The Biggest Struggle
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes nearly 15 years ago, at the age of 12. My parents were right there by my side then and they still are today. My diagnosis still upsets my mom.
“When Karyn was diagnosed, I was in disbelief, shock. She was my healthiest child, the one who always ate healthy foods and exercised,” Mom said. She added that the hardest thing was probably the isolation.
“Nobody really knew what type 1 diabetes was then. Karyn was the only one, that we knew of in the entire middle school, with the disease. We felt like no one understood,” she said.
The bad news is that rates of type 1 and type 2 diabetes in children are rising … rapidly. The good news is that this is leading to wider knowledge of the disease. Since more people are familiar with diabetes, childhood in general and school in particular are getting easier for the kids who have it.
Adjusting and Overcoming
When asked how she adjusted to life with a diabetic child, my mom joked, “I haven’t!” Then, more seriously, she said “I don’t think you adjust, you get used to it. You learn how to pray for help and for strength, and you develop skills that help you keep your child healthy, until a better treatment or cure comes along.”
I was not an easy child with diabetes – I worried my mom sick because I thought I was invincible. She agreed.
“The hardest part was when she was at school. I would wonder if she was eating, taking her insulin, or if she was just trying to avoid it all to keep people from knowing she has the disease. I was nervous watching her participate in cheerleading, not knowing if her blood sugar was stable enough for intense exercise. So I decided to solve the problem. I went to all of her teachers and coaches and told them, myself, the danger of her condition. Coaches were given fruit snacks to have on hand and teachers kept their eyes open. This was a discreet solution to keep my child safe,” Mom said.
Mom gained a lot of wisdom through the experience.
“It does get easier. I know because I have lived it. It is also good to know certain struggles are normal and typical for diabetics. We just have to be there to guide them through it, letting them know that the rocky times get smoother. Pay attention, build them up, and actively address issues one at a time,” she said.
One of the biggest challenges is food. Diet adjustments, healthy eating, and medication become a delicate balance. It is a balance with which Becky Soto is all too familiar. Her daughter, Kira, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes just a little over a year ago.
Becky was “shocked at first” and in denial because she “knew it was a lifetime thing and not something that could be cured.” Yet she and her daughter are already overcoming obstacles, like adjusting to low carb living.
“Dietary changes have been extremely difficult,” Becky said. “Kira is a very picky eater, has never really liked vegetables or fruit, and absolutely loves all things carb.”
The whole family is adopting a healthier way of eating along with Kira.
“We have a much healthier lifestyle in general now, not just food,” Becky said. As a bonus, Becky herself has lost 60 pounds since her daughter’s type 1 diagnosis.
Becky believes getting Kira into the kitchen to help prep food is important.
“Luckily, Kira has always loved to bake, and is now using those skills to contribute to family meals. She loves thinking up meals for us, and preparing is much more satisfying to her because she feels more control over her environment. And when it’s super tasty, she loves the praise!” Becky said.
Becky and Kira are a great example of how a parent’s involvement can inspire kids to eat better.
“We like to find new recipes to try together, sometimes completely different or low carb versions of old favorites,” said Becky.
Adjusting diet is just one piece of the giant diabetic puzzle.
“I know it’s scary, but there are so many people out there living wonderful lives while having type 1 diabetes,” Becky noted. “It can be done, and I feel comforted every time I meet one of those people.”
Fun, Healthy Food Ideas the Kids Can Help With
If your child has diabetes, here are a few ways to get him or her involved in food preparation. Let as many capable little hands as you have help you so cooking becomes family time, not just another task to add to your long day.
- Mashed Cauliflower – I loved mashed potatoes but they are filled with carbs and not great if your dinner already has some carb filled dishes. Mashing up healthy cauliflower is a great alternative and handing over the mashing job to the kids not only helps you out but includes them in the process. Try Mashed Potatoes and Cauliflower with Roasted Garlic as a first step.
- Zucchini Lasagna – Replacing noodles with zucchini is a tasty way to incorporate veggies and remove the excess carbs. Let your child help you layer and arrange the dish before baking. Try Eggplant Zucchini Bake and skip the eggplant or replace it with another vegetable if you don’t think your kids will go for it.
- Flat Bread Pizza – This one is so simple and kids can really get fully involved. Use a healthy, whole grain flat bread for your crust and go nuts with the healthy toppings. Place bowls of olives, spinach, peppers, mushrooms and ricotta, feta or goat cheese on the table so everyone can make their own pie. You could also try making low-carb Cauliflower Pizza Crust and you can even have pizza for breakfast!
- Grilling – Forget the idea of one person standing outside and grilling everything for everyone. Bring a variety of veggies and meats outside and let the family join in. Be sure your kids are old enough for this and watch them carefully. You can even grill fruit! Try Grilled Pineapple Kebabs with Lemon Yogurt Sauce.
- Snack Dinner – Sometimes it is fun to make a bunch of little snacks for dinner. Cheese plates with fruit, veggie dips, smoked salmon with whole grain crackers and nut mixes are healthy and easy to put together. The kids will jump at the opportunity to arrange the food on cute plates and prep the table. Try Smoked Salmon Cucumber Rolls or Roasted Eggplant and Onion Dip.
Now that you have a few ideas, get creative and come up with your own fun, interactive meals!
Appreciating The Parents
Having diabetes throughout my childhood was a struggle, but the older I get the more I realize how much my mom had to handle. We need to appreciate these parents more. They often lay awake at night, just to make sure they can hear our glucose monitors go off. They take off work so we don’t miss a single doctor’s appointment. They meticulously read every food label and cook healthy meals after a long day at work. They monitor our medication and love us through the hard times. We can’t overlook this. If you know the parent of a child with diabetes, be sure to thank them for all they do. And if you are one of these parents … THANK YOU!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karyn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic who has been educating herself about health and wellness for 14 years. She has been an Emergency Medical Technician for 5 years and is now studying to become a Health and Wellness Specialist. Her aspiration in life is to bring helpful information to those seeking to be as healthy as they can be.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to take the place of medical advice. Always discuss any dietary or lifestyle changes with your doctor first.