For parents who work, balancing your schedules and the needs of your child with diabetes can be both challenging and stressful. As many parents have lamented, you can be “only one sick child away from getting fired!”
So, how can you make your work life less stressful? While some of the suggestions may sound easy, they are often difficult to implement. But in times of stress it is often helpful to have some specifics to focus on.
The most important thing is to have a backup for the main caregiver.
• Do you have a spouse, significant other, relative or friend who is willing to learn about your child and diabetes, and who is willing to occasionally step in when necessary?
• Once you have determined who they might be, do you trust them to help you? This can be a real issue with a parent who thinks that the only one who can handle a situation is herself/himself. For the sake of the child and the mental health of the parents, allowing others into the “diabetes loop” is vital; not only on sick days or doctor appointments, but to give you some leisure time…which everyone needs.
• After you have “trusted” another person to help, “have empathy, respect the other person, and pace your information. Give up on nagging or repetition, reinforce any positive changes in ideas or behaviors, and talk about future success (not past failures),” according to Dr. Wendy Satin Rapaport, a clinical psychologist and faculty member of the Diabetes Research Institute.
• If your child is in school do you have a 504 Plan in place and have you met with the staff?
The other vital component is, of course, your employer. What can be done to help you achieve balance and relieve stress?
• Ask permission to work on a flexible schedule.
• Is there a job sharing policy?
• If your employer is covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and you have worked for a year prior to a requested leave, you may be allowed 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to care for a member with a medical condition. A worker can use this on an intermittent basis when medically necessary or when the employer agrees. Check with your human resource department for more details.
• If you employer is not covered, can you use leave flexibility as needed?
• Can you use your sick time to take child to medical appointments?
• Are children allowed to occasionally come to work with a parent?
• Are other employees allowed to transfer “sick” time to co-workers who need it?
• Does your employer or supervisor understand that you may receive more than the usual personal phone calls regarding your child’s diabetes management or emergencies?
• Remember, education leads to understanding and hopefully empathy. Try to be positive and come up with solutions that work for your employer and you.
SOURCES: “When Diabetes Hits Home,” Wendy Satin Rapaport LCSW, PsyD; “Helpful Workplace Benefits for Families of Children with Special Need,” Employee Benefits Study for Children with Special Health Care Needs; “One Sick Child Away from Being Fired: When ‘Opting Out’ is Not an Option,” WorkLifeLaw, UC Hastings College of the Law. (2015)