Since I’ve been blogging, I’ve written quite a few posts about how to handle upcoming holidays. Here’s the thing—holidays can be overwhelming for all families. If you add type 1 diabetes to the mix, it complicates things quite a bit!
So this post is meant to be a bit of a review—a concise “guide” to some of the tricks, strategies, and philosophies that help make holidays a little less stressful for my family. I think it can be of worth to any family with type 1 diabetes, but perhaps especially for the newly diagnosed.
First, I feel like I need to add a major caveat: Mostly I just want everyone to know that these tips are things that MY family has found useful. If I’ve learned anything through the years, it’s that every family does things a little bit differently. And that’s actually great. I hope you can use these suggestions as a jumping-off point to finding the best solution for YOU.
Without further ado, here are my best tips and techniques:
Focus on the fun.
Holidays are often about food and parties. This can be stressful for parents who are attempting to manage a child’s blood sugar. One thing we’ve done is try to implement traditions that focus less on food. You can read about that here.
Eat better daily.
Another thing we do in our family is try really hard to eat healthily EVERY day. I feel like if we eat our greens and fresh foods daily, it isn’t quite so serious if we splurge on Easter or Halloween. (Speaking of, find more from me on Halloween here and here, where I staunchly defend my choice to allow my son with type 1 to go trick-or-treating.)
Go for the good stuff.
Some holiday food is pretty healthy. Embrace it! We offer lots of yummy veggies, turkey, and other family faves at Thanksgiving. Corned beef and cabbage are fun for St. Patrick’s Day, and both are healthier than Lucky Charms. Rise to the challenge of embracing the most nutritious traditional foods of every holiday!
I personally feel that consolidating junk food is better than spreading it out so that you’re having it all the time. I talk about that in my post about How Movie Night Solves the Candy Problem for us. I handle a lot of the big candy holidays in this way—allowing one night of sort of crummy eating and potentially difficult blood sugars rather than weeks of candy eating following a special occasion.
Try “breakfast dessert.”
Some holidays are still tricky. From experience I’ve learned that having a kid with type 1 immediately wake up and dive into an Easter basket full of sweets is not ideal for maintaining healthy blood sugar. Instead we eat a hearty breakfast FIRST and then we break out the chocolate eggs!
Make ready for the feast.
Prepare before big holidays. I talk about that here in the context of Thanksgiving. Try to know the menu. Bring supplies (like measuring cups) if you need to. Practice measuring things at home so you become a good estimator! This will help you be successful at big feasts.
Cut yourself some slack.
Know that despite your best efforts, little things at holiday parties can wreak havoc on blood sugar—excitement, stress, activity, sheer volume of food. (Find my thoughts on that in regard to Christmas here.) Be kind to yourself and try not to be too judgmental about the post-meal numbers. See them just as diagnostic tools. You can read a lot more about that here and here (in which I try James’ continuous glucose monitor on myself in what turns out to be a sort of social experiment).
Holidays are FUN, and they will still be fun with type 1 diabetes. With some preparation and deliberation, I know that you can come up with some good strategies that work for your family. If I were to distill this whole post into just a line or two, it would be to encourage you to take the best parts of every holiday and combine them with the best parts of your life right now. Allow yourself to enjoy the special occasion. Feel confident that you can do it and that you can help your child have a wonderful experience at THIS time of the year too.
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.