Type 1 Diabetes and Sleepovers

Written by Ann Matturro Gault
Reviewed by Amy Hess-Fischl, MS, RD, LDN, BC-ADM, CDE

Slumber parties are one of the most highly anticipated events of childhood. Apart from time-honored traditions like eating unhealthy food, being silly and watching a lot of bad TV, slumber parties give children a chance to create memories with friends in a way that isn’t possible on play dates after school.

But when your child has type 1 diabetes, the idea of having her or him attend a slumber party can be nerve-wracking. You can’t help but worry about the myriad challenges that could arise, and how they’d be handled while your child is out of your care.

The good news: With some planning and prep slumber parties can be a successful experience for you, your child and the host parent.

Joyce C. Bookshester, MA, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist with expertise in treating the emotional and developmental issues associated with type 1 diabetes, encourages this social experience, provided certain criteria are met.

"Having type 1 diabetes requires a specific care program that the host parents need to be comfortable addressing. It’s advisable to call the parents who are hosting and let them know your child has type 1 diabetes and ask them if they would be willing to meet with you previous to the sleep over so that you can get a sense of the carbs they will be serving and demonstrate how your child’s insulin dispersing and monitoring devices work," says Dr. Bookshester. She adds: "If the child’s numbers are relatively stable and the parents are convinced that their child is responsible and competent and skilled in the technology associated with type 1 diabetic management, don’t hesitate. Kids don’t want to be different and want to experience normal childhood events like sleepovers."

Before accepting an invitation to a slumber party, Dr. Bookshester recommends starting with a one on one sleepover—rather than a slumber party. A family member or close friend of yours and your child’s who lives nearby are an ideal choice for the trial run. "The one-on-one sleepover is an excellent way for families to get their feet wet,"she says. "As social networks evolve, slumber party invitations are inevitable and if the family has had practice with sleepover experiences, the big slumber party will be less scary."

Sleepover Prep

If you and your child decide she’s ready, consider the following checklist from Dr. Bookshester’s to help make the sleepover party a success for everyone: 

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Your overnight bag should include the following:

Have a Plan B…Just in Case

At any point leading up to the sleepover, Gibby says, “if I detect wavering on the part of the parent, or I begin to have my own concerns—either about the parents’ capacity to handle it or because I don’t want to be a burden—I’ll offer to move the sleepover to my house.”

If the host bows out or an acceptable solution to your concerns can’t be worked out, Dr. Bookshester says it’s best to give your child an honest and empathetic response based on her maturity and feelings about having diabetes. “Rejection is always painful, but it’s also a part of life. As with other chronic conditions, there are sleepaway camps for kids with diabetes all over the country. They can be a great alternative to hosting a sleepover or sending your child on one,” says Dr. Bookshester.

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