If you have more than one child, you know that everything’s a little bit different the second time around. By the time baby number two arrives, you’re armed with a little more experience, a little less anxiety—and a lot less time. And that means you learn quickly what’s really important. So how about parents of two or more kids with type 1 diabetes? What hard-won wisdom have they picked up now that they’ve been around the block a couple times? Here, moms and dads of multiple children with diabetes share tips and insights that can come in handy whether you’re facing your first child’s diagnosis or your fifth.
Stay Open to New Ideas
“The second diagnosis, our son Ben’s, was a completely different animal for our family. Although we felt blindsided, we certainly felt more capable. The biggest difference the second time around was our more immediate decision to embrace different tools and technology for managing type 1. After our first diagnosis I resisted the pump. I’m a creature of habit and live fervently by the saying, ‘If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.’ It took almost five years to get me to agree to try pumping, but once we made the switch, it seemed the heavens opened. Freedom for Ben to eat without multiple daily injections was such a gift! So after our second and third children were diagnosed, we ordered pumps and continuous glucose monitors [CGM] immediately.”
—Meri, San Francisco, mom of 16-year-old Jack, 12-year-old Ben, and 10-year-old Luke
Turn Doc Visits Into Quality Time
“After we had a second child diagnosed with diabetes, I came up with the brilliant idea to schedule my kids’ [three-month] checkups back-to-back. It was a nightmare. My older son, who had been diagnosed three years earlier, went first. Just enough time passed for my newly diagnosed son to become unglued with fear as he sat with his grandmother in the waiting room. When it was finally his turn, he calmed down and the visit itself was fine. But then my older son became cranky waiting for us. After that experience, I made a rule: Each kid gets his own appointment day. I try to make it special by going out for a treat after the visit, just the two of us. This kind of one-on-one attention is so important for them—and it makes doctor’s visits much less hectic for us.”
—Erica N., Greensboro, N.C., mom of four sons, two of whom, 14-year-old S. and 9-year-old R., have type 1 diabetes
Be Sensitive to Non-D Siblings
“For our family, the second diagnosis was a lot different. Quite frankly, it hurt a lot more to get the news. It was also an adjustment for our eldest daughter, who has a healthy pancreas. After her second sister was diagnosed, we knew she would be fearful of also being diagnosed. We did what we could to calm her anxiety…[including] buying her a bear dressed in a doctor’s outfit to serve the same emotional role that Rufus (the Bear with Diabetes®) fulfilled for our D-kids. Since our two younger children get a little more attention because of the diabetes, we try our best to spend time alone with our eldest. We also lend a listening and sympathetic ear to her fears and thoughts about diabetes.”
—Tim B., blogger at Bleedingfinger.com and dad of three children, two of whom, 10-year-old Audi and 8-year-old Riss, have type 1 diabetes
Standardize the Supplies
“I have three children with type 1 diabetes, two of whom were diagnosed within 11 months of each other. When they were younger, we decided with our care team to have them all use the same brand and type of meters, pumps, and supplies. It made it less crazy when we were out and someone forgot something. We could just borrow from another child’s supply stash and replace it later. Not worrying about learning how to use three different kinds of pumps and three different brands of meters also helped a great deal with my stress levels!”
—Julie D., founder of PumpWearInc.com and mom of two grown sons and a 17-year-old daughter with type 1 diabetes
Remember to Retrain as Needed
“Jackson, our older child, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes halfway through third grade. We worked extensively with his teacher after his diagnosis, and by the end of the year, I felt like his teacher knew as much about diabetes as I did. The following year, our younger child Anna was diagnosed. She was in kindergarten. When Anna reached third grade, she ended up with Jack’s former teacher. I thought back-to-school diabetes prep would be a breeze, but instead I learned a valuable lesson: When people haven’t dealt with type 1 for a few years, they can forget a lot of the basics! It was an eye-opener how much I had to reteach. As the kids have gotten older, I’ve made it a policy to train all of Anna’s teachers and staff members the same, whether or not they previously worked with Jackson.”
—Chrissie A., Greenwich, Conn., mom of 16-year-old Jackson and 12-year-old Anna
Know Your Child’s Unique Needs
“Caitlin, our first child, was diagnosed as a toddler. She was 19 years old when her younger brother Rob was diagnosed at age 13. A few things were ‘easier’ for us, such as already knowing how to manage day-to-day care routines and supplies. But other things were completely new with our second child, and certainly not easier. Most of all, we had to figure out how to offer support to a child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes who could remember what it was like NOT to have T1D. Being diagnosed as a teenager is also very different than being diagnosed as a toddler; the challenges are different. At the same time, some important things have stayed the same after our second child’s diagnosis: We continue to learn about diabetes and involve ourselves in the diabetes community. In this world, education is the equalizer for coming out on top. ‘Own diabetes or it will surely own you’… Our family lived by that rule the first time, and it has served us equally well the second time around.”
—Tom Karlya, creator of DiabetesDad.org, vice president of the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, and dad of a grown son and daughter with type 1 diabetes
Support Your Child and the Cause
“Type 1 diabetes was first diagnosed in our younger daughter just weeks after she turned 3 years old in 2006. Three years later (ironically almost to the exact day), our elder daughter, age 8 at the time, was diagnosed. The first diagnosis taught me everything about living successfully with type 1 diabetes. The second diagnosis taught me to use those insights along with my voice to advocate for our children living with chronic medical conditions and spotlight the need for a cure. While I would never wish T1D to come into anyone’s life, I do feel that it has brought us even closer as a family and also provided an opportunity for my children to use their learning to help others. That’s why we started our blog. We wanted to take our experiences and show that life can continue on in a positive way and that each of us has a voice in making change.”
—Amy O., founder of the blog NaturallySweetSisters.com and mom of 14-year-old Reece and 12-year-old Olivia
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.
Rufus, the Bear with Diabetes is a registered trademark of Carol P. Cramer. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.