What do you do when your child wants a treat but you check her blood sugar and she’s already high? While you can dose for the high and cover any food with insulin, it’s still not an ideal time for, say, that candy bar she won at school or cookies from the church bake sale.
Since delayed gratification isn’t most kids’ (or adults’!) strong suit, finessing these moments can take some skill. What can you do the next time your child’s meter puts the brakes on treat time? Here’s how other D-parents make waiting out a high less challenging. (As always, check with your healthcare professional regarding changes to your child’s diet.)
The “Just for Highs” Toy
“What’s the worst thing about having type 1 diabetes? For Kaitlyn, the answer is definitely having to adjust meals according to blood sugar readings. The look on her face when she tests herself and gets a high reading is enough to make anyone feel sorry for her. I put my mind to work on what I could do. I was wandering through the toy section at one of my favorite stores, and it hit me! In front of me was a box of something called Sticky Mosaics®. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t this be the perfect thing for Kaitlyn to work on while she waits for her blood sugar to come down?’ A couple days later, she had a high. The frustrated look came over her face, but when I pulled out the fun craft activity, her face lit up! I explained to her that she could only work on this when she has high blood sugar and we’re waiting a little while for her to come back into range. Kaitlyn had a complete attitude reversal.”
— Kim, Southern California, mom of Kaitlyn
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
“When we need to wait a bit for a treat, all of a sudden I need my daughter’s help cleaning out my jewelry box — something she loves to do. Or I need her help in the basement and — oh, look! — her roller skates are down here and she can skate around the open area while I fold the laundry. Distraction and redirection… they both work great for us! By the time we’re done with our task, it might be an okay time for a snack. Or, sometimes, the treat has been completely forgotten!”
—Molly, Fort Myers, Fla., mom of Cara
The All-Season Switch Witch
“The Halloween Switch Witch idea [swapping candy for non-candy treats as a way to reduce candy consumption on Halloween] worked so well for us that I’ve invited the Switch Witch to live with us permanently! I keep a small stash of dollar-store toys and other fun items handy, and whenever a cupcake or bag of treats comes home from a school party, my son can trade it in for one of these items. Some treats he can have, but for those times when it’s between his regular snacks and not quite mealtime, a little trade-off makes it easier to say no.”
—Angela, San Jose, Calif., mom of Matthew
The Treat Pass
“We decided to have a spur-of-the-moment ice cream sundae night with the kids. I asked Kaitlyn to test her blood sugar, and her number was quite high. She and I both knew that it was most certainly not a good time for ice cream. ‘I hate diabetes!’ she screamed. I was trying to figure out what I could do for her to make her feel better. I printed out several cards that said ‘Kaitlyn’s Treat Pass.’ I gave her one and explained that she could use this special pass whenever she wanted to get whatever treat she wanted, as long as her blood sugar was in range. ‘Does that mean I can have ice cream for breakfast?’ she asked. Yep! ‘Or cookies right before dinner?’ Yep! ‘Deal,’ she said. It has worked amazingly well. If there is ever a time she doesn’t get to eat something when I’m allowing it for the other kids, she gets her pass. She then turns it in whenever she wants, and the other kids get really jealous!”
— Kim, Southern California, mom of Kaitlyn
Practice Early and Often
“I’m lucky in that I figured out early on that kids have an easier time with delayed gratification when it is a consistent concept in their life. Before my son’s diagnosis, we were already doing things like limiting screen time and recording his favorite shows so he could catch up watching them on the weekend instead of on school nights when he needs to get to bed early. Because we already had these habits in place, I think it has made it easier for him to accept that sometimes it’s just not the right time for a treat… but that he is going to get the treat eventually. It has also taken the focus off food as a huge issue, because there are other things he loves much more than cupcakes — like video games! — that he needs to wait way longer to enjoy (we limit them to Friday nights and Saturday only). For families in which maybe these habits were not in place before diagnosis, I would say that it’s never too late to instill them!
—Danielle, Newton, Mass., mom of Andrew
A Sweet Swap
“We had gone out for ice cream and were getting out of the car to go order at the window when I did a last-minute check of my daughter’s blood sugar and… high. Everyone groaned, and my daughter’s eyes welled with tears. Diabetes strikes again! I was ready for a full blown meltdown (yes, that’s a pun), and then I remembered how earlier in the week she had asked me to buy a $3.99 gaming app for our smartphone and I had said no. My mind then made some quick calculations. A kiddie cone at the ice cream parlor cost basically the same as the app, and a gaming app could also be considered a treat, so… BINGO! My husband and son went to the window to order, and I loaded the game she wanted on the phone. She was all smiles as she played and we ate our cones. My son was a little jealous that his sister got to play a game during our outing, but I think he also thought it was pretty cool that she got to be happy like the rest of us. It felt like a sweet victory.”
—Amy, Lebanon, N.H., mom of Abigail
Movie Night Candy Bag
“It seems like my kids are collecting candy almost every day of the week. They get it in Sunday school, at scout meetings, in their classrooms, at birthday parties, and from the cashiers at the grocery store. So we’ve come up with a solution where the kids surrender their candy as soon as they get it. It goes into my big black bag, from which they can get it back at our weekly Friday movie nights — each kid gets three pieces of candy from the bag to eat while watching the movie. I love that we no longer have to stress about the odd piece of candy that might come at a very inconvenient time (while James’ blood sugar is high or right before dinner, etc.). The kids hand over their candy throughout the week without any reservations — they KNOW they’ll see it again within a week.”
—Jen, Southern California, mom of James
“One year we used leftover Halloween candy to decorate our holiday gingerbread houses. The next year, the kids actually asked me if they could give me their Halloween candy to save for the gingerbread houses, so I knew I was onto something. This has turned into a fun year-round challenge to collect candy from Valentine’s Day, Easter, trips to the bank where the teller always offers lollipops, and all those other occasions when kids are being showered with candy. I am not kidding: It really is like taking candy from a baby when my daughter’s blood sugar makes it a bad time to have to a treat. I just remind her about the gingerbread houses and she hands it over. Just a tip if you try this: Keep hard candy stored in a cool, dry place or it tends to get stuck together. Then get ready for some really interesting-looking gingerbread houses!”
—Teresa, Buffalo, N.Y., mom of Anna
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.
Sticky Mosaics is a registered trademark of The Orb Factory. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.