“How can I help?” We’ve all been asked this question, and no doubt been stumped for an answer. And we’ve probably all asked it ourselves at some point when we weren’t sure what we could possibly offer a friend in need.
After a child’s type 1 diabetes diagnosis in particular, a little extra help is just what most parents could use. Whether you’re looking for ways to support a friend or relative in a truly tangible way—or ideas for how to answer when others offer you assistance—take a look at how other D-parents made the most of the helping hands extended in their direction in the days and weeks following diagnosis.
Give My Other Kids Extra Attention
“When our younger daughter was diagnosed with diabetes, it was challenging, as it involved a weeklong stay in the hospital right before the holidays. We had scheduled many fun family events that now we couldn’t go to. One of the nicest things that our friends did for us was to immediately call while we were in the hospital and offer to take our older daughter to the holiday events in our place. It gave us peace of mind to know that our other child was happily engaged, and it allowed us to focus on learning the ins and outs of type 1 diabetes.”
—Amy O., founder of the blog NaturallySweetSisters.com and mom of 14-year-old Reece and 12-year-old Olivia
Learn the Basics of Diabetes Care
“The most helpful thing a friend or relative can do for a parent of a newly diagnosed child is to say, ‘Show me,’ and mean it. Having someone else who knows enough about diabetes care to allow a parent the chance to run errands or just have a break is invaluable. It’s a significant thing to ask of someone, but if that person really wants to help, he or she will welcome the opportunity to learn. It’s empowering for everyone involved.”
—Lorraine C., mom of 12-year-old Caleb and blogger at ThisIsCaleb.com
Stay Positive—and Medically Accurate
“First, learn the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. However, don’t give treatment advice or share horror stories. Unfortunately, some people feel comfortable telling tales—in front of the child—of how Uncle Joe went blind because of his diabetes. Likewise, don’t give dietary advice. The child’s parents know that the child can eat just about anything in moderation and can treat with insulin appropriately. Lastly, be positive. We are coming to a point where the disease may someday be curable, so let’s stay hopeful and supportive.”
—Kirsten Schull, Warren, Utah, mom of eight children, six of whom have type 1 diabetes
Offer to Babysit
“Diabetes is relentless, as you quickly find out after your child is diagnosed. You may have to get up throughout the night, checking blood sugars. You cannot sleep in, or let your child sleep in, without checking their blood sugar. Every carb gram has to be counted, every bite weighed and measured. You have to do math! One of the most gracious things a family member can do is give a parent some time off, whether it’s an afternoon, a meal, or even a sleepover. Having someone not only take over the care of the child but also understand and empathize with what you deal with 24/7… It really helps you feel supported and gives you a moment to catch your breath.”
—Dayna F., mom of 15-year-old Hannah and blogger at Sciencehorse.com
Listen to Me
“The people who helped us the most were those who simply listened. Diabetes is such a misunderstood disease that many jump to judge. We owned a bakery at the time our kids were diagnosed, so obviously there were a lot of assumptions as to why we had two and later three children with type 1 diabetes. Those who hugged and asked questions and tried to empathize with our sadness were the ones that helped the most. Even though I know I did nothing to cause my children’s disease, there was still shame and sadness and wondering about what I could have done differently. Nothing can replace an arm around the shoulder and a genuine, ‘Really, how are you doing?’ ”
—Meri, San Francisco, mom of 16-year-old Jack, 12-year-old Ben, and 10-year-old Luke
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.