Emotional and Psychological Support for Families With Diabetes
We know that life with diabetes brings new experiences, big feelings and challenges — from the day of diagnosis to your child’s transition to young adult care. As we treat your child’s diabetes, our team also supports your family’s emotional, psychological and social well-being. We provide psychosocial care all along your journey with diabetes.
Newly diagnosed diabetes
A new diagnosis of diabetes is a major event that affects the whole family — patient, caregivers, siblings and extended family. When your child is first diagnosed, it is common to feel:
- Shock and disbelief – These are normal feelings, even if others in your family have diabetes.
- Overwhelmed – Families receive a LOT of information in a short time after their child is diagnosed. It can be hard to absorb it all and to think about fitting diabetes care into your child’s and family’s daily life.
- Loss, sadness, anger, guilt and fear – These are very normal reactions as your family adjusts to this life-changing diagnosis. Life with diabetes is different from what your child and family are used to. It may be different from what you expected for your child’s future. It takes time to accept this change and find a “new normal.”
Our team works with your family and provides information to help you and your child adjust. Here are just a few of the questions that you or your child may have:
- How do I tell my friends and classmates about diabetes?
- What do I do when I feel anxious about diabetes (shots, low blood sugars)?
- How do I make sure my child is getting the right care at school?
Diabetes over the long term
Diabetes is a long-term condition that requires intensive daily management. It may feel hard, even after having diabetes for years. In fact, sometimes things will go smoothly for a while and then new challenges can arise. This is more likely as your child enters a new stage of development (such as the teen years) or your family undergoes other changes or challenges.
Our team works with your family and provides information to help you and your child handle concerns that may come up, such as:
- The mental health of children, teens and young adults living with diabetes.
- Adjusting to new diabetes technology, such as an insulin pump or continuous glucose monitoring (CGM).
- Diabetes distress or diabetes burnout from the demands of living with diabetes.
- Conflict between caregivers and youth about diabetes management.
- Feeling self-conscious or worried about doing diabetes care in front of others.
- Risky behaviors that affect diabetes management. For example, alcohol can cause dangerous, delayed low blood sugars. Drug use may affect eating habits and attention to self-care. Careful control of blood sugar levels is essential for driving safety.
Behavioral Health Team
Our social workers, child life specialist and pediatric psychologist work as a team to help your child and family adjust to and live with diabetes.
We serve babies through young adults and their families. If your family speaks a language other than English, interpreters in many languages, including sign language, can help you get the care your family needs.
In many ways social workers are the “first line” of our psychosocial team. Diabetes social workers:
- Have a master’s degree in social work (MSW)
- Focus on patients and families living with diabetes
We meet with your family when your child is diagnosed to:
- Understand your family’s unique strengths and stressors
- Provide a space to process emotions
- Help guide your family as you adjust to and learn to cope with diabetes
Social workers can help with concrete resources and basic needs, such as:
- Transportation to medical visits
- Connecting with community resources for help with needs like food, rent, or utilities
Our training in mental health assessment and intervention helps us:
- Provide support to patients and family members who are struggling with diabetes care
- Determine if a child would benefit from a higher level of care, such as outpatient therapy
- Respond when behavioral health screenings completed in the diabetes clinic show concerns for depression or suicidal thoughts or behaviors
- Lead support groups and workshops
Diabetes social workers are on-site and available for telemedicine visits at Seattle Children’s Sand Point Clinic, North Clinic in Everett and South Clinic in Federal Way. They provide telemedicine services to the Wenatchee Clinic.
To set up a visit with a social worker:
- Ask your provider or Scheduling to include a social worker as part of your next medical visit.
- During your diabetes clinic appointment, you can ask to see a social worker.
- Call Scheduling at 206-987-2640 and choose option 1 to arrange a telemedicine visit (separate from a medical visit) with a diabetes social worker.
- Use MyChart or call 206-987-2640 and choose option 4 to ask to have a social worker connect with you by phone or a secure message.
Child life specialist
Our team’s certified child life specialist focuses on the emotional and developmental needs of children, teens and young adults as they adjust to and manage diabetes. The child life specialist works with patients in the outpatient Diabetes Clinic. During a hospital stay, your child will see child life specialists who are inpatient care experts.
The child life specialist:
- Meets with all newly diagnosed patients who will be starting insulin injections
- Provides ongoing support as needed for all patients with diabetes and their siblings
- Explains diabetes and treatments in ways patients and siblings can understand
- Creates a coping plan for patients who are struggling with pokes and injections at home
- Coaches your child to take part in treatment and feel more in control
Our pediatric psychologist has expertise in child development, family systems and the psychosocial and behavioral needs of youth with diabetes. The psychologist works with other members of your child’s care team to help your child adjust to, cope with and manage diabetes effectively.
A child may benefit from being referred to pediatric psychology for concerns like:
- Difficulties adjusting to a new diabetes diagnosis
- Diabetes distress, burnout and other problems caused by the challenge of life with diabetes
- Behavior that hinders effective diabetes management
- Fear or anxiety related to diabetes (such as fear of needles, high or low blood sugar or diabetes complications)
- Family conflict and shared management of diabetes
- Resistance to treatment plans
What to expect if your child is referred to pediatric psychology services:
- Your child and family will meet with the psychologist for an assessment and later a feedback session to review treatment recommendations.
- The treatment plan may include brief evidence-based therapy focused on your child’s diabetes-related concern.
- For other behavioral or mental health concerns, your child may be referred to other treatment options. These include therapists in the community and Seattle Children’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine
Child life specialist
Megan Lauritzen, BS, CCLS
Community Connections and Resources
Handouts to help adjust to and live with diabetes
Our behavioral health team has created handouts that address common concerns and challenges that arise for children, adolescents and young adults with diabetes and their families.
Support groups and workshops
Camps, websites and other ways to connect
Social connections are a key to good health — whether in-person or online. To help you connect and find support, we keep a list of:
- Camps and programs for kids with diabetes and their families
- Websites for virtual support
- Resources about the rights of students with diabetes
See resources to give your family emotional and psychological support.
During a hospital stay, chaplains at Seattle Children’s provide respectful spiritual care and emotional support to families of all faiths, traditions and cultures.
Our staff and on-call chaplains include both English and Spanish speakers. For families who speak other languages, we provide pastoral and spiritual support with the help of interpreters.
You are welcome to visit the hospital’s chapel and meditation room at any time, day or night, to pray, reflect or meditate. It is located on level 7, River zone, around the corner from the Frog elevators.