When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, conversations changed between my parents and me. My parents began asking me questions like, “Is your blood sugar high?”, “Are you low?”, and “Do you have all of your supplies?” more than they asked me about my everyday life. Children and teens living with type 1 are often asked far more about their diabetes by their parents than anything else, resulting in a situation like the meme above that we created for this post.
It is true that people living with type 1 often have numbers on their minds at all times, whether they’re carb grams, blood sugar readings, or insulin dosages. However, it’s still important to communicate as a parent or caregiver that diabetes is not all of the person, but just a part of them. This means taking interest in all the things going on in the person’s life, not just their health. It’s important to be able to communicate that you care about their diabetes but also to understand that diabetes does not always have to be the main topic. This way the relationship between parent and child can be a lot less stressful, especially from a child’s point of view.
On our Type 1 Diabetes Memes page, we asked people living with diabetes and those caring for children or teens with diabetes, “What advice would you give to parents about how to talk to their kids or teens about diabetes and their blood sugars?” The majority of the responses highlighted the importance of showing support, teaching independence, helping but not lecturing, and having the parent accept their child through the bad and good parts of life with diabetes.
As a person with type 1 myself, I agree that having the support of my parents allowed me to be independent in both managing my diabetes as a teen and now as an adult. The concept of accepting the bad with the good is also key. I struggle with not pairing a high blood sugar reading with a feeling of guilt or failure. When my parents reinforce the idea that a high blood sugar does not mean I’m a failure or a “bad diabetic,” I feel better knowing that I did my best, regardless of whether my blood sugar is in range or not.
Try to celebrate all the moments where your child or teen did their best in their diabetes management, despite the outcome on the meter. Speaking for both Meredith (the co-manager of Type 1 Diabetes Memes) and myself, we know living with type 1 is not easy. However, looking back on our teen years, we realize how significant our parents’ role was in giving us an optimistic outlook and the crucial importance of open communication with them. Even if a lot of the time my conversations with my parents are a mash of numbers and diabetes-related slang, there’s still an underlying understanding that no matter what my number is, they’re always on my side.
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.