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The Challenge of Childhood Diabetes

March 2008 -
The Challenge of Childhood Diabetes Newsletter

Managing Anxiety

This newsletter is about being comfortably alert. There is a fine line between vigilance and anxiety, staying on-call versus becoming exhausted. For the first year after my son Danny was diagnosed at the age of seven, anxiety and exhaustion won out. I was entirely overwhelmed by the steep learning curve, Dan's uncontrollable blood sugar levels, and the lack of sleep. Six years later, I still remember leaning on the kitchen counter, trying to count the carbohydrates in a two cup serving of homemade vegetable soup while listening to the canned music coming across the phone line as I waited for the endocrinologist-on-call to answer. Danny's blood sugar level was 400 and I couldn't figure out why. My daughter Jessica was complaining that I wasn't helping her with her homework. My hands were shaking, my heart was pounding, and I couldn't add the numbers in front of me. This was not comfortably alert! the overall well-being of our family. What we need to talk about is how to do that more easily and better.

Over time, it got easier. Food began to represent a number - cheese is close to zero, bread is 15 (white is a fast 15, whole wheat is a slower 15) - and I stopped needing a carbohydrate counter next to my sink. After Danny reached 400 mg/dl several times, I could predict what our doctor would ask and what she would ultimately recommend. Jessica learned to avoid me when I looked particularly freaked out. And as I described in a past newsletter, I found a way to get enough sleep. The biggest thing that changed was that I learned to trust myself. I learned to keep Danny's diabetes on my radar screen and make decisions without pressuring myself all the time.

As parents, if we can absorb the "how-tos" we need to know from our children's nutritionists, doctors and nurses, if we can learn our children's individual patterns (he looks pale when he's low, she needs carbs during soccer practice), and if we can trust ourselves to pay attention - ultimately we can be alert AND calm. I liken it to developing a seventh sense that observes carb intake, activity level, mood, and blood sugar levels in a quiet way and nudges us when something needs attention.

I've used the Resource and Supporting Each Other sections of this newsletter to provide articles and web sites that can help along the way.

Warm regards,

Laura Plunkett

Supporting Each Other

Finding like-minded parents can be a huge stress reliever. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (jdrf.org) has local chapters which offer a variety of coffees, support groups, and educational forums. These meetings are a great opportunity to meet local parents and share concerns, recipes, strategies, and babysitting.

For on-line support, Jeff Hitchcock, editor of childrenwithdiabetes.com, has compiled a list of diabetes-related blogs that give parents a chance to learn from each other. He also provides forums, which allow you to search for a topic that interests you and converse with other parents

Share Your Tips

Do you have suggestions for helping your children adjust to the diagnosis? I’d love to hear from you at newsletter@challengeofdiabetes.com.

March 2008

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When I read about Harry Potter's first lessons from Mad Eye Moody, I was jealous. I wanted a swiveling, all-seeing eye that could look into my son and show me everything! "How I Developed my "Mad Eye" and Seventh Sense" is the story of how I developed a way to carry my responsibility for Danny more lightly.

Sometimes, parents just need a break, and I've included my daughter Jessica's article "A Babysitter's Guide to Babysitting for Parents that have a Child with Diabetes" published in Diabetes Health as encouragement to take some time away from being in charge and to recharge your own batteries.

Archived newsletters on improving nutrition, going to the emergency room, getting a good night's sleep and helping siblings adjust after diagnosis are at archives.

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