I was recently asked what advice I would give a parent of a newly diagnosed child with Type 1 Diabetes. It has been a number of years since I fell into that category but I can sadly remember it all like it was yesterday. That being said, it was an easy question to answer and comes in the form of three pieces of advice.
Live your life four hours at a time
First and foremost, live your life four hours at a time. Do not worry about six hours from now. Do not worry about tomorrow. Live life in four-hour time slots–nothing more.
Chances are high that your child is using a rapid-acting insulin. This type of insulin basically lasts for only four hours.
Look at the readings inside the four-hour window. Make note of the food that was eaten and the activities in that four-hour period.
If you see a reading that is in range for that four hour period give yourself a high-five! You did fabulously!
If you see something out of range during that four hours then begin to problem solve. What can you learn? Did you learn that your child is producing a small amount of insulin now and doesn’t need as much insulin for that food at the moment? Did you learn that not all slices of bread are the same number of carbohydrates and perhaps you made a carb counting error? Could it be that hockey practice before supper changes the amount of food and insulin your child needs?
Make note of your answers for the next time and move onto the next four hours. Four-hour chunks are simple. They are manageable. And for an overloaded parental mind, really it is more than enough to handle.
When you are a parent of a newly diagnosed child with diabetes, find a support system
My second piece of advice is to find a support system and use it! Let parents, partners, friends, and people from support groups (online and in real life) help.
Share with them, unload on them, and again…use them. Some people will “get it” more than others and that is okay but find a way to lean on even those who may not get it but are willing to learn, listen or take over for even an hour. You deserve the break. You cannot be the very best external pancreas that you can be without a break and finding an outlet. It is okay to ask for help or even see a counselor. Many families with diabetes have to turn to someone along the way.
It is okay to cry
Finally, cry in the shower. Go ahead! Stand in that shower and let it all out. Let go of the big girl/boy pants, crumble and let that strong shell crack for just a little while.
Allow yourself to feel the pain and frustration that comes from a diagnosis of diabetes for your child. It is okay to feel the anger and hurt. Allow yourself to grieve while the water washes away a bit of the pain so that you can be strong again once you step back into the real world.
You’ve got this
You can do this. There will be bumps in your new life with diabetes. There will be victories. The landscape of your life, and that of your child, has changed forever. This doesn’t mean that your child with diabetes will never achieve their dreams or live a long and full life.
Being a parent a child newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes means that your perspective will shift a little (or maybe a lot). You will find new friendships that will bring you through the worst of times and celebrate with you in the best of times. Life will be different but it can still be amazing…just four hours at a time.
Looking for more help in organizing your new life with diabetes? Try our Diabetes Planner with pages of information, tips and places to store important diabetes-related information.