Living with Diabetes

Parenting Roles After Diagnosis

It really is true that it takes a team to care for and support a kid (and a family) with type 1 diabetes.

The responsibilities for some team members are relatively limited and are clearly attached to their titles, such as "endocrinologist,” “diabetes educator,” “dietician,” “school nurse,” “clergy member,” “therapist,” or even “pet.” This just does not apply to “moms” and “dads.” There is nothing limited or clearly assigned about the avalanche of new responsibilities and obligations that become obvious in the days, weeks, and months after receiving the diagnosis. There is nothing inherent to “mom” or “dad” that gives much direction, so parents must be proactive in defining their roles and working together on the team.

How is it for you?
In many families, one parent (usually mom) is in the “driver’s seat,” assuming the role of primary caretaker, while the other parent (usually dad) rides “shotgun.” In other families, some moms and dads both want to “drive.” While more challenging, this too can work well. In either case, what happens when the parenting partners want to move at different “speeds” and in different “directions?” What I’m talking about, of course, is when parents have very different styles of solving diabetes-related challenges, parenting their children, and coping with the realities of diabetes.

How can parents come together as a team when these differences threaten the harmony, stability, and happiness that helps families reach their potential? Here are a few ideas

Often, there is a very close agreement between parents on the overall goals you both have, but there may be differences about how to achieve them. Find that common ground and come together around that shared purpose

Play to your individual strengths. For example, if you are more..

  • detail-oriented and organized, order the diabetes care supplies, write up the treatment guidelines for school staff,
    or track health care expenses.
  • assertive and diplomatic, be an advocate for your child’s needs at school and elsewhere.
  • emotionally “wise” and nurturing, set the tone for helping your children cope with the many feelings they may experience
    about the changes that diabetes brings.
  • verbal and good at communicating, be the one to train school staff on care tasks.
  • analytical, take the lead on problem solving blood sugar control difficulties.
  • athletic, put together exercise guidelines for school, camp, and sports teams.
  • business-minded, get involved in fundraising and networking.
  • creative, help your children and family express themselves freely.
  • funny, find ways to bring lightness and levity to the serious issues your family is facing.

Recognize that different styles and approaches don’t have to conflict with each other. Explore ways that they can complement each other and benefit your family. Be sure to acknowledge each other for your unique contributions.

However you decide to structure your parenting roles after diagnosis, be proactive and look for the strengths you each bring. This will go a long way in helping your family move beyond the diagnosis and get back to the challenges of raising well-adjusted children, cultivating your relationships, flourishing as families, and leading safe, healthy, and fulfilled lives.

Provided by: PEP Squad's Dr. Gary Levenston, a clinical psychologist living in South Florida whose family has been impacted by type 1 diabetes. (2015)

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