Parenting Chronic Illness In A Pandemic: One Mom’s Perspective From Spain
My name is Karla Huízar. I am a Mexican national resident currently living in Spain, with degrees in Transpersonal Psychology, Psychology, Special Education and Preschool Education. None of this prepared me for the moment when my two-year-old son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. And none of it prepared me for what we are facing now.
Without a doubt, one of the aspects that worries you the most as a caregiver of a child with Type 1 is the vulnerability they live with. It can be terrifying knowing that their life depends on a single substance and to acquire it, you have to depend on economic, political and logistical factors, among other things. Something that I’m sure has caused us all sleepless nights is imagining hypothetical situations where there is no access to insulin.
Given the current situation in our world, as parents of children with Type 1 diabetes, we are facing our greatest fears: the threat of a collapsed health system, food shortages, the decrease or complete loss of income that many families face, and the fear that there may be a shortage of medicine. This is all in the midst of a crisis that leads to social, political and economic instability, and leaves us in a vulnerable situation that could very well be life-threatening.
In Spain today, there are more than 39,000 positive cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). We are living in indefinite confinement, with a health system in serious trouble. At the very least, this gives us the opportunity to analyze how well prepared we are to face a situation of this magnitude and an opportunity to emerge from this with more knowledge and understanding than ever before. Here is what I’ve learned about parenting a child with Type 1 in the midst of COVID-19.
Don’t hesitate + cover your bases
Do not wait for government instructions to distance yourself from others. This pandemic is a reality, so reduce social contact as much as you can, and follow prevention measures as indicated by the World Health Organization.
Stock up on necessary supplies in advance. Perhaps it’s also time to evaluate what expenses you can do without and create a backup plan that will guarantee you essentials. For some families this is far from their reality, so it is important to prepare a contingency plan, as well as a support network that you can reach out to if need be.
Make an important information guide. As a caregiver for a person with Type 1 diabetes, if you fall ill and are forced to leave them under the care of a third party, making a guide with important information could prove to be helpful. Provide details for their care, like the names and numbers of healthcare providers, a schedule for insulin dosing, passwords, emergency contact information for other family members or friends, insurance information, etc. Even if your child doesn’t know how to read, make them aware that a guide like this exists and keep it in a safe place.
Use this as a teaching moment
If you are in voluntary confinement or sheltering as instructed by the authorities, make it a learning environment. This is an opportunity to expand on your child’s skills, like the ability to be effective and react calmly in emergency situations by putting knowledge, attitudes and values into action. Use this to prepare them for life!
Show your child who makes up their support network. Call family and friends with them to ask for and offer help and reflect on the importance of creating this network, and being part of other people’s.
Make a list of necessary supplies for diabetes management together. Make them aware of the importance of having these supplies for their survival and of having extra supplies whenever possible to be able to face the unexpected. Make a list together that will allow them to take part in the responsibility of foreseeing and stocking up on these supplies.
Show them how to cook. Take this time to cook with patience, involving them in food preparation and teaching them how to cook basic things that will allow them to survive on their own.
Make a list of emergency phone numbers together. Teach them how to ask for help in case they or someone else needs assistance.
Reflect with them on the importance of saving in order to face times of crisis.
Show them how to access information. We all need to know how to go to reliable sources. Help them reflect on the importance of staying informed, like when it comes to instructions from the authorities. Explain the measures that are being taken and the reason it is important to abide by them. Be honest about the seriousness of the situation, but give them peace of mind that the necessary steps are being taken in order to resume normal life soon.
Stay informed yourself, but don’t overdo it. What’s going on? Where? How? When? Why? And what you need to do? Get answers to these questions, but avoid spending 24 hours a day watching the news. For a child, it’ll be difficult to contextualize what is heard on the radio or television and overexposing them will have repercussions on their emotional state – as well as yours.
Take advantage of this time to build on their self-help skills: using the washing machine, making their bed, tidying up some parts of the house – keep them busy and prepare them in advance for their personal independence.
Make a routine schedule for the duration of this time, including exercising at home, maintaining hygiene habits, and staying on top of blood sugar levels. Having a routine will give them a sense of stability in knowing what to expect even in the uncertainty of this moment, and will lessen the anxiety that uncertainty causes.
And from one parent to another: Everything passes… this too shall pass.
Read more about Coronavirus and Type 1 diabetes here.