Adapting As Necessary

Learning to manage the changing needs of a child with diabetes.

Karen HargraveBy Karen Hargrave-Nykaz

Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for 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!

June 2008 — If diabetes has taught our family only one lesson, it has to be how to be more flexible and how to adapt to new circumstances and situations, constantly. As soon as we are figuring out how to deal with one issue related to diabetes and finally getting a handle on it, another one presents itself and we start all over. We are constantly presented with new challenges, like knowing how to manage our son's diabetes during basketball, water sports, or just plain increasing physical activities and adjusting insulin to meet the changing hormones. Or we can just be dealing with a blood sugar that is higher than normal, and within 30 minutes, we can be dealing with the opposite and treating a low.

This concept also applies to adjusting and adapting to our child's needs as they grow and change. Maybe your child has had diabetes since he/she was an infant and they don't have a sense of "why me" because they can't remember a life without diabetes. Or maybe your child got diabetes as a young child and they were compliant with their care, but now that they are an adolescent, diabetes seems like one more thing that makes them not fit in with their peers and they are rebelling against proper diabetes management for the first time. If your child gets diabetes as an adolescent, sometimes they will do whatever they have to do to pretend that it doesn't exist, including sneaking food, lying about giving themselves insulin, or completely ignoring tasks that need to be done. Diabetes reminds us that no matter what our child's situation was when they were first diagnosed, just like diabetes itself, our child's feelings about it and experience of having it are constantly changing. That means that our expectations, parenting, diabetes management and supervision, diabetes management plans at school and sports, and the level of own involvement with our child's diabetes all have to be subject to change as well.

We have to remember as parents that as our child matures, we expect their diabetes management capabilities to mature along with them, when in fact the opposite may occur as they go through the rebellion of adolescence. It is hard for me to understand how my son, who was fluent and responsible in his own care at age 8, now at age 12 cannot remember what his blood sugar was three seconds after the number disappears from his meter, frequently forgets to bolus his meals even when reminded, and is absent-minded in general. This is completely new and different for us from the child with diabetes we knew when he was aged 7-10 years. Again, it goes back to our ability to constantly adapt to new circumstances and that includes being able to change our expectations of our children and ourselves. Diabetes has a way of reminding us that we need to be open to constantly adapting to the new situation.

Read more of Karen Hargrave's columns here.

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.


Last Modified Date: July 12, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Brenda Bell
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