Looking for advice/support for 17 year old

Our junior in high school, 17 year old son was diagnosed in May 2023, nine months ago. We (mom and dad) and our son were shocked by the diagnosis and have been emotionally stuggling to deal with the diagnosis and daily T1D support since. Our son does the absolute minimum to manage his diabetes and is rude to us when we ask him about it. Fortunately, he is in his honeymoon. He will not wear a CGM and doesn’t need a pump at this time. He acknowledged that someday he will wear them but not now. He tests two, maybe three times a day. He rarely takes insulin shots with his lunch and will not tell his girlfriend. He takes his long acting shot each night and will bolus when at home but rarely when out without us. His closest friends know and his coaches know but otherwise he is incredibly private about it.

Combining this information above with the fact that he almost never tests out of range, is an incredibly active all conference athlete, and plays varsity basketball and football. At his last doctors appointment, the doctor told him that he’s doing a good job managing his diabetes.

With the context above, we are struggling as his parents to get him to more actively manage his diabetes. He should be bolusing with each meal, testing five to six times daily (or wearing a CGM). We understand the long term consequences of not actively managing but as a 17 year old he just wants to be “normal” and not have to deal with T1D. He doesn’t know anyone else with T1D and shuns the idea of talking to a therapist or joining a teen T1D group. He is angry, frustrated, and takes most of this out on his parents.

We are at a loss of what to do regarding getting him to more actively manage his T1D. We don’t want to ride him all the time or make T1D the topic we’re constantly talking about. At the same time, we don’t want to ignore it and undermanage it.

We’re seeking advice or shared experience on how to best support him.

hello @ryansmith welcome to the forum.

I can’t tell you exactly what is in your son’s head, but I was diagnosed just before my 13th birthday and I can tell you what I remember about my journey and maybe that’ll help you. His behavior around testing reminded me of my past.

When I was diagnosed, I didn’t have the language to talk about what I was going through, and your description made me think about my own teen years. All through my young adult life, I would get upset and defensive about my diabetes. If I had to describe how it felt to me as a teen, I would say that I wanted everyone to leave me alone so that I could pretend I was just like everyone else. It was so important for me to get back to normal that I was willing to do anything to not remind myself that I was not normal anymore. Looking back as an adult, I would say that as a teen I was devastated about being singled out and having to deal with diabetes, when everyone else had it so easy. I felt abandoned and lied to by my parents. Up to the moment I was told I had diabetes, I believed that my parents could fix anything. I could not imagine there was anything in the world that they could not “make go away” and even if there was, well then a doctor could fix ANYTHING else. I was even more dismayed by the absolute failure of the doctors who got very quiet and whispered to my parents. It was terrifying to me. I was alone. I have 3 brothers and a sister and yet I was alone. I had friends in school but I was alone. I was lost and there was no way back. My father failed me, as did science, and my faith, and no matter what they said my heart was broken and I was by myself.

Of course, I was a teen. Up to that moment I only really cared about having a jean jacket and the right kind of boots. The idea of being sick forever or dying was just simply impossible to me. I thought 50 years old was ancient and I liked sports cars and dogs. Now this same kid has to wrap their head around a chronic illness, a disease that was never going to go away. It truly was a tough time, and something I could not ever have imagined before. In my 20’s I developed a feeling of “even this couldn’t kill me”, so I also thought I was indestructible at the time. As a young adult I escaped using drugs and alcohol to avoid any feelings I had regarding my isolation and anger, and I did as little as possible in treating my diabetes to stay alive. It was an awful time for me.

Your kid suffered a major loss. Grieving that loss is a process that involves anger, guilt, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It affects different people in different ways and I’m not saying your son is like me, in fact I hope he does not shut down and he finds the support he needs to talk this out, so that it doesn’t affect his life. I closed inward on myself after diagnosis. This thing affected my life and my relationships for decades, before I hurt enough to get help.

Depression is very common with diabetes and in my opinion, something I recommend you watch for in your son. It took me many years to accept my loss of good health, and to start taking the best care of myself that I can. I did many years of work in therapy to uncover my fears, my bad self-esteem, and the triggers for my anxiety and depression. This work helped me discover the core reasons why I thought diabetes was a punishment I didn’t deserve, why I rebelled against everyone and everything, and ultimately, how to forgive myself and my parents. I’m a dad now too, my son (he does not have t1) is 14. If my father was still alive I would want to have a different kind of conversation with him, about my new understanding of what the whole thing must have felt like for him. Anyway, for me, therapy was worth the time. The most important thing is to never give up and keep working. If you think your son may be depressed, I urge you to try to get some additional help. Any therapist who has worked with chronic conditions, trauma, and especially post-traumatic stress, would be very helpful.

I want to share a link with you as follows: Psychology today has a provider directory where you can enter city, state and choose filters like “chronic illness, depression, adolescence”, also filters for specific insurance plans. It is a great tool for finding a therapist: Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist

I hope you find some peace with this. I know for sure that many decades of “not taking perfect care of myself” did lead to some complications, but I am now well managed, and it wasn’t because someone yelled at me or bargained with me or reasoned with me… at some point I felt sick enough to want to do something about it.


Hi @ryansmith and welcome to the forum. I understand that you want your son to do more self care, but it’s possible things are not as bad as you imagine.
I was diagnosed at 3 and plain old fingersticks did not come into the picture until about the time I graduated from college. Once I got my first BG meter I was instructed to test 4 times a day - with each meal and before bedtime (and more of necessary based on how I was feeling). Instructions about post-prandial tests came along sometime later. I don’t know what the current protocol is for fingerstick testing but if he is almost always in range before he eats I am guessing (and please know I am not a medical professional) that the insulin his body still makes is covering his meals.
Once the honeymoon phase is over he may find himself feeling badly and perhaps unable to play sports and do other things he enjoys because his numbers are too high - or find himself feeling funny because he took more than enough insulin than was needed to cover a meal. The latter can be scary and perhaps embarrassing.
If your son enjoys the independence of driving that could be a motivator: as far as I know all states require people with diabetes (or any condition that could lead to loss of consciousness) to submit a periodic medical review signed by their doctor and indicating that s/he believes their patient can safely operate a vehicle. My endo started discussing the topic of driving with diabetes when I was 14 or 15 so I knew it was not something to take lightly. You might enlist your son’s endo to encourage him to use the tools available (CGM) and make sure he is doing all he can to keep himself and others safe. His willingness to do so could be the difference in getting/keeping his license, or not.

Here are some links to lists of celebrities living with Type1 diabetes. There doesn’t seem to be a comprehensive list so apologies for the overlap:

From Nick Jonas and Damon Dash to Victor Garber and Sonia Sotomayor, here are some of the celebrities and public figures who are reportedly living with type 1 diabetes.

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Hi Ryan!

My son Jake was diagnosed with Type 1 twenty nine years ago at the age of one, quite different than your situation. A blessing in some ways because that’s all he’s ever known. That’s our spin on it anyway, glass half full approach. As others have mentioned everyone is different and have their own story. I think it’s awesome that your reaching out for advise, he appears to be in great hands.

In describing Type One Diabetes, I say it’s a unpredictable disease. Fortunately there are so many advancement that have taken place in the last 30 years that help an unpredictable disease become more predictable.

Other things we have in common, my son was very active both socially and athletically through sport/basketball. He played high level ball from the time he was eight. He went on to play Division 1 and also coached D1. I have a business background but in my early 40’s I went on to coach high school basketball. I would spend countless hours on trying to connect with all my players in order for them to be the best they can be. They were all different and with certain ones I’d have to try multiple approaches. It sounds like you are all doing that, something will resonate with him along the way and he’ll appreciate your love and care.

In the meantime find our contact info on HoopsInternational.org or CampBru.com. Please don’t hesitate to reach out and Jake would be more than happy to speak with your son about the trials and tribulations of living with diabetes.


Stan B

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@wadawabbit @joe

Thank you all for the replies. We appreciate you sharing your experiences.