The holidays. Despite our best expectations, this wonderful time of year can become stressful when family dynamics come into play. Your child’s diabetes may complicate things because many people have misconceptions about the disease.
To avoid setting the stage for an episode of “Family Feud” right in your own living room, here are some tips for dealing with certain relatives who may hold fallacies about diabetes.
The grandpa who poo-poos the disease. Let him know that diabetes is a serious health issue that needs to be controlled. He’ll probably stop downplaying diabetes when you tell him that it causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined.
The grandma who tries to give your child sweets. She probably means well, but someone needs to keep Grandma from overdoing it. While it’s OK for your child to have an occasional cookie or piece of candy, inform Grandma that sugary treats – along with too many carbohydrates in general – may not be ideal for your child. Suggest that she show affection by giving non-food treats like stickers (which you might want to bring to holiday gatherings).
The uncle who believes diabetes is a death sentence. Let him know that diabetes can be managed very well and that many famous people — including sports figures — have had diabetes and lived long, successful lives. Most importantly, don’t let him pass along his negative feelings and beliefs to your child.
The aunt who gives bad advice. Like Grandma, she probably means well. You might suggest that she visit diabetes.org. If Auntie misinforms your child, be sure to correctly inform your son or daughter once you get away from Auntie. Remind your child that you and your professional diabetes healthcare team are the ones who know how to best manage his diabetes.
The nephew who’s the “know-it-all.” Gently tell this fellow that you and your child have been extensively educated on the topic of diabetes. Suggest that he bone up on diabetes facts by reading articles found at diabetes.org.
The niece who’s afraid of “catching” your child’s diabetes. This is a sad myth. Tell your niece that diabetes cannot be caught like colds and the flu.
The cousin who tries to get your teen to drink what’s taboo. Before going to a holiday gathering, remind your child about the importance of taking care of his diabetes while at the party. If an older child feels peer pressure from cousins, suggest they bring along alternative food and drink, such as diet soda. Of special concern at parties is the presence of alcohol, which lowers blood sugar levels. Talk with your child in advance about the possible repercussions of alcohol intake.
In all of these cases, education is key. Chances are that members of your extended family have the best of intentions and only want to help you and your child. It’s unfortunate that myths and stereotypes exist. The more informed everyone is, the more helpful they can be.
Take a deep breath, educate yourself and your family, and enjoy the holidays!
For additional information about diabetes, visit Akron Children’s Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology.