Adult Consequences For Kids
A personal growth with the side effects of diabetes.
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 2009 — At my son's recent diabetes check-up, his nurse told him he was right on track to becoming 6'2" tall. In the next breath, she told him about another patient of hers who had been on the same track, but had recently robbed himself of 5 inches of height because he wasn't managing his diabetes. Apparently, for quite some time, he had been acting as if he didn't have health issues and was just ignoring the side effects of diabetes: when he was high, not correcting when he was, etc. My son was having trouble following her not comprehending how this would make him stop growing. I saw his understanding of the potential consequences of his actions grow as she went on to explain. I think until that moment, for our son Joel, all the potential health complications and side effects of diabetes had been very abstract to him. There are also few things that he gets as excited about as hearing he will be over six feet tall! What better way for diabetes management to hit home for him than for him to hear such a personal example of what could happen to him if he doesn't manage it?
My first reaction to this was one of relief – finally, someone besides me was trying to make him understand how important his diabetes management is! Few things are less effective to a 12 year-old than his mother's nagging. When it is me who is "lecturing" him, I usually doubt that he is listening, much less taking me seriously.
My second reaction was how much it sucks that he has to have this amount of pressure on him at his age. No child should have to face such serious consequences as the boy who lost those 5 inches. And we all know that that could be only the beginning of the consequences he may face. But what we also know is that whether or not it is fair, this is reality for our kids. What they do with their diabetes today will affect their health tomorrow.
As much as all of diabetes is a balancing act, it occurs to me that there may be no aspect of diabetes where this is more true than when trying to strike a balance between educating your child at the appropriate age about diabetes and its cruel consequences and allowing them to continue to be a child without worries. How much is too much information? How do you educate them about the complications and side effects of diabetes without scaring them? If you tell them too little, will they understand the long-term implications? Can teenagers even understand long-term implications? How do you convince them that they will have a healthy life when you are sitting in an endocrinology waiting room full of people with only one foot? How do you explain to them that even though this is unfair, it is what it is and we have to live with it?
I guess there are no real answers to these questions because there is no one, single way to handle dealing with diabetes with your child. The answers have to come to us gradually, one at a time through our mistakes and our successes. We just have to hope that our child doesn't pay too dearly for any of those mistakes but that there is a lesson learned with each one.
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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