Do you have a child with diabetes at school during Covid-19?
A few weeks ago my son’s school called me to ask “what I was thinking and feeling” about sending my son back to school this fall. It was a very considerate call that I appreciated. However, I had no real answers.
Should You Send Your Child with Diabetes Back to School During the Pandemic?
Here in Dubai, schools are opening. Each school may do that slightly differently, but they will open. Some will have half of their lessons online, others partially online, and others will open 100%.
I am still waiting for the details, but I think my son’s school is leaning toward 100% face to face classes. There are guidelines laid out by the government to do this of course. They have a plan, but it still feels like a bold step to resume in-person learning so soon.
I was pretty straightforward. “I don’t really know what to think, and I would be surprised if any parent – diabetes or not – had any answers. What do you think?”, I asked.
It’s Normal to Feel Fear Right Now
I feel like it’s pretty safe to say that in these times we are all uncertain, and as the mother of a child with Type 1 Diabetes, I’d be lying if I said that I am not sitting with some fear right now.
Sitting with the unknown is okay, but sitting with the unknown about your child’s health – it’s big.
The Impact of Uncertainty
We sit with the unknown on most days when we manage a child’s diabetes. The decisions we make about their health, and the doses of insulin that we give, can have an adverse effect if we are not careful.
But making decisions where the outcomes are completely unknown is an experimental burden that I am not enjoying right now.
Adjusting to the ‘New Normal’ with Diabetes
I would love nothing more than for my child to have a carefree life, but living with Type 1 Diabetes is far from that.
When I was my child’s age, I was going to see the movie Purple Rain for one of my friend’s birthday sleepovers without a care in the world. Here I am 36 years later, and my child is preparing to social-distance at school in the COVID-19 world.
School is challenging enough under “normal” circumstances for a child with diabetes.
Annually, there is a long process of preparation for the school year where I educate his teachers, coaches and others about Type 1 Diabetes and what to do in case of mild and severe low blood sugars or high blood sugars, and so much more. If I am doing this right, it takes several days of preparation to get all the paperwork in order, inform everyone, and organize and distribute the low blood sugar boxes for each classroom.
I will still do that this year, but with COVID-19 it feels like there is so much more uncertainty around it than before.
So as I thought about what to do, I took some deep breaths.
First Steps for Navigating School and Covid-19
Trial Run – Starting Small
First, I acknowledged that I made the big step to send my son to a basketball camp a few weeks ago.
There are no games, and everything is as distant as possible. It’s a lot of drills and technique work, which is great. He has been well, and safe. And even better, I believe he feels better.
Sometimes I truly believe the risk of poor mental health is bigger than COVID in some ways. Because of this, I took the leap of faith and sent him out to do something he loves.
This was a good test for all of us. But yet, the size of the camp is limited. They have a capacity. School is another animal with hundreds of kids.
Assessing the School’s Safety Plan
I thought about the work the school was putting in to prepare to reopen. I know that since we started home schooling, everyone in my son’s school has been working on a plan for this fall.
I also know that one of the primary reasons we moved him to a new school last year was so that he could get better health support.
He was already doing a lot on his own, but when you have a child with Type1 Diabetes, the school health office becomes one of the most critical places in the school. Knowing that the health staff are very good at this school, and that they make sure all teachers know the health risks of every student, put me at ease about how they would manage the situation this year. I know they will do their absolute best.
Assessing the Safety Plan in Our Location
We also live in a country (UAE) where there are rules enforced.
Everyone has to wear face masks and practice social distancing among other things. People are not rallying together to protest wearing masks as they are in other countries. It is all very reasonable and as safe as we probably can be right now.
Talking to My Child
And the most important thing I did in considering this decision was I asked my son what he wanted to do.
Children who are considered “high risk” are given the option to have online learning. This is a requirement that all schools must offer here in the UAE.
He is now twelve. If he were younger and just starting school, I would probably keep him at home. But now that he is older, being away from friends has a bigger impact.
I did emphasize the positives of learning from home as much as I could, but every time his answer was the same.
He wanted to be at school with his peers. “Even if you have to social-distance and it’s weird?”
“Yes,” he said. “It is better than home school.”
Returning to Face-to-Face Learning
So with all of these things to consider, I have made the informed decision to send my son back to school.
Am I still worried? Of course I am.
But I have to know that I have made the best decision with the information that I have in our current situation.
Preparing for Diabetes at School During the Covid-19 Pandemic
So now I start the process of preparing for the school year like I always do.
If you are not sure what that looks like or where to begin, please join me for my upcoming virtual session at the Diapoint Virtual Family Picnic with Sara Adhami, CDE on 25th of August. We will talk about some of the essentials that you need as you prepare to send your child to school with diabetes.
If you want more details than what we will talk about in this event, you can get more information and useful templates and tips in my online course, The Ultimate T1D School Game Plan.
Be Informed, Then Trust Your Decision
If you have a choice about going back to school, just know that whatever you decide, it is your personal, family decision. There is no right or wrong answer because no one can predict the future.
Register Now For The First Annual Diapoint Virtual Family Picnic
We can’t wait to share this important information with you and your family! Register here for free.
5 Essentials for Managing Type 1 Diabetes at School
Relieve some of the anxiety you feel whenever your child with Type 1 Diabetes heads to school for the day.
You'll find tips on educating the teacher and nurse, making emergency snack boxes, traveling on the school bus and more.