How to Cope as a Parent of a Child with Type 1 Diabetes

Q: My son was diagnosed three months ago. I feel alone, scared, exhausted. My worst fear is that I may mess up, and something will go wrong.

A: From a parent of a child with diabetes…

I am the mother of a 14-year-old girl who hits the start of her ninth year of living with diabetes this month. It seems like only yesterday (and yet so long ago) that I was in exactly the same position, situation, and emotional state you are in. When my daughter was diagnosed, I swear I could barely breathe. Everything seemed new and upsettingI even cried while food shopping! I remember thinking, “I will never have a normal life again,” and “How will my child ever grow up happy and normal with all this on her plate?” I felt alone, isolated, and scared. I think the first time for everything is rough. First birthday party (figuring out the cake thing). First play date (trust of other parents!) First holiday. First family trip (oh, the packing of medical supplies!), first school field trip (chaperone for life!) But after you’ve done things once, the second time comes a little easier.

And let me reassure you: The fear of messing up is quite normal. With diagnosis, we all go from regular ‘ole mom to medical expert and administrator in the blink of an eye. People go to school for years to learn what we have to learn in an instant: how to keep a child alive and happy through medical intervention. It can be overwhelming, and coupled with the lack of sleep, emotionally draining. Take a deep breath and give yourself a giant pat on the back. Now look around for support: do you have a relative who would learn all about type 1 and help you out? Have you looked for other parents in your situation? It took me a full year to figure it out, but a key is finding the help and support of others who walk the walk and talk the talk.

Next, don’t worry about making mistakesjust take it one day at a time. And let me share a secret: we all make mistakes, and our kids are fine for it. I remember the first time I forgot to give my daughter her morning shot before school (back in the days before she was on a pump). The shot had become like giving out lunch money, it was such a part of the routine. So I drew it up and in the flurry of the morning, never gave it to her. Three hours later when I realized it, I called the school nurse to have her check on my daughter and called the doctor with my confession. He said, “I’m so happy this happened.” “What?” I responded, shocked. “It means you are relaxing and living your life. Now, don’t make it a habit, but it’s fine.” He was right. My daughter was high, but we gave her a shot and she came down. The day went on. And I learned: we survive it all.

Have a question? Go to the JDRF Online Diabetes Support Team.