Living with type 1 diabetes requires daily management, week after week, year after year, and the daily grind can take a toll on both kids and parents. Finding an outlet to express yourselves creatively can go a long way toward managing the stress of chronic care. Even for moms who aren’t necessarily spending all their free time pinning cute scrapbook designs and quilt patterns online, arts and crafts can be one great tool for bonding with children and blowing off steam.
“My 12-year-old son was diagnosed last year, and he dealt with a lot of emotions and anxiety about having type 1 and being ‘different,’” says Jamie of Tulsa, Okla. “His school counselor suggested I buy him some canvases and paint, and that gave him a positive outlet for all the feelings he was having about his diagnosis. Through his art, he has gained understanding of his diabetes -- and of himself.”
Making art can boost self-esteem, which was a big plus for Judy and her now 13-year-old. “My daughter was diagnosed at age 12 -- right at the beginning of junior high,” she says. “Her self-image was already not the greatest just because of her age, and diabetes made it plummet even lower. But once we began making jewelry together and selling it at a local street fair, she had something to focus on that had nothing to do with school or diabetes. This was pure fun, and it was a bonding experience for both of us. We had a lot of deep conversations while we made our bracelets, and our jewelry-making sessions kept the lines of communication wide open.”
Art projects can also offer more practical fixes to diabetes challenges, such as coping with highs and lows. Kim, a mom in Southern California and blogger here on Spoonful.com/type1, saw how much high numbers on the meter bummed out her 6-year-old Kaitlyn. So she picked up a special crafting kit from the toy store and designated it as something that Kaitlyn was only allowed to play with while waiting out high blood sugars. It worked like a charm -- no more sad faces after testing time! (Hear more from Kim about it here.)
With two kids with type 1, mom Amy puts a high priority on staying organized -- but also keeping it fun. Each year her daughters, ages 11 and 9, start a new log book filled with printouts from their insulin pump, glucose monitoring system and endocrinology appointment paperwork. “As important as that medical information can be, it is also rather boring,” she says. “To jazz it up, my girls love to decorate their binders with markers, magazine photos and stickers. It helps us not only to be able to easily identify each daughter’s information, but it also makes it more fun and interesting. Even the clinic looks forward to seeing what the girls have come up with!”
Tuning Out Stress
Sometimes, just zoning out on a project is its own payoff. “My daughter is only 4, but coloring and painting gives her a break from the shots and the meds and the other things she has to cope with at such a young age,” explains Pam of Boston. “When we’re doing our craft projects together, she doesn’t have to think about anything but her art.”
Parents can see benefits themselves, too. When a child has type 1, there’s so much that’s out of your control. But when you’re crafting, you have total control over your project, and that can be immensely satisfying. Your mind is focused on the piece and the present moment, rather than chronic concerns about your child’s health. It’s like a mental vacation from your worries, if only for a little while. And what parent couldn’t use one of those?
Ready to get started? Try this project for making your own personalized infusion site stickers!
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.
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