Proactive Versus Reactive Parenting

As parents we strive every day to do what is best for our kids. We parent instinctively which can work extremely well until we come up against conflict. Parenting is like any relationship. It is affected by many factors like your mood, your health your work environment and your financial situation to name but a few. But your child’s illness can often be the biggest strain on your relationship with them.  As parents of children with an illness the first instinct is often to focus on the illness before the child.  It is important that the child comes first and does not become identified with his or her illness, but this can be difficult for both parent and child.  An example is when you collect your child from school your first thought could be how they managed that day, but their first thought is often to tell you how they did in a test or what happened in the yard.  Where possible at times like this try to remind yourself to focus on the child first and the illness second.


For older kids it can get more difficult as its often when THEY are ready to talk that any kind of good conversations happen and questions from adults can often irritate them.  So, try and allow them to tell you about their day first and when they are done is a good time to ask them about their illness management that day. Asking children and teenagers how they feel can be very beneficial. It is good to help younger children find the words to describe their feelings and this is where you can help. And remember there is no shame in telling your children how you feel. Do not try to be a super parent.  Parenting a child with an illness can be exhaustive for the adults involved. Children can learn to empathise from a young age, and it is a good skill to learn. Being honest with children builds great trust.


As humans we all need to be loved but we also like to be liked. Children need to feel both capable and lovable and approval is very important to nurture this.  In our role as parents, we often subconsciously leave approval in the hands of friend’s teachers and relations. A small positive acknowledgement can go a long way. It’s a learned behaviour to catch your child being good. We often get caught up in the negative and correcting and forget to focus on the positives. Make it your business to catch your child doing something positive at least once a day. Do not wait for something big. Catch them doing small things like bringing in the shopping or cleaning up after themselves. A small verbal approval like “that was helpful” can be very effective.


As your child gets older setting fair boundaries that have been negotiated between both parent and child can avoid conflict. Children and teenagers feel safest within boundaries but when boundaries are too restrictive and unreasonable children rebel. Acknowledging how your child is feeling is very important. And when the time is right discussing these feelings can be very valuable to both parent and child.

“Parents need to fill a child’s bucket of self-esteem so high that the rest of the world can’t poke enough holes to drain it dry. ”Children need love the most when they deserve it the least.”


If you are a parent of a child with Diabetes and feel you need some support you may contact our counsellor, Elaine Hanlon at Diabetes Ireland on 01-8428118.