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October 10, 1999

Behavior

Question from Fort Worth, Texas, USA:

My son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes six months ago at age 12. I'm reluctant to let him out of my sight now. Just when he seems to be interested in spending time with friends (including overnights), I've become this very overly protective mom. Is it unreasonable for me to expect his friends to visit him only at his house where I can monitor his blood sugar and control his diet or should I just let him go and hope for the best?

Answer:

When I began my training, I worked for a manager whose son had been diagnosed with diabetes at age one! She helped me understand an important concept: if a child asks to do something, you must ask yourself if you would allow it if he/she didn’t have diabetes and answer accordingly. If the child is prevented from normal socialization activities and learning opportunities due to the diagnosis, then he/she is essentially being punished for having diabetes (which is not anybody’s fault). I know it is such a tough call, but that insight really helped me understand the perils of overprotection.

If you are comfortable that the adults present are informed on how to treat low/high blood sugars, then I believe you must let your child be allowed as much normality as possible. My supervisor had to finally allow her son to go to Europe alone — a difficult decision for her. Ironically, his blood sugar control was better away from home!

Your fears can incapacitate your child. Proceed carefully as his wings emerge and he wants to fly.

CMB
Additional comments from The Editor:

My daughter, now 12, was diagnosed when she was 24 months old. Diabetes hasn’t prevented her from playing with other kids or sleeping over. In fact, she seems to be away from our house more then she’s around these days. We do have some rules though:

Always check blood sugar before leaving the house.
Always carry a package of glucose tablets.
Always bolus (take extra insulin using her insulin pump) for any food eaten while at someone else’s house.

Our daughter follows these rules (most of the time) and is therefore indistinguishable from the dozens of other kids her age in the neighborhood. She even attended a one-week camp this summer where she was the only kid with diabetes and was completely responsible for all of her diabetes care (she did great!).

JSH