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Raising Happy Diabetic Kids - Teaching Self-Reliance

Instilling self-reliance leads children with diabetes to their own creation of happiness...
Note:  This is part two on the subject of how to raise happy diabetic children.

Sometimes the phrase "happy diabetic kids" seems to be an contradictory to real life. Often it seems all of the dark powers of the diabetes universe are aligned against you. And it makes you wonder, is there some evil house elf behind the scenes just making everyone's life miserable on purpose. Not being graduates of Hogwarts School Of Magic (Harry Potter), we can't just wave a magic wand and make it all better. We must prepare for life with diabetes and we must prepare our children.

Self-Reliance is a critical skill for diabetic children to master. Think of all of the responsibilities that go into daily diabetes care. Keep in mind, we must keep the responsibilities we put upon our children, age appropriate. Nonetheless, in most school aged children, the chance to take some responsibility for their own care, goes a long way in giving them some feelings of control over their diabetes.

In Part One of this subject, I mentioned there are three components to raising happy children. Self-Confidence, Self-Reliance and Self-Control. And I haven't forgotten Self-Esteem, we'll get to that, too. I'm still of the opinion that with these first three components, your child can't help but develope Self-Esteem.

What is Self-Reliance? - Self-Reliance is the ability to manage on your own:  That means knowing how to manage your time, to function and think independently, and be able to solve problems when they arise. With self-reliance, there is no need for other people's approval before moving forward or doing something new. It's also un-neccessary for constant guidance on how to achieve a goal. You can rely on yourself.

Self-reliance is also about tasks and skills - knowing how to do things and how to manage things. It includes the ability to be alone and to think things through on your own.

Self-reliance is broader than self-confidence. Self-confidence relates to what we can do, to specific skills. Self-reliance is about being independent, creative and self-sufficient; having confidence in our inner-selves to enable us to adapt and manage on our own.

What does Self-Reliance helps us become? - Self-reliance is also having confidence in your own ideas. It is about being able to see things through to completion. It is about setting goals, and not being stopped by fear of failure.

There is a common belief that the world is made up of three diffrent types of people:

  • Those who make things happen;

  • Those who watch things happen;

  • Those who notice nothing until afterwards and then ask, "What happened?"

Those who have good self-reliance (and self-confidence, and self-control) develop self-esteem and make things happen. Helping our children to be able to make things happen, doesn't mean thinking on a grand scale. It doesn't mean we all should want our children to be like Bill Gates, or Nobel Prize winners. We don't need to have our children achieve on a scale that makes a difference to others, We should aim to give our children a measure of self-reliance that allows them to keep better control of their own lives and keeps choices open for them.

Being Self-Reliant at What? - We can encourage self-reliance in our children from a fairly early age. As soon as your child shows they can manage somethings for themselves, however slowly or clumsily, we should allow them to do so. Self-reliance is best introduced and experienced stage by stage. start early and build up slowly as they become more more competent and responsible.

When children are very young they have this almost unstoppable drive to become independent. Before they learn adult concepts of failure, they are willing to try over and over until they master whatever they are trying to do. This is especially true if they have older brothers or sisters. They desperately want to do what the older kids can do. If we stand in the way of letting them try or show disapproval when they don't do it quite right or quickly enough (patience please), we can damage their belief in themselves. The more we do for them, the more we prevent them from developing the ability to make judgements and decisions for themselves.

The stages of self-reliance are fun to watch. The first time your baby grabs a hand full of baby food and finds their own mouth with it. When they learn to "go potty" all by themselves. When they put their own shirt on (maybe backwards), after wrestling with it for ten minutes. When they pick up their own room. When they start to earn an allowance. When they do their homework without you holding a gun to their head. When they go off on their first baby-sitting job. When they show you their first apartment. Special fun parental things to do:  Promptly go through the new apartment turning on and leaving on every light in the place, leave the refridgerator door open and put your feet up on their new furniture...

These stages progress until they one day present you with a grandchild. Clearly you cannot encourage self-reliance in your child if you are not prepared to stand back and progressively let them go.

Doing that in the right amounts and at the right times is hard to judge. And when you add in the specific dangers of their not managing the daily diabetes treatment into it, you realize just how careful you need to be. Giving them responsibility and independence depends on the age and personality of your child and on your own particular circumstances.

Children can become self-reliant only if we have encouraged their independence. Allowing them to practice making decisions that concern themselves and their health. Show them that they can be relied upon.

We have been given a special task, raising a diabetic child. This makes us special people. If we weren't up to it, we wouldn't have been entrusted with it. Self-reliance is a critical part of raising any child, diabetic or not. Diabetes just makes it more difficult and more important we help our children develop this skill.

For part one of this series of articles which discusses Raising Happy Diabetic kids - Teaching Self-Confidence, click here. The final sectin of this article, Part Three, is about teaching Self-Control.

About the author:  Russell Turner is the father of a 10 year old Type 1 Juvenile Diabetic daughter. When she was first diagnosed, he quickly found there was all kinds of information on the internet about the medical aspects of this disease. What he couldn't find was information about how to prepare his family to live with diabetes. He started a website http://www.mychildhasdiabetes.com and designed it so parents of newly diagnosed children would have a one-stop resource to learn to prepare for life with diabetes.

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