By Ginger Vieira - Type 1 diabetic, competitive powerlifter and cognitive health coach.
Imagine how uneventful life would be if your child's blood sugars were steadily balancing between 80 mg/dL to 120 mg/dL? Life would be drastically different. Drastically more comfortable. Less anxiety. Simpler. Quieter. Easier. How nice it would be to look at the screen of your son's monitor and see a twinkley 98 mg/dL after every soccer game?
The reality of diabetes is that we see fluctuations often. And while our number one goal is to prevent those fluctuations as much as possible, they still happen, and I believe it's really important for your family and for building healthy thinking around diabetes for your child, that a high or low blood sugar doesn't always become an upsetting, dramatic event.
This is common: Billy checks his blood sugar after dinner and the meter reads 275 mg/dL. Mom's eyebrows furrow. Dad groans out of frustration. And Billy bites his lip as he anticipates the 10-minute conversation that follows his imperfect blood sugar. "Why did this happen? Billy what did you do? This is impossible. What are we going to do? I can't believe you're high again. I hate this. I don't understand this. Billy did you bolus correctly? What happened!"
While I understand your frustration, the drama and frustration is not essential to the next step here: looking at the science behind your child's blood sugar, adjusting insulin doses or carb-ratios-whatever-and trying again.
You are the parents and you care about your child. You see the high blood sugar and feel truly sorry that your child has to endure this. But those reactions will absolutely shape the way your son or daughter feels and thinks about their diabetes.
As they grow older, if every imperfect blood sugar reading is likely to lead to a dramatic response, some of the following things can develop:
your child will literally hide their blood sugars from you, or not check at all
they will develop a habit of lying about imperfect numbers instead of asking for help
they will develop a huge sense of guilt over imperfect blood sugars which effects self-esteem, confidence, and their ability to be self-empowered as they manage their diabetes
blood sugar battles will develop, especially in the teen years, as your child feels ganged up on and constantly like they're never going to be able to do it well enough. Angry, yelling fights over how often they checked and what ever number was. Giving up entirely can follow shortly after.
What's the alternative?
Stepping back and taking a deep breath. When you see that imperfect number on the monitor, remove your emotional response. It's not necessary and it doesn't help.
Instead, take a deep breath:
"Okay, what happened here?"
Or, if your child is old enough you can ask them:
"Billy, what do you think led to that number?"
"Billy, would you like help in figuring out what happened before this blood sugar?"
"How can I support you, Billy, in handling this blood sugar?"
No matter their age, your role as the parent of a child with diabetes should always be working towards helping them become the main caretaker of their diabetes. It is their disease. It is their responsibility. And eventually, they will be on their own.
I know this is all easier said than done, but it's important. Really important. Responding calmly doesn't mean you care less. And "hating diabetes" has never, in my observational experience, made this disease less challenging or easier. In fact, I just see it as a waste of energy that builds more hate, more guilt, and much less power.
Deep breath. Step back. No drama.