Life with Diabetes: Sibling Jealousy
A diabetes diagnosis takes a great toll on every member of the family, but an often overlooked member is the sibling. After the initial worry for the sibling wears off, feelings of jealousy and confusion often follow and can stay with the sibling if not properly confronted. Being a sibling of a type 1, I understand all of the emotions and how they can take a toll on a child if not properly addressed.
As an 8 year old, it was difficult for me to understand why, after a normal annual checkup at the doctor, my little sister had to go to the hospital. My mom explained to me that the doctors found out that Allison had type 1 diabetes and that she would be okay, but that she needed to be taken care of by special doctors at the hospital. I remember asking my mom if my dad, who was diagnosed with type 1 when he was 21 years old, had given Allison diabetes and if I would get it too. My mom clarified to me that diabetes was not contagious like the flu, and that I would be fine.
Once I understood that Allison would be okay, I began noticing how our family dynamic had changed. Suddenly, Allison was the center of everyone’s attention. Family and friends came to comfort my parents and to visit Allison, usually bringing along a present for her. My jealous 8 year old self began to resent Allison for now getting all of the attention. And thought this jealously could have become sibling rivalry, my parents recognized my frustrations and began to include me in our new daily routines.
At meals, we would all play a game and guess what we thought Allison’s blood sugar would be before she tested, and whoever was closest to the number got a sticker (which is like gold to an 8 year old!) I was taught the basics of diabetes, such as what a low is and why she couldn’t eat as much ice cream, and how she used a meter.
Still, growing up there were issues between Allison and I. If I was hungry but Allison couldn’t have a snack right then, she would get angry that I got to eat and she didn’t; or worse, I would be told I couldn’t eat right then since Allison couldn’t.
Even as a teenager, I became jealous when Allison was given a cell phone four years before I was given one. Of course she would need the phone for emergencies if she was away from my parents and got low, but it still seemed unfair to me.
I know these situations caused a lot of stress on my parents because they always tried to make everything fair between us, but these were unavoidable differences that Allison and I had to learn to accept and not resent each other for. Instead of allowing diabetes to create rivalry between us, I learned how to be responsible and brave by watching Allison take control of her diabetes.
While a diagnosis definitely takes a greater toll on the type 1 child and the parents, the siblings are also adjusting to a new lifestyle with changes that they don’t always understand. No matter the age of the sibling, it is natural for them to feel some jealousy for the attention the other child is receiving. These emotions will not go away immediately, but they can learn from them and ultimately share a stronger bond with their sibling through adjusting to a new life together.
To learn more about the JDRF Dallas chapter, visit our JDRF Dallas website!