Q: Our recently diagnosed 10-year-old is very worried about her friends “freaking out” if they see her giving herself a shot. What should she tell her friends about her condition?
A: It’s amazing how recently diagnosed kids immediately tune in to what matters most to them at this age: what their friends are going to think. While you might have more pressing concerns when it comes to your child’s type 1 diabetes, the social aspect of managing it is no less important, especially to her. Taking time out now to create a game plan for peer interactions, both in and out of school, is a great way to help her feel confident and at ease as she participates in her type 1 diabetes care.
If your child will be returning to school for the first time since her diagnosis, consider setting up a class presentation led by your diabetes educator, the school nurse, or you, if you feel comfortable. A short, engaging discussion with your child’s classmates can go a long way in taking the mystery out of daily self-care behaviors such as checking blood sugar (glucose) and administering insulin, needing to snack during class, and recognizing signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Be direct in telling the class that your daughter is still able to enjoy the same activities and do the same things she always has. Allow lots of extra time for questions.
For your child’s closest friends, invite them over for a mini-presentation at home, with your daughter taking a turn leading the discussion. Keeping it in kid-friendly language, start by explaining that she has diabetes, and that means she can’t get energy from food like others do. Have your daughter explain that next to the stomach is the pancreas. It makes the hormone insulin that helps the body use energy. With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas is not working, so she has to take a shot of insulin. Be clear that seeing her take insulin is nothing to be scared of — it is simply something she has to do to stay healthy.
Once you’ve exhausted any and all questions, make sure there’s plenty of time left for your daughter and her friends to have some good, quality fun. Seeing is believing, and spending a few hours playing together and taking part in their regular favorite activities are powerful ways to show your child that—far from freaking out — her friends are firmly in her corner.
–Theresa Garnero, APRN, BC-ADM, MSN, CDE, is a clinical nurse manager for the Center for Diabetes Services, California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco, Calif.
Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.