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Helping Young T1Ds with School Mornings

As a new mom living with T1D, I admit I was a bit over-reactive. Let’s just be blunt- I was nuts! The hormones took years to settle after my daughter’s birth. No yoga class for me the next week! I was paranoid that I wouldn’t be around and in a healthy state to help raise and guide this new baby I had brought into the world. So I set about making sure she could take care of herself and I did it FAST! As I spend more time helping families juggle the world of diabetes in young children, I realize that many of the habits I set for my non D child, are beneficial for young families managing young T1D school mornings for many of the same reasons: managing morning stress, building self-esteem, building a sense of control, and practicing a set of healthy habits for a lifetime.

My mom started these for me in the late 70’s. This was pre diagnosis, but it helped me to be ahead of the curve and capable of taking care of my T1 life when it came rearing its ugly head. She wrote out on index cards and placed in my bathroom, a list of things to do each morning and each night on my own. We laugh now as I struggled for several years to comprehend (put on deo). It was for my older sister, but I really didn’t have a clue what deodorant was, much less deo. The index cards got wet over time so I recommend a good laminator!

I put a similar set for my toddler on two hanging hooks in her room. These were laminated picture cards with the words (teaching that reading early). They had images of clothing, brushing teeth, brushing hair, eating breakfast, making beds, putting on coats, getting a backpack ready, etc. There were a few blank ones that you could add your own (perfect for a T1D lifestyle). I hung all the cards on one hook in the order I wanted it done. We ended up changing this over time due to her preference. Once she had completed the task; she flipped the card to the empty hook. By the time we were ready to walk out the door, all the cards should have been moved to the new hook.

When living with T1D, it empowers children to think they have some control over this hectic lifestyle. Give them the chance to see if their pumps or devices need charging, is their diabetes kit filled with supplies or are they low on test strips or glucose tablets that day? It helps to make sure they even remember putting their kit in their backpack. Do they have their portable chargers for their phones or CGM devices? Admittedly, parents will need to check the list for accuracy, but it is never to late to let them start. One day it may surprise you that the stress of micro-managing a child with T1, eases with the mundane tasks because they have learned it on their own. There is also a benefit to not having to “discuss diabetes” and use the visual reminders. Most of us are tired of feeling like T1D consumes our entire day, so a visual reminder from a parent might help the rest of the daily audible communication.

I also am a firm believer in no TV in the morning. This is a personal choice, but I stand by it. It is much harder to drag a child to get ready for school if something animated has captured their attention. I also disagree with TV on the ride to school. Remember I was a bit crazed in this stage, so talking, singing, and communicating with my child was my priority. Thoughts of the moment, what we saw out of the window, feelings, excitement for the day, how she felt, etc., ruled our rides to school. For young T1D kids it is equally important. This can become an established safe and short talk time. Most days hopefully it will be about normal toddler or child talk. Laughter and excitement are the goal. Other times it could be the gateway to learning if anything is bothering them at school due to diabetes. Is there any bullying going on or alternatively has a friend been extra supportive? Is the nurse’s office a good vibe or does the child want to begin to take more independent steps?

My goal was to never have her leave me in the morning upset or me angry with the morning schedule. This wasn’t perfect, but due to the ease of our morning schedule, we had extra time. We had time to talk down the fears, time to talk through the obstacle of the day, time to deal with a forgotten item. We had time to park instead of run through the drop off lane if we needed to gather reinforcement for the day.

It doesn’t run like clockwork always. I have been the working mom and the stay at home mom. Both present the challenges that seem impossible to overcome. Being a mom with T1 is not that much easier than being the kid. We all need to build and continually reinforce that feeling of control. We need to take the time to prioritize the hours of the day to go out into the world prepared. We all have unexpected lows or high surges and slug through the morning routine feeling heavy or weak depending on BG levels. Having that routine set at an early age has saved me during the hard mornings. Some tasks are simply ingrained in my head.

I have had days that we arrived late, not because of my child, but me. I have had to pull over and sit out a low during driving. I have had to turn around for a forgotten item. However, those moments were few and yelling to get teeth brushed was never an issue!! I wish all families and kids extra support during these back to school times. If any of these tips can be used or modified to fit your routine with a young T1D kid, I hope it can be an inspiration.

Happy school mornings to all of you! Marianne

Anxious but still calm on school days
She had a wonderful Pre K experience with an amazing teacher