Category Archives: Children

Finding Out Your Child Has Diabetes

dealing with diabetesFinding out your child has diabetes can be a frightening, daunting experience, unless you are a diabetic yourself and can understand the disorder and what it involves in relation to lifestyle changes.

You will experience many emotions; you may feel angry that your child has to go through life coping with diabetes; you may blame yourself/selves and feel you might have been the cause, you will be afraid for your child and yourself/selves, there may be a sense of panic, and then there is the big question of how will you cope?

Do not panic, there are many resources available to you, the medical team will support you, they will be organized, well informed and supportive, use them, they are there for you and your child. They will be able to guide you through every step of the way throughout your child’s life.

Do not allow your fear to transfer to your child, children cope extremely well when there is encouragement and support around them.

There are several online resources that have been developed by families such as yours, find them, make friends and you in turn will find yourself becoming a support for others, there are articles such as this and more in-depth medical descriptions available, there will be groups with telephone numbers and contact details for help in the area you live in, use them.

Type 1 Diabetes -Juvenile Diabetes – Diabetes Mellitus will be explained to you in full by your medical team once diagnosis has been made, a simple, brief outline of the disorder is that there is a hormone produced by an organ in the body called The Pancreas and the hormone is called Insulin.

A hormone is a mix of chemicals its job is a life giving messenger in the body. Glucose is collected by the Insulin. When food is eaten it is broken down and distributed around the body for various uses, Glucose is the result of food that has been altered by the liver.

The job of Insulin is to collect Glucose and deposit it into cells around the body as an energy supply.

Glucose is an important ingredient; it is a basic fuel, an energy supply for an engine, without it complications will occur and the engine will seize up or stop altogether.

Insulin also stops proteins and fats from breaking down, these are also required by the body as a source of energy.

If the Insulin is not produced the effect is a bit like a runaway train, the Glucose builds up , the proteins and fats breakdown at a rapid pace, this leaves the body, tired and weak, the problem worsens if not corrected quickly.

Insulin needs to be replaced fast. In Juvenile Diabetes the way this is carried out is through an injection of artificially reproduced Insulin.

The thought of injecting your child or your child having to do the injecting themselves will probably be an overwhelming emotion, again you will not be alone, the correct methods and practical sessions are taught to you all by the Diabetic support team, they have booklets, pictures and practice tools readily available to assist you and your child, the main factor is to keep calm and do not relay your anxieties, your child will cope surprisingly well, also extra stress brings on an anxiety state that will burn extra energy and will not help your child’s diabetes.

The intake of food is a key factor in keeping the diabetes under control, there has to be a good balance of Glucose and Insulin, a dietician who is well read in the care of the diabetic will encourage you and guide you through the necessary changes in your child’s diet.

It might be an ideal time for the whole family to change or rethink their eating habits. Problems will probably arise with siblings objecting to change, they need to be encouraged to become supportive but they will also need support, it will be frightening for them too, they might secretly worry if it will happen to them, they might be resentful of the diabetic sibling for bringing these changes into the home, they may resent the extra attention that is paid to your diabetic child, do not block them out, if they are of an age where they can understand what is going on, ask their advice on diet changes, find out what they are willing to do for their brother or sister, you may be pleasantly surprised by what a family chat will bring about.

Your diabetic child must be made to feel normal, they might not want the whole world knowing they have diabetes; you will have to explain there are people who will need to know but will respect their privacy where possible.

Teenagers may rebel a little and experiment with alcohol and change their healthy diet for that of the junk food lifestyle, this needs to be addressed as calmly as possible, you will lose a little of the control you have had with their diabetes, you will have to ride a few storms but they will probably not last long.

Children can be picky eaters and they can also use food as a weapon for attention, use your resources, and find out how others coped.

Children are often described as “little bundles of energy” and your diabetic child will want to run and play with the rest, however if they have not prepared their body for this extra activity then it can have upsetting consequences, for example they may burn off too much energy (Glucose) and become drowsy or appear to faint, they will need an intake of glucose quickly, a sugared drink, glucose sweets or sweet biscuits will help quickly restore the body to a safe level again, this type of event is known as a Hypoglycaemic attack, hypo=low.

Hyperglycaemia is too much Glucose this over rides the Insulin, children may take the kind offerings of another child in the form of sweets and biscuits, you will need to explain that this can damage their health further, they will become thirsty and lethargic, showing some signs they may have had before diagnosis was made.

Teachers, club leaders, friends and family are all there waiting to give you support, they want to know what to do in the event of a crisis, tell them, get them the instructions you have been given, get them on-board, if they are going to be in loco parentis (in place of a parent) then they have a right to be informed and equipped with the knowledge required.

Parties, illness and travel can all have an effect on the everyday routine of the diabetic child, it is important that you as the parent/parents are organized and aware. Use your support teams, find out from your child whether they have noticed any obvious warnings signs that might indicate the onset of a Hypoglycameic attack, keep a diary of such events, you might find a trigger or cause.

Never feel you have failed as a parent and most importantly never see your child as doomed, diabetic children lead active lives and go on to have families of their own. The medical team grows with them, it takes them into adulthood, and they continue to support well adjusted adults.

Enjoy your child, watch them grow, just stay calm and know you are not alone.

Helping Children with Special Needs Siblings

Special Needs childChildren with special needs can be trying on any adult.

Having a sibling with special needs can be devastating to children.

Often parents and adults try to keep them protected from the situation, which usually only makes the children feel isolated.

The age of the healthy sibling can make the situation even more complicated – particularly if they are in that “I and Now” stage.

It can also be scary for children with siblings who are often in the hospital or have to have special tubes or shots.

Keeping the child without the special needs content can be like juggling rubber balls – things can get chaotic, but even if they drop they won’t break.

Here are some tips on how to help a child with a special needs sibling:

1. Make special time for the healthy sibling on a daily basis.

Have a sitter that comes to be with the special needs child or take turns with the other adults in the children’s lives.

Everyone wants to feel important and like they are the center of attention.

The special time will also give you and the child a chance to talk without concern of interruptions.

2. Keep everything out in the open.

Children have a magic sense that tells them when there is trouble.

If you try to hide a bad diagnosis or situation, they will figure it out – or make it worse by creating the scenario they THINK is going on.

3. Keep information age appropriate.

Communicate on the child’s level as much as possible.

See if the doctor or hospital may have age-appropriate books or information sheets.

If they don’t then you might be able to find some information over the internet.

4. The younger the healthy sibling then the harder it will be for them to understand the need to spend so much time and energy caring for the special needs sibling.

Find creative ways of helping them cope. Give them a job to help with the care.

Give them a patient of their own (in the form of a stuffed animal or doll).

Help them feel as much a part of the situation as you possibly can.

5. Give the healthy sibling a chance to talk with the doctor or health professional if they want to.

They may have questions or concerns that can only be answered by the doctor, and taking the time to let them ask the questions will help them feel more included.

6. Encourage the healthy siblings to strive and achieve all that they desire.

Support their games and activities by ensuring that you or another supporting adult are present at all the events (rotate out who attends if necessary).

The last thing you want is for the healthy child to feel guilty about his or her success.

It is a strain on anyone who is caring for a special needs child.

The healthy children in the family can also feel the pressure.

By (at least) occasionally putting the focus on the lives and needs of the healthy siblings, you will help them feel more included in the home life of the rest of the family.

Bereavement and Anxiety

anxiousChildren who experienced the death of a parent were compared to clinically depressed children and a control group in this study measuring anxiety.

None of the bereaved children met the DSM-III-R criteria for anxiety disorder, although an increase of anxiety was recorded.

Anxiety about the possible death of another family member were slightly higher eight weeks after the death than immediately after the death. Especially when the child was at the funeral.

Source: Sanchez, L, Fristad, M, Weller, R.A. and Moye, J. Anxiety in acutely bereaved prepubertal children. Annual of Clinical Psychiatry, 1994, 6 (1): 39-43.

The child’s adjustment after the death of a parent.

In a study conducted with school children bereaved and non-bereaved children were compared.

Shortly after the death of a parent very little difference was found in measures of emotional well-being.

However, after two years the bereaved children showed higher levels of social withdrawal, social problems and anxiety as well as lower levels of self-esteem.

In approximately 20% of the bereaved children these levels were such as to indicate that the children would benefit from professional assistance.

Source: Worden, J.W. & Silverman, P.R. Parental death and the adjustment of school-age children. Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, 1996, 33 (2): 91-102.

Child development and concept of death

This study found no difference in an accurate concept of death (using Piagetian theory) between children who have experienced the death of a sibling and children who have not experienced bereavement. Coming up with ideas for funeral memorial services seemed to connect the child with the adult passing.

The study also discovered that 45.7% of the 5 year olds had an accurate concept of death, as did 60% of the 6-8 year olds and 90-100% of the 9-12 year olds.

Source: Cain, A.C. and Lohnes, K.L. Identificatory symptoms in bereaved children: a diagnostic note. Journal of Development, 16(4), 282-284: 1995

Gender differences in school adjustment after parental separation.

In a study to determine what factors were related to adjustment in school after parental separation some differences were found between boys and girls.

Those girls who reported less blaming of their mother and who reported that mother had positive things to say about the father exhibited good adjustment.

With the boys the following was related to good adjustment: both parents having positive things to say about each other, less blaming of the father for the separation, low fear of abandonment, and good parenting skills by the mother.

Source: Oppenheimer, K., Prinz, R.J. and Bella, B.S. Determinants of adjustment for children of divorcing parents. Family Medicine, 22(2), 107-111, 1990.

Childhood bereavement and adult depression.

Among adults who had experienced the death of a parent in childhood, those who reported a warm, supportive relationship with the surviving parent, freedom from over-protectiveness and having had opportunities to actively grieve displayed lower levels of depressive experiences as adults than those who experienced the opposite.

Source: Saler, L. and Skolnick, N. Childhood parental death and depression in adulthood: roles of surviving parent and family environment. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 62 (4), 504-516, 1992.

What helps a child to mourn?

In this self-report study children mentioned talking to family members, talking to God, yelling, out-of doors activities and art work as being helpful to them in their mourning.

Source: Lehna, C.R. Children’s descriptions of their feelings and what they found helpful during bereavement. American Journal of Hospital and Palliative Care, 1995, 12 (5): 24-30.

Pre-death and post-death anxiety and depression.

Among children with a parent dying of cancer high levels of anxiety and depression were noted. After the death of the parent the level dropped to normal with seven to twelve months

Source: Siegel, K., Karus, D. and Raveis, V.H. Adjustment of children facing the death of a parent due to cancer. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1996, 35 (4): 442-450.

Stability after the death of a parent leads to normal developmental patterns.

The researchers compared children who have experienced the death of a parent with two groups: “normal” school children and depressed in -patients. When a stable home environment was provided for the bereaved children, measures of behavior, self-esteem, interest in school, peer involvement, and peer enjoyment resembled those of the “normal” children.

Source: Fristad, M.A., Jedel, R., Weller, R.A., and Weller, E.B. Psychosocial functioning in children after the death of a parent. American Journal of Psychiatry, 1993, 150(3): 511-513.

“Relationship” with deceased parent leads to effective grieving.

This study took a look at intervention groups for grieving children to see if there were any common threads in effective grieving. One thing they found was that an important aspect of grieving was to maintain an emotion attachment to an internal image of the deceased parent. Rather than encourage children to “put the past behind them”, it would seem that it would be helpful to help the child strengthen the inner representation of the parent.

Source: Lohnes, K.L. and Kalter, N. Preventitive intervention groups for parentally bereaved children. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry: 1994, 64(4): 594-603

Grieving Children

When there’s a death in the family you often see a “balancing act”.little girl greiving

Feelings of intense grief can disorient and immobilize a person.

Because of this, it is not emotionally safe for everyone in the family to feel intense grief at the same time.

Kids will often hold back on their grief, trying to keep the family functioning, until the surviving parent and/or other siblings have made it through this period of grieving.

When this is happening it is in the child’s best interest that their parent work on their own grieving.

To urge the child to grieve at this point is setting him/her up for an emotionally unsafe situation and could complicate the grieving process.

Sometimes the child is afraid to grieve.

On one hand, you can feel out of control when you’re grieving, and that can be scary.

On the other hand grieving brings about a sense of finality to a death.

There is an irrational belief that if you can hold off the feelings of grief, the deceased isn’t 100% dead.

With these issues in mind, here are a few suggestions for the surviving parent:

1) Tend to your own grieving process
2) try to re-establish the security of routines as soon as possible
3) acknowledge the death by mentioning it matter-of factly whenever appropriate, and
4) help the child re-define the relationship with the deceased parent,

i.e., “This parent used to be a part of my everyday life.

There are some other thing you can do as well. Visiting the grave as a family helps demonstrate the finality of the deceased as well as giving a place to connect with them.

Doing things to commemorate the diseased can also be helpful like making a small “shrine” on the mantle or naming a star after someone who has just passed.

Now this parent can be acknowledged for the role he/she played in my younger days and can remain a fond memory and inspiration.”

This can be done by reminiscing, putting together a photo album, celebrating the parent’s birthday, etc.