Providing support to families

The initial admission
I see all the newly diagnosed families on the initial emotional admission. I tell them that things will get easier, and that they will return to a different life, but a good life. It’s not necessarily an abnormal life. I tell them too that their child isn’t sick, but that something just stopped working. Their pancreas stopped producing insulin. I tell them that they’re the same little beings from head to toe; that they can do anything and be anything.

Maureen Powers, RN, DNE, Registered Nurse


Focusing on the positive
It’s important to meet the family where they are at and just listen. I always start with the basics, “How is everything going?” If something is not going well, this is a prime opportunity to offer support and guidance. Kids are really good at telling us what is hard about being diagnosed with diabetes, and what’s hard about living with diabetes. I think it’s important for kids to focus on what’s going well, what’s positive, what’s wonderful and great in their lives so that diabetes can then become a part of life rather than something that dominates all fun and positive activities.

Jennifer Rein, LICSW, Licensed Social Worker


Providing reassurance
It’s important to normalize the feelings of parents. So yes, this is a difficult illness and life will change in a moment. It’s normal to feel sad, angry, and overwhelmed. It’s also important to reassure families. I think parents of younger children, toddlers, or school aged children, worry about school in different ways than parents of teenagers going off to college, so there are a lot of different worries or concerns that families bring up. But emphasizing the basics, and increasing a family’s knowledge of diabetes, it may help them work together as a family to cope.

Jennifer Rein, LICSW, Licensed Social Worker


Providing support
Age is an enormous factor. If you have a three or four year old child, you have to be more lenient in what type of goals you can expect to achieve in terms of blood sugar control. So, the parents of these young kids will need quite a bit of support. Teens need different types of supports on more of an emotional level. If they are having emotional difficulties, we help by contacting our social worker and getting some counseling or I encourage peer support through the diabetes camps.

Gregory Goodwin, MD, Physician


Honoring and meeting the needs of the family
Families come from all over. Everybody comes with their own story, and it is important to just recognize that even though we know so much about diabetes, we still need to honor and respect where these families are coming from, and work hard to honor and meet their needs. I think our clinicians do a wonderful job of listening to families and working with them to figure out together what is going to be the best plan, and what’s going to be the most attainable so that the child can be healthy.

Jennifer Rein, LICSW, Licensed Social Worker


Alleviating anxiety
I think parents are so overwhelmed that they concentrate on details and they put off some of the bigger questions because they may be afraid to ask them. We tend to bring them up because we know that those questions are probably lurking and might be making the parents very anxious. They are concerned because of adults they know who have had complications due to diabetes. One of the big things we try to mention right away is to say that the adults with diabetes that you know might not have or necessarily had the best tools all of their lives and that we now have many more types of insulin. We know a lot more about how to control blood sugar and how important it is, so that they shouldn’t be looking at an adult with diabetes and thinking this is going to happen to their child. But at the same time, many parents are afraid to ask those questions because they don’t want to hear the answer. They are afraid it’s going to be something terrible.

Christina Luedke, MD, PhD, Physician