Jewels Doskicz, RN, is a freelance writer, patient advocate, health coach, and long-distance cyclist. She and her daughter both live healthfully with type 1 diabetes.
I can attest to the fact that a new diagnosis of type 1 diabetes (T1D) shakes up your entire life. It truly is one of the most difficult diseases to manage—especially in a child. Add to the challenges of diabetes a child’s unpredictable eating patterns, bursts of activities, and growth spurts, along with the emotional and social aspects of growing up, and both parents and kids have a lot on their plates.
When my daughter was diagnosed at age 5, I was armed with a unique perspective of what she was experiencing because I have type 1 diabetes myself. But that didn’t mean I was always right or that I understood her feelings and needs as completely as I could—despite sharing the exact same disease.
We learned more than a few things along the way.
Preparing for pokes
You can try to talk a child down from her fear of the unknown, but it’s about as easy as taking a cat for a walk on a leash.
Kids don’t even like to think about something that might hurt. Like needles and lancets.
When a child is diagnosed with T1D they may feel a loss of control; it helps to give some of that back to them. Be open to their preferences, especially when it comes to needles. Finger puppets can be a great tool in the selection of which finger to poke, for example. (And if the puppets choose different fingers each time, it spreads the poking around.)
Also, let them choose where they want to do the things that they have no desire to do. Remember, they’re kids! This could make it more fun. Stand on top of the toilet? Great. Bury your entire body in the couch cushions and hand me a finger? Perfect. Wait five minutes until you finish coloring? You bet. You want to put ice on your skin first? Of course! You want to poke yourself? Even better.
Here’s another idea: numb the skin first. Your healthcare provider may not suggest it, but lidocaine cream works great. Ask for a prescription, put a pea-sized amount on a Band-Aid, wait 30 minutes, and wipe it off with baby wipe. No more struggles with needles.
Tools of the trade
• Jerry the Bear is an interactive stuffed animal that kids can practice their diabetes self-care on. Having a cuddly diabetic friend around the house all the time can help ease the sadness T1D may bring.
• Even Superheroes Get Diabetes was one of my daughter’s favorite books. Connecting with a book that your child can read over and over again can create a place of comfort and understanding. There are a number of good choices out there—look for them.
• <a href="https://www.amazon.com/First-Book-Understanding-Diabetes-Companion/dp/0983265011/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1455731634&sr=1-1-spell&keywords=pink+panether+diabetes+book" target="_blank">A First Book for Understanding Diabetes is a great book for teaching the basics to babysitters, family members, friends, and teachers.
• The JDRF Bag of Hope and Rufus the Diabetes Bear. If your child hasn’t received this great care package, follow the link and request one. Rufus was a special bear buddy of ours for years.
• The American Girl Diabetes Care Kit for Dolls has kids with T1D going crazy with delight. It’s a pint-sized version of everything kids with T1D use. Don’t have a doll? Your child’s favorite stuffed animal will do.
• SPIbelts have a special pouch that makes it easy to carry diabetes necessities around without the hassle of holding onto them—or losing the parts and pieces. These fanny packs stretch to accommodate most D-things.
• Medtronic Pump Skins and Covers for Omnipod Pumps make diabetes tech as cool as possible with covers to decorate them. <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Band-Aid-Assorted-Adhesive-Bandages-Count/dp/B00U8HRXHS/ref=pd_sim_121_3?ie=UTF8&dpID=518KofL8yaL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR106%2C160_&refRID=1FJCMPRJGKD645R66V81" target="blank">Fun Band-Aids and gear that makes tech more comfortable to wear like Tummietote belts by Tally Gear are also loved by the kids.
• American Diabetes Association diabetes camps are one of the most wonderful experiences a child with T1D can have. Forging friendships and being surrounded by others with T1D who have the same challenges is empowering for kids.
• Both Dexcom and Medtronic have continuous glucose monitoring systems that allow us to see our child’s real-time blood sugars even when he or she is out of arm’s reach. The predictive abilities associated with these systems are quite literally lifesaving.
How have you helped your child learn to deal with type 1 diabetes? Share your struggles and success stories by commenting below.