Keeping your cool in a crisis best bet for your kids.
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April 2007 —As the parent of a child with diabetes, it is very easy to become "Crisis Driven", to quote a great Mom that I know. We all know people who when it comes to managing diabetes, panic over every cupcake, every high blood sugar, every sickness, and basically everything in between. Instead of facing things as calmly as they can, they thrive on the panic, the upheaval, and the stress of the emergency, or the self-created emergency. You are the parent, so you have to be the one to decide just how much control you are going to give diabetes over your life as a whole. For me and for our family, I am not willing to live life just going from one crisis to another. And if it starts to feel that way, I know that I need to take a step back and re-evaluate how we are doing things. Life has to be more than a series of crises.
With Joel's diabetes, instead of throwing up my hands and feeling like I am always in crisis, I try to do my best to look at what I have to deal with, and find out what I need to know to handle it. If it is too overwhelming, I try to break it down into smaller steps, allowing myself to only deal with small increments of time at once. For example if he has a stomach bug, I call his nurse and let her know what we are dealing with and get instructions from her about how to handle the possible situations we might face. For example, what to do if he develops ketones, when to give him drinks with sugar and without, how many fluids I need to have him take in to keep him hydrated, how to slow down the basal rates for his pump if I need to, etc. Once I have my checklist, I am in a much better state of mind. If he is going to throw up all night, there is nothing I can do about that, and no amount of panic will keep it from happening. So I do my best to put it out of my mind, do as much as I can to make him feel better, and move on. What is the alternative? Giving our kids the message that everything is a crisis? Teaching them to panic over every aspect of diabetes or of life in general? Living every day in anticipation of the worst? Filling them with anxiety to the point that it interferes with life? Is that really how we want to live?
What if one of those crisis driven people is a critical part of your life or your child's life and they try to suck you in? Maybe your child's nurse, teacher, or grandparent is the type of person who panics when things don't go along on an even keel. It is the nature of diabetes to have ups and downs, literally. So things are rarely on a completely even keel. I wish I could say it will always be easy to resist being influenced by those people who are crisis driven. But sometimes you will feel the panic yourself too much to fight it. And give yourself a break if you do, there are real crises when raising a child with diabetes and that can't be helped. You have to deal with them as they arise and it is OK, if not preferred, for you to acknowledge that diabetes is a terrible disease and it is heartbreaking that your child has it. On some days, just thinking about your child having diabetes is a crisis to you and that is OK. Facing crises is a very real part of living with the disease. That doesn't mean that every time something out of the ordinary to do with diabetes arises that it is a crisis.
But in times of true crises, acknowledge the crisis, work through it, and move past it. At times when it doesn't have to turn into a crisis, reflect back your sense of calm to the person who is panicking, especially if that person is your child. Nothing will frustrate you more than another person causing your child to panic over something to do with his diabetes when you are working your butt off to normalize his life. Make sure that as his or her parent that you are the one to really connect with them and influence how they manage not only the logistical aspects of their diabetes, but the emotional ones as well. Raising your child with a non-crisis driven attitude will lay the foundation of leading a more normal life with diabetes. Shouldn't that be our goal as parents?
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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Years before I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, The Other Half came out of a doctor's appointment with a diagnosis of "borderline diabetes" and an ADA exchange diet sheet. His health insurance agency followed up on the diagnosis with a glucometer and test strips. After a year or so of trying to follow the diet plan and test his glucose levels, things appeared to be back in "normal" range, and stood there until a couple of years after my own diagnosis. Shortly...