If you want to successfully raise a child with diabetes, you have to learn to share your child’s diabetes with your child. Yes, you read the sentence right. You the parent need share your child’s diabetes with them.
Not an easy concept to grasp, but it’s important, because by allowing your child to participate in their disease, you’re planting the seeds for confidence, acceptance, and independence for living with life with diabetes.
As a former child with diabetes who is now a woman of a certain age with diabetes, the best gift my parents ever gave me was allowing me to play an active role in my diabetes. I was the baby of the family, and they could have easily done absolutely every single diabetes related thing for me, but they didn’t. Instead, they were generous enough to share my diabetes with me.
When I was first diagnosed with “The Big D” way back in 1977, a time I like to refer to as “The Diabetes Dark Ages.” A time when we tested urine instead of blood sugars and the diabetes diet was anything but flexible.
My parents had six children and two other daughters with type 1 diabetes, it was a given that I’d participate, not an option.
I have a vivid memory of my father sitting on the corner of my hospital bed and telling me: “Kelly it is what it is, do what you have to so you can live a great life.” My dad spoke from experience, he had Type 1 diabetes as well.
When I arrived home from the hospital, I still couldn’t give myself needles. Back in the day, you had to give yourself injections before they’d let you leave the hospital. I was so afraid of needles that the Nurse Educator made a deal with my parents. I could go home, but my mom, dad, & sisters had to promise to work with me regarding shots.
The first steps were small. My parents let me gently roll the bottles to warm up the refrigerated insulin and prep the bottle tops with alcohol. They filled up the needles and gave me the shots.
Finally, under my parent’s watchful eye, I filled up the needle myself, and a week later, I gave my first shot in my left thigh.
I remember feeling incredibly proud! I knew I was doing something that none of my friends could do, and have to tell you, no longer being afraid of getting insulin shots made my confidence soar!
My parents never altered my life because of diabetes. Instead, diabetes became a part of my every day life and routine.
There was never any comparisons of life before verses life after diabetes – life was life, and life was what you made of it, period.
I still took gymnastics three times a week and tap dancing class on Saturday mornings, but I learned to carry snacks and to recognize lows.
And just as important, I learned to speak up whenever I recognized those symptoms. Diabetes made me speak up for myself early on, because I knew that my life depended on it.
Something wonderful my mom did early on was to have me read the exchange list to her as she prepped the food. Not every for every meal of course, but if I happened to be hanging out in the kitchen while my mom was cooking dinner, I’d look at the Food Exchange poster (YES, poster) and read the exchanges for the meal. I felt like I had a say (did I want to choose the potato or rice for my one of my starches?) and some control regarding my life and my life with my diabetes.
It also helped me learn the exchange list without out making it seem like required reading. Heck, I didn’t realize I was learning!
Because of the steps my parents allowed me to take regarding ”owning” my diabetes, I never hid my diabetes from the world or my classmates. I was never ashamed to be Kelly K, the girl with type 1 diabetes- I was OK with it. Now being Kelly K, the geek with the glasses was a totally different story for a totally different post, but I digress~
Bottom line, every child learns responsibility at their own pace.
Having a child with a chronic illness is frightening on every level possible. As a parent, your instinct is to “do” for and protect your child from the bad.
But no matter how much you do, diabetes isn’t going anywhere.
And if you don’t allow your child to feel like they play some part (no matter how small) in owning diabetes, how can you expect them to grow up to be an adult who lives a successful, happy, and independent life with diabetes?
Kelly is a Diabetes Blogger, Advocate, Writer, Humorist and Expert at living life with Diabetes Consultant. Her blog, Diabetesaliciousness– provides her with a voice, and her readers with a Diabetesalicious perspective. A type 1 diabetic for over 30 years, Kelly comes from a family of Type 1’s.
Her unique approach of educating patients and their families through laughter and knowledge has been called validating, informative, empowering and funny.
Kelly knows first hand the importance that knowledge; Diabetes myth busting, laughter, and exercise play in managing a chronic disease and is passionate about others becoming empowered as well.
She loves the color green, cupcakes, her nieces and nephews and any and all things having to do with the water!
She’s no fan of the Diabetes Police or being a neatnik- though she’s working on the latter!
Spreading Diabetes Validation through Humor,Ownership & Advocacy~