Thursday, September 1, 2022

Curious Minds

For all of my life, I’ve spent time around children.  When I was old enough to babysit I began to watching the neighbourhood kids. Word spread and I began watching family friends of friends children.    I also worked a short time at a daycare. Eventually when I moved away from home in 2009, it wasn’t long before I was once again finding babysitting jobs across my new city. It was honestly a great side job while in post secondary and I was able to make enough for that to be my income for all the fun stuff you spend your money on in University (i.e groceries, vodka cranberries and clothes from the mall).  I began nannying shortly after graduation for a couple years until I was able to settle into a career (that is not child care related).  

Since I was diagnosed in 2009, it became important to learn how to communicate my diabetes to children.   Diabetes can be complicated to explain even to adults because most adults believe they already know what diabetes is.    You can spend a lot of time trying to explain the differences of type 1 & type 2 to an adult.    But, with children you may be their first impression of what diabetes is.  

The obvious explanations come with explaining how an insulin pump works. Depending on age, I often described this as a machine that gives me medicine.  Sometimes they will be curious where the tubing goes, how it connects or what the screen looks like.  Which I’m always happy to explain.  

For CGM, I explain this as something that checks how I am doing, although I didn’t wear CGM often back then. There were times I did have to finger poke while babysitting which was always eye catching to children, beeping, blood and flashing numbers.      

Overall explaining my diabetes just meant that I had to tell my machine what I was eating, I had to keep an eye on how I was doing and sometimes I had to drink a juice box.   It wasn’t overly complicated and I was more than happy to answer their curious questions.  I figured if I set them up with good diabetes education now, they’d be less likely to ask a type 1 if they had the bad kind of diabetes in the future!  

Now here we are with a child of my own, a child who asks a lot of questions about a lot of topics,  but has figured out my diabetes and what it means quite well.   He knows mommy wears a pump and a “smoke detector” (my sensor) and that juice boxes and rocket candies are mommy’s for her diabetes.   So much so that anytime he sees rocket candies he gives them to me.  

As he gets older I know he will have more questions, but allowing him to explore and understand is important.  He’s gentle when he is looking at my pump, and he is considerate when he knows that open juice box is for me.   For a toddler, it’s quite remarkable how understanding they truly can be when you explain and teach them so.  

Sometimes we don’t give children enough credit for what they can understand.  I’ve learned that children are incredibly compassionate.  All of the children that I have taken care of have shown me this.    I’ve learned that they can be helpful, and curious.  Some of the best learning conversations about diabetes has been with the children I have watched.  

I am curious now, how do you explain type 1 diabetes to your children or those in your life?