Q: I'm pregnant again, and my son asked me last night if we're having another baby "because we want to have at least one healthy child in the family." I instantly reassured him that this is not true. But how do I make sure he really understands? I was expecting some jealously because of the new baby, but his comment caught me completely off-guard.
A: As much as your son's question seems like it's all about his type 1 diabetes, what he is truly trying to express to you may actually have very little to do with diabetes, or at least not in the way you think. To get at the root of what's really on his mind, follow up with some open-ended questions of your own. "I'm so glad you came to me with this question. Why don't you tell me more?" and "What makes you think that?" are two of my favorite catch phrases to use in moments like this.
Your conversation could reveal that your son's question was simply his way of expressing jealousy over the impending arrival of a new brother or sister. If your follow-up questions elicit such responses from your son as, "Things won't be the same," "You won't pay attention to me," or "I don't want a little brother," what you're probably hearing are the first rumblings of sibling rivalry. Feeling this way is completely normal for all children.
Other times, kids with type 1 diabetes ask these kinds of questions in order to gauge their parents' opinion of them; the fact that you're having a baby is just a convenient excuse for your son to ask, "Do you like having a child with diabetes?" If this seems to be what's on his mind, give him specific examples of how he makes you happy and the positive qualities he adds to your family's life together. To really drive the point home, take a walk down memory lane by looking through family photo albums or watching family home movies.
Similarly, your son's question could be a way for him to communicate his own frustration with having diabetes. If this is what's bubbling to the surface, he needs to hear from you that having type 1 diabetes won't stop him from doing things any other child his age can. Yes, your son puts extra effort into keeping his blood sugar on track, but he can run, play and have fun with friends just like everyone else. And remind him that someday, he will be able to run, play and have fun with his new little brother or sister, too.
--Wendy Satin Rapaport, L.C.S.W., Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist and adjunct professor of medicine at the Diabetes Research Institute, University of Miami.
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