Jen: Blood Sugar Is Just a Number (a How-To)

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  • Not for me.

In our family, if you hit "100" on the glucometer you get a dollar. It is because we've randomly set 100 as an arbitrary number within the target range our endocrinologist gave us, and when we occasionally hit it right on, it makes the monotony of daily testing a little more fun.

That said, it is tough but important not to automatically do a fist pump at a good number, just like we shouldn't swear when we hit one of those not-so-good numbers. It can make the child feel like they've done something right or wrong by having a certain blood sugar number, and that simply is not true. There are so very many factors at work that can lead to a less-than-perfect blood sugar reading, but the biggest one is lack of a functioning pancreas! And obviously that's not their fault.

So how do we avoid reacting when it is so natural to do so? What works for me is "fake it till you make it." Normally, I hate all things fake. I think an unspoken principle of childrearing is that there can be no long-term deception. But in this particular case, I think sometimes the key to not reacting is just NOT REACTING. Don't do it. Steel yourself from saying anything. Practice making your face blank when you get that blood sugar reading. The amazing thing about this (temporary) deception is that eventually it starts working. You start feeling less emotional as you practice hiding your upset.

This isn't entirely foolproof though. It will still be unsettling to expect an in-range number and end up with something high -- particularly before you're about to indulge in a much-anticipated high-carb meal. So what then? What helps me is preparedness. When I'm prepared, I don't have to react as much because I can handle it.

For example, if you anticipate sitting down to a special meal, test blood sugar a bit in advance to allow for any corrections so you can enjoy your meal in peace. Don't test without having all your supplies nearby. Stress is increased if you discover that your child is low and have nothing right there to treat with. It's a small thing, but it makes a difference.

Slowly, your relationship to numbers will change. It takes practice and desire, but you can train your mind to see a slightly elevated number as information to help you. You come to see numbers as a relief rather than a burden. You can make a wise plan and become more skilled, which brings peace.

As concerned parents, we will always have some kind of reaction to blood sugar numbers, and this is probably a good thing. Imagine if the numbers truly meant nothing and lows were treated without urgency and frequent highs ignored. Some alarm helps make us better. Yet, I believe we do best when we learn (gradually) to see numbers in the context of what they represent over time.

 


About the author: My name is Jennifer, and I live in Southern California with my husband, Craig, and our three boys. Our oldest son James has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I'm thankful for this opportunity -- along with my sister-in-law Kim and her daughter Kaitlyn, who also has type 1 diabetes -- to share our struggles and triumphs with our friends in the diabetes community.

Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.

Related topics:
Keep Calm and Carry Insulin: Why -- and How -- to Stay Neutral About Out-of-Range Numbers
Jen: Controlling Blood Sugar -- and My Emotions
People in the Know: Nagging About Numbers

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