One of the hard parts about being in a relationship with a person with diabetes is that the kind of support they instinctively want to give us isn’t necessarily the kind of support we want, or the kind of support that even feels supportive! They don’t have diabetes, so they don’t always understand what helpful might look like to someone who does.

No matter how close you are to a person with diabetes, it’s easy to forget how endless the work of managing diabetes is every day. 

That’s where it becomes our responsibility to teach the people who love us how to support us. It’s time to dig deep and think constructively about what would feel supportive. 5 Steps to Teaching Your Loved Ones How to Talk About & Support Your Diabetes

1.  Make a list of the things the people closest to you do or say around your diabetes that feels very discouraging or hurtful or stressful, etc. Put them down on paper, be specific, and really explain how that phrase or statement or question makes you feel. You’re going to share this list with your loved ones, so remember to be thoughtful as you express these feelings! 

2.  Now, think of at least one thing the people closest to you can do instead to support your diabetes in a way that does feel supportive to you.  Let's take a look at the following three examples:
a) When they prepare a meal or recipe for you, you’d love to know the carb-count so you can dose your insulin properly. They can look this up online to get the nutrition facts or they can write it down on paper so you can figure it out—either way, it’s a huge help!
b) When your blood sugar is high or low, you can explain to them that the one thing that would feel the most supportive is simply saying something like, “Is there anything I can do to help?”.
c) If you're a parent of a teenager living with diabetes, you want to know that they are taking their insulin and are safe.  It could be a great idea to establish a clear way to check-in every day. Instead of asking “What’s your blood sugar?” the moment they walk in the door, suggest that every night before dinner they let you  know if they've had a smooth or a more challenging day managing sugar levels. Your most supportive response could be, “If you’d like to talk about it, I’d love to help you look at the numbers and see if there are any changes we could make to help things go more smoothly for you tomorrow.”

3.  When everyone is calm and getting along, share your list of what does not feel supportive and then share your ideas for what would feel supportive. You could begin this conversation by saying, “Could we talk about my diabetes for a moment? I know you care about me, but sometimes the way you show your concern doesn’t always feel supportive to me.”

4.  Establish a new set of ground-rules for when you are being treated in a way that doesn’t feel supportive. Instead of getting angry, you could agree what you would say, for example: “Mum, I know you love me and you care about my health, but what you just said doesn’t feel supportive.”

5.  And then, ask your loved-one to think of a new way to express when they are especially frustrated or concerned about your wellbeing. Instead of badgering you or scolding you or completely freaking out, they could say something like, “I know it has been a bit of a tough day, can we have a chat about your blood sugars sometime when you’re ready and see if there’s anything I can do to help?”

Remember, everyone is on the same team. We all want the same thing: a healthy life for people living with diabetes! For most of us, the people who love us don’t have diabetes, so we’ve got to teach them what diabetes love should look like…because it really is a good thing to be on the receiving end of love!

About Ginger Vieira

Ginger Vieira has lived with Type 1 diabetes and Celiac disease since 1999, and fibromyalgia since 2014. She is the author of Dealing with Diabetes Burnout & Emotional Eating with Diabetes & Your Diabetes Science Experiment. Her book, Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes: Your Month-to-Month Guide to Blood Sugar Management. Ginger is also the Editorial Director at DiabetesDaily, with a B.S. in Professional Writing and background in cognitive coaching, video blogging, record-setting competitive powerlifting, personal training, Ashtanga yoga, and motivational speaking.