Your child has been diagnosed with diabetes, a life- altering disease. A diagnosis that will likely consume you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The childhood that you had imagined for them has now taken an unforeseen turn.
It’s OK to grieve the loss of that “normal” childhood that you had imagined, but know that your child can live a full and happy life. Early preparation and planning will help to reduce stress and panic. It’s also important to know that you’re not alone. Your child has a team of doctors, diabetes nurse educators, and dieticians. Still, living with diabetes will be challenging for your child and the whole family. Here are steps you can take to help everyone in the family adjust and thrive.
Plan ahead and get organized
- Start to plan your first meals at home while your child is still in the hospital. Prepare a menu that includes several meals and discuss it with the hospital dietician.
- Delegate someone to grocery shop for you so that when you get home, you’ll have the ingredients you need for the meals you planned.
- Figure out the carb counts for your meals ahead of time so that you can plan insulin dosing for your child.
- Keep a folder of menus from the restaurants that your family frequents. Figure out the carbs for your child’s favorite meals ahead of time. and put this information in the menu folder.
- Organize your child’s diabetes testing supplies in one area.
Take care of yourself
- Evidence shows that when parents take care of their own emotional and physical needs, it reduces the stress of taking care of a child with diabetes. This helps the entire family function better.
- Keep a positive attitude. Remember that your child is watching you—if you’re upbeat, they will follow your lead.
- Start a gratitude journal. Take a few minutes each night to note the things that you are thankful for. This can help you to gain clarity and perspective as well as to feel calm.
- Practice yoga, go to the gym, or take walks, especially with a friend. Physical activity produces endorphins which help to reduce stress, improve sleep, and boost your mood.
- Talk with other parents who have children with diabetes, join support groups, and take breaks! It may be helpful to speak with a therapist to further explore how to deal with your raw emotions.
- Find a babysitter trained in diabetes care so that you can get a break to do something for yourself. Family members, friends, or a teen who has diabetes may be able to fill this role. Check out this link to a diabetes babysitter site: safesittings.com.
- Educate yourself! Knowledge is power.
Help your family adjust
- Focus on the task at hand! Your child’s blood sugar is too high or too low? It happens. This does not mean that you did something wrong. Many things can cause these blood glucose swings.
- Hold a family meeting to talk about the changes in your family.
- Openly discuss the extra attention that the child with diabetes will need, as well as ways that each child is special and valued. Shifting family dynamics in no way changes that!
- Encourage siblings and other family members to express their feelings about the diagnosis.
- Work together as a family to reinforce and the value of eating well and sticking to the treatment plan.
- Focus on what your child can do, not what they can’t do.
- Encourage your child to talk with friends about having diabetes. This helps educate their friends and does away with any misconceptions they may have about diabetes.
- Encourage your child to continue participating in favorite activities.
- Try to refrain from labeling your child as a “diabetic.” He or she is a child who happens to have a diagnosis of diabetes.