Blood sugar monitoring is part of everyday life for kids with type 1 diabetes. But unlike other diabetes care tasks, like carb counting or bolusing, blood sugar checks can spike an emotional response. If your child’s number is “good,” it feels like a gold star for him — and you. If your child’s number is “bad,” then he must have done something wrong that day, or you did — at least that’s how it can feel.
And if the number is really off, maybe you find yourself nagging him until you’re both frustrated and upset. Sound familiar?
As diabetes experts advise, the number on your child’s meter is not “good” or “bad” — it’s simply information to help you take the next step, whether that’s treating a high or low when the number is out of range, or sending your child on his way when the number is in range. Removing judgment from blood sugar numbers can help kids better cope with their diabetes. But how do you put this into practice? Here are some tips and tricks from other D-parents about how they stay positive about blood sugar numbers… no matter what the meter says.
Make a Game of It
“To ease the tension of determining whether our son’s number will be high or low, our diabetes educator suggested we play a guessing game when we do checks… a who-can-come-closest-to-his-actual-reading sort of game. Even when he is out of range, if he is close to guessing his number, he still feels good about the check because he won the game! The guessing game has also been a great opening for following up and asking him, ‘Why did you guess that number? How are you feeling?’ This is helping him tune in to his body signals. We’ve played our guessing game for about a year, and it’s highly rewarding (and even a little entertaining) to see how often he is right on the money!”
—Shannon G., Flower Mound, Texas, mom of 9-year-old Eben
Reward the Behavior, Not the Number
“Our teenage son is expected to check his blood sugar himself during the school day and to treat and get assistance as needed to correct a high or low. A number is just data, and we don’t pass judgment. However, what we do reward is our son performing all these checks! If he goes through the week without missing a single check, we might celebrate by eating out at his favorite restaurant or letting him stay up a little later to play video games on the weekend…and we always tell him ‘good job!’ He deserves to feel appreciated for all the work he is doing to take good care of himself, not punished because some of his numbers that week were out of range.”
—Kathy D., Arlington, Mass., mom of 16-year-old Nick
Keep It Quick
“I keep glucometers stashed around the house so I can perform checks on the fly without my 7-year-old daughter needing to drop everything and come down to the kitchen for a check — which was beginning to feel for me and for her like I was calling her down to the principal’s office. Now when her number is in range, I say, ‘okay!’ and walk away and just let her keep going with her activity. If it’s out of range, I’ll quickly hand over a snack or take other steps as needed. My goal is for her to know that spending that small amount of time to check and adjust is all she needs to stay the busy little kid she loves to be. Getting hung up in the moment on whether a number is high or low isn’t going to help us reach this goal.”
—Danielle O., Ellicott City, Md., mom of Isabella
See the Big Picture
“We use a blood glucose tracking app on my smartphone to track our 9-year-old’s numbers. One of the things I love most about it is that after we input his numbers it shows us a graph of all his readings over the past week. The graph reinforces for my son — and for me — that even when he has a stray high or low, we can see in a very visual way that he’s still moving in the right direction overall. This little graph has saved me from obsessing over out-of-range numbers many a time!”
—Laura P., Schenectady, N.Y., mom of Jacob
Talk the Talk
“When my 11-year-old son comes home from school, I always make it a point to first ask, ‘How did it go today?’ and ‘How are you feeling?’ rather than ‘How were your numbers?’ I want him to know that I care about him, not numbers. I also think it makes him ‘own’ his diabetes more when he needs to explain his ups and downs to me in words and not a string of numbers. After we talk, I’ll skim the blood sugar log from the nurse that he brings home in his bag, and we’ll brainstorm any adjustments we should make for the next day.”
—Alissa R., San Diego, mom of Marco
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.