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7 min. read

Tips for talking to your teenager about Type 1 Diabetes

Our Children with Diabetes series offers type 1 diabetes (T1D) guidance and support, including bite-size educational material, to both parents and children. This article covers how to support and communicate with your teen as they take on more responsibility of their own diabetes management.

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Teens with diabetes - tips for talking to your teenager

Being a teenager is complex, and throwing T1D into the mix doesn’t make it any easier. It’s not surprising that it’s very common for teenagers to struggle with diabetes control, with only about 17 - 21% of teenagers hitting their HbA1c target1.

As a parent, you’re constantly trying to support your teen without stepping on their toes. It is hard to find the balance between monitoring their T1D management and stepping back and letting them figure it out. Our top tips are designed to set you on a course to hand the reigns over to your teen and allow them to manage their diabetes care independently. 

#1: Engage in communication

It’s important you talk ‘to’ your teen, not ‘at’ them. While you might be desperate for them to understand everything you do for them, preaching to them might not be the best approach. If they’re not willing to speak with you, consider organising psychological support, or perhaps there’s someone else in the family they feel comfortable talking to?

  • If you initiate the communication, pick the right time (avoid the tired, angry, and upset teen fresh off the school bus)
  • Admit that you don’t always get it right (your teen needs to know that nobody is perfect, and they’re bound to make mistakes as they take on more responsibility)
  • Discuss other teens with T1D (open the conversation up to relatable content outside of your home, your teen may prefer to talk to you about other people's experiences with T1D) 

Top Tip!


If your teenager has a ‘bad’ day, ask them if they’d have done anything differently? If they can learn from a worrying blood-sugar level, they’re moving towards independence.

#2: Listen & be empathetic


As hard as it is for you to manage your teens’ T1D, it’s twice as hard for them to live with it. Be empathetic to their emotions and listen when they open up to you. Recognising when your teenager is asking for help and advice and when they want to vent about their problems is important.

  • ‘That sounds tough!’ vs ‘How can I help you?’ (know when to listen and when to offer support)
  • Take a minute to respond (if you rush to offer a solution to your teens’ problem, they may feel like they’re not capable of managing T1D alone)
  • Honour their feelings (you might find something helpful, while your teenager might not, it’s okay to feel differently on the same topic)

Top Tip!


Ask your teen if there’s an area of T1D they’d like to ‘brush up’ on. This should remind them that soon they’ll be responsible for managing T1D independently.

#3: Manage your own anxiety

It’s all too easy to come across as the ‘overly-dramatic’ parent, but projecting your anxieties onto your teen is a recipe for disaster. If you’re upset about a blood sugar reading, try not to display your disappointment/ anger. Your teenager must know that managing diabetes isn’t easy, and they can strive for better next time.

  • Avoid projecting (personal outbursts can negatively affect teens and provides an opportunity for them to shut down or rebel)
  • Be realistic with expectations (teens shouldn’t be expected to have immaculate blood sugar levels, that takes time)
  • Your teen will mirror your behaviour (if you panic, they’ll panic and this will likely continue through to their adult life) 

#4: Be positive

Managing diabetes isn't easy, and your teenager certainly didn't sign up for the job. Remember to be proud of their achievements (big or small), and apply a positive outlook on setbacks. If you create a positive, safe space for your teenager to grow and learn, you're less likely to be kept in the dark regarding their diabetes management.

  • Be mindful of your language (you might be frustrated about having to collect diabetes supplies on a day when you’re short of time, but be aware that your teen will quickly feel like a burden)
  • Celebrate the wins (build your teens' self-esteem by being their biggest cheerleader, it’ll give them the confidence to manage their T1D alone)
  • Don’t patronise (a cringy celebration is okay, but be careful not to cross over into being pedantic or belittling)
  • Create a positive environment where they can ask for help (you want your teen to ‘fly the nest’ and manage T1D independently, but make sure they know they can always ask you for advice) 

Top Tip!


Take a back seat from your teens’ T1D treatment plan for one month and see how they cope independently.

What's Next?


Set aside 10-minutes today to sit down with your child and ask if they have any questions about their diagnosis. Don’t have the answer to their question? Come back and work through our educational resources below. Don’t forget to check out our T1D tips and tricks on social media!


  1. Nicole et al. State of Type 1 Diabetes Management and Outcomes from the T1D Exchange in 2016–2018. Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics 2019 21:2, 66-72 

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