To all the well-meaning people out there who want to help my son with type 1 diabetes, here’s a couple of pointers I’d love for you to know about how to act during mealtimes. Let’s start with a couple of really big don’ts:
Don’t ask him if he should eat that.
Don’t give him (or me) a knowing look if you think he shouldn’t be eating that.
Don’t tell him not to eat pizza.
Don’t hide dessert from him and then give it to the other kids when he leaves the room.
Don’t blame a high blood sugar on food.
Don’t offer any judgment about the food that a person with type 1 diabetes consumes!
They do have to eat food, every day, several times a day. Sure, carbs do cause their blood sugar to rise if not managed properly with insulin, but there isn’t a single day that goes by that they don’t have to eat carbs.
Because there is no perfection in eating with diabetes, your judgmental words, your rolled eyes, and your “knowing” winks don’t help a person with type 1 diabetes to live a long and healthy life. They just make them feel bad about food!
If you want to help, here are some things that you CAN do:
Do ask my son if he’d like some of what you’re serving. He can decide if it’s something he’d like to eat or if he’d rather refrain — for diabetes reasons or any other reason.
Do offer to show him the packaging of the food or the recipe that you made.
Do provide measuring cups or a scale if you’ve got one handy.
Do offer fruits and veggies — those are good for everyone.
Do keep your comments positive and remember that he’s just like every other person sharing a meal with you. Having a pleasant meal with someone is a fantastic way to maintain a lifelong healthy relationship with food!
This may have come off a little bit rant-y. That wasn’t intentional. It’s just that the longer I’ve been at this thing, the more I realize that the role that a stranger, an acquaintance, a friend, or even a family member might have in the day-to-day life of a child with type 1 diabetes is not to inform their opinions about what food they should eat. That should come from a collaboration between the diabetes care team, the parents, and the person with diabetes. If you don’t have that kind of relationship with a child with type 1, one of the best ways you can help is by withholding judgment and keeping your opinions about food and diabetes wholly positive.
The role of the doctors is to inform and advise. The role of the parents is to discern and teach. And the role of the person with type 1 is to somehow rise above it all and find a way to establish a healthy relationship with food, within the bounds of the disease. Your negativity can bring further complication to this already complex process.
Instead, bring your love, bring your smiles, and bring your cupcakes — even if maybe we’ll refrain from having one this time.
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. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.