By: Meagan Esler
Raising Teens with Diabetes: A Survival Guide for Parents by Moira McCarthy, Spry Publishing, 272 pages, $15.95. ISBN: 978-1-9381720-20-1
While I may not be the parent of a teen with diabetes, I do have type 1 diabetes and am a mom to two sons-one 17, one 21-who can claim responsibility for several gray hairs, so I am no stranger to both sides. Moira McCarthy’s book, Raising Teens with Diabetes: A Survival Guide for Parents, delves into the many ways puberty, combined with diabetes, can affect your teen. It helps explain things that sometimes even doctors don’t think to tell you.
McCarthy’s daughter Lauren was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in kindergarten. When the teen years arrived, she observed changes in her daughter’s behavior that caused her to look deeper into the difficulties the combination of type 1 diabetes and adolescence can bring. She highlights important subjects to be aware of, such as mood swings, growth spurts, privacy, depression, drug use, diabetes burnout and rebellion, and does it all while offering guidance on how to get through those difficult times.
She respects her daughter’s often conflicting feelings, beautifully demonstrated in one excerpt from the book, where, after an upsetting A1c result, Lauren explains to her mom how it feels to be a teen dealing with diabetes: “It’s like I go to bed at night and I say, ‘Tomorrow morning I’m going to wake up and start new and do what I am supposed to do. I’m going to check regularly and take my insulin. I’m going to bolus every time I eat. And starting tomorrow, it will be fine.’ But then I wake up and I just cannot do it, Mom. Does this make any sense?”
She knows very well that it does make sense. “Ummmm,” she writes. “That explains the success of the Weight Watchers program. We mere humans want to do right and start fresh. We know well what we have to do, and yet…we stumble. Of course I understood. But the thing was: It’s her life she’s messing with. Each time she stumbled again, my heart hurt more.” This was, hands down, one of my favorite parts of the book. I can’t imagine any parent of a teen with diabetes, or anyone with diabetes for that matter, not understanding those feelings.
McCarthy offers tips on how to approach your teen without freaking out when noticing that they have skipped blood sugar testing or made poor choices in self care. She offers sound advice that can help keep you from alienating your teen. I could relate as I read the very first chapter of the book-I was familiar with the hormonal struggle, teenage independence, and rebellion against diabetes, because I once was “that” teen.
As McCarthy points out in the book, “Diabetes is very much a family disease.” It affects every single person in the family in some way or another. She reminds readers that diabetes can actually bring them closer together, acknowledging the part we all play in life with the disease.
I think she truly understands the complicated emotional rollercoaster that is diabetes. I recommend this book for parents and loved ones of teens with diabetes, and even for people newly diagnosed as it thoroughly explains about diabetes and treatment. It touches on insulin choices, explains CGMs and meters, and covers pumps vs. MDI treatment. McCarthy’s ideas are sensible, thoughtful, and downright smart. I also really enjoyed her daughter’s excerpts in the book and the addition of comments from many well-known bloggers and guest writers.
McCarthy is an author, public speaker, and blogger with more than 15 years of experience as mother to a child with diabetes. She raises funds for diabetes research and is an outspoken advocate alongside her daughter for people living with diabetes. You can visit her blog at www.despitediabetes.com.