Six Secrets of Succesful Parenting
"No one ever said that coping with a child's diabetes was easy, but many families find a way to take it in stride." Debbie Lloyd, a child and family therapist, has studied families that have coped well with diabetes. Based on their experiences, she has found six characteristics that seem to make a difference.
- Deal with their own emotions.
The emotional factor is the largest barrier that prevents parents from handling a child's diagnosis well. Parents that accept and deal with their feelings, good and bad, are soon able to cope well and drop the "if onlys". They still have doubts and fears, but they don't dwell on them. Instead, they focus on their primary goal, which is to keep their child healthy today for a healthier tomorrow.
- Handle their child's distress.
Injections, tests, and denial of treat foods gives children pain. Yet a child needs this pain to maintain good health. Parents who cope well handle this dilemma by separating their daughter's or son's immediate discomfort from the long view of a healthy diabetes regimen. They have learned that being consistent actually makes it easier for their child to accept the routine and diet. These parents accept the fact that they must cause their child brief pain today in order to keep him or her in good health tomorrow. And they don't rethink that decision every time something painful needs to be done.
- Learn to take one thing at a time.
Parents who cope well take each part of their child's routine separately instead of struggling under the full weight of the diabetes diagnosis and detailed regimen. They don't go over and over a seemingly unending list of chores: groceries, supplies, medication, meals, tests, injections, birthday parties, clinic appointments, etc., but rather take one thing at a time, and put aside what isn't important right now. They divide the tasks between them, and get help from grandparents or other family members.
- Remember their own needs.
Parents who cope well don't dwell exclusively on the child's difficulties or the diabetes. They maintain meaningful relationships with other adults, keep their houses pleasant and attractive, and enjoy a job, hobby, friends, and evenings away from the child. They realize that it's not enough to keep their child in good physical and mental health. They must keep themselves that way, too.
- Accept the food challenge.
To succeed with any part of dealing with diabetes, parents have to find a way to cope well with food. They give their child a choice of foods rather than a command to "eat this." Being able to choose gives the child a sense of control, which seems to make most children calmer and more open to other requests. They keep the mealtime atmosphere pleasant and light, and not a time for discipline. They show their child that food is to be enjoyed. In successful families, everyone eats the same food. After all, the diabetes diet is healthy for everyone. Eating the same meals also helps maintain a sense of unity within the entire family.
- Accept the diagnosis.
Successful parents learn to accept the diagnosis and move on. Yet this acceptance does not happen at once. It is a process that may take months, or even years. Even so, every now and then, all parents slip back into the sadness and frustration they felt during the first weeks. But they know that diabetes will be part of their children's and their own lives from now on, and that their family will be better off if they work with the disease rather than against it.
Finally, it's important for parents of newly diagnosed children to know what great resiliency they have. Most parents show remarkable ability to meet the challenges a child's diabetes diagnosis brings. They achieve a well-balanced lifestyle, not only for their child, but for themselves as well. Actually, despite all they have to face, most parents handle things extremely well. And that's a joy to see.
By Debbie Lloyd. "6 Secrets of Successful Parenting." Diabetes Forecast. American Diabetes Association, May 1994, pp 30-32.
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Last Updated: Wednesday March 16, 2005 16:44:52
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