Managing your mental health as a parent of a child living with diabetes
No one ever said that raising children would be easy, but before you found out that your child lives with diabetes you probably didn’t imagine it would be quite this hard. Bringing up your child to be safe, happy, and healthy is especially challenging when you have to constantly monitor your child’s glucose levels, bolus calculations, insulin, and device supplies. This will weigh on you. Some days, you will feel defeated by all of the challenges against you. Here are some ways to maintain your mental health as you go through this.
Engage in online or in-person communities for support
There’s a silver lining in every situation. In this case, your stroke of luck is that your child was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the era of social media. This means that you can connect with thousands of other parents of children with diabetes. Join Facebook groups, seek out Instagram pages to follow, find related Tik Toks! These communities are a wealth of knowledge and advice. They also provide you the chance to share your struggles with a sympathetic audience. Bouncing your thoughts off of others can really help your mental health by making you feel less isolated. Plus, you might find some helpful tips or resources through your new network. See a list of suggested groups and resources at the bottom of this article. If you are looking for interaction beyond what can be found online, check out local support groups. If you live near a children’s hospital, you can likely find parent groups through it. Otherwise, local libraries, health departments, and community centers offer different events and gatherings that could connect you with other parents in your situation. Even if you cannot find groups specific to parenting a child with type 1 diabetes, you may be able to find groups that offer connection and comradery. Anything that helps you feel happier and more connected to supportive people is helpful to your mental health.
If you find yourself struggling with your mental health, do not hesitate to find professional support. Therapy can help you talk through the heavy feelings and burdens that come with managing your child’s diabetes. Remember, there is no shame in seeking out resources to preserve your mental health. In fact, you can set a good example for your children by prioritizing mental wellbeing as well as physical health.
Keep everything in perspective
Type 1 diabetes is chronic, but it is not terminal. You may mourn the easy, more carefree life your child could have led without diabetes, but your child can still have a long, healthy, eventful, and exciting life.
There is no shortage of books, movies, and podcasts that tell tales of people overcoming difficult circumstances. These can be helpful for you, as they will keep your child’s circumstance in perspective. If you seek out children’s stories about overcoming adversity, you can share this lesson with your child, too. A quick discussion about the parallels between the story and your child’s life can boost your morale as well as your child’s.
For your own pleasure, you can use media to escape the pressures of being a parent of a chronically ill child. Get lost in a book. Go out to a movie with your partner or with friends. Go for a jog and listen to your favorite songs. You are absolutely allowed to be your own person outside of your role as a parent. In fact, you’ll be a better person and parent for it.
Create a lasting bond by spending quality time with your child outside of diabetes
At the end of the day, kids want to be kids. They want to laugh, have fun, play, and make happy memories. Your child will remember the fun, quality time with you more than they will remember the mundane injections and doctors’ appointments. It may feel impossible to turn your brain off from “caregiver” mode, but it is essential to dedicate time to being a parent of a child, not a child-with-diabetes.
Sometimes you’ll need to let go and have fun. Take your child to a movie, have a family-fun day at a waterpark, go stargazing as a family. When you get lost in the act of building fun memories with your family, you will give both yourself and your child the gift of normalcy. This benefits the mental health of everyone in the family, yourself included.
There will be times when the challenges in your life feel insurmountable. Whether this stems from your child’s diagnosis or not, your child’s condition may add extra weight to an already difficult situation. The best ways to keep your mental health in check is to find others to connect with, get some perspective on your situation, and focus on raising healthy children. Remember that you are your own person with your own life, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for dedicating time to your own mental wellbeing. When you are your healthiest self, you are the best parent you can be, so don’t be afraid to seek out the resources that improve and maintain your mental health.
List of Social Media Resources and Groups
Diabetes Support Organizations