As parents of children with type 1 diabetes, you’ve got the big stuff covered for them: calculating carbs, programming pumps, and worrying (probably too much) about A1Cs and 504s and all the rest of it. Meanwhile, it may be the small stuff that kids are sweating…and those seemingly little things about having diabetes can be a really big drag to them. Here, we pinpoint three common kid-sized problems and let in-the-know moms pass on their easy and effective ways of nipping them in the bud.
Problem: “All the good cafeteria seats are taken by the time I return from the nurse at lunch.”
One Solution: “Over the years we’ve made a number of small changes in our daughter’s care routine that now result in her getting the first pick of the cafeteria seats,” says Leighann C., creator of D-Mom blog, whose 8-year-old daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 3. “Instead of going to the nurse’s office, the nurse comes to my daughter’s classroom to check her blood sugar a few minutes before lunch begins. Then, she has the option of going to lunch straight away or lining up with the class.”
These tweaks were medically necessary, since the side trip to the nurse and long lines for milk and food had been leaving Leighann’s daughter without enough time to finish her whole lunch. Now her states that she can go to the front of the line to get what she needs. Not being denied a seat with her friends is an unintentional — but important — benefit. “The other kids are used to this and don’t perceive it as ‘cutting’ in line,” says Leighann. Socialization is a beneficial part of school-day breaks; if diabetes treatment is interfering, talk to the staff about how your child’s care plan can be altered to put him or her on equal footing with the rest of the class.
Problem: “Diabetes makes me different from everybody else.”
One Solution: “Last year, when my 12-year-old son Justin started middle school, his routine included testing blood sugar several times during the day,” recalls mom Lori S. While his friends all raced away to the next period, he was left behind to do his checks before joining them — kind of a bummer at a time when kids just want to fit in and hang out with other kids. Being a huge sports fan, Justin came up with a unique way of making his friends want to stick around. “In an effort to engage them, he created a game called ‘Fantasy Diabetes,’ modeled after Fantasy Football. Fourteen of his friends signed up to play. Twice a week, before snack, they would gather around my son and take a guess as to what his blood sugar would be. Guesses were recorded, and points were awarded based on how close to the actual number they were,” explains Lori.
The game allowed Justin to educate his friends about type 1 and gave him more confidence in taking care of his health. “As the kids became more aware about what high and low blood sugar meant, they even started suggesting he test his levels if he didn’t appear to look well, saving him several times from going too low or too high,” says Lori. If diabetes is making your child feel different or left out, brainstorm together about ways he or she might be able to make it a regular — or even fun — part of the circle’s social life.
Problem: “I’m embarrassed about having to carry my supplies around with me all the time.”
One Solution: “We have diabetes supplies stashed throughout the school, which minimizes what our daughter has to carry,” says Leighann. “We have an extra meter and juice boxes in the P.E. office. We have a full emergency kit including low treatments, a meter, and snacks in the music room where she might be during a lockdown. And we have a full kit in her classroom, including a ton of extra snacks, glucose tablets, and juice boxes. We also have a designated spot in the classroom where she dumps her supply bag in the morning. It stays there all day, and she and the nurse grab it at snack and lunchtimes and any other time she needs it. The nurse carries it at lunchtime, taking the burden off of her, and returns it to the classroom.” Another big help? Finding a supply bag your child loves. “My daughter once had a Vera Bradley® purse for her supplies that received tons of compliments. Now she carries a heart-shaped supply bag that is incredibly cute and age appropriate.” For boys (or girls), maybe it’s a small backpack with a favorite team logo that does the trick. The key is to find something that your child would want to hang on to — even without diabetes.
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.
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