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Parenting Success... Initial Stages of Diagnosis and Beyond

respect and parenting with type 1 diabetes
This is part of the series
Parenting Success: Seven Steps to Navigating the Initial Stages of Diabetes and Beyond (by Michael Watts, Assistant Professor at Mount Royal University and former Medical Social Worker at the Alberta Children's Hospital.) 

If you have not done so already, we suggest reading the following as background information:

Introduction to the Seven Steps of Parenting Success

To assist parents who feel the relationship with their child is periodically overshadowed by conflict related to diabetes management, who feel as though their patience is running low, or who often feel a loss of purpose as a parent caring for a child with diabetes, I have come up with seven steps which I believe help to preserve relationships, patience and purpose during the initial stages of diagnosis and beyond.

Step 1: Respect

Every child must be respected! In my experiences, a child will typically respect his parents to the degree the parent(s) respect the child.

Respect includes acknowledging your child’s initial experiences of living with a chronic illness, validating the diverse range of emotions he may be experiencing, and listening to and talking with him about the challenges and successes associated with his journey during the initial stages of adjustment.  Relationships built on respect create motivation to preserve the sense of well-being that family members want for one another.  
Examples include:

Acknowledgement: “We know it’s tough managing this condition on a day to day basis, and we understand when you say ‘none of us know what it’s like’, because we don’t have diabetes. The diabetes team said the initial adjustment period can be quite challenging. Dad and I believe you’re doing your best.”

Validating:  “I understand why you reacted the way you did when I asked you if you tested your sugars earlier today. Although I am a bit disappointed at how the message was communicated, I am not mad at you. You are probably frustrated with the consistent questions and reminders you receive from me.  Let’s make a plan around when and where we discuss diabetes tasks, and I’ll make an effort not to talk about diabetes outside of those assigned times, unless your safety is jeopardized of course.”

Listening to and talking with: ‘Listening to’ can include paraphrasing:  “So what I hear you saying is you’re getting more consistent with testing at lunch. Good job son!’ Listening to can also include attending, which may involve providing a tissue when your child is crying, recognizing when his body language suggest he needs a hug, or providing 100% of your attention and focus to your child while communicating with him.  Talking with your child may involve: sharing air time with him while discussing issues related to diabetes management; replacing accusatory statements with ‘I’ statements (feel the contrast between ‘You never check your blood sugar!’ and ‘I’m worried about how often blood sugar checks are missed’) and creating opportunities for your child to explain his side of the story, as well as to share his beliefs, thoughts and perceptions about diabetes matters as they arise.

I believe that once your child/teen understands that you respect him enough to acknowledge and validate his feelings, and realizes you are willing to listen to and talk with him, the relationship will get stronger, and your family will be better equipped to navigate the diabetes-specific unpleasantness that can threaten the relationship.


Next... Step 2: Structure

Any questions? Comments? Feel free to Contact Us.

The above information was written by clinical staff of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Diabetes Clinic.

This material has been developed from sources that we believe are accurate, however, as the field of medicine (in particular as it applies to diabetes) is rapidly evolving, the information should not be relied upon, as it is designed for informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of medical advice, instruction and/or treatment. If you have specific questions, please consult your doctor or appropriate health care professional.

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