“A broken bone can heal, but the wound a word opens can fester forever.” -Jessamyn West
How many times have you been badly hurt by a few words? Sometimes even by good-intention loved ones or close friends. We teach our children that “sticks and stones make break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” – that is not really true. Words leave scars that broken bones do not. The beauty is, however, that often a little forethought can change the meaning of a statement and really make a difference in how it is heard by another person.
Diabetes has lots of words that we use every day. What do they mean? Does it matter? Of course. Certain words are associated with certain feelings and behaviors that we often don’t think about. When I began working with families with children who manage diabetes, I got a crash course in language. I quickly learned that certain words made me appear ignorant, lacking empathy, and disrespectful. That certainly wasn’t the attitude that I wanted anyone to see me with! It took some thought, and a little effort, but I quickly adjusted. But, the most valuable lesson I learned was when to not use any words at all and keep my comments to myself – I simply didn’t know enough about diabetes to participate in the conversation.
Our well-meaning world is simply ignorant – in the truest sense of the word. Most are not lacking intelligence, they simply lack understanding. Their words sting, but instead of getting angry we can try to educate. Let them know that they are mistaken. For most, ridiculous comments are simply a lack of understanding, not cruelty.
But, sometimes even the most loving and understanding of us can, unknowingly, use words when talking about diabetes that can be negative for a child. Diabetes Australia put together a statement that explains this issue well. They discussed simple things that may cause anxiety or frustration with people with diabetes. Reading this reminded me that even though I am quite aware of what I say and how I say it, I can be more careful!
One simple example they discuss is “testing blood sugar”. Lisa Richards, from the EDCC, often reminds me this exact topic! She says that this is not a pass/fail test, it is a tool. No one is getting a grade for their finger stick. A better term may be “checked”. Sometimes, even with our best efforts diabetes can be unpredictable and unexplainable. By adjusting a simple term, a child may feel less anxious or frustrated if their blood sugar is not in target range. They may not feel as if they are passing or failing. I know it may seem silly to many of you, but even I don’t want to be graded 4-6 times a day!
This is only one of the many suggestions that about how important that words can be. To learn more about how you can help counteract ignorance and how you can improve your words to better communicate with your children, join us at Edu-betes on April 24, at 6:30 p.m., at the DYS office. We will have Abby Grisham, social worker from the EDCC, and other diabetes experts on hand to lead the panel discussion. Bring your questions and frustrations. FREE babysitting is provided in the adjoining room, so bring your children too. Games and a PG movie will be provided.
*For more information, you may see the complete position statement from Diabetes Australia.