Oh, man. I wish I could write a BRIEF blog post about how to communicate with people when you’re advocating for a kid with type 1 diabetes. In my mind the post would be pithy. It would be a list enumerating succinct tips that, if followed, would result in perfect communications with friends, neighbors, schools, and medical professionals.

But I can’t write that today, and that’s not what this is! I’ve realized that communication success is a little more complicated than what a simple list can possibly convey. Instead, I think today’s lesson can be called “The It-Depends Principle.”

This might make it sound like the world’s LEAST useful lesson. So to explain, let me give you two very recent and very different scenarios.

The first scenario is our most recent endocrinologist appointment. James’ new endo is well educated, observant, smart, and totally up-to-date with technology, and she has terrific instincts with regard to blood sugar management and insulin dosing techniques. We really value her opinion. But she’s also bossy, usually in a good, “Beyoncé” type of way. She moves quickly through appointments and occasionally won’t let me finish a sentence, which leaves me sometimes frustrated that I couldn’t get my thoughts out properly.

So at the last visit, I just decided to talk louder and more forcefully than her, and you know what? It worked. She stopped talking and listened to me! The rest of the visit she made an effort to hear what I was saying. I actually think I gained her respect. This is a classic example of when the “thoughtful pause” — one of my favorite techniques for communication, for parenting, for diabetes management — simply DOES NOT WORK. If I had “paused” after she talked, I wouldn’t have been able to transmit a single thought!

The second recent scenario was quite different. I found myself working with James’ school. This is the school that I love. They have always been so understanding and willing to work with us that when I actually did hit a snag, it really surprised me. The issue at hand is complicated. I need to do a thorough write-up about it in a future post, because I think it explores issues that are pretty universally important. Let’s just say for now that for the first time, the school just wasn’t going to budge on something. I’ve seen this lots of times before working with schools. I think it’s rare for parents and administrators to always be in complete agreement, so compromise happens all the time. But then there are those moments and those issues that are just, for whatever reason, nonnegotiable. And we had one. A line was drawn in the sand, and the school was just NOT going to cross it.

This one meeting turned into a protracted issue that involved a lot of time on my part, thinking through the issue, seeing it from different angles, and researching options. It was while reflecting on the issue that I realized I needed to know WHY the school was drawing a line in the sand. I needed to listen. I needed to pause. I needed to do the exact opposite of what was so effective in the endocrinologist’s office! When I figured out the reason for the opposition, I was able to come up with a compromise that worked.

I think when we communicate with others about our kids with type 1, we need to remember that the issues are complicated. While courtesy and kindness (generally) prevail, we need to be open to observing and reacting to the individual people we’re trying to work with. At least that’s a tip that has helped our family in many real-life situations!

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:
Talking to School Personnel
Guest Blogger Meri Schumacher: The Great Divide
People in the Know: Talking With Friends’ Parents

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