One thing that many parents have in common is the desire for their children to become healthy, happy and independent adults. When you are a parent of a child with type 1 diabetes, sometimes figuring out how to do that can be a major challenge. Diabetes care adds a whole new level of responsibility and obligation
s, not only for the child but for the whole family.
As parents, you are faced with difficult decisions and juggle many different things, such as how to manage the disease, doctor’s appointments, and figuring out when the diabetes management responsibilities are going to shift from you to your child.
What is Type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. During the disease process, the body mistakenly recognizes the islet cells (the cells that produce the hormone insulin in the pancreas) as foreign and attacks them. As a result, people with type 1 diabetes do not produce enough insulin. There is no cure for type 1 diabetes, as it is a lifelong condition, and cannot be prevented. Type 1 diabetes must be treated with insulin. Successful treatment of this disease requires an entire lifestyle change, in addition to insulin therapy.
Formerly called juvenile diabetes, type 1 diabetes usually appears before the age of 20, In addition to insulin therapy, people with type 1 diabetes need to work in tandem with their doctor to diligently manage their disease. By carefully monitoring blood glucose levels and carbohydrate, diabetes sufferers can remain healthy and reduce the risk of medical complications.
Managing your child’s diabetes is a daunting task. It requires a lot of thought and preparation. Here are some tips to help you (and your child) along the way:
- Let Your Kid be a Kid: It’s perfectly normal to worry about your child and to make diabetes a priority. That said it’s important to find a balance between caring for your child, the diabetic and caring for your son or daughter – the child. Diabetes related burn-out is common in diabetics – especially adolescents. The more you can do to make sure your child isn’t defined by his or her diabetes, the less the risk of burn out (or the less severe it will be). Your child’s diabetes medical team can help you find the balance you are looking for.
- Use All the Resources You Can: It can (and will) be hard at times, coping with type 1 diabetes care. Remember that as technology and science has greatly evolved over the years, there is now a wealth of information on type 1 diabetes. There are many resources for diabetics and caregivers of diabetics. Between informative websites, support groups, diabetic organizations and your doctor’s office, there is information out there for you. Use all the resources you can!
- Lifestyle Change is Inevitable: Successful treatment of this disease must integrate a whole lifestyle adjustment in addition to insulin therapy. Just being aware of this will, hopefully, make it easier.
- Work together: fun exercises and games, such as dancing, like the popular video game Just Dance that you can do with your child.
- Be Prepared: Have all your supplies ready before testing blood sugars or giving injections.
- Be Organized: Be organized in management routines to minimize your stress.
- Use Reinforcements: Use a reward system or incentives, such as sticker charts, toys, or games.
- Rely on your support system: Relying on your support system around you, is the most important thing you can do. It is said, that psychologically, the more support you have around you, the more motivated and happy you will be. Bring in help, and call your friend, mom, grandparents, babysitter, whoever, to replace you as caretaker, giving you time as parents to relax and get away from all responsibilities for a night. Stepping away will avoid burnout, as well as, relax and refresh you, allowing you to come back and be a better caretaker for your child.
- Assure your child that diabetes care is NOT being used as punishment
- Have your young child help with simple tasks, such as choosing a finger for testing or choosing a site for injections. Older children can work on writing down blood sugars, counting carbohydrates and administering insulin.
- Make sure that your child’s school and other caregivers are fully educated on diabetes management
- Have your child participate in school activities or sports to help with making and maintaining normal peer relationships
- Allow your child to make decisions around meal planning and injections ahead of time to avoid stress
- Teach coping skills (problem-focused and emotion-focused), such as learning to solve a problem when one arises, and the emotions that come with it. For example, having high blood sugar or going to doctors’ appointments. Coping skills will enhance their ability to self-manage
Involvement with a disease like diabetes is extremely important through all stages of your child’s development. As a parent, it is essential for you to understand what tasks your child can accomplish, and when to lessen or increase your involvement in your child’s diabetes care. With your guidance, support, and today’s available resources, your child will be able to adjust to their diabetes, cope more successfully, and be happier and healthier. If you notice your child having a difficult time, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider.
If you suspect your child has type 1 diabetes or they were recently diagnosed, contact Dr. Jacalyn Bishop at Endocrine Kids, by calling (248) 347-3344 to request an appointment, or use our secure online appointment request form.