T1D Kids Summer Survival: How to Thrive Out of Routine
Does the end of the school year open up a new set of diabetes challenges in your house? As your child leaves the classroom and heads into summer vacation mode, does it feel like you are waving goodbye to any sense of control that you had finally nailed down with their blood sugars?
No matter how your child feels about school, we know that it also provides structure that can provide more predictability for you and your child’s routine. When summer comes, some or all of that schedule inevitably changes, impacting blood sugars in different ways. It’s true that diabetes feels more manageable with routine, but that doesn’t mean a summer of fun and adventure is out of the question!
In our coaching programs with parents of kids with diabetes, we use our type 1 diabetes (T1D) Family Growth Model to help families adapt a holistic approach to managing their child’s diabetes. Our model is broken into three parts: Rhythm, Routine and Relationships. Rhythm covers the body’s natural cycles and internal clock, as well as your child’s physiology. Hormones, insulin sensitivity and macronutrients beyond carbs all contribute to Rhythm. Relationships include your relationship to your child’s diabetes, their relationship to it and the ways you invite others to partake in your child’s care.
We can go into Rhythm, Routine and Relationships in depth, however, today let’s focus on Routine!
Changes in your child’s summer routine can impact blood sugars in a variety of ways. Think:
- Meal timing: Without the school day schedule, is your child having meals and snacks at different times? Meal timing will influence differing insulin needs.
- Sleep schedule: During the summer, does your child sleep in? Are they snacking at night and staying up later? These changes in routine may cause highs and lows at different times of the day.
- Activity level: Is your child running around outdoors until the sun comes down during the summer? Or does being home give them more time to play video games and watch television? Either way, if their activity level is changing, their insulin needs will too.
- Travel/camps: Is your child going away to camp? Or is your family going on a trip? We can expect blood sugars to fluctuate when in a new environment.
It may take some time to observe how meals, sleep, activity and travel or camp are impacting your child’s blood sugars. That’s okay! You can expect some ups and downs as you and your child acclimate to whatever your summer routine looks like.
As your family switches gears into summer mode, which of these factors can you expect will change for your child? Taking time to think about this now can help you step away from being reactive and allow you to feel more proactive about the changes that are coming.
Here a few things you can consider:
- 3’s a pattern: In our coaching programs, we like to say that a blood sugar fluctuation becomes a pattern when it has happened three times. For example, observing the same high or low every day at a certain time three days in a row means that you can feel confident in looking deeper into a root cause.
- Optimize your tech: If your child is on a pump, this is the time to possibly make use of the features like different basal profiles, temp basals and extended boluses. You can use them to meet the changes in food, sleep, activity, hormones, etc.
- Tracking is key: While it may feel counterintuitive to spend more time or focus more energy on your child’s diabetes than you already are, the intention you put into tracking their numbers as their routine changes will allow you to be more prepared in the future.
The truth is, as a parent you know that switching from school to summer is only one example of when your child’s routine will change. Kids’ lives are more in flux than the average adult, especially as they grow, pick up new interests and get involved in new activities and hobbies. The transition from the school year to summer vacation is an opportunity for you and your family to look at the bigger picture and practice a new way to handle changes in routine with confidence and clarity.
So, start small. Find little ways to observe new patterns and get proactive, so that a change in routine is no longer stressful or scary. And then get out there and enjoy summer with your family!
To learn more about our T1D Family Coaching programs and get tailored support outside your endo’s office, you can learn more here.