5 Steps to Improved Communication between Teens and Parents
By Betty Brackenridge MS, RD, CDE
1. Convey your desire to communicate with eye contact, smiles, voice, touch and body language.
2. Seek first to understand and THEN to be understood. Ask “What do you want,” “How do you feel,” or “How can I help?” Then LISTEN and reflect back (check out) what you hear.
3. See the other side and be respectful.
> Parents: What would you say if your teen said…?
- Let me be a kid and human. I’m more than my diabetes.
- Speak up when I do something right…not just when I screw up.
- Don’t assume a high blood sugar is my fault.
- Stop trying to scare me into taking care of my diabetes. It doesn’t work.
- Don’t be the Food and Blood Sugar Police. It just makes me feel like being dishonest.
> Teens: What would you say if your parent said…?
- I am very proud of how you take diabetes in stride and get on with your life.
- I worry about your safety and that fear sometimes comes out sounding like anger.
- When you won’t talk to me, I think you might be doing something that could hurt you.
- I want you to be independent, too. My job is to make sure that happens safely.
- It helps me relax and chill out when you do your part with the diabetes.
4. Look for signs of big barriers to self-care, especially depression, eating disorders (insulin omission).
> Depression: “Who cares,” “Nothing makes a difference,” abandoning activities, sad/flat affect
> Eating disorder (Insulin omission): rising/high A1c, weight loss, secrecy around insulin
5. Face the hard topics: alcohol, sex, drugs, smoking and driving while doing any of the former!
> Teen with diabetes need the same facts about the risks inherent in these choices as other teens PLUS additional diabetes-specific information.
> Information is best delivered in a calm and matter-of-fact style, before it’s an issue, and placed in the context of your family’s values and rules. If you can’t do it, find another adult who can.