Wanting the Best for Our Children
By Karen Hargrave-Nykaza
I recently spoke at a support group for parents of children with diabetes. One of the things that always strikes me when I meet other parents is how different the child’s experience of having diabetes is depending on that child’s parents and how they handle it. That sounds so obvious, but I don’t think most of us think about it very often. No matter how selfless we try to be, we all tend to live within our own family experience for the most part. The job parents have of serving as a role model for their children is daunting for any parent, but for a parent whose child has diabetes, you are modeling even more than the average parent.
Parents’ attitudes, abilities, emotional health, intelligence, involvement with monitoring diabetes, level of willingness to become an advocate for their child, and much more all contribute to the child’s experience of having diabetes. All of these parental influences contribute significantly to each of those same qualities forming in the child as they develop their own personalities and ways of coping. If the parent is active in their child’s medical care or advocacy, it is likely that the child will develop those same habits. If parents have a positive attitude and don’t make the child feel as though their diabetes is a terrible burden to the family, the child will likely have a more healthy attitude themselves about having diabetes than a child who lives in a home where parents dwell on the negative aspects of the disease and even make the child feel responsible for the stress the disease puts on the family. Looking at ourselves could be the first step towards providing that healthy attitude.
Most parents feel as though they can never do enough for their diabetic children. Many of us are constantly reading, researching, attending workshops, support groups, and more, all to improve our child’s health and well-being. But most of us need to remind ourselves of all the things that we already do that are such strengths for both us and our children. It is my experience that most good parents frequently focus on their shortcomings and how they affect their child, but very rarely examine the things they are doing well and how those impact their child. We owe it to ourselves and our children to occasionally remind ourselves of the advantages we give our children because of the strengths that we have, and hopefully we pass those strengths on.
But while we remind ourselves of all the good we do for our children, we also need to be mindful of what we are modeling for them. If what we are modeling isn’t positive, we need to work to improve that. How often do we really think about the example we are setting for our children in terms of diabetes? Do we overreact to every low or high blood sugar? Are we unreasonably overprotective when it comes to our kids becoming more independent and going off on their own and being responsible for their diabetes without us? Do we eat healthily ourselves and exercise regularly? Do we give gentle reminders to check blood sugars or give boluses or do we NAG? When we or our child makes a mistake regarding diabetes management, do we deal with it by placing blame or do we calmly fix it and move on? We all want what is best for our children. Looking at ourselves could sometimes be the first step towards providing it.
Read more of Karen Hargrave's columns here.
dLife's Daily Living columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team to find out what will work best for you.
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