Jealous [jel-uh s], adjective: Feeling resentment against someone because of that person’s success or advantages.
My kids are jealous. Jealous of the time we spend addressing the needs of our daughter with type 1 diabetes. Jealous of her one-on-one trips with us to the doctor. Jealous of the times she stays up later because we forgot to change her insulin pump site. Jealous of the number of juice boxes she’s consumed since diagnosis. Jealous of the phone she carries in a tie-dyed waist belt so her CGM (continuous glucose monitor) readings can be sent our way. Jealous of the fundraisers held in their sister’s name, her face splashed across huge banners. The list goes on and on.
But “success”? “Advantages”? This is called perspective. They see their sister getting attention and, in turn, are resentful of her and of type 1 diabetes.
Unfortunately, what they aren’t aware of at this point in their lives is that these advantages don’t feel like such to their sister. Based on the audible groan when she needs to drink a juice box for the third low in a day, or the tears she lets out when she has to miss recess because of an endocrinology appointment, we’re sure she would argue she doesn’t have a leg up.
But that’s not how they view it. To them, their sister is the “chosen one,” the child who gets all the perks. The one around whom all parental attention is centered. As flawed as this perspective seems to us, they are entitled to these feelings, and, as parents, we must acknowledge them.
“Why do you or Daddy go on all of Isa’s field trips? It’s not fair.”
We should have seen this coming.
“One of us has to go so the nurse can stay at school to help the other kids.”
“It’s not fair that you always go with her class and not ours. Everything is about her.”
The sting from those last four words hurts. No matter how many times we’ve been the Mystery Reader for their classrooms or how many parties we’ve helped with at school, it’s these moments they remember. The ones when we weren’t there. The ones where, from their perspective, we chose their sister over them. The times when their sister’s disease proved to be an advantage. A win. Success.
Since Isa’s diagnosis we’ve tried hard to spread our attention out evenly. The key word here is “try.” No matter what you do as the parent of a child with T1D, the reality is that no day planner or scheduling app could ever fully rid your family of the inherent jealousy that exists. However, here are a few ways we’ve found to lessen the jealousy levels:
Acknowledge Their Feelings
No matter how much we disagree when our non-T1D kids tell us we are playing favorites and spending more time with their T1D sibling, it’s important to let them know their feelings are valid and important. Perception is reality. While we may feel like we are equally dividing our time and attention, it may not feel that way to them.
Engage Them in T1D Management
There’s nothing more heartwarming than hearing your non-T1D kid yell out the carb count for a snack to their sibling, or offer to carry her supply kit for her. Siblings need to know that they have a role to play in T1D management and that there’s more to it than sharing in the low-blood-sugar juice box joy.
Attend T1D Events as a Family
I’ve lost count of the number of T1D events we’ve attended since Isa’s diagnosis. What I can tell you is that our kiddos never feel like these are just for those with type 1. Whether it’s working out with T1D celebrity athletes during our local JDRF TypeOneNation Summit, spending the day with Beyond Type 1’s Bike Beyond team last year, or enjoying one of our favorite summer activities — the Children With Diabetes® Friends for Life® Conference — the common theme in their minds isn’t T1D. The theme for them is FUN!
The important thing is that we have to make sure all of our kids know that they matter but still understand the immediacy of certain aspects of their sibling’s care. We need to try not to take our frustrations with managing this disease out on them and work hard to ensure that they don’t become resentful.
Of course, it’s much easier to write this list of strategies than to actually follow them. Though type 1 diabetes so often takes center stage, we have to remember that we can’t always keep our other kids waiting in the wings.
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.