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Guiding your child with Type 1 Diabetes to develop independence

Edited: 17.04.2024

Yong Xuan Ooi

HelloType1 Coordinator Malaysia, A4D

1. Learn by doing

Being a parent is already hard, but if your child has Type 1 Diabetes, it makes things even tougher and more stressful. Parents, caregivers, and children with Type 1 Diabetes need to work together to manage this Type 1 Diabetes condition. As kids grow up and learn to do things on their own, parents should keep being there to help and protect them. This means showing the child the way, assisting them, and teaching them while allowing them to do more things on their own as they grow up. This is also known as diabetes independence. For this process to go more smoothly, it is also important to work with your healthcare providers to set goals that are attainable. This article will show parents how they can make it easier for their child with Type 1 Diabetes to do things on their own.

2. Start early with age-appropriate responsibilities to build diabetes independence

Think about your child's age and stage of growth as you slowly give them more diabetes management responsibilities. Start with tasks that are acceptable for their age and slowly add more as time goes on. At first, you might have to make them take their blood glucose monitoring kit around or organize their supplies. As they get better, you can then let them figure out insulin correction doses, with the supervision of their healthcare team. As they feel more comfortable, tell them to try giving themselves insulin shots on their own. This helps them build diabetes independence as they gain more experience to take care of themselves as they grow older. In order for your kids to gain confidence, you need to trust them to work together to solve problems. This is one way to teach your child with diabetes to be independent.

3. Role-playing and creative documentation

Empower your child through role-playing games where your child can play a diabetes educator or healthcare provider and you or someone else caring for them can play a kid with Type 1 Diabetes. This is a great way for your child to learn, gain confidence, build diabetes independence, and find out more about how to deal with Type 1 Diabetes. Your child may be able to handle their Type 1 Diabetes better on their own if they use their imagination. One more creative thing you can do is help your child make their own blood glucose recording with their diabetes logbook, journal, or scrapbook. They can personalize it by adding pictures and writing about the good and bad things that happen to them every day. They can also look at how their glucose levels have changed and how they can change things for tomorrow. Being able to say what they want and seeing growth makes them feel better about themselves.

4. Support groups and camps

Help your child make friends with other kids or teens who also have Type 1 Diabetes by joining online or neighbourhood support groups. Meeting other people who are going through the same things can help them feel less alone and more motivated. You can find this by looking for groups online. Asking your healthcare team may also be helpful. This way, both you and your child can get and give emotional support and share important experiences with people who understand. Diabetes camps are a great place to meet new people and make connections that may last a lifetime. In a supportive setting, handling Type 1 Diabetes while doing fun activities at camp may increase a child's confidence and give them the power to take responsibility for their health.

5. Consistency and flexibility with new changes

Keeping your child's life normal means finding the right mix between being strict and being open to change. Ask your child how they can talk about their Type 1 Diabetes and daily life in the best way. Parents initially do things like giving insulin injections, checking blood sugar, and counting carbs, but over time, these responsibilities can be given to the child until they are capable of diabetes independence. Allow and promote your child's freedom while still being there for them when they need you. It is a priceless comfort for them to know that someone has their back, through good times and bad. Ultimately, teaching kids with Type 1 Diabetes how to take care of their condition on their own is a process that requires time, kindness, patience, and support from parents. Still, encouraging independence is a great way for parents to help their kids not only handle their diabetes well but also learn important life skills. The goal is to help kids with Type 1 Diabetes live happy, healthy lives so that they can grow up to be responsible and capable individuals.

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