Your child has type 1 diabetes.
With those six words, your whole world has changed. You feel scared, worried, overwhelmed. You’re drowning in an avalanche of information that you can’t begin to process because of all the emotions you’re feeling. Worst of all, you don’t know if it’s ever going to stop.
It might not seem like it at this point, but things do get better. Take it from the experts — no, not the medical professionals. Take it from the true experts, the people living with diabetes. You’ll find your new normal. With the right education, support, and advice, it’s possible not only to survive, but to thrive. Until you get to that place, here are a few DOs and DONTs to help you get through it all.
DON’T suppress feelings of grief.
Yes, diabetes is manageable, and yes, you’re thankful your child is alive… but you may still be grieving, and that’s okay. There is a lot to grieve for. You are grieving the loss of a perfectly healthy child. You are grieving the loss of a carefree idealized vision of your child’s future. You may be fearful and angry and sad about the prospect of a lifetime of counting carbs and worrying all night. Don’t be afraid to feel all these things, and to express those feelings to your friend, spouse, or medical professional.
DO educate yourself
Some of your fears may stem from fear of the unknown. The more you learn about diabetes and caring for your child, the more comfortable you will become. Take classes, attend conferences, meet with your CDE, ask your doctor questions, read books and journals. Keep up to date with the latest developments in diabetes care and technology. Not only will you learn a lot, you’ll meet families with experience who are living proof that it can be done.
DON’T isolate yourself
Type 1 diabetes is relatively rare, so parents of children with diabetes can feel isolated and alone. The good news is, there is a thriving community of families living with T1D who are ready to embrace you and shower you with advice and support. Reach out to organizations both online (diaTribe, Carb DM’s Brave Buddies), and in real life (Carb DM, JDRF, ABC Diabetics, DYF and other diabetes camps).
DO find a good team
It’s essential to have a team who can help you and your family thrive physically, mentally and emotionally. You can find mental and emotional support from family, friends, and the T1D community, among others. Your child’s medical support team can consist of an endocrinologist, pediatrician, nutritionist, CDE, and mental health professions (for your child as well as other family members). Ask your pediatrician or friends in the T1D community for recommendations for medical professionals.
DON’T neglect yourself
As the flight safety videos say, secure your own mask before helping others. Caring for a child with diabetes can be physically and emotionally draining, so make sure you’re up for it. Eat right, get enough sleep and exercise, and find some time for yourself. It’s okay to take a break!
DO continue to schedule date nights (or friends’ nights out!)
Part of caring for yourself is keeping your relationships alive and well. In the beginning, leaving your child may be the last thing you want to do, but as you gain experience in your new role as your child’s substitute pancreas, you will become more comfortable with managing from a distance. Ask your CDE or T1D support network for recommendations for a babysitter with experience handling diabetes issues. If you already have a trusted babysitter, consider signing them up for diabetes education classes.
One final DO….
DO take advantage of Carb DM’s resources for newly diagnosed families! We have events and programs designed especially for families like you. Our latest event, Diabetes 101, is scheduled for August 3.