Ask a Teen: Sibling Rivalry

Q: My little sister was diagnosed in December, and now she’s getting all the attention, and I’m really jealous. I’m 13 and really know better than that, and I know I need to be more mature, but I can’t help it. HELP ME PLEASE!!!

A: I know what it means when siblings of kids with diabetes tell me, “I don’t get enough attention.” I have a twin sister, and for most of our lives–ever since she was diagnosed with type 1 when we were 3–Mollie has needed 24/7/365 attention. There were times when it was hard, but, as we got older, I did two things to keep our situations in perspective. First, I decided that rather than sitting around feeling sorry for myself, I would try to make myself useful. I began learning everything I could about diabetes, because the more everyone in the family knew, the better Mollie could manage her diabetes, and the easier life became for her and for all of us. I began to understand and look out for her mood swings, how insulin works, why they need to test so often, how she felt when her blood glucose was high or low, and how to help her in an emergency. In knowing these things as though I had the disease, I gained a better understanding of how my sister felt, why she acted the way she did.

The second thing that always helps me to keep the “attention” issue in perspective is knowing that when my parents give Mollie extra attention, it’s not because they love her more than me, but because if someone isn’t paying close enough attention, there could be devastating results.

And the bottom line for me is, I can’t imagine life without Mollie, as I am sure you could not imagine life without your little sister. Think about what would be missing if you came home from school or soccer or any important event in your life and she wasn’t there to give you a hug and congratulate you. So rather than concentrating on the attention I’m not getting, I choose to be grateful that my parents are attentive and caring enough to teach my sister and help her, while being there for both of us always.

I’m not saying it isn’t hard and that you don’t wish that they showed you that kind of attention, but deep down, I hope you’ll learn as I did that they love us both equally. And please don’t feel bad about feeling envious. I’ve talked to a lot of siblings, and I’ve found that at one point or another we all go through this.

And then somewhere along the line, we all realize this is something we have to deal with. But remember that at any given time, it’s always important that we as siblings know how to handle any given situation and then go on with our lives. Diabetes is a family disease, it doesn’t just affect one of us. So now is your turn to be the big sister you always wanted to be, and it will only bring you closer with a little patience and a little love.

Jackie, 17, and her twin sister, Mollie, who has had type 1 diabetes for 14 years, are active JDRF volunteers.

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