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Bad Behavior or Blood Sugar Swings?

My son’s face said it all. I looked away, feeling guilty. I had just yelled at him while trying to get him to do a chore. Fifteen minutes of cajoling, reasoning, and arguing had gotten nowhere and I had lost my temper. Now, staring at his tear-stained face, I tried to look for signs of low or high blood sugar, but I couldn’t find a hint of either. I checked him anyway; he was low. A deep shame spread over me.

This scenario played itself out almost weekly. It has been 6 years since my son was diagnosed with Type 1, and while my understanding of the disease has improved, my frustration has grown. I have always felt that diabetes shouldn’t excuse a child’s misbehavior or failure to be responsible, but it is so difficult to determine where diabetes ends and discipline begins.

It took me a long time to make the connection between blood sugar levels and behavior. I was a stay-at-home mom at the time of his diagnosis, and he was, and is, my only child. It was my first time dealing with a child’s behaviors at any age, and diabetes added a layer of complexity to every situation. Once I started to get a better understanding of the disease, life smoothed out.

Once school started, though, our life became more fast paced, making it harder to always keep perfect control of blood sugar levels. Now we juggle after-school activities, homework, projects, and playdates. Just like a diabetes management plan should be tailored for each child, each parent must decide how to separate their child’s blood sugar swings from behavior. It’s hard for me sometimes to figure if my son’s behavior is amplified by blood sugar swings or just an eight-year-old boy acting out.

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Fizza Humayun studied Biology and Marketing at Baruch College in New York City. She now lives in Los Angeles and is a mother of two children, one of whom is T1.

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