What you and your child might be feeling
You just found out that your child has diabetes. Your world has suddenly been turned upside-down with injections, concerns about managing your child’s blood glucose levels, and worries about whether your child can continue to attend school, play sports and generally have a normal life.
You will experience a range of emotions and have numerous questions. Fear, anger, denial, frustration, depression and uncertainty are common emotions that you may experience under these circumstances. You may also have a lot of questions like “What will my child tell his or her friends?”, “How can I tell their teachers?”, “Are there any other parents out there who have gone through such experience?” and “How do they cope with this?”
Don’t panic; although diabetes is serious, people with it can live long, healthy, active and happy lives.
Following diagnosis, you change from regular parents to medical and administration experts in the blink of an eye. Having to learn in an instant how to keep your child alive and happy through medical intervention can be overwhelming. Coupled with the lack of sleep and worries, it can also be emotionally draining. The key is to find the help and support of others with the same experiences that you are now going through, and you can do this by joining YDA and our mentorship programme.
What your child might be going through
These are some of the feelings that your child (and you) may be going through:
Your child may pretend that he or she doesn’t have diabetes or that it will go away soon. They may try avoiding their shots, checking their blood glucose or they might start eating unhealthy foods. They might avoid thinking about diabetes for as long as possible.
Encourage your child to communicate with supportive family members and friends about diabetes. Try to learn more about diabetes so that you can teach your child and let them know more. If they avoid or refuse diabetes care, help them choose a few attainable goals to work toward e.g. checking their blood glucose levels once a day.
Some children may be angry with being the one who gets diabetes and may even transfer this frustration into anger towards people around him. As a parent, you may also be dealing with anger at yourself, your child, your spouse, even the doctor. Of course, what you are really angry at is the disease of diabetes itself.
Encourage your child to be more active by participating in activities such as running or bike-riding. Encouraging him to write their feelings in a journal or notebook might also help.
Your child may worry about how his diabetes could affect other aspects of his life. They might be terrified of needles or of a hypoglycaemic reaction. As a parent, you could also feel overwhelmed when dealing with these situations. It is natural for any parent to worry about their child’s future or the consequences of mistakes made in their treatment. However, it is very important that you remain strong and supportive for your child.
Your child might blame himself for having diabetes. They may feel guilty for burdening the rest of the family. As a parent, you might blame yourself for his diabetes or for not having noticed it earlier.
Remember that nobody knows why certain people get diabetes. Nothing you or anyone else did could have caused diabetes. It is nobody’s fault. Focus on the positive – nobody can change the fact that your child has diabetes. Try to let go of the guilt and focus your energies on treating your child’s diabetes.
Your child might feel sad, tired, or hopeless. Your child might tell you that diabetes has ruined his or her life. You could also experience depression. You may cry more than usual or you may only think of the worst possibilities for your child.
Experiencing feelings of sadness and loss is a normal reaction to the diagnosis of diabetes. Both adults and children can get depression. The signs of depression can include:
- Not caring about the things you used to enjoy
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Eating a lot more or less than usual
- Fatigue, nervousness, or anxiety
- Frequent crying
- Thinking about dying or ways to hurt yourself
- Having these feelings for an extended period of time
If this sounds like your child (or you), seek help immediately. Doctors can figure out the reason for depression and give you useful advice like seeking further help from a counsellor, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional. Seeing these mental health professionals is not a sign of weakness or failure. In fact, it takes more courage to ask for help than it does to tough it out.
Communication is key. Talk to your child about what they are feeling and work together to overcome these feelings. And don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. YDA is here to help. Call our social workers on 2544 3263.
Dealing with the teenage years: independence
Adolescents and teenagers are expected to become totally self-sufficient in managing their diabetes routine. While this self-reliance helps build confidence, for some it can be a source of pressure and anxiety. Their blood glucose levels sometimes may fluctuate despite of their best efforts; and this makes them feel frustrated, weak, and inadequate. They might react to these feelings by food binging or skipping their insulin.
Teenagers often form circles or bonds with their friends to achieve independence. However, peer groups require conformity, and this perceived need for conformity might create conflict for teenagers with diabetes. How can they act just like their friends and still maintain control of their Type 1 diabetes? Helping your child to feel comfortable with the boundaries of their Type 1 diabetes management can be a positive step in dealing with peer pressure and becoming independent.
Blood glucose levels fluctuations
One of the most frustrating and persistent problems during adolescence and teenage period may be the inability to control blood glucose levels. Research has shown that physiological changes are at work and it is believed that a hormone called Growth Hormone (GH), which stimulates the growth of bone and muscle mass during puberty, also acts as an anti-insulin agent. Moreover, dropping blood glucose levels can trigger the release of adrenaline, which in turn stimulates the release of stored glucose. The result is blood glucose levels swinging from too low to too high.
It is important to talk with your teen about the choices he or she is making. Prepare your teen, so that they can take full control of managing their diabetes. Also understand and recognise the limits of your control is key in helping a teenager to work through the challenges of adolescence. Teens want to be masters of their own lives and define their own identities. So be realistic and accept that it is your child’s diabetes, not yours.