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January 26, 2005

Behavior

Question from Castro Valley, California, USA:

My three year old daughter was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and I have a question about her behavior. She has been really mean, yelling, telling us to shut up, that she doesn't like us, and that we're stupid. She's also throwing things and hitting people. We are having a hard time adjusting to these outbursts. I don't know if it is normal. Do other families go through these same things? If so, is there someone who can give me advice how to better handle it? It breaks our hearts and also makes it very hard to cope. Her care is going very well; it's just the mood swings.

Answer:

You have asked a very good question. After a child is diagnosed with diabetes, there is a period of adjustment for both the family and the child. During the adjustment period, the family may be in “crisis mode,” so there can be a tendency for routines to be broken and sometimes family rules may not be as strictly enforced. Therefore, it does not surprise me that your child seems to be “testing” you since she was diagnosed with diabetes. She may have even lost a little trust in you since you have to do tasks like fingersticks and shots which she may feel “hurt” her. I have heard a lot of parents tell me a few months after their child’s diagnosis that they let their child with diabetes “get away with” certain things, because they feel badly that their child was just diagnosed with diabetes. However, lack of discipline and order in your child’s life will not help her.

Sometimes, families see this type of behavior in the siblings who do not have diabetes because they feel left out. When families ask me what type of behavior is acceptable since their child has been diagnosed with diabetes, I usually ask the parents how they would answer that question if their child did not have diabetes, or how they would deal with this type of behavior with their child who does not have diabetes. If you are still struggling with your child’s behavior after you have tried to reinforce some rules about acceptable behavior, you may also want to consider meeting with a child psychologist or clinical social worker who can help with limit setting. Your child may also need help finding healthy ways to deal with her anger, and a child psychologist or clinical social worker may be able to help with that as well.

DB