Kids generally don't like being poked with needles, and my son James is no exception. While I thank heaven every day that type 1 diabetes is a treatable illness and that my little boy has every chance to grow up big and strong and live a healthy life, the truth is that treatment of type 1 diabetes involves lots of pokes and pricks!
When he was diagnosed, James didn't understand why Mommy kept giving him shots and pricking his finger! I couldn't really figure out a way to articulate to him that this was absolutely in his best interest. Surprisingly, James wasn't too afraid of finger pokes. I find this a little bit interesting because having experienced both shots and finger pokes, I'll take the shot every time! Seriously, I can hardly feel the tiny needle enter my skin whereas the finger pokes are much more sensitive and lingering. I've been told that for kids a large part of the fear of the shot comes from the visual aspect. The lancing device is covered up and you can't see the tiny needle that pokes the skin; the insulin syringe appears more foreboding because it's larger and uncovered. A huge part of James' fear came from the anticipation of an object that would cause pain.
While I was at the hospital learning how to draw up and deliver insulin in a syringe, my own mother (who had come with me) had some excellent advice. She said simply, "Jen, he can't know that you are afraid. You can be afraid, but HE CAN'T KNOW THAT." I realized immediately that she was right. The truth was I was as terrified to give my first injection as James was to receive it! But I couldn't let on for a minute. I gritted my teeth, plastered a serene expression on my face and gave him an injection!
I can't say that he reacted entirely positively to that first shot (heck, I don't even remember if I did it right!), but I do know that from then on I pledged to reduce the drama on my end as much as possible— and believe me I can be dramatic when I get stressed out! Overnight I transformed (at least outwardly) into a picture of calm whenever we dealt with "scary" diabetes‐related treatments. I made a point to be understanding with his fears but reassuring and full of confidence—trying to reduce that anticipation of fear. I know that it made a difference in those first few weeks!
The good news is that gradually James accepted shots and pokes without even flinching as they became such an integral part of his daily routine. And I can say unequivocally that I am not scared to give a shot! I wish I could say he hasn't had any diabetes‐related fears since. Unfortunately, new fears arise as he grows older and is more capable of understanding his life and what diabetes means.
We deal with these fears the best we can and as parents we are constantly learning better ways to do this! A universal principle of diabetes management is that things change all the time. Feigning courage may not work for all children and it may cease to work for James too. But when this approach is no longer effective, diabetes has taught me that if I can resolve to find my courage to help James face his fears, in time the answers will come!
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.