Strategies for Dealing with the Mental + Emotional Demands of Diabetes... Together

Diabetes isn’t just a physical disease. The effects are also emotional, social, and psychological. The demands are relentless, which can take a toll on our personal lives, and on the way our family functions.

But we don’t have to buckle under those demands! A huge part of taming this dragon involves putting diabetes in its place. And to do that, we need coping skills; we need to learn strategies to protect our personal mental health as parents, to protect the mental health and emotional well-being of our children, and to enhance the way that our families function.

Articles on Coping & Family Life

The Coping & Family Life section provides the strategies and skills needed
to cope with the emotional, social, and relational demands of diabetes:

Hear about others living with diabetes and their real-life D-stories

Danielle’s Story (Taking Care of Yourself, While Caretaking from Toddler to Teen)
Michelle’s Story (Parent of an Infant Diagnosed with T1D)
Dan’s Story (video) (Growing up with Type 1 Diabetes)
Samantha’s Story (Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes as an Adolescent)

Read about the specific challenges facing Kids with Diabetes… and how to support them while they navigate those challenges:

Growing Up with Diabetes:
Overview of normal developmental patterns, challenges to diabetes care, and suggested coping strategies
Early Childhood (Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers)
School-age (Children in Elementary School)
Adolescence (Teens and Young Adults)
Tips for All Ages and Stages

Dragon Colouring Pages

Find out more about how to face the financial demands of diabetes and the programs available in Canada that support your future financial planning:

Canadian Disability Tax Credit (DTC)
Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP)

I sincerely hope the information on these pages helps you focus less on the dragon and more on life… Let’s dance!

Other Resources for Coping & Family Life

These are a few of the resources that have been valuable to our family throughout our journey with the diabetes dragon. We hope this information helps you on your family’s journey!

The information below contains external links. Clicking on those links will take you to a different website outside of
Waltzing the Dragon is not responsible for the accuracy of the information contained on those websites.

Recreation and Social Support

Connected In Motion

Breathing Fresh Air into Diabetes Education.
What: physical activity and social events, for a group who “share a vision: to create a culture of support & engagement in diabetes self-management through peer-based experiential diabetes education, sport, and outdoor adventure.”
Who: for young adults with type 1 diabetes
Where: select locations across Canada (at time of publishing, events are scheduled for ON, AB, BC, QC, NS, NB), and into the United States.

Riding on Insulin

What: ski & snowboard camps; mountain bike camps. “Riding On Insulin empowers, activates, and connects the global diabetes community through shared experience and action sports. In addition to establishing a comfortable environment, we strive to help families explore new passions, challenge T1D, and celebrate each other’s successes.”
Who: for kids and teens with type 1 diabetes
Where: select locations in Canada (Alberta; Ontario) and across the USA

I Challenge Diabetes

Connect. Challenge. Explore.
What: events and programs that, through physical activity (ex. skating, skiing, hiking, biking, swimming), “focus on experiential education and creative problem solving; the goal is to build confidence and help people to overcome the fears and frustration that come with managing diabetes.” ICD was founded by Chris Jarvis, Canadian Olympian in the sport of rowing. The mission of I Challenge Diabetes (ICD) is to “support, empower, and connect people living with diabetes, by providing challenging programs to test the limits of living with the disease, and high-quality services to help them grow and take accountability for their own health.”
Who: for kids, teens, adults with T1D
Where: select locations across Canada, including ON, QC, AB, and BC


What: recreational, support and information group: kids “connect at fun activities such as laser tag, pottery painting, swimming, gymnastics, and wall climbing. They will be given the opportunity to meet and play with other children who are dealing with type 1 diabetes and will realize that they are not different. Likewise, parents can meet other parents in a casual, nonthreatening environment.”
Who: for families who have a child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (parents and kids, including siblings)
Where: Calgary and area (Alberta, Canada)


Training, By the Sea, for Life.
What: summer sailing voyages. Each year, SALTS mentors young people from all walks of life as they learn to sail a tall ship.
Who: for young people ages 13–25 (as well as Day Sails for all ages)
Where: the west coast of British Columbia (Canada). Past offshore voyages have traveled to the South Pacific, Far East, Australia, and Europe.

Information & Advocacy / School Advocacy

WhatDiabetes Canada leads the fight against diabetes by helping those affected live healthy lives, by funding research for the prevention, treatment, and cure of diabetes, and by advocating for the rights of those living with diabetes (through initiatives such as: the Diabetes Charter which outlines the rights and responsibilities of those with diabetes and other stakeholders; Kids in School focuses on advocacy for students with diabetes, including an excellent written resource for parents and educators, called “Kids with Diabetes in Your Care”; workplace rights of those with diabetes; financial coverage of diabetes supplies, including establishing pump funding programs in various provinces). Diabetes Canada also runs D-Camps (summer sleep away camps for those with diabetes and their families), and is the source for Clinical Best Practice Guidelines for professionals.
Who: For anyone affected by or interested in learning more about all forms of diabetes (type 1, type 2, gestational...)
Where: Canada – Diabetes Canada is a national advocacy, awareness-building, research-supporting organization with local offices in many major cities, serving all provinces and territories.

WhatJDRF is an international organization primarily engaged in research and advocacy: research into cure, preventative, and treatment therapies which will allow individuals with diabetes to live well (for example, they are centrally involved in research into the “artificial pancreas” project); advocacy regarding the challenges of type 1 diabetes, the need for a cure, and the rights and responsibilities of students with diabetes. JDRF’s School Advisory Toolkit for Families is a valuable resource for diabetes care at school. For more information or to get involved with JDRF’s efforts (including an annual Walk for the Cure, Ride for Diabetes Research, Hope Gala, and other projects), great opportunities to connect with other individuals with diabetes while contributing to a great cause, visit
Who: for anyone affected by type 1 diabetes (formerly called juvenile diabetes)
Where: JDRF is an international organization, with a Canadian arm, and local chapters in many major cities.

WhatThe Alberta Diabetes Foundation rapidly and strategically funds innovative research for the prevention, treatment, and cure of all forms of diabetes. It is aligned with the Alberta Diabetes Institute in Edmonton, one of the world’s finest diabetes research facilities, and progress is being made. Funding is disbursed when and where it’s needed most, moving projects along that may otherwise be stalled, facilitating measurable results. For more information on the research projects they support, or how you can get involved by volunteering, donating, or participating in one of their awareness campaigns, visit the ADF website.
Who: for anyone interested in research into prevention, treatment, and cure of all types of diabetes
Where: Alberta (Edmonton)

What: The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is an umbrella organization of over 230 national diabetes associations in 170 countries and territories. It represents the interests of the growing number of people with diabetes and those at risk. The Federation’s activities aim to influence policy, increase public awareness, and encourage health improvement, promote the exchange of high-quality information about diabetes, and provide education for people with diabetes and their healthcare providers. IDF is associated with the Department of Public Information of the United Nations and is in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). IDF is the go-to resource for global World Diabetes Day information and activities (November 14, annually).
Who: For anyone affected by or interested in learning more about all forms of diabetes
Where: international

Consultation & Counseling

What: Joe provides individualized guidance on the physical and/or psychosocial aspects of T1D. He specializes in assessing how familydynamics affect the management of diabetes and in designing interventions that result in more effective coping and optimal glycemiccontrol.
Who: for anyone living with diabetes
Where: any location, via video chat

Looking for Individualized Help on Your Dragon-Taming Journey?

Joe Solowiejczyk, RN, MSW is a world-renowned Diabetes Nurse Educator and Family Therapist who has lived with type 1 diabetes for more than 50 years. As a result, he is able to translate his personal experiences into unique and creative patient care programs and services. He specializes in assessing how family dynamics affect the management of diabetes, and in designing interventions that result in more effective coping and optimal glycemic control.

Joe is also the author of A Type 1 Diabetes Guide to the Universe, a book that integrates the psychological and emotional aspects of dealing with diabetes into the core of its approach, to provide information that will help you and your family.

If your family could benefit from a session with him, please contact Joe at [email protected].

“Through one of his public presentations, Joe was instrumental in my own healing as a parent of a child with diabetes: his insights and humour helped me make the shift from grief to coping; the fact that he knows what it’s like to wrestle with this dragon is a huge bonus.” ~Michelle