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August 28, 2016
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Parenting a CWD

Given my previous (to becoming a yoga teacher) career in the child services field, I’ve spent a lot of time learning about parenting. Not having kids of my own (yet), I’ve taken those presentations, books, and resources and stocked them away for later use. It’s also given me an inside perspective to other parents and how they raise their kids. What works and what doesn’t?


One of the things I know a lot about is the needs of a chronically ill child (since I was one in my younger days). I could write a book on parenting tips and techniques for raising a confident, secure, and healthy child with a chronic illness. Even though the basics of parenting a chronically ill child are the same, some areas need extra emphasis to truly empower your child with diabetes.


Like all parents, my parents weren’t perfect. They made mistakes over the years, including mistakes in my diabetes management. Overall, I was given the skills and values to become a productive, successful, and empowered adult living with a chronic illness or two. I was taught how to survive twenty years of type 1 diabetes with a smile on my face (most days).


I think empowerment is the one value that all chronically ill children need to learn, if they learn nothing else at all. To be empowered in your health is to hold the keys to your future and your survival. I was empowered (not only with my health but with my life, opinions, and beliefs) to always stand up for myself and to listen to my body before I listen to anyone else.


Sometimes that meant going against a teacher when they told me I couldn’t go to the nurses’ office when I felt low or high. I was empowered to go anyway. In college, it often meant telling doctors about my diabetes and insisting for care that met my circumstances. I was empowered to stand up for certain medications, treatments, or solutions. Now it sometimes means standing up to friends, dates, employers when I need something particular that I’m not receiving (like adequate lunch breaks, soda/juice, change of plans). My parents taught me that I was the only one who would watch out for me and the only one who knew what was best for me. I’m a strong, independent woman because of it.


The other huge value that every chronically ill child (and adult) needs is discipline. I was taught from a very early age what discipline meant. It was the habit of keeping a blood sugar log, going to the endo, and eating the right foods. The expectation was built from the moment we learned of my diagnosis and now, 20 years later, I can easily keep these habits because they’ve been ingrained in me for so long.


Parenting a child with diabetes doesn’t mean giving into them constantly or catering to them throughout life. My parents were sure to teach me that life had circumstances and that life wasn’t going to be all about me. I have two older brothers that needed my parent’s attention so, just because of my diabetes, the world didn’t revolve around me. Diabetes wasn’t an excuse to throw a tantrum, get special treatment, or steal the show. It didn’t make me different than my brothers. It definitely didn’t make me more special (being the only girl did that).


It isn’t easy to be the parent of any chronically ill child. It’s a fine line to balance how much the child needs and how much you have to let them just be a child. I’ve heard all the stories about my mom’s decisions over the years and how she feels about them 20+ years later. As the parent, you are constantly battling the emotions, the guilt, the strain of watching your child struggle with an illness. You constantly want to take it away, even when they’re grown. While you’re battling all the emotions, you’re trying to be strong for your child and never show them how scared you are. You’re constantly facing the fears without ever letting on how awful the disease can be.


I think my parents did an amazing job raising my brothers and me. When I look at parents now or some of my peers, I see the small things that my parents did that allowed us to be the successful, awesome people that we are today. There were mistakes, there was pain, and there was imperfection, but we were given the resources and values that we needed to make it in this world. I was given the extra values and extra support that I needed to fight the diabetes fight and feel blessed along the way.

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