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.