San Francisco Bay Area resident Patrick Totty writes about his experiences living with type 2 diabetesSee all posts »
Coaching Type 2 Kids
A friend of mine who has counseled many parents with type 2 children says that although each child is unique, there are some general principles parents can apply as they teach their diabetic children to cope with the disease.
Here are some of the things she has told me:
Choose a parental role that’s most suited to your child’s age. Michael Riera, a private school counselor and dean who recorded some parenting advice segments for CBS television in the 90s, once succinctly summed up what our roles as parents are: “When children are young, parents are their managers. When they are older, parents are their consultants.”
A child of eight is going to require a different kind of guidance than one who is 15. The younger child will look for a firm hand and leadership: “This is what you have to do.” The older child, ready to become more independent, is best treated as a free agent and a collaborator who will see the benefit of the counsel you give and come to it willingly.
Be firm, but supportive, about having your child pick up good diabetes self-management habits. Watch how good baseball or gymnastics coaches bring novices along. They use a combination of high expectations and encouragement. “You can do this! OK, that was almost there. Here’s what you need to do differently. Now, try it again!” You’re looking to build persistence at first—competency comes later.
“Catch” your kid doing good. This is a corollary to being supportive. It happens when you’re not formally instructing your child but you see him or her behaving in a way you’ve been hoping for. Maybe your type 2 daughter doesn’t notice you observing her deciding between eating a small portion of berries or a mini-Snickers bar. You see her choose the berries. Tell her you’re proud that she knows how to make a tough decision.
Teach your child food prep skills side by side. Even if you’re not much of a cook, either in terms of skill or enthusiasm, learning a few diabetes-friendly recipes side by side with your kid opens up all sorts of possibilities. First, there’s the simple fun of socializing as you learn together. The fact that both of you are novices introduces an element of relaxation and humor.
Also, you’re introducing yourself to new tastes and combinations, even as you’re subtly teaching your child the need for the planning, structure, and follow-through that cooking requires.
As children become adept at whipping up quick, simple dishes, they enjoy a growing sense of mastery and confidence. They know how to do for themselves, and they also learn that there are delicious foods they can prepare and eat. Having diabetes doesn’t mean their taste buds will never again wallow in great flavors!
Of course if you’re an accomplished cook, your approach will be a bit different. In all cases, though, the key is to keep a lighthearted approach. Back to the coaching analogy: you praise every step that leads in the general direction of competence; you lightly shrug off missteps and chuckle as you review what led to them. Great violinists all started out producing screeches with their bows.