My adult daughter with Type 1 diabetes, who now lives 500 miles away from me in Washington, D.C., will be home for a week-and-a-half long visit this summer, and I’m delighted.
But I’m also worried.
As all the parents welcoming home their college or young adult kids with diabetes for summer vacation can attest: It’s hard not to slip back into those old diabetes habits.
It’s almost Pavlovian, the need for a parent to oversee diabetes care. (Okay, I said oversee but I meant nag about). And sure, it comes from love. But the thing is: stepping back into those old parenting habits when your child already lives on their own and does just fine can ruin a perfectly wonderful visit or summer stay. So, what’s a parent to do? I am hoping by thinking it out ahead of time and making myself aware, I’ll avoid the pratfalls many of us face when our young adults come home. Here are some steps I’m taking to make sure my daughter’s summer visit is drama-free.
Be up front about it: I’m going to tell my daughter ahead of time that my goal is to avoid all this. (She’s probably reading this now. So, Lauren? My goal is to avoid all this). By being up front with your adult child, you are letting them know that you acknowledge you should not be butting in as much as you want to. I think being up front about it helps young adults understand that you don’t want to be annoying, and it may help them be more compassionate and understanding when and if you slip.
Offer to take over some of the care while they are there: You know, your young adult with diabetes may just be a wee bit burned out (or just sick of a few things). What if their vacation home could also include a little vacation from some of their daily diabetes care needs? Offer. They might just take you up on something like filling their reservoir or drawing up a shot and setting it out for them. They may ask you to count their carbs for them at any meal you share. Little things can be a big break for them, and if they do take you up on it, it may help you, as a parent, feel some control while not overstepping your bounds.
MYOB: Do not ask them what their blood sugar is. Do not ask when was the last time they checked. Do not ask them how their CGM is working (as a poorly veiled attempt at really asking “Why are you not using it?!”) Unless they want you in their business, it is their business. This can be a huge challenge. Often, parents of adults don’t see things being done that they expect to be done, and it eats away at the parent.
Fair is fair: If you are truly deeply concerned about something, it IS your business to tell your adult child so. But frame it in a general term. “Can you share your current daily care plan with me? I’m asking because I am curious and so I don’t wonder why you are or are not doing something. It worries me when I don’t see you (insert concern here) when it may not be a big deal at all. Help me understand, if you don’t mind.” (When what you really want to say is, “I swear I have not seen you check once since you got home! How can that be?!”) It is fair to expect your adult child with diabetes to ease your worries as best they can. After all, they should want you to have a nice vacation with them, too.
Take them shopping or ask for a list ahead of time: You probably don’t have ketone strips in each bathroom anymore (and if you do, they are outdated). Chances are there’s no tub of glucose tabs in a cabinet either. That means it is time to stock up. But take it to another level. Ask your child for a shopping list ahead of time of all the things they’d like to have on hand (not just diabetes related. Snacking and eating habits change too) and shop ahead so its all in place when they arrive. Or, day one, take them to the market and tell them to fill the cart, on you. This can be a good way to get a feel for how they are treating diabetes without asking directly, and a nice way to say “welcome home!”
About the parties: This is a huge challenge for younger adults coming home from college. At, say, 19, it’s totally appropriate for parents to expect young adults to live by their rules while under their roof. For instance, it is not cool to go out to a party and not come home or call for two days (Parents don’t care if that’s what you did at The U of U and we never knew. Now we know. And it’s not fair to make us worry like that even if we did not worry when you were gone.) It’s totally fine to set a curfew or require they let you know where they are if they are not coming home. For adults visiting, the same is true. I don’t care if you are 40, if you are staying with mom or dad, just let them know where you are so they don’t freak out.
As for drinking, yep, they do. And with diabetes on board, parents worry more. While it is not our role to say to whether or not to drink, it is okay for us to have concern. If your young adult comes home tipsy, even though they totally know how to handle it, it’s okay to ask if they want you to set an alarm for an overnight check. Sometimes, they welcome it, being able to just doze off and know someone else has their back. If someone comes home blotto, however, all bets are off and you get to oversee care until this passes.
Enjoy your vist: We don’t get our kids home too often once they hit a certain age. So just like the rest of life with diabetes on board, focus on what it is all about without diabetes in the picture. Put the diabetes aside and embrace this time with your child. Sure, you have to think about diabetes, but don’t let it rob you of a wonderful visit.