Off to College with Diabetes | Tips for Parents

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All August, the Joslin Blog is highlighting stories about heading back to school with diabetes. This story was originally posted on Aug. 5, 2011.

Today’s guest blog is by Christina Roth, President & Founder of the College Diabetes Network (CDN)

Is your child going off to college? Feeling nervous? You’re not alone!

Sending your son or daughter off to college is stressful! Being the parent of a child with diabetes and sending them off to college? Terrifying!

The College Diabetes Network (CDN) was founded to support college students living with diabetes, and as parents are a HUGE part of diabetes management even at college, CDN helps to support parents during this transition as well.

The CDN website has tips on sending your child off to college, tips on how to deal with the transition, ways to connect with other parents, and personal stories.

Some of our tips include:


Come Up with a Contract

Outline ahead of time when you can ask about blood sugars/how often, who orders supplies, etc. This doesn’t have to be a written, set-in-stone contract, but outlining these things ahead of time can help to keep your relationship from becoming strained. Especially if you don’t talk on the phone very often, having it always be about blood sugars can get frustrating for both of you. For example:

  • You are not allowed to talk about blood sugars on the phone, or only allowed to ask once a day, but your child agrees to email uploaded charts to you.
  • Talk about what will happen on sick days. For example, how often they have to call you and/or their nurse, etc.
  • If there is a problem with blood sugars (unless your child wants to talk to you about it) agree that they talk with their nurse educator, but don’t necessarily have to explain everything to you.

Keep Busy!!

  • Get involved in a parent support group. Many are offered through local JDRF chapters, clinics, etc.
  • Go to the new CDN Parent Forum! On the Parent Forum you will find discussion boards where you can post your questions, concerns, thoughts, or just vent to other parents who are going through the same transition, or who are old pros at it. Simply make a username and post/reply to the discussion threads! The Parent forum can be found at .
  • Be in charge of ordering your child’s supplies (if they agree). This will take the burden off of your child and it will allow you to stay involved.
  • Pack a sick day kit supplied with things such as a thermometer, ginger ale/coke, saltines, glucose tabs, ketone supplies, etc. This will give you the piece of mind that they will be taken care of when they are sick and you can’t be there.
  • Provide extra money outside of the school meal plan for your child to spend on food from a grocery store (you can simply send Gift Certificates to the local supermarket as well). Often dining commons fail to provide appropriate food choices for diabetics (the type of meal plan will affect this as well—“all you can eat” plans are especially difficult). This also allows them to buy extra supplies for lows.
  • Send care packages!It’s always fun to receive care packages from home, and while sending brownies, cookies, and apple cider is fun around holidays, there are some other options which you can send anytime that are a little more “blood-sugar friendly.”  For example:
    • Sugarless gum
    • Granola Bars (i.e., Kashi Protein Fiber Bars)
    • Bite-size candy bars for lows
    • Gift Certificates to supermarkets or local food markets
    • Gift Certificates to clothing stores, iTunes, gas stations, etc.
  • Discuss how you will handle discussing “trigger issues” such as nagging about testing, eating habits, and preparation for physical activity.

The College Diabetes Network (CDN) is a national nonprofit organization which was started by a college student and began as a small group on one college campus. Chapters are created and run by students with a focus on peer support. The organization supports these chapters and their students by providing the most up-to-date information which relates to students’ lives and which the students themselves have expressed interest in knowing more about. CDN currently has chapters across the country and is always looking for students to start new chapters or to register their existing student group on campus.

CDN Website:

CDN Facebook:!/pages/College-Diabetes-Network/241757184299

CDN Twitter:!/CollegeDiabetes

You can contact Christine Roth at or


One Response to Off to College with Diabetes | Tips for Parents

  1. Sue Kindred says:

    Leaving for college is such an exciting time for young adults. But, it’s an especially scary time for parents when their child has diabetes. The kids want independence and parents just want to make certain that their child is not so distracted by all their new found independence that they forget to check their blood sugar on a regular, routine basis.

    Many families are turning to a Diabetic Alert Dog for their soon-to-be college bound young adult. Diabetic Alert Dogs are trained to detect fluctuations in blood sugar, helping the diabetic keep their blood sugars within an appropriate range. And, once fully trained, these service dogs are always right and always with their handler … providing much needed peace of mind to their families.

    For information about obtaining a Diabetic Alert Dog and how that might help your young adult transition to college, please visit or contact Dan Warren at Diabetic Alert Dogs by Warren Retrievers at 804-883-6931.

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