When you have a child with type 1 diabetes, so much of your time and energy is spent making sure that he or she is taken care of that you can easily forget to take care of yourself. After all, you don't have diabetes, so it can feel indulgent to focus on your own needs. But doing so can actually make you a better parent and a better caregiver, says Darcy Lockman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City. Her top tips:
Take a Break
"When you decide to become a parent, you don't have the luxury of choosing what kinds of needs your child may eventually have, and it's your responsibility to see to his well-being until he is able to do it himself. That said, without time off, there's no way to meet that lofty aspiration. It's not humanly possible, or at least not without great cost to all parties."
Know You Deserve It
"A little bit of guilt over taking time off is probably inevitable. It comes with the territory of being a parent. But if the guilt gets in the way of getting much enjoyment out of life or your child, it's probably worth thinking more deeply about, ideally with the help of a therapist. What we feel guilty about as parents can come from angry and painful feelings we experienced while being parented. Projecting that onto your kid can become problematic for both of you."
Train a Backup
"Parenting is always exhausting, and parenting a child who needs regular at-home medical attention is inevitably even more so. Parents need to take time out from being on call 24/7, and for parents of a child with type 1 diabetes to truly relax, they need to know that whoever is in charge in their absence can perform the necessary care. Mom should not be the only one around who knows how to do finger sticks and give insulin -- lean on Dad, Grandma or Grandpa, your sibling, or a friend. They need to help facilitate that time-out."
Don't Wait Till You Burn Out
"Losing it in front of your kid helps nobody. Even a walk around the block if you're at the end of your rope is great. But ideally, schedule some time alone or with other adults thinking about something other than blood sugar levels so that when you're back with your child, you're truly refreshed."
Find a Balance
"Your child has very real needs, and you can't shirk your responsibility. Doing what needs to be done without resenting your kid or crucifying yourself -- that makes you a better caretaker. How you get to that place is different for everybody."
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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