Tips from a parent of a Type 1 diabetic
By Sandy Mundell
Each year more than 15,000 children are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. As a parent, learning that your child has Type 1 diabetes can be devastating and daunting. Everything you’ve ever heard or read about this disease goes through your mind. As you listen to the doctors explain what needs to be done to manage this illness, it is easy to feel helpless, unprepared and overwhelmed. I know because I went through the same thing when my 8-year old, Christopher, was diagnosed in June 2011.
Take a deep breath; you can get through this. Here are a few tips from my experience to help you get through being a parent of a child with diabetes.
The best thing you can do is arm yourself with information about Type 1 diabetes. There are many books and articles on the topic making it easy to get educated. Talk about what you learn with your child so they gain an understanding of the day-to-day of the disease. There are even books written specifically for children to help them learn on their level.
You may also want to explore a good support group. Allow family and friends to be there for you as you adjust to this new lifestyle for your family. Remember to educate those who frequently care for or spend time with your child. They need to know how to manage his diabetes in your absence.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is a great source of information and news. Their members are made up of parents and other relatives of diabetics, as well as diabetics themselves, including many teens and adults who have lived many years with diabetes. I joined our local chapter a few weeks after Christopher’s diagnosis and that was a huge help, as I met other parents who had been through what I was facing.
Since diabetes focuses on food, specifically carbohydrates and numbers—blood glucose levels, insulin intake and counting carbohydrates—your kitchen is a good place to set up a diabetes station. I have a small section on my counter where I keep Christopher’s daily logbook, his supplies, a carb-counting book and calculator. This way I can keep track of what he’s eaten during meals, calculate it and give him his insulin dose all in one convenient place. I also keep a list of frequent meals, drinks and snacks that he enjoys and their carbohydrate amounts for quick referral. In the beginning it may all seem so discouraging, but believe me, it soon becomes second nature.
Always remain positive. Your child will be looking to you for guidance and help in coping with this disease. If you treat it negatively, then your child may become bitter and resentful, which may hinder his treatment and health. In our family we’ve come to think of diabetes as just another part of our lives. We try not to make a big deal about it and neither does my son.
For more information on Type 1 diabetes, please visit jdrflv.org.