My Child Comes with Instructions: Plan a Sleepover with T1D


Blythe_Nilsson_sleepover_1Sleepovers seem to be all the rage for the 7-11 set. My child loves them. They’re tricky though to plan for if your child has type 1 diabetes (T1D) and is young enough that you, the parents, are still mostly managing their blood sugars. It also takes a special relationship: the host family assumes a big responsibility in caring for your child, and probably that includes getting up in the night to check a blood sugar or giving insulin. Here are some basic steps to a successful night out for young children still dependent on adults for care.

1. Make sure you are comfortable with the invitation and that the host parent knows what is involved in caring for a young person with type 1 diabetes. Remember that you can always host children at your house if that is a better option. Talk about different scenarios for the evening.  Create a back up plan in case one parent becomes nervous about either hosting or sending their child into this new situation.

2. Make a general plan for your child’s care during sleepover time. Often it works best to stick to usual routines; for example, we check our child’s blood sugar at 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., sneaking into his room with a flashlight to check his blood glucose (BG) on a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) or meter. Our friends do the same for our child when he is away with them.

3. Meet ahead of time with the parents hosting the sleepover to teach them the basics behind your plan for the evening. Probably this will mean explaining a bit about T1D and your child, and then teaching the hosts how to check a blood sugar and treat highs and lows. (See the links below to check out sample one-page templates for this information.)

4. Keep the information you give as simple and straightforward as possible.  Remember that it may be easiest to give instructions in baby steps. Here is a timeline for how I taught one friend about T1D and my 7-year-old child:

  • Step 1: Send an I phone video of myself checking my son’s blood sugar and delivering a correction on the pump, detailing each step as I went. This was for them to watch before we met, and keep for reference (and teasing, it’s a dorky video).
  • Step 2: Meet with host parent for a mini training session about T1D, checking blood sugars and giving insulin. I bring a “one pager,” one page for each topic. (Here are forms I created: “Top 10 Things to Know about my kid & T1D,” “Prick & Check Instructions,” “Treating & Avoiding Hypos,” and “How to Deliver a Bolus on The Animas Ping.”)  We do use a CGM with Dexcom Share also, but don’t rely on it alone for training, in case a host parent has to check a blood sugar manually.
  • Step 3: Have host parents over to dinner, perhaps including other families too so they can check a blood sugar and deliver a bolus in a relaxed setting with our support nearby.
  • Step 4: Make a clear plan for handling sleepover meals—timing, carb counts and dosing. Often I would invite myself to dinner or I’d drop by to cover that meal or help a friend do it, and often I do the 10 p.m. check myself as well. Now that my child is 10, he and the host mom will call me, and he will dose himself with me on the phone and her supervising. We repeat one of these options at breakfast time.
  • Step 5: Make a clear plan for nighttime checks. My girlfriends call me at 2 a.m. after checking CGM or BG on a monitor, and they deliver a rescue or a correction bolus with me on the phone. If my son’s CGM is on, they know I am watching around the clock and will call if he is dangerously low or high.
  • Step 6: Have a plan for an emergency and be ready to rush over to the host house in the night if you have to. Let your friends know that you’ll be around if they need you.

5. Pack extras of your supplies: juice boxes, glucose tabs, alcohol wipes, blood glucose strips, a phone or CGM charger and a flashlight.  Since our child sometimes runs on the lower side (say 100 down arrow on his CGM) on an exciting night with friends, we also pack “tide me over” snacks, like apple puree in squeeze kits and fruit strips.

6. Talk to your child about the plan for the evening so they know what to expect and how they can help if possible. Remind them of what to do or who to go to if they feel low.

7. Lastly, let your child have fun!

Read The Sitter’s Checklist by Sara Jensen and more by Blythe Nilsson: Angels & Demons.

WRITTEN BY Blythe Nilsson, POSTED 05/25/16, UPDATED 09/27/22

A former English teacher with a masters in English education from Columbia University, Blythe has lived and worked all around the world. She likes words, learning and traveling to new places. Her son Kip was diagnosed at 24 months while their family was living in South East Asia. Blythe also serves as a consulting editor for Beyond Type 1.