How to Manage Your Child’s Diabetes with Confidence

One of the worst feelings as a parent is not knowing if you’re doing a good job or even doing it right! There’s a reason they call it the hardest job in the world and one of the most stressful. On top of all that, when a child is diagnosed with a chronic condition like diabetes — it makes things even more complicated.

Diabetes is a lifelong condition, especially type 1 diabetes. It cannot be cured, but it can be managed. Parents with children who have been diagnosed with diabetes will likely feel extremely overwhelmed at first, but hopefully overtime their confidence in treating and managing this condition will get better. However, that feeling of whether you’re doing a good job will likely never go away.

Tom Karlya, father of two children with type 1 diabetes, shares his experience of learning to manage his children’s diabetes and how to do it with confidence (or at least pretend to)!

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Feeling Like I’ll Never Get It Right

Whether it’s the first night after diagnosis, 10 years into dealing with it, or in my case five years and two kids with type 1 diabetes later, the feeling of never getting it right never leaves. It seemed like every time one thing got corrected, another went wrong. One day managing their diagnosis was a breeze with almost perfect blood glucose readings all day and the next day we were all over the map. As parents, we often questioned ourselves and said, “…..but we did everything the same as the day before?”

The reality is, one day will be full of dealing with lows that won’t rise and the next day is highs we cannot get to go down. So what’s the right answer? Take a deep breath. Hold it in, then let it out. Put the mile marker away because the best way to understanding diabetes is to deal with it in inches — not as an overwhelming marathon.

Did you ever see the wonderful film, Mr. Holland’s Opus? It’s a great film about a music teacher who only wants to write a huge symphony and become famous. In the meantime he navigates his way in becoming a pretty good teacher. In one scene, he’s teaching the clarinet to a student who cannot seem to get her nose out of the music book. She’s horrible. He takes the book away and says, “You know the notes, play the sunrise.” Sometimes we try too hard. The best way to earn confidence is to trust your gut and heart. As a parent, you know what to do.

What Are You Afraid Of?

The one reason parents lack confidence is because they do not face their ultimate fear. While it may be hard to say out loud or even admit, most parents of children with diabetes (or any other chronic illness) is that they are afraid their child is going to die. The day I understood that, is the day I started to really understand how to deal with this disease.

The reality is that every parent, diabetes or not, has that fear. But for some reason, after our child gets diagnosed with diabetes, all of a sudden, we think it will happen tonight. It won’t. According to the World Health Organization, road traffic injuries are the leading global cause of death for children and young adults aged 5 to 29. Do you shake with uncontrolled nerves and fear as you drive down the highway with a car full of kids? Of course not. But the better question is…why not?

You’re confident that you know how to drive. You were educated enough to pass the road test, and you likely have lots of experience as a driver. So let’s take the same approach with diabetes. Get educated on this disease. Get to the point where you know and understand diabetes. Education is the equalizer in diabetes.

The difference? There is no ‘diabetes license’ that can be issued to a parent. Same with driving a car, the more you understand and the more you do it, the more it will become understood in your efforts.

Give Yourself a Break

If no one has told you that lately, I’m saying it. You’re doing a fabulous job. How would I know? Well for one thing, you’re reading this article. Doing the research will give you another inch on knowing something about this disease. As parents, we struggle to know that we’re doing a good job because there’s no one there to tell us. But here I am, telling you now.

I told someone once that should anything really drastic ever happen to my children, I need to be able to look at myself in the mirror and know that I did everything humanly possible to make sure that what ever happened, could not have been stopped. Because that’s all we can ever really do. Whether it’s dealing with diabetes, or something else.

Everyone has something to deal with and all we can do, as parents, is make sure we are armed and ready to go. Educated, understanding, right attitude, confident, and also with the complete and absolute belief that the good grace of whomever you believe in to keep your child out of danger smiles down upon you. We do all we can do, and we do it well, after that we pray.

I am a diabetesdad.

Tom Karlya

Tom Karlya

Tom Karlya is the Vice President of Diabetes Research Institute Foundation and founder of DiabetesDad. 
He has two children, Kaitlyn and Rob, who were both diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. He is the co-creator and founder of, a site dedicated to educating communities about diabetes. He has lectured at numerous conferences across America and played a pivotal role in passing legislation in the U.S. regarding the missed diagnosis of diabetes. He has been instrumental in advising a national initiative with the Beyond Type1 Foundation and was awarded two Telly Awards for his video on the missed diagnosis of T1D.