Diabetes During the Holidays
Running through my neighborhood with a pillowcase full of candy. Sitting in the kitchen, making popcorn balls with my mom. Trying to replicate my grandmother’s famous pecan pie. Cutting out tree, bell, and star shaped sugar cookies, before decorating them with sprinkles and those little silver balls that I seem to remember so well…
When my daughter was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, these are some of the first things I thought about. I didn’t think about long term complications, shots several times a day, carb counting, or pricking her little fingers.
That first night in the PICU, my mind bounced back and forth between the reality of shock surrounding her diagnosis, and the fear that I wouldn’t be capable of providing her with a “normal” life. Admittedly, “normal” has a wide range of definition, but in our world it includes kitchen creations, treats during celebrations, and family traditions. As those first hours passed, I felt a hole in my heart, because I didn’t think I’d ever be able to make these memories with my little girl.
I cried, because she was so very young, and I feared she would never know the excitement of trick or treating, cookie exchanges, and birthday party piñatas. I cried over the image of my little girl licking the beaters a few short weeks earlier, while waiting for her second birthday cake to finish baking. I cried over a million simple childhood memories, which I feared diabetes would rob from us.
When the sun came up the next morning, my husband and I began the never-ending journey of learning what it would take to keep our daughter alive. It was overwhelming, to say the least. However, in the midst of all the information overload, we discovered that shecould still enjoy the sweet moments that life has to offer.
All good things in moderation. Eating a few pounds of candy in one sitting isn’t good for anyone’s health, including someone with diabetes. There’s a difference between planning a little candy bar into the carb count for lunch, and bolusing for an entire bag of little candy bars as lunch.
Sticking to healthy habits during the holiday season is a challenge. Don’t single out your child with diabetes and expect them to follow “diabetes food rules”, while everyone else indulges. Remember that nutritious food choices are universally beneficial for each person, and treats in moderation can fit into a healthy lifestyle.
Have a plan. I know this might come as a surprise to you, but…Halloween is always on 10/31, Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday of November, and December is always filled with holiday festivities. Ask your child’s teachers, sports coaches, and church leaders well in advance when, and how, celebrations will take place. Knowing ahead of time of what to expect and when to expect it will give you, and your child, an opportunity to prepare.
This could mean pre-measuring some frosting and candies to decorate a cookie for which you already know the carb count…or printing off a list of popular candies and their carb amounts for school staff to keep on hand…or deciding ahead of time how to rearrange your child’s daily routine to accommodate the extra goodies.
Have a back-up plan. Of course, when you have everything perfectly planned out, something is bound to go awry! Talk with your child ahead of time about how the situation will be managed if they have a high blood sugar when treats are served, or if the party schedule changes.
Learning to adapt to change while balancing diabetes management is a skill that will serve your child well in life. View the bumps in the road as learning opportunities, and encourage your child to come up with possible solutions for next time.
Take advantage of technology. Cell phones and email are effective ways of keeping in touch these days. If you can’t join the party in person, be sure to make yourself available to answer questions, if needed.
In addition to communication technology, don’t forget diabetes technology! The One Touch® Ping® meter- remote makes it possible for my daughter to enjoy her treats without having to access her insulin pump from beneath a costume. The combo bolus feature is a great tool to use when she’s “grazing” over a few hours on Thanksgiving. Entering the carbs for some favorite treats into the food database allows us to spend more time living in the moment, and less time figuring out a bolus .
Don’t let diabetes make your parenting decisions. If you weren’t going to let your child run up and down the neighborhood streets, hoarding as much candy as possible on Halloween night BEFORE diabetes entered the picture…then don’t change your mind just to prove that diabetes isn’t in control of your life now. By the same token, if filling stockings to the brim with chocolate is a tradition for your family…then don’t skip it, because of diabetes concerns. Live life according to the values and customs you want to instill in your child, not according to the perceived limitations that diabetes may place on it.
Remember: YOU get to decide what your family will or will not participate in. Diabetes doesn’t. It’s a perk of being the grown up.
Now…cue Christmas music, and enjoy the season!