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Keeping Teens Healthy during COVID-19

It’s National Diabetes Week, and it’s once again that time of year for us to raise awareness of the debilitating disease. More specifically Type 1 (Juvenile onset) Diabetes.

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It’s even more critical for Parents of Teens to keep on top of the condition during COVID-19 and whilst being in lock-down. Parents are well aware of the physical medical conditions that they’re teen may exhibit from time to time when the disease is not controlled. Such as Fatigue, Nausea/Vomiting, blurred vision, headaches, heart palpitations and unwanted weight loss. Worse case scenario is Coma and Death.

There are also Cognitive changes that can impact a teen’s mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. Such as being more susceptible to irritability and mood changes.

Current Treatments include:

  1. Insulin Therapy
  2. Diet
  3. Exercise

But during times of COVID-19 all these factors are compromised, placing added stress and anxiety not only on the Parents but also the mental health and physical well-being of their teen.

How can Parents ensure that their Diabetic Teen maintains control of their diabetes and mental well-being during COVID-19? Understanding your teen’s personality/temperament is a great start to minimising stress levels in their lives, and therefore reducing any unwanted symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes. I do this by simplifying personality styles into 4 bird types (Rosenberg, M. et al 2011). Thereby assisting Parents and Teens build stronger relationships, communication and reduce conflict during those turbulent adolescent years.

What Bird Style is your Teen?

Eagle Personality: When stressed they become uncooperative and aggressive/argumentative. These personality styles are goal focused and achievement driven. Being in uncertain times this destabilises their plans for world domination. Best way to help an eagle teen navigate the new normal is to give them the Autonomy, Power and Freedom they desire. COVID-19 has taken that away from them so their futures are no longer certain <in their minds>. Help them create a sense of “Achievement” in controlling their chronic disease. Set them goals and targets but give them the freedom to strategize and come up with a plan of action.

Parrot Personality: When stressed they lose focus and attention to detail, life becomes disorganised and chaotic. Being a Diabetic this can be counter intuitive to their physical health and mental well-being. Help them maintain a sense of “Optimism” during COVID-19 that will assist them with regaining a sense of “Hope” for the future to bring them back to equilibrium. Parrot personalities are talkers, so sit down with your teen over a cuppa and let them express how they feel about “EVERYTHING!”. This will give them a sense of control and feel like they’re being heard and appreciated.

Dove Personality: When stressed they will look calm and quiet on the outside. These teens love “Stability” so whatever you can do as a parent to maintain the status quo will lessen the stress levels of your teen. Try to maintain family life as normal as possible. These teens will not want to burden you with their problems if they see that things at home are not stable. This may lead to their illness not being properly regulated or maintained so look out for any cognitive or mood changes in your teen as it may be a signal to something else.

Owl Personality: When stressed these teens will internalise their feelings. They will be over thinking things, catastrophising and ruminating over worse case scenarios playing around in their heads. Help your teen by creating structure and ensuring that their questions to things are answered. Don’t sweep anything under the carpet or down play their fears. Really listen and help them logically work through those thoughts to a solutions focused approach.

In summary, as a Parent we want the best for our kids especially those that suffer from chronic illnesses. Having been born as a special needs child myself the bond between mother and child is even more pronounced. It’s human nature that we treat others the way we’d like to be treated. But when it comes to fostering relationships and rapport even with our offspring requires that we create an environment that suits others and not ourselves.  For more information on upcoming Seminar for Parents and Teens on Tuesday 4th August 7pm (Sydney Time).

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