Creating healthy habits is one of my core responsibilities as a parent. Along with providing an environment of unconditional love and physical safety, teaching good habits is one of the most influential things we can do for our kids. They won’t remember all of our lectures, but they will carry with them the habits they learned in childhood. I think when it comes down to it, what separates James from other kids without diabetes is a bunch of extra habits that he will need to engage in to keep himself healthy.

I’m still learning about the best ways to instill habits in all of my kids. One thing that seems to work for me is to attach some kind of enjoyable ritual to something that I have to do anyway. If there’s some kind of payoff, it makes the required task more pleasant, all the while making the habit stronger!

I realized that I’ve already been using rituals to build good diabetes habits. To bring peace in my life I talk about making sure the “Bookends” of the day are peaceful and quiet, and that helps me to manage my stress and be a better mom. We created “Pasta Wednesdays” to allow for eating our favorite food in a good environment despite an odd school schedule. Similarly, “Friday Movie Nights” provide an opportunity to eat candy but in a way that lets me monitor James’ blood sugar and make sure we don’t overindulge during the week.

We also have been using the afternoons wisely. I’ve posted before about our Hour of Power, when we regroup physically and mentally and also charge our diabetes devices. Making a meal out of Afternoon Snack is also something we do as a family, helping keep the kids nourished and blood sugars in range — and it’s fun too.

Right now I’m working on creating two new rituals. We have been following an adjusted schedule for James’ site changes, which we do in the afternoon. While the schedule has become a habit that helps James stay healthy, I find myself still dreading doing site changes. I’m thinking that if James and I simply take a minute on those days to do something nice together (read together? enjoy sparkling water? something like that), it would turn a task that I find a bit of a drudge into something that I’m excited to participate in. See how that works? I’m still deciding what will be the most natural and most enjoyable.

Another habit I’m instituting is yet another snack. James is growing like crazy, and the nutritionist on our diabetes care team would like to see him add a nighttime snack to his meal regimen. I think what we’ll try for is a high-quality protein shake at night, probably after his younger siblings are in bed. I plan to load him up with good nutrition and something tasty, hoping that it will lead to stable blood sugar numbers and continued growth and strength. I think it’ll also make bedtime a more relaxing ritual. I simply don’t see a downside!

I think rituals can make all of the things we have to do in diabetes a little sweeter, so to speak. If we look at our weekly and daily calendars and make a list of the tasks that we have to do, it helps a lot if there are little rewards or perks that we can add that make us look forward to completing the tasks. Building good experiences around things that we need to do anyway has been an effective way to help keep our family practicing good habits.

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.

Related topics:
Crafty DIY Reminder for Insulin Pump Site Changes
15 Genius Ideas from D-Parents (and Kids!)
What I Learned by Trying James’ CGM Device on Myself

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