With so many treats and so much excitement everywhere you turn, are you wondering how you will ever be able to manage your child’s type 1 diabetes during the holiday season? From handling family feasts to carb-counting endless sweets, we asked a few parents to share their favorite solutions for diabetes-related holiday challenges. Consider it their gift to you!
“When our 8-year old son was diagnosed with diabetes last October, I grieved over many things, including the Thanksgiving feast I looked forward to cooking every year. I knew that putting on a big dinner was too much, too soon, but I felt so sad about canceling. However, within minutes of emailing our relatives to let them know, I got a call from my mom telling me that they had already come up with a plan. Dinner was still held at our house to make my son’s care easier, but I didn’t lift a finger — from cooking to setting the table to counting carbs to cleaning up, volunteers were in place to cover everything. After weeks of feeling so alone, I realized that Thanksgiving just how many loved ones I have who want to lend a helping hand. What a blessing!”
–Amy, mom of Anton, Jackson, Miss.
“When it comes to holiday treats, my 9-year-old daughter with diabetes and her brother without diabetes are on equal footing: Both get a chocolate Advent calendar, both get candy canes, and both get sweets in their stockings. However, what I’ve learned is that sometimes it’s just not the ideal moment for my daughter to have something sweet. For instance, if her blood sugar is already too high, adding a candy cane into the mix is not a good idea. So there are occasions when I ask her to hold off on eating something until the next meal or snack time. But I never completely deny her based solely on her diabetes.”
–Leighann (blogger at D-Mom.com), mom of “Q,” Illinois
Watch and Learn
“Over the years, we’ve actually found that family gatherings typically result in lower blood sugars for Caleb, who is now 10 years old. If this is your first holiday season with diabetes, my advice is to enjoy your family, bring some extra diabetes supplies with you wherever you go, and be ready to observe and learn how your child responds. It will make the next holiday gathering that much easier.”
–Lorraine, mom of Caleb, Danbury, Conn.
Eat and Run
“Like so many other kids with type 1 diabetes, my 10-year-old daughter also has celiac disease. To make sure there’s something for her to eat at holiday gatherings, I try to bring along two or three gluten-free options, but I also peruse the entire spread to see what might be appropriate and ask if I need more information about the ingredients. My daughter loves running and often likes to add a post-meal run around the neighborhood into the mix as well. This has been great for her blood sugar control, especially after a big holiday feast with lots of treats!
–Wendy (blogger at Candyheartsblog.com), mom of “Sugar,” Phoenix, Ariz.
Make a Leftovers Plan
“During the holidays, there are always extra goodies lurking around the house, whether we’re making cookies, getting little gifts of sweets and breads, or just keeping our refrigerator stocked with tempting leftovers. The way we handle all this while keeping our sanity and good attitude about diabetes is making a rule that treats are for dessert . . . only! And we are clear that the rule applies to everyone in the family. Our daughter is now 7 years old, and we want her to know that keeping treats to a minimum is not about diabetes and blood sugar numbers — it’s about good health. No one should eat cookie after cookie followed by pie, fudge, banana bread, etc.! If her blood sugar is high, we treat and bolus for the dessert and move on. Allowing her to enjoy a special treat — and seeing us do the same — helps her feel like a normal kid, instead of just a kid with diabetes.”
–Hallie (blogger at Theprincessandthepump.com), mom of “Sweetpea,” Ohio
“At big meals or other occasions that present particular carb-counting issues, Arden’s continuous glucose monitor helps me to tell if I’ve bolused too much. I much prefer catching a falling blood sugar with a juice box to spending untold hours battling with a high number. I’ve lived through too many great meals that have been followed by struggles and spent too many sleepless nights fighting with blood sugars that won’t come down.”
— Scott (blogger at Ardensday.com), dad of Arden, Robbinsville, N.J.
Help Others Help You
“When we saw our extended family for the first holiday meal after our 10-year-old son’s diagnosis, everyone wanted to help take care of him and give me a break, which was so nice of them. But since I knew they didn’t know the first thing about blood sugar checks and giving insulin, I also knew it was a bad idea! Instead, I asked all the aunts, uncles and cousins to keep my 4-year-old daughter occupied for the day. She soaked up the attention, and my son, who I knew felt self-conscious that he would be in the spotlight because of his diabetes, could sit back and relax — and I could, too.”
— Katie, mom of Brayden, Ocean City, Md.
Looking for more? The Holiday issue of the Lilly and Disney magazine for families with type 1 diabetes — packed with tips and ideas for Halloween, Thanksgiving and the winter holidays — is now available. Click here for more info. Ask your diabetes healthcare provider for a free copy!
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.