Brand New Type 1 Diabetic Parent

I first want to tell you to BREATHE!

Okay now we can talk. There is so much information that is getting told to you and you feel like you are drowning. Breathe again! You will become the next expert on your child and type 1 diabetes. But how do you get there and when will that happen?  Take small steps to get there. You will learn all of the information and will be that expert. Parents I have talked too say they really felt very comfortable around a year. Not that you won’t understand what to do until then; however, type 1 diabetes becomes second nature around then.

Not everyone is the same. Some parents are type A organized and have every paper ever given to us by the doctor to reference back too. And some of the parents have what is exactly needed and nothing more. Each has it merits. But what we do have in common is we keep all this stuff in one spot to find and reference. Usually all of the information is from a diabetic educator. Diabetic education is wonderful. They take you step by step through all things diabetes. So how could you break that up a little bit more for a not so structured person. Start with a list of how to focus on aspects of diabetic care. (And yes I am the type A personality, so planning is how I function. I recognize that planning is not everyone’s strength. And it is not a downfall). Start with a few weeks as a new diabetic parent and just get to know your child’s type 1 diabetes. As a parent of a newly diagnosed diabetic I learned my child; for example I learned that his legs were hungry when he was low. While you learn your child also spend time with a basic diabetic book to understand high blood sugars, low blood sugars. insulin, and carbohydrate counting. Then I would start to dive into each topic more in-depth.

A good example would be carbohydrate counting. To do this start to learn more about how to measure and weigh carbohydrates. The package carbohydrate counting is sometimes correct and sometimes way off. So measure with a good old-fashioned scale and use that carbohydrate counting book at diagnoses. If you have that book mark the pages you use most.If you don’t go buy one. If your preschooler will only eat macaroni and cheese then mark all of the pages. (We keep one of these books in a carry bag, in a kitchen draw, at grandmas house, in all the cars. One year we found older versions at the bookstore for a dollar a piece. You guessed it we bought every single one of them). Now that the pages are marked you will find it easier to start counting carbohydrates. Live with the carbohydrate counting and then move on to the next topic of your choice.

Over the next few weeks learn in-depth a certain aspect of the new diagnosis. With breaking it down into smaller steps it becomes easier.taking it step by step allows you to master your understanding of your child’s diabetes. Also remember you are still caring daily for your diabetic child.  The first year is the hardest because type 1 diabetes is not second nature. It will come it just takes time. But the thing that is most important to emphasize is a parent can become caught up in trying to do all of the diabetic stuff and burn out easily. So BREATHE often and frequently!

It is important to stay on top of it but you as a parent needs to know when you need a break even for a few hours. You can better help you child with their diabetes if you are not burnt out from care giving. to do this use all the resources you can, books, family, spouse, to make learning and caring easier for you and your family. Diabetes did not just


impact your child, it has changed the whole family unit.

One place to start with a new diagnosis is with our book. It is for babysitters, but as authors we broke the book down in very basic topics to help people learn. The intended people are the sitters, but with a new diagnosed child the parent can also be that person to learn. And the plus side is that you will have all your kiddos information in one area. Diabetes is hard on the whole family and the primary parent tends to be the caregiver. You as a parent will learn it all and hopefully do so with as little stress as possible.

Type 1 Tween

As a parent caring for a child type 1 diabetic you have likely been living day-to-day with blood sugars, carbohydrate counting, insulin, and then adjusting basal rates and insulin to carbohydrate ratios. (of course this is if your child is not a new diagnosed type 1). Then one day you realized you have a tween. You know the 9/10-13 years of age trying to be a bit more independent from you as a parent. Naturally they need to learn independence slowly. In a tweens life Peers become the ruling influence and  the tween wants to make more of their own decisions. This is only the beginning as your child grows to adulthood. In a non diabetic life there is so much to consider. Diabetes then adds another layer for parents in raising a child to adulthood.

So how do you as a parent help your Type 1 child to navigate this  need for some independence and stay safe with diabetes. As in a non diabetic kids, life and learning and not linear. You give a child room to be independent and then they have a life lesson and have consequences. So how to begin independence and type 1 diabetes? The first thing to do it is to understand where your own child is at with their type 1 diabetes comfort level. Does he or she know how to count carbohydrates and does correctly with insulin? Can he or she give a shot? Are they aware of their blood sugars and able to test? Finally, can you trust your child to do those things and not be caught up in “life”? If you can then begin by trusting them to go to a friend’s house or other youth activities without you.Then do you get a phone or no phone and what age so to promote being able to be more independent, and what age is a phone given? We use a phone because I can parent from afar and my son is able to gain more independence.

I feel any of the above only happens in small steps. What works for one family may not work for another because kids are so different. Each child’s learning can be vastly different, but some basic truths apply to all type 1 children. One such truths is self-care in relation to their diabetes.  If this is satisfactory (able to test blood sugars, how to treat the blood sugar, and when to notify you as a parent) then I believe you let your child should be able to be away from the parent and grow gradually. For example we use our book, “Type 1 Diabetes and Babysitting: A Parent’s Toolkit” for my son to know what to do with his sugars. So when we are at a cross-road he looks up the basic steps and we always review it. If my son needs more training we discuss it with his educator. 

With slow training, I believe your type 1 child will grow to an independent adult. It is all a learning process for us as parents and for our children. In the end as parents we don’t only have the responsibility to prepare them to be adults but to also teach our Type 1 Diabetics how to manage their disease in a healthy way so they are able to without our help as parents. The tween years can be fun and challenging at the same time. Having a clear plan to guide your type 1 child into adulthood will decrease stress for the whole family at this time in their lives.