TREATing diabetic kids like everyone else

This is a bit of rant… I see a trend of parents of diabetic children that want their children to be treated just like everyone else; even when it comes to food. That sounds good on paper, but I think that we are doing them a dis-service by not recognizing that their bodies are not like everyone else’s.

At Halloween time I do not allow my daughter to gorge herself on sugar and the reality is that if she were not diabetic I probably would (at least for an evening). THERE, I SAID IT… I am treating her differently than I would if she did not have diabetes. I know that her blood sugars would be very crazy for at least a day if she eats a lot of candy, no matter how much insulin I give her.

My other daughter does not have diabetes, but she struggles with her weight. Just like with my diabetic daughter, I give her non-food items whenever possible (their Easter baskets and stockings are filled with toys and make-up and very little candy). I feel like if I were to give her lots of calories and pretend like her body will process them just like everyone else’s I would be shirking my responsibilities as a parent. I teach both of my daughters about their bodies and how food and exercise affect them. Their bodies are not like everyone else’s. I am sure they would know better anyway as they can see that many of their friends can eat what they want and not deal with weight gain or high blood sugars.

I am a realist. I do not teach my kids that they are the same as everyone else. They are individuals and I treat them as such. Life is not fair. I do not think that it is a good idea to pretend that it is. Someday they will not have mommy and daddy to shield them and they will find this out. I prefer to expose my kids to the world and let them know that lots of things will happen to them that are not fair (like being diagnosed with diabetes when you are three years old)… you cannot always control what happens to you, but you can control how you react. It is their job (and mine as well for the moment) to make the best of their lives in spite of whatever comes their way.

To the adults that are were diagnosed as children; what was your parents attitude towards your diabetes and treating you like other kids? Do you think that it makes it easier later in life if parents place limitations on their children food-wise because they are diabetic? Or do you feel like we should let kids be kids and they should eat what they want and worry about tighter control later in life?

At first, my parents did put limitations on what I ate. I could only eat 2 pieces of candy a day at Halloween and I could only go for the chips at birthday parties. However, Overtime my parents slowly let go of those restrictions as my control got better. Once they knew that I could pig out on sugar and keep my bloodsugar under 200, they have pretty much let me eat whatever I want.

I hated it when I wasn’t allowed to eat the cupcakes, cookies, and cake that everyone else was eating. Everyone was having a good time, but I couldn’t. I was the different one. I needed to be careful, but They could do whatever they wanted. I had to constantly answer the question “Why aren’t you eating?” “Whats wrong?” with “I’m diabetic, I’m not allowed to eat that stuff.”

Now that I am in control of my diabetes, I’m still not pigging out everyday. I know I’m eating nowhere near the amount of candy as other people. But when it comes time for a party, I’m not going to make myself feel different. I’ll take a big shot and eat whatever I want, and if i go low, theres always more to eat!

What a timely topic. Coming up to one of two hollidays that was not my favorite as a kid (Halloween and Easter). My parents showed me that I could do anything that anyone else could do, except for possibly food. I think D children have to begin to understand that they have a special relationship with food and how could you not with boluses, measuring cups and scales. If I never learned the habits of tight control and how to manage diabetes when I was young, then I do not think I would have the knowledge or experience to be achieving the control I do now.

It is tough being a D child sometimes. I remeber absolutely hating it when a birthday was celebrated at school. The child’s mom would bring in cup cakes or something and everyone would get one, BUT me. it stunk.

I think you are doing it in a good way - allowing them to have some special treats but it doesn’t need to be done every day or in excess. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 24 but I didn’t grow up in a home that we had junk food sitting around every day. We ate healthy and desserts/treats/junk food/soda was reserved for holidays and special occasions. I personally think that is a better way to eat regardless of whether you are diabetic or not.

I think that it’s better to have kids, whether they have diabete or are “straight”, who are cognizant of the hazards of unlimited junk food addiction and overindulgence in carbs. If they begin learning to eat sensibly at an early age. My goal is to win the war, not each battle. That being said, my kid has never been that interested in Halloween, since she was like 6, she’d rather stay home and pass out the candy.

It’s funny you mention this because I have always thought it odd how far the pendulum has swung recently with regard to D management (for T1s, at least) and treating kids with D as if they are completely normal. This whole notion that, as a T1, I can “eat whatever I want” is just absurd (to me). I know that if I eat candy or lots of sugar, my BGs will be swinging wildly for hours. My pump simply cannot do what a normal pancreas can. In addition, I eat “low carb” because I KNOW (despite what any dietician tells me) that this leads to better control. It’s not as simple as just matching my insulin to my carbs. T1D is much more dynamic than that. The more insulin I give myself, the more room there is for mistakes. And mistakes can be deadly or, at a minimum, very annoying.

Growing up, we lived and died by the exchange system in my house (my dad was also a T1). Meals were low in carbs and high in protein. There were no sweets and while my mom would occasionally allow me to have something special at a birthday party or special event, more often than not the answer was no. Halloween candy was exchanged for money - a nickel for every piece we got (which encouraged us to run around the neighborhood and get more).

We didn’t have pumps or fast-acting insulin back then, so it really was harder to just give yourself a little extra insulin and cover a special treat. BUT, even today, with my pump and fast-acting insulin, I still have trouble covering a special treat. I do indulge on occasion, but I do it sensibly and rarely. I find that I can have one small piece of candy and be ok, but more than that and I’m asking for trouble. If I eat more than 120 carbs/day, my control gets worse.

I think how kids with T1D should be treated requires some balance. It was hard growing up feeling like the only kid who had to refrain from eating this or that…but, as an adult, I am so thankful I learned restraint at a young age AND don’t have too many issues today because my D was more or less well-controlled growing up. I also think it’s important to teach kids with D independent management at as young of an age as possible. It seems like some parents of T1 kids try so hard to shelter their kids from the reality of their condition and do everything for them. I don’t agree with this approach. I learned at very young age how to administer my own shots, check my blood sugar, and recognize the symptoms of highs and lows. My parents were all about making me as independent as possible and I am SO thankful for that. When I was a teenager, my mom made me start setting up my own doctor appts, pick up my insulin from the pharmacy, and learn how to do all the administrative management. By the time I was 18, I was completely able to take care of myself and I think I did pretty darn good, all things considered.