Q: I always went to sports practices when my daughter was in elementary school, just to be on hand if she needed a snack and to make sure she checked her blood sugar. Now that she’s in junior high, she’s let me know that she doesn’t want me there so often. I think my daughter is ready, but how do we handle the transition of her assuming more responsibility for her sports participation?
A: Your child displaying readiness to take on certain care tasks and display more “ownership” of her diabetes in certain situations, such as sports practice, is a big moment for both of you. So first of all, congratulations on reaching this milestone!
As your daughter prepares to assume more responsibility, the two of you will still need to work together. To gauge her level of readiness, ask her what steps she thinks are necessary in order to take good care of herself at sports practice. Is she comfortable with checking her blood sugar, even if it means stopping the action for a minute to do so? Does she know when to pause and eat a snack? Does she know how to recognize the signs of low or high blood sugar and how to respond?
This conversation should give you a good idea of your daughter’s strengths and weaknesses as you formulate a plan that makes you both feel confident. For example, if she shows all signs that she’s ready to be independent, play to these strengths by setting up a system where she simply texts you her blood sugar number after each check. You can text back, if needed, with suggestions for a snack or to offer other feedback.
If your daughter needs more guidance or help remembering to check her blood sugar, you can set up a plan where you text her a simple reminder: “What’s your number?” She can then text you back after she checks, and you can go from there.
In both these scenarios, you’re still involved, but your daughter gets the space she needs in order to feel more independent. As time goes on, her strengths may change; she may need more or less support in managing certain care tasks. As you notice these changes, adjust how frequently the two of you communicate. Whatever plan you come up with, make sure your daughter’s coach is aware of it and understands why staying in touch is needed.
Remember, too, that this plan is in place only for practices. Actual games or matches may bring increased stress and greater exertion, both of which can influence blood sugar. So you may want to still attend until you’re both fully accustomed to how her levels are typically affected. Besides, when it’s game time, even middle-schoolers like it when their parents show up to cheer them on. Instead of texting your daughter back after she checks in with her blood sugar number, whenever possible, it’s great to be able to just give her a big thumbs up from the stands.
--Shirley Goodman, R.N., C.D.E., is a staff diabetes educator in the pediatric endocrinology department at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
How Other Parents Deal
“When it’s basketball season, during the lag time between the end of school and the beginning of practice, we do a phone check-in. My daughter tells me her number and what she’s eating for a snack, and I can hear her voice, which is often the best clue I can get as to how she’s really feeling.”
-- Brooke, mom of 14-year-old Maddie
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