Living With T1D as a Teen
JDRF Canada is here with the resources you need to navigate your new normal.
Adjusting to a new normal
Resources for teens to help you navigate this complex disease.
Having type 1 diabetes (T1D) can add an extra layer of stress over and above the stress of being a teenager.
We have resources and tips that will help you adjust to life with T1D:
Bag of Hope®
The JDRF Bag of Hope® is filled with useful resources for teens who have been diagnosed with T1D and their caregivers. Along with educational materials, we’ve included a special friend — Rufus, the Bear with Diabetes® — to show your child they are not alone.
By requesting a Bag of Hope, you will also receive a link to download our Begin with Hope guide, an introductory guide to living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) that helps you to learn T1D basics, what you should know about blood sugar and insulin, how to educate others about T1D, and where to find more information and receive ongoing support.
JDRF has a number of advocacy events and fundraisers that you can become part of, many of them focused on youth. Please join us – become part of the community and help drive research towards a cure!
Handling the pressures of school, making new friends and navigating social situations is hard enough already as a teenager. Part of this is sharing with your friends that you have diabetes. Even though it can feel overwhelming, it’s likely that your friends will appreciate you opening up. But, since it is you who lives with diabetes, it is up to you when (and if) you tell them. As you get older you will be making decisions about your diabetes and this is one of them.
The important people in our lives, whether they are friends, family, or romantic interests, often don’t understand what it’s like to have T1D—much like you before you were diagnosed. But, by educating them about your T1D – including what it is, how you manage it (e.g., checking your blood sugar, taking insulin, carb counting, etc.), and signs of low blood sugar as well as what to do in an emergency, they can help support you.
You should also reassure your friends that, although you may need to figure out how to manage your diabetes in different situations, diabetes shouldn’t stop you from doing anything you want to do (or eat) or what you have typically done before – T1D is a part of you, but it doesn’t define you.
You may also find that it’s more comfortable carrying out your diabetes management tasks around your friends once they know (e.g., checking your blood sugar or taking insulin).
One key reason to share information about your T1D with others is that they can take action to help you in an emergency. This is especially important when you are on a sports team – let your coach (and maybe some teammates) know that you have T1D. Make sure to inform your coaches, teammates, and friends that you hang out with a lot (or ask your parents for help) about how to recognize the symptoms of and treat a severe low blood sugar in case you are unable to treat it yourself. If you are unresponsive, unconscious, or having a seizure, they will need to give you glucagon or call 911 if glucagon is not available. So, teaching them how to use glucagon and when they should give it is very important.
It is also very important to always wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace stating your name, that you have T1D, and who to contact in case of an emergency. This way, if there is an emergency and no one is around that knows you have diabetes, emergency responders or bystanders can help you.
When getting to know a new romantic partner in your life, it’s your choice how to approach talking about your T1D. Do you bring it up on the first date, or wait until you know each other a little bit better? Whenever you choose to share is up to you – you need to feel comfortable. Remember that there is no need to hide your T1D – and there is so much more to you than your condition.
In more serious relationships it is important for you to communicate about how you manage your T1D and what to do in an emergency, since you will likely be spending a lot of time with that person. If they want to help support you, you should tell them what would be the most helpful. This differs for every person and your own personal comfort level.
Although living with T1D wasn’t your choice, you do need to manage it while juggling everything your friends do – school work, sports, activities, hanging out with friends, dating, etc. Telling people about your T1D may help you fit your diabetes into your lifestyle instead of fitting your life around diabetes.
Support for anyone living with T1D is important – and going through life changes as a teenager may make it even more important. Reach out to a person on your diabetes treatment team – your doctor, nurse, diabetes educator, psychologist, dietician, or social worker. They can help listen and help you get more support if you feel you need it and daily management is becoming overwhelming.
While family and friends often mean well, sometimes it can feel frustrating that they just don’t understand what your life is like.
Talking with other people with T1D can be helpful. Many people have found that joining a local diabetes support group at their diabetes treatment centre or joining one online to be very useful. In addition, almost all kids and teenagers who go to diabetes camp can’t wait to go back. They make lifelong friends who also understand what it is like to grow up with diabetes. You don’t need to feel alone with your diabetes. Support is out there.