Brian* was diagnosed with diabetes at three years old. It was going to be a big adjustment for his family. The parents were taken to a separate room several times to be educated on how to handle diabetes now that it was going to be a part of their everyday life. After seeing this transpire each time a new diabetic patient was admitted, I collaborated with one of my co-workers, a Diabetic Educator, to figure out a better way help patients during this time of transition in their lives.
We discussed several options; one, being a website that helps talk about Diabetes in a child-friendly manner. It covers lots of different topics such as the first sleepover, going back to school, and tackling life with Diabetes and the challenges that come with it. They’re digital stories that are easy to read and understand, especially for little ones! They include fun characters from Mickey Mouse and friends which makes it educational and also enjoyable for young children.
Check it out here: Lily and Disney’s Type 1 Diabetes Bookshelf
Another book that we have at the hospital that I highly recommend is Taking Diabetes to School. It walks through exactly what will be different and how to handle those challenges. This “Special Kids in School” series has lots of different options as well such as Taking Asthma to School, Taking Cancer to School, Taking A.D.D. to School, Taking Autism to School, and much more!
Check out this link for more information on the series: The Special Kids in School Series
Our other option was providing medical play for the patients while their parents were taught about the grown-up responsibilities of having a child with diabetes. Brian and I sat in the playroom, and used his Diabetes friend, Rufus the bear, to help us better understand what his role would be during this new diagnosis. The colored patches on Rufus help us to differentiate where the shots (insulin injections) and finger pokes (blood glucose checks) would take place.
I held Rufus, while Brian scrambled around the play kitchen in the playroom providing Rufus with several options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Each time that Rufus ate, we would give Rufus a finger poke to make sure his blood sugar was in the right range. I didn’t want to say “OUCH!” when Brian gave Rufus a finger poke or injection because I didn’t want to give Brian any extra ideas on how he SHOULD be feeling. Instead, I asked Brian how Rufus was feeling.
“How does Rufus feel when he has to have his finger pokes or shots?”
“He feels okay…but he’s scared.”
“What is he scared of?”
“That maybe it might hurt.”
“Is there anything that Rufus can do so that maybe it won’t hurt as much?”
Brian quickly moves about the playroom looking for just the right thing. He pulls out a stress ball hidden at the bottom of a bin and says,
“Maybe if Rufus holds this ball it would be make him less scared.”
“Let’s give it a try.”
Rufus finished eating his dinner and it was time for his finger poke. Brian grabbed the stress ball and placed it gently in his hand as he spoke to Rufus,
“Squeeze this. It will be over before you know it!”
I, without thinking, did some deep breathing for Rufus as Rufus squeezed the ball and the finger poke was complete.
“That seemed to go a lot better for Rufus. I don’t think he’s so scared anymore.”
I made sure to give Brian a few stress balls of his own for when it would be his turn for a finger poke or shot.
And that, my friends, is coping for a 3-year-old. Never doubt that a child is too young to come up with their own coping mechanisms. Give children the power to choose how to react in a healthy manner. They can do it. I promise.
*Name has been changed for confidentiality purposes