How to Let Your Diabetic Child Be Independent

Ginger Vieira Health Guide
  • It’s a touchy subject. And I’ve never been a parent, so I realize I can’t know what it’s like to have a diabetic child and constantly wish and hope you could make it easier for them. As the parent, I would imagine you probably want to do everything you can to help your child’s blood sugars be PERFECT, because you want them to be as healthy and happy as they can be down the road. So, when I hear younger kids with diabetes tell me how frustrating their parents are when it comes to their diabetes, I do understand the parents have the best intentions.


    On the other hand, I can see those good intentions have the exact opposite result than what their hoping for. And this isn’t just visible in a few kids here and there, it seems to be a very, very common issue.

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    The kids I’ve spoken with about this issue say things like, “My parents nag me about checking my blood sugar, and it makes me want to not check.”


    “My mom thinks I don’t know how to take my insulin. She is always bugging me about it.”


    And I completely understand why it’s hard to step back and wait for the child to prove to you that they can take responsibility for it on their own, that they can remember to check on their own, but it really is one of the best ways to help your child accept diabetes as a part of their life. Eventually, some day, they will leave home and you won’t have any control over them whatsoever—right? I mean, you can call and demand to hear their blood sugars for the day (assuming they’ll tell you the truth), but it doesn’t mean you have any control over their diabetes. In the end, if the child doesn’t know how to take care of it, nobody can take care of it for them.


    And I’m aware that by letting go and stepping back, you risk the child forgetting altogether to do it on their own, but the huge aspect of this issue is that these really aren’t your average kids. These are “kids” who have suddenly been asked to keep themselves alive every day and it’s NOT EASY. Adults don’t even do it very well sometimes, so to expect a child to do it perfectly is instantly asking them to be older than they are. And they CAN handle that. They CAN. I’ve met plenty of kids who do, and I’ve met plenty of kids who can, but they haven’t been given the freedom to prove it yet.


    And it’s definitely not an easy transition. It should probably involve a calm yet serious discussion between the parent and the child where Mom and Dad agree to step back and the child agrees to step forward. I’d hesitate using the word “trial run” because you’re instantly implying you may think the child can’t handle this—but they CAN. And it’s important that they feel you believe in them, trust them, and understand that they cannot do it perfectly, with or without your help.


    Helping a child learn how to take care of their diabetes on their own is not just about maintaining perfect blood sugars, it’s also about learning how to work with the aspects of the disease that cannot be controlled, no matter how hard you try. If you’d like to do anything for your diabetic child, don’t add to their stress by nagging and making them feel guilty for high blood sugars, instead, try to help them learn how to handle the everyday stress of having a disease that challenges them every day. Through this, hopefully, they’ll develop and maintain a positive attitude towards the disease where they feel less invaded by the disease, and more in control of it.


Published On: April 16, 2007