“Your child has Type 1 Diabetes” was not an easy thing to hear. Those first days and months were a real struggle as we adjusted to the realities of this condition, how it would affect my son throughout his life and how to manage it on a daily basis.
Diabetes Is A Family Affair
The learning curve in the first year is steep and it has an impact on the whole family. Life changes for the entire family – everything from routines to personal or career priorities change.
Young siblings are also affected as they can feel neglected or have difficulty adjusting to the new routine of living with a brother or sister with diabetes.
While a diagnosis of diabetes often puts stress and pressure on the family unit, in time, it can bring families closer together.
Your Family Can Support A Diabetes Diagnosis Together
To overcome the challenges that Type 1 Diabetes brings, it is important to have every family member educated and involved in diabetes management early on. In fact, research has shown that the way children manage their diabetes later in life is positively influenced when their family is supportive and involved.
There are many ways to support a diagnosis of diabetes in the family. Some things to consider include:
Successful diabetes management requires constant review and management. Getting used to the “new normal” is not easy and it is especially difficult for the child or family member with the diagnosis.
Discuss the kind of support that your family member feels they need. Even if they are in need of more support than they express, or do not know, just feeling heard and understood is critical. Sometimes these will need to be one-to-one discussions, but it will also be helpful for the person with diabetes to share these feelings with the immediate family.
Educate yourself and all family members.
Learn and share as much as you can about the condition. For younger children, this is critical, as they need constant support to manage their diabetes. If possible, invite family to attend diabetes education classes with you.
Adopt mindful eating habits for the whole family.
Type 1 Diabetes is a dance of balancing activity with insulin and carbohydrates. Diabetes provides a great opportunity for the entire family to get involved in learning about nutrition. Understanding how food fuels the body with carbohydrates, fats and protein is good for everyone. Preparing meals together is a good family activity and can teach younger members the importance of balance and moderation.
Practice the daily maintenance of diabetes.
Get the family involved in carb counting, checking blood sugar and administering insulin. Put that newfound information into action. Also practice what to do in the event of a diabetic emergency.
Managing diabetes is not easy. It may not seem possible to help as it is only happening to one person, but family members can be involved with many of the tasks. While we will never truly understand what it is like to be a person with diabetes, we can – and should – support family members with diabetes in their journey.
This in turn will help them develop coping skills, build confidence and encourage personal responsibility as they learn self-care. Family matters!
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