From a Diabetes Nurse Specialist in Christchurch, New Zealand:
I have a case load of around 200 children and adolescents with mainly type 1 diabetes, and I help coordinate and run camps for the young ones. We go skiing and tramping with the adolescents and hold a residential camp for the 9 to 12 year olds.
Do you know of someone I may be able to connect with to discuss what psycho-social issues they discuss with the younger age group [that is, has anyone tried doing an interactive session about feelings surrounding having diabetes]? I'd like to hear what others have tried. The 9 to 12s may be a little young to do this type of thing, and I don't want to do more harm than good.
Even the littlest ones can benefit from attention to emotional/psychosocial issues, in my experience. Art therapy is a natural, asking kids to draw pictures that describe what diabetes means to them, what their day with diabetes is like, the worst thing that's every happened, the best thing that's ever happened and so on. When they tell you about their picture, you can use that as a starting point for discussion, or as a reason to give a hug. The key to any psychosocial intervention with kids or adults is to realize that as educators, our goal should be to give kids a place to express their feelings without judgement,a place to be listened to and validated. That in itself is therapeutic. For most kids that is not only important, but sufficient -- although occasionally doing these things you will encounter kids who are clinically depressed or have other serious problems personally, or in the family, that require a referral.
Having kids write or tell stories about their diabetes serves much the same purpose as the art work. For little ones that can't write, they can dictate to you while you write it down. In a group or a family, having an "I hate diabetes" parade can work wonders too -- music, noise makers -- just a chance to blow off steam.
In my opinion, what is tremendously helpful is for kids to know that it's okay to feel bad (whether it's about diabetes or other things in life), that when you feel bad the people who love you will listen to you and care about what you feel, and that by getting your feelings out, you often help yourself feel better about what's going on.
There are some other ideas in my book, Sweet Kids: How to Balance Diabetes Control & Good Nutrition with Family Peace, written with Dr. Richard Rubin.
[Editor's comment: The American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) has a Camp Educator's Specialty Practice Group. I know that they published a group of games used at camps a few years ago, but I'm not sure it's still available. However, I would post your same query on their bulletin board. SS]
Original posting 29 Mar 2001
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