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The Challenge of Childhood Diabetes

October 2009 -
The Challenge of Childhood Diabetes Newsletter

Halloween- A Trick or A Treat?

Let's face it, it isn't the witches, ghouls and goblins that are scaring us, it is the highs, the lows and the unexpected. When your child has diabetes, a great family holiday like Halloween can seem like a walk through a haunted house. This is our eighth Halloween with Danny since his diagnosis, and experience has made each night easier. At the same time, there is no perfect plan. Each year your child gets older, the trick-or-treat route changes, and the diabetes routine is different. This holiday takes patience, forethought and lots of communication to be enjoyable.

In writing the article below for Diabetes Health magazine, I had the opportunity to review the last seven years. In the resource section, I am including the Halloween tips that I wish I had had when Danny was first diagnosed.

My best wishes to you for a safe and happy Halloween.

Laura Plunkett

Supporting Each Other

Some of the most helpful conversations I have had with other parents have started with honesty about how hard parenting a child with diabetes can be. From there, it becomes natural to help each other, working toward peace, acceptance and solutions. This article I wrote for Diabetes Health came from one such conversation.

Halloween scares me.

Yes, after seven years of helping my 14-year-old son with diabetes enjoy the holiday, we have a comfortable tradition. Our neighbors get Danny non-food items. We go to a neighborhood bonfire and tell scary stories, and my husband Brian buys back most of Danny's candy and brings it to his office. Through experience, I am no longer afraid of the possible highs and lows, and thanks to the blessing of cell phones, even Danny's teenage wandering feels okay. If you were a spider on our wall, we'd all appear excited and happy about Halloween.

But the truth is, though I keep it hidden, that I am afraid of myself. Every year before the holiday begins, I sense a witch inside of me. Halloween candy shows up at CVS and I think, It's like poison. Sugar straight to the bloodstream laced with artificial ingredients. Doesn't anyone get it?

I have to buy something to hand out. Alternative, non-food items are more expensive, and my kids don't want me to hand out anything weird. I drift through the aisles getting angry. Did they make up this holiday just to torture kids with diabetes? What happened to apples, popcorn, tricks and homemade treats? The other shoppers don't notice my transformation. They toss bags of Snickers and Reese's in their carts without a thought.

I try not to feel separate.

Halloween arrives, and the smaller children appear early at my door. I begin the night as a happy parent and offer my bowl of treats. I watch their parents chatting and laughing in the street. They're not thinking about blood sugar numbers. Their kids can eat whatever they want. They don't have a care in the world. I tell the witch in me that every family has its challenges, and I help Danny get ready to go.

While Danny is making sure his pump site is working and his reservoir is full, his friends are waiting impatiently in the front yard. They don't need tabs, a meter, back-up supplies, and reminder phone calls. They can eat themselves sick on candy as they march from door to door. Danny has a plan to taste the ones he really likes, select the few he wants to keep for lows, and give the rest away. I watch him go and the crazy witch really emerges. No one understands what my child goes through. My friends and neighbors are so busy with their easy little lives that they don't even notice us. My family would be better off alone.

Of course, I know in my heart of hearts that this is an exaggeration. Nevertheless, for the last seven years, I've had a Halloween hangover. The day after, I have to talk myself back to sanity and remember that people do love us, that diabetes is a normal, manageable part of our lives, and that we are doing just fine in a culture that pays little attention to the nutritional needs of kids.

Now here comes Halloween again. As families everywhere light the candles in their jack-o-lanterns, I have taken off my cheerful mom mask and revealed my witch to the light. Perhaps, exposed to the glare of honesty, she will mount her broomstick and fly away.

Share Your Tips

Our next newsletter will focus on the art of grandparenting a child with diabetes. If you have a story to share about a grandparent in your child's life, I’dlove to hear from you at newsletter@challengeofdiabetes.com.

October 2008

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For parents facing their first Halloween, I wrote "Halloween, Kids, and Diabetes: A Different Treat Does the Trick". Also the ADA offers Halloween Tips for Parents and Kids with lots of good suggestions.

For younger children, Lisa Johnson has written a beautifully-illustrated online story called The Halloween Fairy. Visit her creative web site with your children. This free book encourages trading a small toy or gift for collected Halloween candy.

In addition, there are Archived Newsletters on improving nutrition, going to the emergency room, getting a good night's sleep, helping siblings adjust after diagnosis, and raising wholesome children in a fast-food world.

The Challenge of Childhood Diabetes book
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