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Parent Partners of Children with Diabetes

When a child gets diagnosed with diabetes, we usually realize in hindsight that the signs and symptoms (excessive urination, excessive drinking, weight loss despite an increased appetite, decreased energy level) have actually been present for a while, but were ignored or attributed to something much less serious. When medical help is finally sought, the CRISIS scenario begins when diabetes is confirmed.

The patient, parents and family members go through the usual phases of crisis: shock, grief, denial, repair and reorientation. Although the burden of the condition largely falls on the patient, parents oftentimes have as much difficulty dealing with the permanency, the moment-to-moment uncertainty, and the fear of future complications. Parents are the natural source of strength and solace of children and the pillars that will keep the children propped up and equipped to deal with the trials that will befall them. SO, since parents need to be their children’s partners in taking charge of their diabetes some adjustments may help allow the family to arrive at the reoriented phase of the crisis sooner.

Be informed about diabetes. Do not blame yourself for the diabetes of your child. Learn what factors contribute to the development of diabetes and what needs to be done to take care of diabetes. Learn about insulin, blood sugar monitoring, diet, exercise, hypoglycemia and DKA. Do not delegate this to yayas or caregivers. This can easily be perceived by your child as lack of interest or abandonment. Do not believe everything you read in the internet, especially the anecdotal comments. There will also be many who out of real concern, will give you unsolicited advice, and tell you to stop insulin injections and just take blood-sugar lowering pills, vitamin supplements or herbal concoctions or use copper or zinc bracelets. Discussall such options with the pediatrician or endocrinologist you trust before accepting these alternatives. These may result in very serious consequences and may even precipitate DKA.

Try to Think Positive. A Chinese proverb states: You cannot stop the birds of sorrow from flying over your head but you can stop them from building a nest there. The sooner you realize that your child needs you to start dealing with diabetes, the better it will be for all. If you were able to handle the arrival of your first born, with all the uncertainties in the newborn’s behavior and the ever-evolving needs, you will surely be able to deal with a more predictable medical condition that is amenable to regulation. Diabetes is a dreadful condition, but something can be done about it if you choose to take control. Once that is accepted, you will be able to move on. Do not however be unrealistic in your expectations about CURES for diabetes. Many advances have been achieved in insulin delivery systems, but pain-free options are not quite in place yet even if we have all been lured about this possibility decades ago.

Help your child in the daily routines. For teenagers, supervise the blood sugar monitoring. You may even want to check your own blood sugar. Your child will feel better when he/she sees that you actually experience the discomfort he/she goes through daily. When he/she is tired or preoccupied, you may want to be the one to draw the insulin dose. Offer to help your adolescent record the blood sugar, and discuss the significance of the values obtained. Be involved without being a suffocating nag. The scolding, nagging, breathing down their neck is often times a mere reflection of your anxiety, and can be counterproductive. For the younger children, always anticipate their needs. When they go outdoors to play, always have a snack in case they develop signs of hypoglycemia.

Create an environment that will make it easier for your child with diabetes. The diabetic diet is not a starvation diet; it is a more healthy and prudent diet. If the entire family adapts to it, all of you will be healthier because of it. Watch what you purchase at the supermarket. Avoid the sugary, high fat items. Know what sugar-free items are available. Limit consumption of carbonated drinks, iced tea and fruit juice drinks. Do not stock up on junk food, chocolates, candies and desserts. Fruits are a better alternative. Avoid tempting a diabetic family member with unhealthy food items made available at home.

Empower your children. Encourage and compliment them for every desirable behavior. Talk about their fears and frustrations. Make them feel that you trust them and that you believe they have the maturity and sense of responsibility to take care of their diabetes.

Set clear rules at home and minimize the prohibitions. The same rules and methods of up-bringing should apply as much for a child with diabetes, as for his/her siblings without diabetes. The child with diabetes must not be spoiled as a result of your feeling sorry for him/her. The child with diabetes, on the contrary, must be disciplined as schedules and routines are essential and critical in successful diabetes management. Similarly, other children in the family should not be ignored or overlooked just because all of the family energy has been focused on the child with diabetes. This can generate resentment among the siblings.

Keep yourself updated with advances in diabetes management. Believe in the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial results that clearly demonstrated that if blood sugar levels are well-regulated, the onset and progression of complications are reduced 50 to 70 percent. Familiarize yourself with many known personalities and celebrities who have diabetes and have managed to remain healthy and become achievers in their own right despite the diabetes. This will encourage you and your child to believe that a diabetic can live a full and fulfilled life, have a family, and be entitled to the same happiness that the rest enjoy.

Parents always work and sacrifice and want to provide the best for their children. There can be no better partner for a child with diabetes than a PARENT PARTNER. More power to all parents who have stood by their child with diabetes, to encourage and motivate them to stay successfully in-charge.

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