Preparing Your Child and Family for Life With Diabetes
After the initial shock of diagnosis wears off and we become more comfortable with administering insulin shots, scheduling blood tests and mealtimes, and carbohydrate counting we have a chance to look to the future. At that point it really begins to sink in what a long-term commitment parenting a diabetic child really is. We now understand we have been drawn into a different lifestyle that will last as long as we are parents. Even when our child is grown up and leaves home we will still be concerned and involved with the diabetes community.
If you are finding that you are having trouble managing your child's diabetes let me first share some statistics I found so you realize you are not alone.
35-75% do not follow meal plans all of the time
Now that we understand how difficult it is to live with a chronic and potentially deadly disease, the question is how do we teach our children the reality of diabetes while still allowing them to be kids and trying to keep their lives as normal as possible. An experience that if you haven't run into you soon will is birthday parties. They are everything you need to avoid to keep your child's diabetes under control but they're also an important aspect of your child's life. With some planning you can have both. You can learn the specifics of this and many other situations you will face in my ebook "So Your Child Has Diabetes". The point is life and diabetes can go on together. Just as important, your child's friends learn about diabetes and talk about it. They don't discriminate, they include your child. We as parents need to be adults in these types of situations. We are the voices of maturity, reality and humanity. We are the ones who allow our children to talk about their disease and how it makes them feel as well as keeping them focused on self-care. We are the ones who keep the disease from overcoming our family. When you let your child talk to you about how they feel about having diabetes you will find your child has less emotional stress and better control of their blood glucose levels.
General family stress can greatly affect blood glucose levels. It's a delicate balance. When your child's blood glucose levels are out of control it can cause stress in the family and when there's stress in the family it can cause out of control blood glucose levels. You need to be prepared for these times. The Children's Hospital that treats my daughter has an excellent Mental Health Department. Other communities have a variety of services they offer. Make yourself aware of them and know where to turn before things start to get out of control.
One of the things that really surprised me was the difference in the way I perceived diabetes and the way my daughter perceived it over time. I found it easier to cope with diabetes as time went on. You get into a rhythm and your comfort level with treatment increases. On the other hand my daughter found that the emotional distress associated with diabetes increased as time went by. We need to be aware that just because we are better at dealing with diabetes it doesn't mean our children need less of our day to day care. A mistake I made was assuming that my 10-year-old didn't need me to constantly supervise her blood glucose monitoring. After she went on an insulin pump it was no longer necessary for me to administer insulin. She had been checking her own blood levels for quite a while. Even though she was checking her own blood, while I was giving the shots I was right there to make sure she checked properly and at the correct times. Once she went on the pump that wasn't the case anymore. I noticed that she wasn't nearly as conciencious when I wasn't there. This is just normal in the development of a child. Our children need us to keep them safe while they achieve these developmental skills.
In order to properly prepare our children for life with diabetes we must remember how we feel when we are ill. We hate it. Feeling lousy, unable to enjoy some of our normal activities. Imagine how this is magnified in our diabetic child. They never get a break. No rest from it, no vacation. No wonder they experience emotional problems. Never forget this. Our children need to know that we will always be there for them. They are not facing this alone. Listening to our children about their feelings is important but not enough. We also need to talk to them about what happens if they don't take good care of their diabetes. We need to be careful. We don't want our children to think that there is something wrong with them or to feel ashamed if their blood glucose levels aren't always under control. In this case children are like puppies. They respond better to reward for proper behavior that to punishment for wrong behavior.
Finally we need to realize that preparing for life with diabetes is an ongoing process. You can't control the process all of the time. Just take care of it one day at a time. With your help your child can understand this process of diabetes control and you don't have to become "that diabetic family". With preparation and awareness you, your child and the rest of your family can live healthy normal lives.
Russell Turner is the father of a 10 year old Type 1 Juvenile Diabetic daughter. When she was first diagnosed he quickly found there was all kinds of information on the internet about the medical aspects of this dsease. What he couldn't find was information about how to prepare his family to live with this disease. He started a website http://www.mychildhasdiabetes.com and designed it so parents of newly diagnosed children would have a one-stop resource to learn to prepare for life with diabetes.
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