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Diabetes Diagnosis Is Traumatic for Parents

Psychological Support Is Critical to Cope With Child's Illness
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The researchers found that prior to diagnosis most parents thought their children's symptoms were due to normal, transient childhood illnesses. Even when they suspected a chronic disease, the speed of the diabetes diagnosis took many parents by surprise.

"As a nurse in pediatric diabetes I was aware that parents often felt a sense of grief in coming to terms with their child's illness, but I was not prepared for the intensity of that grief," she says. "This speaks to the importance of providing psychological support for parents."

While most parents surveyed had accepted their child's illness after a year, many reported unexpected feelings of sadness and frustration at times triggered by events as simple as going on vacation, Lowes says.

Pediatric diabetes specialist Barney Softness, MD, tells WebMD that the parental grief documented in the study will surprise no one who works in the field. He says much of the focus is on the parents in the days following a child's diabetes diagnosis. Softness is a pediatric endocrinologist at Columbia University's Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center.

"With diabetes there is a lot a parent has to learn in a very short period of time. Some parents are totally freaked out and others jump right in," he says.

Softness says that while a diagnosis of diabetes does change a family forever, after awhile most parents are surprised to find that their lives and those of their children are pretty normal.

"At first there is a real mourning process, but after about a year most of the parents I deal with are in a much different place."

Roberts agrees.

"You just get on with it," she says. "As they get older you get used to letting them go on school trips and sleepovers. At first you feel like sitting up all night chewing your nails."

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