Q: I feel like the stress of our daughter's diagnosis with type 1 diabetes has completely altered our family dynamics. It seems difficult for me to believe that this was once the family that would go for hikes, eat out at our favorite pizza place every Friday, etc. Are the "good old days" gone forever? How do we not lose sight of the family we once were?
A: This is a very common reaction when a child is diagnosed with type 1, and for good reason. What your family is going through right now is a major change -- and a very stressful one -- but as difficult as this may be for you to believe right now, things will return to normal. Hiking, pizza, pretty much anything you did before your child's diagnosis -- keep the faith that you will be able to resume these activities with your child, even with diabetes now a fact of life for your family.
As you learn the ups and downs of type 1 management, it's natural to be very focused on diabetes for the first few weeks and months after diagnosis. You need to get a handle on a lot right now, so cut yourself a break. Don't have enough energy to round up everyone to go out for your usual Friday night pizza? That's okay. This will come in time, especially as counting carbohydrates in foods becomes easier.
Once you feel more comfortable with type 1 -- and as parents so often need to hear, this will happen -- slowly start working toward returning to your family's usual routines. In most cases, diabetes care should fit into your lifestyle, not the other way around. To pick up where you left off, try including one of your favorite "old" activities each week. Do this by thinking through ahead of time how diabetes will fit into the situation. Want to go hiking? Look at the route and plan where it makes sense to stop and check blood sugar or have a snack. Buy a bigger pack, if necessary, to store extra supplies and food, and don't forget to pack a list of emergency contact numbers.
Whatever activity you have planned, once you know the how, when, and where, and have thought through how you might handle the diabetes tasks, review your plan with your diabetes doctor or nurse, especially if you have questions. Next, go for it! You will probably be shocked by how little things have changed. And once you have the "good old days" back under your belt, don't be surprised if your family is soon ready to take on new adventures and create new family traditions.
--Jeanne Buchanan, R.N., C.D.E., is a pediatric diabetes educator at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in San Francisco.
How Other Parents Deal
"I remember crying after my son's diagnosis because I could not figure out how we could ever possibly handle this and do all the outdoorsy types of things our family had always enjoyed. Fast forward six years, and I think our son now skis, hikes, and bikes more than the rest of us put together! What a powerful lesson. Type 1 diabetes doesn't have to limit anybody or any family."
--Jennifer, mom of Evan
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