Q: My recently diagnosed daughter was invited to a classmate's birthday party. She really wants to go, but I'm worried about her blood sugar control. How should a kid with type 1 diabetes navigate parties and other food-centered celebrations?
A: Attending birthday parties for friends and classmates is a rite of passage for young children, including kids with type 1 diabetes. But all the cake, ice cream, and soda! If you're just getting a feel for managing your daughter's condition, the thought of all this sugar might send you into a panic. Keep in mind that this little two-hour party might be a giant step for your newly diagnosed child to feel comfortable and accepted by her peers.
To prepare for a party, call the parents throwing it to let them know about your daughter's diabetes. Ask about what will be served, the types of activities the kids will take part in, and how long the party will last. Consider also the time of day: If the party is right after lunch, this may be best handled differently than if dinner were being served at the party. Parents are often concerned that their child's blood sugar will be high due to all the party food; however, all that extra running around can also lower blood sugar. As always, talk with your diabetes care team about the best way to manage eating and insulin dosing.
You might also volunteer to help out at the party. Almost always, the other parent will be relieved to have you there, likely for more reasons than just keeping an eye on your child's blood sugar (so be prepared for anything from camera duty to clean up!). Older kids might not want mom or dad tagging along with them at the party; check in with your diabetes educator to come up with a strategy for them to navigate blood glucose monitoring, insulin dosing, and party food on their own.
Every child's needs are different, but in the end, you'll both likely remember the happiness and "normalcy" of that day rather than the extra bit of planning it required.
-- Laurie Higgins, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., C.D.E., Pediatric Nutrition Educator, Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, MA
Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.