When you have a child with a serious medical condition it can become very easy to fall into the trap of doing everything for them. Whilst this is fine when they are young, and in some cases necessary, as your child develops into a teen and then an adult this can actually be detrimental to the long term management of their condition.
It’s a given that as your child grows their need for freedom and independence increases, consequently as a parent you are not going to be there to hold their hand through every step of their journey through life. This is why from an early age they need to be learning about their medical condition and how to take ownership of it.
What does that actually mean though? Let me fill you in a little bit about our experience so far with our son.
Harrison has Type 1 Diabetes, his diagnosis was at the age of 6 and he is now 12 years old and has just started at secondary school.
We were very worried about the move from primary to secondary school as it meant he would no longer have one to one supervision provided for his medical care. He also would have to get the bus to school with his elder sister, which meant another snack time and possible injections unsupervised.
The change to his care was inevitable so we had to prepare him for this. Although I have to admit I was very reluctant to, this resulted in us the parent taking a step back from leading his diabetes care.
I can not begin to tell you how difficult this was, any parents natural instinct is to do their utmost to help their child however possible. Handing over responsibility to Harrison for his own care has actually been a huge challenge on a personal level.
Now before we go any further I just want to say that we haven’t washed our hands completely of any responsibility for managing his Diabetes. That would be irresponsible. Rather we have allowed him to lead the way in decision making such as working out when insulin injections are required and the dosage required.
I would be fibbing if I told you that mistakes have’nt been made. I would say Harrison is very cautious about taking extra correction doses and will leave himself occasionally running a little high at school. We have to remind him that he should be aiming for his target range of 4-6.5 mmol and to trust his smart meter. In time though with greater confidence I’m sure we can achieve this.
Harrison has also been very resistant to injecting in certain areas of his body. He has tried injecting in his abdomin but he has little body fat here and hates injecting there as he says this area hurts more. Harrison no longer injects in his tummy for this reason and that has been his decision.
Doctors have also brought up with him about switching to using an Insulin pump instead of Injections. At the moment he doesn’t want to, but he may change his mind in the future. It’s his body and his condition so ultimately the decision will be his. Our role will be to help him with finding out the information about how an insulin pump would work and to weigh up the pros and cons.
Harrison has always been very responsible about the management of his Diabetes and his Hba1c blood tests are good. If his condition was unstable then we would have to step in and guide him back in the right direction.
I anticipate a few challenges as we progress through his teenage years. I would be very naive if I wasn’t prepared for this. Rapid growth spurts, hormones and general teenage rebellion will all have an effect on his condition.
For now it is up to us the parent to provide the education about his condition and possible side effects of poor diabetes management. It is a sound knowledge about his condition that will help him live life managing his condition rather than the condition managing his life.
Yes he’s always going to be a little bit different but we wouldn’t hold him back from doing what he wants with his life. University? travel? The world is his oyster! I can only hope that his attitude to good Diabetes management continues into adulthood. It’s our role as responsible parents to prepare him for this and if that means taking a step back from leading his care then that is something I am going to have to find peace with.