Once upon a time I was a homeschooling mom. It was awesome. I had two kids at the time, and both were pretty mellow. They would actually listen as I would sit them on the rug each morning. I would teach them things just as a teacher would, with prepared lessons and rapt attention on their part. And it was great while it lasted.
As my children have gotten older and gone off to public school, those kinds of moments — moments where I have a set lesson prepared and a captivated audience for any subject I’d like to teach, from a scholarly topic to a life skill — rarely ever happen anymore.
I can no longer look at my daily schedule and pencil in a cool 20 minutes to have a constructive conversation. I have tried and haven’t found it to be too effective in the midst of my crazy day. Inevitably there will be some kind of distraction to me or to the child that will just make both of us frustrated.
Instead, I’ve found using teachable moments to be a much more effective technique. Rather than sitting a child down in a formal way and attempting some kind of controlled conversation, what works best for me is to address situations as they happen. This is when kids are more curious and more likely to retain the knowledge I’m trying to teach them!
This is really relevant to teaching James about all the aspects of type 1 diabetes care. Whereas in the past I might simply grab his insulin pump if I’m trying to give a more complicated bolus, now I seize the moment right there to talk to him about what I’m doing. I help him go through the menus. I talk about the philosophy behind what I’m doing. The teaching is happening in the moment, and that moment is relevant.
I also try to take advantage of the unexpected quiet moments. These are never planned, they just occur, and if I’m watching for those moments, I can use them to teach my children. For example, maybe James and I are quietly driving somewhere together. I can bring up really any subject. We can talk about homework or friends, but we can talk about diabetes too. I can share my hopes for him. We can talk about how he’s feeling, so I can be aware. As he gets older, I talk more openly with him about what I see in his future, about my worries, about the nuts and bolts and details of managing diabetes. Slowly and almost imperceptibly, he’s coming to absorb the body of knowledge I’ve amassed about caring for somebody with type 1.
The crazy thing about teachable moments is that they’re both deceptively short and fairly frequent, if you’re watching for them. Having a moment that really helps me connect with and teach one of my children is such a small thing, it rarely becomes a checkmark on a to-do list. Yet looking back over the course of parenting my kids, the moments are so numerous that they start becoming a really important force in shaping the character of my children. When I get overwhelmed thinking about all the lessons I need to teach James about diabetes, I remember how many moments we still have ahead, and I set my resolve to try to fill them with as much learning as I possibly can. And then I can feel hope.
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.