The Impact of Childhood Diabetes on a Family

When a sibling is diagnosed with diabetes in adulthood there are certain emotions that may be seen in siblings that do not have the disease. There may be questions about whether they will be next or they may simply feel a profound empathy for their brother or sister. In most cases an adult diagnosis does not radically stress sibling bonds.

But what happens when a sibling is diagnosed when they are young?

This scenario can be radically different. Siblings who watch a brother or sister struggle with diabetes are subject to a wide range of emotions that can impact them for years. Much of their internal struggles will come from a lack of understanding about what is happening to their diabetic sibling and why they now seem to gain all the family attention.

While they may initially be sympathetic and helpful a healthy sibling might ultimately become openly hostile about the perceived lack of attention they are given.

It is true that children who have diabetes will require more attention simply because there will be medical details to attend to such as blood glucose checks and the administration of diabetes medications. This can be perceived by healthy siblings as something that takes the attention of parents away from them.

Swings in blood sugar can mean a radically different response from a diabetic sibling. Low blood sugar can cause them to be irritable while high blood sugar can cause them to be over stimulated.

You shouldn’t think this is a problem only siblings deal with. The truth is this can be difficult for parents as well. These parents may be struggling to make ends meet while observing the difficulties their healthy child(ren) have with determining where they fit.

As much as children and parents hate to admit it there will come times when they feel as if they have become lost in the illness of the diabetic in their life. They may hate themselves for feeling this way, but they will temporarily conclude that it is not fair that they must give up so much for the sake of one family member. They may believe the illness has driven a wedge between what they once enjoyed and a life that has radically altered since the diagnosis was made.

The diabetic will have no reasonable ability to manage their personal care alone. This is why education is so important to families in transition.

The more parents and healthy siblings know about diabetes the better prepared they will be to deal emotionally with the change in dynamics within the family.

Families have been torn apart by diabetes. Parents will blame themselves while refusing to talk to each other about what they are feeling. Children will learn to find ways to avoid issues when they know they are sensitive to other family members. For some families there is an atmosphere that only seems to allow the family to live under the same roof with little emotional energy to tie them together.

This can be avoided when families work together to find ways to meet the needs of both the diabetic child as well as the healthy children living under the same roof.

In order to successfully adapt to life with diabetes there will need to be an intentional investment from every member of the family to work through the issues and emotions that will come up. That means no glossing over issues and a healthy respect for the feelings of every member of the family.