Friends can be a tricky thing with your type 1 child. Children want so badly to fit in with others, to have a group of people who accept them unconditionally. Type 1 diabetes can make your child have the impression of being unaccepted. Now not all children feel this way. Many children have a self-confidence that is made of iron and other children determine their confidence based on others. And let’s face it: other kids can be mean and use diabetes as a way to pick on and bully your type 1 child. As parents we want to embrace our children, keep them safe, and have them feel confident no matter what and make all of their ills disappear. If we, as parents, could do that we would wipe out diabetes all together with our wants and desires.
Since we cannot wipe out diabetes, how do we help our children to be comfortable with this lifelong disease? I believe it depends of your child’s age. With a middle, elementary school and younger child, parents need to enter the classroom each year and talk to the class about type 1 diabetes. Joslin has a great handout to guide you as a parent through this at http://www.joslin.org/info/classroom_presentation_on_diabetes_for_elementary_school_age_children.html Beyond talking to the class, you can also enlist the help of the friend’s parents. They will need to know about your child anyways so why not have them help talk to their child about childhood diabetes? The friend’s parent may know how to talk to their child about specific for their child.
Then with an older child, he should start to learn to talk to their friends about Type 1 Diabetes. This will help two-fold. First, it helps your type 1 child learn about their disease a bit more because he or she needs to talk about Type 1. Secondly, I strongly believe that encouraging your child to discuss this makes them more confident about themselves. When a child becomes more confident they are more likely to advocate for themselves. With advocation less childhood bullying could occur. Kids don’t tend to pick on kids that are confident in themselves. Self-advocation is a lifelong habit.
All T1D kids need to eventually be able to discuss how their body works, why they need insulin, to carry sugar, eat often, and sometimes feel cruddy because of their sugars. Teaching your child while they are with you by talking to the classroom and their friend’s parents about type 1 diabetes will enhance your child’s ability to make lifelong habits to talk and discuss about their diabetes.
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