When your child is first diagnosed with diabetes, you are overwhelmed with emotion. As time goes on, the questions on how to parent a child with diabetes never seem to end.
You will quickly learn that there is never one right way to do things. Diabetes is as individual as the person who has it but there are a few things that we hope will help you on your journey as a parent of a child with diabetes.
Heading back to school
Sending your child with diabetes back to school can be stressful but with a little bit of planning it can be an enjoyable experience for everyone.
First, take a moment to familiarize yourself with school policies regarding diabetes care. If you live in the USA, you should have a 504 Plan in place. It outlines the quality of care and responsibilities legally required by the school. If you live in Canada you will need to check out the legislation in your province or school board for direction.
Get more information and tips for heading back to school on the Back to School page.
Back to school with COVID-19
COVID-19 continues to impact the lives of individuals world-wide. When it comes to sending your child with diabetes back to school, many experts feel that:
- Children learn better in school than online
- Schools that have opened in other countries have seen a very low rate of cases
- The in-class setting has a huge influence on the child’s emotional well-being
Children who do go back to in-class learning should:
- Wear masks wherever possible
- Stay home if they are at all unwell
- Practice proper handwashing
- Practice social distancing when possible
- Wash their hands upon returning home from school
An insulin pump is not a cure but a method of insulin delivery. It is a small pager-like device that mechanically pumps set amounts of rapid-acting insulin into a person’s body.
Insulin pumps require you to set “basal rates”–a rate of background insulin that is always present, and the calculation of insulin to food ratios, or bolus amounts, that are used whenever food is eaten.
Learn about the various types of insulin pump available below.
Does my child need an insulin pump?
As a parent of a child with diabetes, you may see the many individuals promoting the benefits of an insulin pump. This may make you wonder if your child needs ones as well.
Choosing an insulin pump is a very personal thing. Every person with diabetes is different as are their needs. Some children enjoy the freedom of wearing an insulin pump, while others don’t like to have something attached to them at all times.
It is important that you look at the pros and cons of insulin pumps before you invest the time and money in insulin pump therapy.
You can read about some of the pros and cons in the article below.
How do I choose which insulin pump is right for my child?
There are a number of insulin pumps on the market. If you decide that an insulin pump is right for your child, the next steps will be finding one that fits your child’s needs. You will have to consider things like how much insulin does your child use each day and whether or not you plan to use a continuous glucose monitor.
Learn more about shopping for an insulin pump in the article below.
Continuous Glucose Monitors for Children
A Continuous Glucose Monitor is a small device worn under the skin that uses interstitial fluid to monitor blood glucose levels. It then transmits readings to a receiver and allows a person with diabetes to have a guide to what blood glucose levels may be at a given time and whether they are expected to rise or fall in the near future.
Learn about the different types of Continuous Glucose Monitors by clicking the button below.
Does my child need to wear a Continuous Glucose monitor?
Once again as a parent of a child with diabetes, you may wonder if your child has to wear a continuous glucose monitor.
As we said before, deciding whether or not to use a Continuous Glucose Monitor (or CGM) for your child is again a very personal decision. Some parents fear their children going low. A CGM provides them with peace of mind. Some children, however, do not like to have to wear something on their body. The financial burden can also be too much for some parents of child with diabetes.
You can learn more about the pros and cons of a CGM in this article.
Will my child wake up from a low blood sugar?
There are two fears that I hear from parents of children with diabetes all of the time. The first is that their child will never properly look after their care. The second is that their child with diabetes will never learn to wake up from a low blood sugar. Both of these are real concerns.
If our kids don’t “get it” and begin to take their diabetes care seriously, they could end up with complications or worse. We fear them landing in a coma because they haven’t taken their insulin. We are terrified that they will take their insulin without checking a blood glucose level and drop dangerously low with no one around to help them.
Our children think that it won’t happen to them. As parents, some of us see a damaged blood vessel with every high blood sugar. We have seen our worst fears happen to others and know that it can happen to our children as well. We are terrified for the safety of our babies.
Dead in Bed Syndrome
Dead in bed syndrome is real. We have had friends who have put their children to bed, only to have them not wake up.
It is important to remember however that a child’s response to low blood sugar levels in their sleep can change with time. When children with diabetes are younger, they often feel safe in knowing that their parents will keep them safe at night. As they age, they do become more conscious of the need to wake up.
Managing holidays with diabetes
Many holidays and events have a large food component that can be stressful for parents of children with diabetes. How can you keep their blood glucose levels in check while allowing them to indulge in a variety of tasty treats?
It isn’t always easy but is doable with some planning!
Consider some of the following options:
- Bring a dish of your own so that you know the nutritional value.
- Ask for information on what is being served ahead of time.
- Choose more fruits and fresh vegetables over cookies and chips.
- Go for a walk after a large family meal.
- Speak to your diabetes team ahead of time about adding more insulin for larger meals.
Dealing with the emotions
When your child lies to you
We all know that our children are most likely going to lie to us at one point. They may tell you that they checked their blood sugars when they didn’t. They might say that they bolused for that food but didn’t. Remember that it is okay to punish them for lying, but it is equally as important to understand why this happened.
Your child may be experiencing fatigue or they may want to be more like their friends. Make sure to take the time to investigate what is really going on. See if there is some way for both of you to give a little and come to a compromise.
If the issue continues, consider reaching out to your diabetes team for more help.
Allowing your child with diabetes to fail
When you are a parent of a child with diabetes, one the biggest challenges can be standing back and allowing them to fail. I don’t mean allowing them to become critically ill, but allowing them to calculate their own carbs and make their own corrections especially when they are not around you. Allowing your child with diabetes to make their own judgement calls and get it wrong can be heart-wrenching. You want to fix it and make it right, but your child wants to stretch and figure things out on their own.
The best advice I received was to simply be there for them. A doctor once told me to step back and let my child fall. I was to be there to pick him up, to help, to push. I now tell others to do the same.
Am I pushing my child with diabetes too hard?
It can be a challenge know exactly how much to expect from your child with diabetes. I was once told that diabetes care should be looked at the same as their chores. If my child is expected to brush his teeth, he should be expected to check his blood sugars for example.
A two-year-old cannot be expected to manage the same tasks as a twelve-year-old. The twelve-year-old would not manage the same things as the child who is 16. Thankfully we have been able to find some information on age appropriate tasks and have them all in one free booklet.
Am I neglecting my child without diabetes?
We often worry about our other children who do not have diabetes. It is important to make time for them as well. While they may enjoy taking part in many diabetes events, ensure that they also take part in things that are just for siblings of children with diabetes.
You can also make special one on one time for your other child(children). Set up dates with them and listen to their concerns.
Diabetes and Depression
Diabetes is a challenge for both parent and child. Both can experience depression and burnout. It is therefore important to keep the lines of communication open. Many diabetes teams have a social worker available to the family which can be helpful.
If you or your child are experiencing distress or depression, please reach out for professional help.
We need your input
Let us know what other supports you need as a parent of a child with diabetes by sending us an email.