How to Survive the School Party with Type 1 Diabetes


Note: This article is part of our library of resources for Celebrations & Holidays. Check out our food and drinking tips as well as an array of holiday carb charts here.

My son Henry has type 1 diabetes. When it comes to navigating his eating at school, I like to think we’re pretty prepared.

  • I’ve handed out printouts.
  • I’ve explained food and type 1 diabetes at the first parent meeting of the year at school.
  • I’ve messaged all of the parents at the start of the year asking them to send me recipes for the treats they may share with the class.
  • I’ve shown up to nearly every classroom party since his diagnosis.

But no matter what I do, there are always parents who just can’t seem to write down their ingredients or give me some insight into what they’ve made.

The mental toll of being “different” in the classroom

It can be super frustrating to feel like a burden or feel like I’m limiting Henry just getting to be a kid. Other parents get to watch their children gleefully stuff their faces with rice crispy treats and overly frosted cupcakes.

I watch as that sad, familiar look comes over my son’s face, knowing full well that he can have those treats too, but he is estimating, he is deciding whether or not it’s worth the spike.

He’s looking at his number on his continuous glucose monitor (CGM), he’s fiddling with his insulin pump, he is scanning the room to meet my eyes with an eyebrow raise and a thumbs up. He wants to give himself insulin now so he can have all the treats.

Sometimes he says, “I think that I need a break” which means: “Mama, you take my pump, you take my CGM, you trail me a little and bolus me for all these things, please turn off my high alarm so I don’t have to think about it. Please tell me not to worry, please Mama, I just want to be a kid.”

There have been a few surprise treats over the years—classroom birthday parties, random treats from the teacher. Sometimes I can’t be there with him, as much as I want to be. And I don’t want him to be anxious and sad while the rest of his class is celebrating.

Enter, the Party Box

We decided to make a little “Party Box” for Henry to keep in his classroom. When he sees something someone made and either

  • thinks that it looks gross (this happens a lot; he’s a food snob!)
  • has no idea how to bolus for it (and even sends me a picture and I have no idea either!)
  • he just wants his own, reliably carb-counted food

Then he can choose a snack from his box. That way he gets to celebrate without the anxiety of a mystery carb load.

Here are a few things we like to keep in his Party Box:

Those are Henry’s favorites, but you can keep anything in your Party Box that you prefer! The idea is not to necessarily make it a replace-all-treats-with-healthy food, but to make it a Party Box of known carb-counts. Kids should get to be kids, but it’s easier to feel better when you know you’ve got the insulin dose right.

Check out more of our guides on celebrations and holidays, including carb charts for lots of common party foods.

WRITTEN BY Sara Jensen, POSTED 12/07/17, UPDATED 04/16/23

Sara's son Henry was diagnosed with type 1 at the age of 5 in 2013. Sara is both the creative director for Genevieve Gorder and Beyond Type 1. She has worked for Kramer Design Group in NYC and worked with a vast array of clients over the past 15 years. She is passionate about foster adoption, type 1, good food and humor. She lives on a tiny island in the middle of a big ocean.