Q: A family member told my young son that I baby him because of his type 1 diabetes. I think that she feels we check him too much or check on him too much. She has no idea what our life is like. How do I address this situation?
A: Oh, if only people like this could walk in our shoes for a day! As tempting as it can be to focus your energies on putting this person in her place, first check in with your son. Is he okay? To help him deal with ignorant comments such as this one, simply be direct: Tell your son that you're doing exactly what his doctor and diabetes care team taught you to do in order to keep him healthy. Try something along the lines of, "Your diabetes educator taught me to take good care of you, but Aunt Susie was not taught the steps. It sounds like she doesn't understand why insulin and checking your blood sugar are so important. I'll talk to her about it."
As for "Aunt Susie," calmly sit her down and explain that when it comes to critiquing your son's diabetes care, you have a zero tolerance policy -- especially when the comment is made to your son himself. Afterwards, it might be a good idea to follow up with some information about diabetes, especially since it sounds like this person's knowledge of type 1 is sorely lacking. While we live and breathe diabetes, so many people out there still don't know the basic difference between type 1 and type 2. Don't be surprised if your relative mistakenly thinks that if your child just avoided sugar his blood glucose would be fine -- or some other confused notion. Ignorance doesn't excuse her comment, but having more insight into where the comment came from may make it easier for you to deal with it and move on.
If this person is a close family member and plays any kind of role in your child's life, you may want to go a little further by having the relative meet with your diabetes educator to learn more about the steps involved with diabetes management. If you haven't heard it already, you will probably get a great big "I'm sorry" after this meeting.
--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.
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