D in the Pacific Northwest. Theresa has had T1D for 31 years.
Jacqueline Babel was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at two years old. She will be 25 in July. She will graduate at the end of this month with an AA degree in History. Jacqueline and her mom run a diabetic awareness page together.
Phaedrea Babel is mom to Jackie and 4 other children, one who also is a type 1 diabetic. Jackie is a business owner and diabetes advocate. In her spare time she enjoys watching her kids ride horses and managing a Facebook page to raise Diabetes Awareness.
Lia Noguchi was diagnosed 14 years ago, at the age of 12. Since then Lia has overcome many emotionally difficult obstacles to be the thriving T1D she is today. Lia is Carb DM’s Program Coordinator. She In her spare time she volunteers with the Insulliance program at Children’s Hospital in Oakland at the Endocrinology outpatient clinic..
Svati Narula, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in September 2000, a few days after her ninth birthday. Her first job was with HealthCentral.com, writing a blog for teens with diabetes, and now she works full-time as a journalist at Quartz, a global business news site based in New York. Svati has participated in a handful of clinical trials for diabetes research, including the bionic pancreas project at Boston University.
Elna Narula, has been a longtime advocate of diabetes research, ever since her daughter was diagnosed at age nine, sixteen years ago. She has a background in maternal-child health nursing and diabetes in pregnancy. For the past few years, Elna has been a clinical liaison and consultant to several diabetes tech start-ups and biopharma companies assisting with the launch of clinical trials and new products, while also continuing to teach group classes.
Mother Daughter Panel 2017 members Svati and her mother Elna
The panel talked about everything from teen mood swings to dating, sharing their take on what it was like being a teen (and parenting a teen) with type 1 diabetes. Below are excerpts from their discussion:
Share a diabetes tip
My best tip is to roll with it. Go with the flow. Don’t freak out about diabetes, just deal with it.
Each day is different, so you get to reset every day.
Make checking blood sugars a part of your routine. I leave my meter in the bathroom. Every morning and night, I go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, and check my blood sugar.
Don’t hide your diabetes. Don’t shy away from testing in front of people.
My first tip is to prioritize clear communications. Second, be good to each other. It’s hard enough for moms and daughters going through the teen years, without diabetes. Do extra things to foster your mother daughter bonds. Finally, make good use of all the resources out there!
Daughters, when you were teens, what were the things that your parents did that you were most thankful for?What were things that were not helpful?
The most helpful thing that my parents did was supporting the idea of “special privileges”. They became a “silver lining” and made having diabetes easier. For example, I would get to have a phone in class or eat snacks in class. Also, my mother would prioritize evening diabetes support groups and let me sleep in and go to class late. I can’t think of anything that was not helpful. I was given a lot of freedom and responsibility. They always gave me help, like counting carbs for me. I never really thought about it.
The best support my parents gave me was backing off from doing anything. I was so rebellious and so in denial. Whenever my parents asked how my blood sugars were, I would freak out! I needed space to reflect on myself. Also, I wanted to do it on my own, I didn’t want them to be involved in any way
Did you do it well?
No, I did not. In my high school years I had severe depression and suicidal thoughts. Towards the end of high school, I had dia-bulimia. I totally went off the deep end. My A1c was around 13 and I went into DKA a couple of times. My answer makes my parents sound really horrible, but I know they really wanted to support me. They also knew that I needed this time to make mistakes and figure it out on my own. It took me a really long time to be okay with who I was. I’m doing really well now and my blood sugars are amazing. I just needed that time to be independent and figure it all out how I could do it myself. Looking back, I would do it the same way. Even now, I don’t like it when they hover over me.
Was that scary for your parents?
I think it was, but they were really good at hiding their worry. They did worry, but they also knew I needed that time. I wasn’t very good at communicating either, so they felt a bit powerless. They didn’t know how I was feeling and they didn’t know what I needed. However, I didn’t know what I needed either.
Lia’s parents were always concerned about her. They were great. They were close when she wanted them to be close, but they kept their distance when she wanted them to stay away.
We always had an open relationship. My parents gave me my independence, but if I needed them to be there, they were there. t always have that extra backup, just in case. It was really helpful because when you are a teen, you want to do your own thing. It was helpful that my parents were always open. I was never in trouble for my numbers. Let’s figure this out, what can we do differently, what’s working, what’s not. I think that was the most helpful thing. I could always be myself and be independeny If you are open and can talk to your mom and dad, it will make things so much easier for you.
What is the hardest part of being a teenage girl (or the mom of a teenage girl) with diabetes
I think the hardest part for me was being a moody teen, which has nothing to do with diabetes. Sometimes you’re just an emotional teen. My parents found it difficult to figure out if it was diabetes related, or if I was just having a hard day.
I have 4 daughters, so it’s always somewhat moody in our house! We just rolled with it. If she was moody one day, we never blamed diabetes, we just said she was growing up. That’s how we dealt with it.
Mood swings were always the main issue during my teen years. On top of that, with my high blood sugars, my emotions were just out of control!
I don’t remember. Nothing that comes to mind was about mood swings and emotions. Mom, you may remember it very differently, but thinking back, I have a very rosy outlook on my high school years. I feel a lot “messier” now as a grownup, in the real world, than I did in high school. In high school, I was way more into taking care of everything and taking care of my diabetes.
I feel like the hardest thing for me was feeling like my diabetes was hindering some of my goals. One of my goals in high school was to lose a little bit of weight. When you want to lose weight, every hypoglycemic incident forces you to eat calories that you weren’t planning on eating. That was a real downer for me. Also, I was on the cross country and track teams, and I really wanted to be a good runner. For every high or low blood sugar that interfered with a practice or a race, it felt like diabetes, no matter how hard I tried, was really getting in the way of these goals. Those aren’t problems I have today, so they feel almost trivial now that I look back, but those were the hardest for me.
Svati was very involved with the diabetes community in high school. That was a positive. It really helped. We had a really good relationship with diabetes. The hard part was the whole teen thing. We had one very rocky year at 15. I remember her being up in her room once. There were some high emotional moments. I didn’t know how much insulin she had taken and I was afraid to ask. I didn’t know whether it was diabetes that was making her act that way, or whether she was just being a teenager. Is she low? Is she high? It’s hard enough with a teenager trying to figure out those emotions and hormones. before you add diabetes. I tend to overthink things sometimes and worry quite a bit. So the hardest part was probably that little extra worry.
Can I say one more thing? The one I emotional thing that is coming back to me now is sometimes when I had a strong feeling, or when I was mad at my mom, she would say that I was just being this way because I was low. I felt like my feelings weren’t getting credit for being real feelings. She was just attributing it to low blood sugars. No, I’m not low, I’m just really really angry. You cannot excuse this away by talking about my blood sugars. This is real!
Daughters, if you could say one thing to your parent about your diabetes, what would it be?
I appreciate that you gave me the freedom to be a young adult, and allowed me to do things that I did. But you were still was always there and had my back.
My mom is not here this weekend, but if she was, I would say thank you for always being concerned about me, but giving me my personal space and letting me figure things out on my own. I know it was really hard for you to let go and let me do things the way I wanted to do them. I appreciate the type of support that they gave me, which was space
Thank you for everything. I am sorry that now I am changing and I’m so different with my diabetes than how I used to be. Now, I’m a lot like Lia was in high school. I just want my space and I don’t want your help. I know it’s hard for you because it was so different for so long. We really enjoyed being a mother daughter duo for many years.
Moms, if you could say one thing to your daughter about their diabetes, what would it be?
I trust you. I know you are going through different life stresses now than you were then, and so it’s teaching me to be able to have better boundaries and respect your boundaries. The whole journey with diabetes changes so much. Just go with it, do the best you can. So I understand and I’m here for you. I’m able to give you more space because I know you know what you are doing.
Thank you for sitting and watching Steel Magnolias with me so you can see things from a mother’s perspective. Once Jackie got it, it was lot better for us because she understood that I wasn’t nagging. She understood that I’m going to be her mom whether she has diabetes or not, and I’m always going to be in her life. We watched that movie together and she saw the raw emotion of Sally Field losing her daughter. That always sticks with us. All those emotions are always in the back of her minds. They never leave. I thank her for letting me show her my side and taking it to heart.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Mother Daughter Panel 2017 recap! We’re featuring our panelist’s tips on dating and adjusting to the realities of adult life.