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January 17, 2005

Mental Health, Stress

Question from Italy:

My biggest problem is that we now live in Italy and our Italian is not very good. We haven't found any support for families of diabetics and we are very far away from family. As a result of September 11, we had to leave New York. My father died within a year. We lived in the same neighborhood as my parents. They were a big part of our three sons' lives. On October 20, 2004, my eight year old was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. He was always my happy, easy-going boy. Since his diagnosis, he has become moody, angry and sad. We try so hard to help him, but I don't know what to do. He feels isolated as a foreigner, as we do. Are we going through an adjustment period; will things calm down? How can we help him? He checks his blood regularly. If it is not in range, he gets very angry. He is very rigid about his schedule and won't eat between scheduled times, even if he is hungry.

Answer:

I agree with you, that you and your family are going through a lot of adjustments. You are probably right that your son’s change in mood is due to the major life adjustments that you listed, including September 11th, losing his grandfather, moving to Italy, and being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I would also encourage you to meet with a child psychologist or social worker to discuss some of these stressors. You may want to have a translator available at that appointment, because you said that your Italian is not that good. Also, is your son being seen by a diabetes specialist? International Diabetes Associations lists organizations, such as the Italian Diabetes Assocation that you may want to contact to ask for a list of pediatric diabetes specialists, as well as local support groups and other resources. Your son’s doctor may also know of diabetes related support groups in your area.

Can you to talk to your son about what is hardest for him about having diabetes, so that you and his health care team can problem solve about how help him? Also, it is good to discuss realistic blood sugar goals for an eight year old child. If things are feeling out of control for your son, it may explain why he is trying so hard to try to control his diabetes. That is why I would strongly encourage you to meet with a child psychologist or social worker. I am glad that you are using Children with Diabetes as a resource as well. The Internet can be a great source of support for families living with diabetes. I moderate discussion boards for pediatric families living with diabetes that you may want to look at as well; they are on the Joslin Diabetes Center web site.

DB