Q: We just found out that a kid at school has been teasing our son after he comes back from checking his blood sugar at the nurse's office. What do we do?
A: Before you do anything, make sure your son hears the message—loud and clear—that another person's ignorance about type 1 diabetes is not his problem (nor will it ever be). If seeing a silver lining in all this can help, think about the situation as a great opportunity to teach your child what the phrase "consider the source" means.
Teaching your child how to stand up for himself is important—you may want to role-play some scenarios to give him confidence that he'll know what to say and how to say it if this happens again. Also key is making sure he knows to tell you, a teacher, or another trusted adult if someone says or does something that makes him feel uncomfortable.
Next, it's time for damage control at the school. Dealing with the incident at hand is important, but so is looking at the bigger picture of how much your son's classmates know about type 1 diabetes and the steps needed to manage it. To get younger kids onboard, consider talking to the school about visiting the class each year to present a mini-lesson on diabetes.
Ideally, this presentation should take place at the beginning of the school year and can be co-taught with the school nurse. Unsure of what to say? There are a number of good books available for introducing diabetes to elementary school-age children. Using child-appropriate language and encouraging questions, a good place to start is to simply talk about the biology of diabetes and why your son uses insulin. Explain the symptoms of low blood sugar and how important it is to let the teacher know if something seems wrong with your son.
Even if you gave "the talk" in previous years, don't assume that children still remember why your son is going to the nurse's office every day. The classmate who was rude to your son will need to face the school's consequences for his actions, but could his actions also be a wake-up call for you? If it has been more than a year since your last school visit, talk to your son's teacher about a convenient time to drop by.
--—Elizabeth Platt is the mom of a 5-year-old with type 1 diabetes and coauthor of a new book for parents of children with diabetes.
Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.