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Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic as a Parent With Type 1 Diabetes

I am the mother of two beautiful children, a boy who is 13 and a girl who is 10. I could also say I have a third child, who is almost 7 years old, named type 1 diabetes. For anyone who isn’t familiar with type 1 diabetes, it is an autoimmune disease in which your pancreas stops making insulin. So from the day of diagnosis, at age 37, I became the proud owner of a beautiful, yet broken, pancreas.

Managing diabetes is a full-time job for me. You are constantly trying to keep your blood sugars within a healthy range which isn’t an easy feat when so many variables play into your blood sugar. Food, exercise, hormones, are just a few things that can interrupt an ordinary day (or peaceful sleep) but if you are a mom, you know that no day is truly uneventful.

COVID-19 hit the United States hard. It hit where I live, Long Island, NY, especially hard. With kids stuck at home indefinitely and with four people now trying to work from home, chaos ensues from the moment we wake up until we go to sleep. My son is constantly winning the late night award and yes, I am guilty of not even knowing when he finally hits the hay.

Needless to say, my blood sugars have been through the roof due to all the stress. I’ve also had to adjust my insulin doses due to overall less activity, despite still exercising daily. Add in eating curbside and different foods at home, thanks to a limited selection at the grocery store, and let’s just say that managing diabetes has been extra challenging!

It hasn’t been easy managing my condition and two wild kids who have been holed up for 60+ days, but my chronic condition has taught me how to handle adversity. No matter what situation we are handed, we can adapt — and thrive.

Here are my top five tips on how to get through it:

1. Limit the news.

Try to designate a certain time of the day to watch the news. It is very easy to keep checking back or even worse, leaving the television on, but kids are always listening and absorbing the information. When your kid is walking around saying “Chiiiiiina” it’s probably time to turn the television off. Also, some of the news may be scary and it might be better if they hear it from you.

2. Follow their lead.

Some kids might be having a very rough time if they are used to being social. My daughter and her friends have had prom night, spa night, and workouts via Zoom sessions to help pass the time, but she also needs to get out of the house. We have lunch in the car, drive by her friends’ houses and that helps to get her fix of social interaction. My son, on the other hand, has been buried in his room playing video games, but thanks to technology, he is playing along with about 20 friends from school. He is perfectly content and could probably last this way for years, as long as I bring him three hot meals a day. I think it’s so important to just follow their lead and what they are comfortable with, especially as we all head back to our new normal.

3. Create an environment conducive to learning.

According to social media, some moms have this one down pat! A serene, calm, workstation overlooking the beautiful blossoming trees… and then there’s the mom who tells their kids to go to their poorly ventilated rooms to get their work done while you try to meet your own work deadlines. We’re all doing the best we can, and I think you just have to do what works for your family. I know if we were all congregated around the dining room table, nothing would get done!

4. Routine is everything.

Along with our “new normal,” a new routine has emerged. And by new routine, I mean no routine, as sometimes it feels that things are spiraling out of control. To get things back on track, I suggest having your kids wake up at a certain time each day and start their work. Keep meals around the same time, for your own sanity, as you try to juggle your job and a chef catering to several different people’s tastes and dietary needs. Try to keep to a certain bedtime, too; this is my biggest challenge yet. When your son walks into your room at 11:45 p.m. asking if you can bake cookies, you know it’s time to rein things in.

5. Open communication.

With children hearing our conversations, watching the news and seeing the good, bad and ugly on social media, their little heads must be spinning. Try to be open with them about what is going on (in an age-appropriate way), so they feel safe and comfortable enough to ask questions.

The one advantage to all this family bonding is that you can create a safe place for your child during this uncertain time. While my house is a mess, the meals are less than stellar and the rules have gone awry, I hope my kids will remember this as a time of feeling safe and loved.

For more on parenting during quarantine, check out the following stories from our community:

Getty image by Dorian 2013.