Every year in July, the Friends for Life® conference, organized by Children With Diabetes®, brings together an international gathering of the type 1 diabetes community for a six-day social and educational extravaganza. This year’s conference will be held at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, Fla., from July 5 to 10, 2016.

Now in its 17th year, Friends for Life provides an outstanding opportunity for children, teens and adults, college students and professionals, parents and grandparents, and new and veteran diabetes clinicians to connect through the conference’s jam-packed schedule of events. Between the research seminars, parenting classes, and discussion groups, special programming for children and teens, and numerous social events, including dinners, receptions, and dances, it’s a conference that attendees don’t soon forget.

According to conference organizer Laura Billetdeaux, “Every year, Friends for Life Orlando strikes me as a grand parade just waiting to happen. Everyone is poised—and so very ready—to jump in with both feet and absorb new information, make friends, and have fun.” To that same end, we asked parents to share the best tip, solution, or idea they came home with after last year’s event.

Let Siblings Help

“One of our biggest struggles is maintaining a balance of attention with our other children. Our 5-year-old daughter, Isabella, is a triplet and the only one with type 1. Because of the immediacy of this disease, we often find ourselves placing priority on Isabella. One piece of advice we received from several other families at Friends for Life was to try and involve our other children in Isabella’s diabetes care by letting them help with [child-friendly aspects of] some of the responsibilities like pump site changes and blood sugar checks. This turned out to be great advice.”

—Kristina D., Cleveland, Ohio, blogger at InspiredByIsabella.com

Take a Kid’s-Eye View

“I attended a seminar that I thought was for parents feeling burned out with diabetes. However, it turned out to be about diabetes burnout in kids themselves! It was an eye-opener to realize that my son can still become burned out even when I am the one doing most of the care. I was focused so much on keeping him alive that I hadn’t stopped to take into account his perspective on having T1D and his need to identify with other people with diabetes. At the conference, he found great delight in saying to everyone he met, ‘I have type 1 diabetes,’ and in return, he would get a smile and a ‘Me too!’ His face lit up at this sense of connection. The experience helped me greatly in recognizing when my son needs extra support.”

—Colleen, Palmdale, Calif., mom of an 8-year-old

Don’t Sweat the Numbers

“I’m a single mom, and my daughter Karlie has had type 1 for almost 9 years. The best tip I picked up was during a presentation by Jill Weissberg-Benchell, Ph.D., C.D.E.; she said that parents sometimes attach emotion to blood sugar numbers and the kids pick up on that and can become defensive or feel bad, like they did something wrong. Since I started treating numbers as just numbers, a simple piece of information, my daughter has had a lot less attitude.”

—Kim S., Phoenix, Ariz., mom of a 13-year-old

Remember You’re Not Alone

“Attending Friends for Life is literally life-changing. Being around so much support and people who understand the path that you and your family are on is amazing. Sitting in the JDRF Research Update session and thinking about how close so many technologies are to changing my 9-year-old daughter Meredith’s life brought tears to my eyes. And, it brought me a renewed sense of hope, which has been a morale boost and source of strength for me this year. For those few special days, we are all family…we have each other’s backs and we understand. We are there to support each other and celebrate. It truly is magical.”

—Sarah, Antigo, Wis., blogger at Sweetceliacandsiblings.wordpress.com

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.

Friends for Life and Children With Diabetes are registered trademarks of T-1 Today, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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