From the moment we receive the diagnosis that we have a child with Type 1 Diabetes, the whirlwind of the disease and its management monopolizes us, often pushing our other children onto the peripheral. Even as that initial chaos subsides, it seems as if the regimented schedules and monitoring of diabetes supplants the needs, interests and scheduling of their non-diabetic siblings.
As parents, we try not to let this happen, yet it's difficult with the need to be hyper-focused on the day-to-day management of Type 1: What did you eat? How much? When? Have you tested your blood? What was the reading? Have you exercised? When? What did you do? For how long?
I have three sons, with my oldest being a Type 1 Diabetic. I bombard him several times daily with the above litany of questions, and my other two sons often jump in during my inquisition to tell me what they've eaten, how many grams of carbohydrates they ate, how much they exercised, and so on. Their responses often exasperate me and I hush them, focusing only on my diabetic son's answers.
Yet it wasn't until my middle son began saying that he felt that he was displaying symptoms of diabetes, like drinking a lot, that I got the wake up call. I tried to stop worrying, which is always easier said than done, and started to consider how diabetes was affecting his two siblings emotionally.
Frankly, there's not a whole lot out there on how siblings with diabetic brothers or sisters react or handle the condition. Sure, I read many online articles that told me that if my children were identical twins and one was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, then the other twin had a 50% likelihood of becoming a diabetic. This was scientifically accurate, but to me at this point in time, not much more useful than tossing a coin. What I really wanted to know was how my other kids will react to their brothers' diabetes and what the pitfalls might be.
In fact, a sibling dealing with another sibling with diabetes have some of the same issues as those kids with a brother or sister with a disability or another chronic disease. When I realized that, I then was able to find some information on what to expect from my other two children and their reactions to diabetes, and then how we could manage these reactions.
How do siblings really feel?
Guilty: Just like their parents, siblings of kids with Type 1 Diabetes often feel guilty. Guilty that something they did caused the condition, or guilty that they do not have it.
Fear: Brother and sisters are saddled with many fears, ranging from the fear that they, too, may get diabetes to the fear that their sibling may go back into the hospital.
Resentment/jealousy: A resounding theme in sibling relationships is the statement "It's not fair!" These feelings of unfairness and resentment are true of siblings dealing with Type 1. It can be tough for siblings to deal with their diabetic sibling receiving the constant attention when they themselves are getting very little, even if you're focusing on giving your diabetic child an insulin injection or counting carbohydrates, your other kids are missing the attention you might otherwise be giving them.