As a diabetes specialist, I work with families dealing with the realities of raising a child with type 1 diabetes. When a kid is diagnosed with this disease, a parent’s perspective drastically changes. What is already a huge responsibility— successfully raising a child— becomes even more overwhelming. Even after parents understand the impact the disease has on their family life, they still have to confront the outside world.
I know well what a challenge this can be. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 7 years old. Further, my son was diagnosed with the disease when he was 15 months old. That is why I appreciate the opportunity to share an important message with concerned caretakers: It is possible to happily and successfully raise a child with diabetes.
First and foremost, kids just want to be normal. They crave the safety net of being similar to their peers. As such, children resent anything their parents do to expose them as different. But, how does a caretaker preserve normalcy for a child with type 1 diabetes?
We live in a wonderful era when a wealth of health information is available at our fingertips. However, don’t let search engines and blogs be your only source of knowledge. Your child’s primary care physician and endocrinologist should be the authority of truth for what to expect and actions to take for diabetes care.
Educate Your Child
Your child’s age determines what he needs to know regarding diabetes management. If diagnosed at a young age, your child’s “normal” will be a life lived taking precautions dictated by managing his condition. If your child was diagnosed at an older age, provide extra support and encouragement as he adapts to this new reality. Diabetics need to independently make proper food selections, monitor their glucose levels and be aware of signs of trouble.
Gather a Team
Type 1 diabetes must be taken seriously. However, don’t feel that you are the sole adult responsible for monitoring your youngster’s health. Part of your team includes your child’s primary care physician and endocrinologist. The rest of your support system is made up of relatives, teachers, coaches and other trustworthy individuals. Inform such key players about the disease and how to step in and act, if necessary. Also ensure that your circle of confidants has your complete emergency contact information.
Respect your child’s wish to not stand out in the crowd. He is a kid first, not a kid with diabetes. Not everyone needs to know that he is dealing with this health issue. Just be sure key adults in your youngster’s life know what to watch out for and how to appropriately respond.
Plan for the Unexpected
You can’t be everywhere at once. Work with your kin, the school and other parents to have healthy food choices available at social events. Pack in your little one’s backpack acceptable snacks, equipment to check glucose levels and emergency contact information.
Listen and Learn
As your child grows, check in with him about the challenges he might be facing related to his condition. By listening to your child, you are better suited to help him live the best life possible. Remember to keep your child’s physicians informed of any health-related concerns, as well.
You are a parent first, not just a caretaker of a child with diabetes. Delight in a full and exciting life with your kid. Try not to give diabetes management too much space in your personal life or relationships. There is a big exciting world of possibilities out there!