Being a teen is difficult enough, but when you add diabetes into the mix, the adolescent years become even more complicated and emotionally overwhelming. I know that's not breaking news, but today we bring you a new workbook called Help with the Hard Stuff, coming out soon to aid both parents and teens deal with the difficult questions surrounding teens' health: everything from feeling invincible, to how to handle depression and guilt over diabetes, to transitioning D-care from parent to teen with confidence.
Unlike most books on living with diabetes, this one is not written by an endocrinologist or diabetes educator or even someone with diabetes, but by two psychologists, Dr. Lauren Woodward Tolle and Dr. William O'Donohue. Dr. Tolle has published work on stress and chronic disease in adolescence, and is also interested in "improving family functioning and treatment adherence in teens with type 1 diabetes and their families." Dr. O'Donohue focuses on integrating psychological services into medical settings, which is something the diabetes community sorely needs.
Because the book is written by psychologists, there's distinct emphasis on the emotional health and communication skills of both the parents and the teen. The book is split into two similar sections — you guessed it — one for parents and one for teens with diabetes. Each section is one part therapist, asking pointed questions with space to respond to writing prompts; and one part diabetes educator, offering suggestions for overcoming issues like resistance to blood sugar monitoring, finding time to exercise, or disclosing diabetes to friends.
Each half of the book covers the basics:
* Coping with diagnosis
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* Diabetes management, including BG monitoring and taking insulin
* Communication between parents & teen
* Dealing with "risky behavior" - pregnancy, smoking, drugs
* Finding role models and inspiration
In the Parents' section, the first chapter focuses on the five stages of grief. This might seem surprising, yet it's fitting because a diabetes diagnosis is often hits families like a death — a death of the life you were expecting for your child. From there, the authors share tips on how to deal with motivating their teen to test their blood sugar, exercise regularly, and stay positive. Different situations and arguments against "non-adherence" are presented, with realistic suggestions. Of course, the suggestions are usually "easier said than done," but it's a jumping off point for families who might be overwhelmed. Considering the lack of support tools in the real world for families, this workbook provides a lot of options for families to think over.
The Teen section also focuses on the emotional impact of diabetes, while highlighting tips and methods for overcoming challenges in the teen world, like talking about diabetes with friends. The workbook is easy to read, packed with clear info bullet points and quotes from fellow parents and teens, which lend a bit more legitimacy.
The workbook also features a lot of charts and graphs for parents and teens to fill out in order to identify and work through the problems they're struggling with — but I must admit I felt like the questionnaires and charts might feel a bit too much like homework. While parents might be willing to put in the effort, will teens? I'm not sure if the authors presented the workbook to any focus groups or support groups prior to publication...? I imagine a teen who is really depressed or resistant to diabetes management won't be too keen on filling out a "workbook." But maybe I'm wrong.
Another thing I noticed missing was a list of online resources. So I checked in with the folks at Health Press NA, and you know what they said? That referring to online resources is still "new" and they weren't sure what to include. Err, ever heard of Juvenation, at the very least? They did say they would focus on including more resources in upcoming additions.
Help With The Hard Stuff will be available through all the usual channels beginning Dec. 15 at $19.95, it seems a reasonable price to pay for guidance in a very difficult phase of life, made even more challenging by diabetes.
Parents of D-teens: we'd love to hear your thoughts.