Finding the Balance
Understanding how to manage diabetes as a team.
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
January 2008 — As the New Year begins and our thoughts turn towards making resolutions, what kinds of goals do we have for the New Year when it comes to parenting a child with diabetes? Improved EAGs? Nag less? Learn more? Work harder to help find a cure? Let go of some of the control over our child's diabetes care while fostering independence in our children in their diabetes management? I would guess that each of these goals is never far from the minds of most parents. One of the hardest to achieve, or at least the hardest in which to see day to day progress would have to be the last one that I listed. Even when a child is fairly independent in his or her own diabetes care, there are always concerns about the balancing the two ends of the independence spectrum: your child's self-reliance and parental control. The balance has to be maintained between helping your child understand the magnitude of this disease and the serious health (problems that will be the) consequences of not taking care of it and not scaring them to death. Possibly worse, another undesired outcome of too much parental control is causing your child to rebel completely from the disease and from taking care of it.
At a diabetes education weekend, our family met a family where the son had diabetes and several years later to the day, the mother was diagnosed with diabetes herself. She described what it was like to have her son help her through the first days of being newly diagnosed, walking her through treating lows and maintaining the delicate balance of eating and exercise that is diabetes. Suddenly after years of caring for her son with diabetes, the roles had been reversed. I am always reminded of this family when I think about trying to impose the balance with my son Joel. I wonder how well I would integrate diabetes into my daily life, whether I was a child, pre-teen, or adult. How much would I rebel against the disease or just try to forget to test, refuse to eat the right foods, or get angry because I couldn't always have the sweet treat I was craving and have as much as I wanted? When I think of these examples, I am reminded of just how careful I need to be when trying to impart diabetes management information and guidance to Joel.
For many of us, this balance is the ultimate test in our struggle with our children for control. What bigger challenge could be given to a parent who already considers themselves a control freak? We know that control over blood sugars is the key to living a healthy life with diabetes, yet we could easily make ourselves crazy and stressed out chasing blood sugars and beating ourselves (or our kids) up when those numbers aren't what we would like them to be. This brings us back to our original goal; letting go of some of the control of our child's diabetes care while modeling good diabetes management skills for them to learn and integrate into their daily life, even through the teen years. I received excellent advice from my son's diabetes care provider on the day he was first diagnosed. She said. "It is his disease and he is the one who is going to have to manage it his whole life. If you teach him that he can't do that without you, that is just what he will learn." Because of that advice, he tested his own blood and gave himself a shot that first day at 7 years old. And with little exception since then, we have been finding that balance between parental control and self-management at a young but responsible age. But as is the case with most things with diabetes and in life, and definitely with New Year's Resolutions, it is an ever-evolving work in progress.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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