Every type 1 diabetes parent remembers the moment when they first found out that their child had diabetes. You probably remember it with razor-sharp clarity: where you were, how you felt, the details of the room you were in. A moment like that stands out and divides your life into two halves: before diabets and after. And even in the gravity of that moment your mind probably raced with thoughts of the future: What happens now? Is this my fault? Can this be fixed? Is it a mistake? And, how can I give my child as normal a life as possible?
As stressful as a personal diabetes diagnosis is, the diagnosis of your child can be even worse. Parents who would do anything in the world to protect their child find out that their child has a disease they can’t fix.
Anyone who tells you that having a child with diabetes isn’t a big deal or suggests easy fixes has no idea what they’re talking about, so we won’t do that here. But there are some strategies for navigating a diabetes diagnosis that can help you care for your child and, just as importantly, yourself.
Stages of Acceptance
You may be familiar with the stages of grief, and these stages can be helpful in understanding your journey to accept a child’s diabetes diagnosis. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. You may go through all these emotions simultaneously, in random order, or you may experience these and other emotions. Try to recognize the stage you are in and allow yourself to be angry, or frustrated, or whatever the case may be. The goal is to move toward acceptance, but respect your journey and understand that even when you reach acceptance there may be other stages mixed in.
Remember that people with type 1 diabetes can live long, healthy, and successful lives. Your child can be whatever he or she wants to be! (Need inspiration? Check out this list of inspiring people with diabetes here.) So take heart, take a breath, and read on!
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1. Take it one step at a time
Thinking about lifelong diabetes management, especially at the beginning, can make you want to curl up into a ball and tune out the rest of the world. But while diabetes takes lifelong management, that management doesn’t happen all in one day. Start with today—start with this moment. Deal with one challenge at a time. When you have good moments, enjoy them! When there are challenges and scary moments, realize that they won’t last forever.
Living in the moment is an important strategy for quality of life in general, and it’s especially important when it comes to your child’s disease management. Teach them how to take things in stride, one test and injection at a time, by showing them how to keep things in perspective.
2. Have Hope For The Future
Live in the moment, yes, but realize that management will become routine. Ask other type parents and they’ll admit that things will always be tough, but they will get better! There will be a day when your child doesn’t run away from you when it’s time to get an injection, and even a day when they give themselves their own injections (yes!).
Learning any new skill takes time and involves many mistakes, so it’s to be expected that you’ll have challenges when learning how to be your child’s substitute pancreas. But practice and time will improve your ability to predict your child’s reactions, so take a breath and look forward to the day when you hand over the needles!