The Murray Parish Trust has helped with funding for the Diabetes Distress Workshops at Southampton Children’s Hospital, which aim to support the parents of children who are living with diabetes
A child’s world changes in so many ways after a diabetes diagnosis. Living with diabetes can make children feel embarrassed or isolated from friends for so many reasons; getting additional attention from teachers or being the child who visit the school nurse for injections. Some experience denial and pretend they don’t have diabetes because they just want to blend in with their friends; this can be dangerous if they avoid blood sugar testing or taking their medicine. They made feel afraid about blood sugar control problems, needles or long-term health problems.
Some children feel guilt because they think the diabetes is their fault or that they’re causing problems for their parents, siblings or teachers. Many feel angry at their parents because they oversee the testing and treatment or they are frustrated by the things that they can’t do because of the restrictions diabetes puts on everyday activities. Or for some, the progress they’d typically be making towards independence can stop or reverse as they become more dependent on their parent than their peers.
Parents also find it hard to come to terms with their feelings about their child having a chronic condition for the rest of their life. They may go through a form of grieving process, feel guilt if they wonder if they could have prevented it or feel worried about caring for their child. Siblings may also struggle; resenting the extra attention that their brother or sister receives or the sacrifices they need to make. When a child has diabetes, it affects the whole family.
Children who live with diabetes are three times as likely to experience anxiety and depression, but the focus is usually on the disease’s physical effects, its treatment and management. The impact on their mental health often remain undiagnosed and unsupported.
Dr Alice Williams is the clinical psychologist on the diabetes team at Southampton Children’s Hospital. She has run some informal groups for parents and listened carefully to the experiences of families. Parents have consistently shared that they feel they need more knowledge and support so they can help prevent and support the mental health impact of diabetes for their child.
The Murray Parish Trust are excited to be funding the development of a ground-breaking new workshop for parents of children with diabetes. This workshop, once developed, will be rolled out multiple times each year so that it continues to support a large number of children and families long-term. It will help parents to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable them to support and improve their child’s mental health. It is also anticipated that this will also have a positive effect on diabetes management and their physical health.
- gain a better understanding of anxiety and low mood and how to support their young person and promote good psychological health.
- develop their confidence in parenting their child with diabetes through different life stages and medical challenges
- Meet other parents in similar positions to gain peer support
- help them acknowledge their child’s feelings
- Encourage active health care management so that children can take good care of themselves and better manage their diabetes so that they can avoid the stress of extra treatment or missing out on activities they enjoy
- Build their independence; with encouragement and support children with diabetes can start to take on some of the responsibility for managing it which has a confidence building effect.
- Help children understand that diabetes doesn’t define their life and they can achieve what they want to achieve
- Encourage supportive friendships and social relationships
- Find ways to cope with bullying
- Help the child focus on dealing with their own feelings about diabetes, not yours. Correct misconceptions that they did not do anything to deserve diabetes, it just happens.
- Equip them with the knowledge to talk to friends, teachers and others about their child’s diabetes so that they get the best support in school and care.
- Connect with others dealing with diabetes, boosting confidence and gaining tips from others going through the same thing.