Q: As my 5-year-old daughter and I hit the stores this holiday season, I’m finding myself having to do blood sugar checks in crowded mall restrooms or sitting down on a bench in full view of other shoppers. We get plenty of stares and even a few direct questions of “what's wrong with her?” How do I respond?
A: Whether it comes from a curious stranger at the mall, a new parent attending your play group, or from someone at a party or school drop-off, the best answer to this kind of question may just be a brief response. Simply saying, “my child has type 1 diabetes” in a calm, matter-of-fact tone before continuing your care task may convey all that’s needed, though the exact wording is up to you and your child. You may want to ask your daughter ahead of time how she would like you to answer these kinds of questions, so you can try to come up with an answer that you’re both comfortable with.
When you’re in these kinds of situations, it’s also important to remember that you’re modeling your response to your child. She will likely notice whether you remain calm and neutral when carrying out care routines in public. If she sees you handle crowded situations and nosy strangers with ease, then she may use these same tactics 10 years from now when she’s at the mall doing her own holiday shopping and needs to stop to check her blood sugar number.
Another teachable moment that can come from spending time at a crowded mall? Showing your daughter that she can make choices about where she feels most comfortable performing care routines. At age 5, children may be okay with checking sugars almost anywhere, but as they grow older, they may prefer to go to a less-trafficked part of the mall rather than performing a blood sugar check in the middle of the food court. At any age, it’s nice to give a child with diabetes a choice about their care whenever possible. You can start now with just a simple choice like, “Do you want to check your sugar in the food court or do you want to go sit on the bench near the bathrooms?” It’s easy enough to do, and it’s one small way to help your child feel in control of her care.
--Deborah Butler, M.S.W., L.I.C.S.W., C.D.E., is associate director of pediatric programs at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.
How Other Parents Deal
“It was our first or second time going to the mall after my 3-year-old daughter’s diagnosis. She wasn’t on her pump yet, so I had to stop and give her a shot in the food court. I still felt new and uncertain, and sure enough, I could feel someone staring at us. I was getting ready to glare, but when I caught the woman’s eye, she smiled at us and walked over. It was a fellow mom of a CWD [child with diabetes] who just wanted to introduce herself and let me know I wasn’t alone.”
--Joellen, Gainesville, Fla., mother of 3-year-old Sophia
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