Mindful parenting is related to parental fear of hypoglycaemia​

As World Diabetes Day places a focus on ‘the family and diabetes’, we share findings from our research with families of children with type 1 diabetes

By Dr Christel Hendrieckx

Previous research in parents with a child with a chronic condition has shown an association between level of parental mindfulness and coping with parental distress. We examined whether a similar relationship would exist between parental fear of hypoglycaemia and mindfulness in parents who have a child (aged 4 – 18 years) with type 1 diabetes. If this is the case, than mindfulness-based interventions for parents may help to reduce fear of hypoglyaemia, which is a concern for many parents. To explore this question, we analysed responses from 421 parents who participated in Diabetes MILES Youth – The Netherlands.

First, we found that greater fear of hypoglycaemia among parents was associated with: the parent being younger, having a lower educational level, being of non-Dutch nationality, less general mindfulness, and monitoring the child’s glucose level more frequently. The latter may be a behavioural strategy to cope with their fear – but it could be counterproductive, as more frequent readings could lead to greater awareness of glucose variability. Interestingly, in contrast to other studies, self-reported frequency of hypoglycaemia was not associated with parental fear. There was also no difference in the level of fear experienced by mothers and fathers.

Second, lower mindful parenting was related to greater fear of hypoglycaemia. This further suggests that being less judgmental about their own parenting, and less reactive to emotions within parenting interactions, makes the parent less prone to experiencing fear of hypoglycaemia.

While many of the risk factors for fear were associated with parental characteristics that cannot be changed (e.g. age, education, nationality), other factors are modifiable (e.g. mindful parenting). Today, psychological interventions for parents with a child with type 1 diabetes are scarce. These novel findings indicate that mindfulness-based interventions could reduce parental fear of hypoglycaemia. This may also be a valuable psychological approach to reduce parental diabetes distress. Both suggest that further research is needed to understand the role of mindfulness in supporting the well-being of parents of children with type 1 diabetes.

Aalders J, Hartman E, Nefs G, Nieuwesteeg A, Hendrieckx C, Aanstoot H-J, Winterdijk P, van Mil E, Speight J, Pouwer F. Mindfulness and fear of hypoglycaemia in parents of children with Type 1 diabetes: results from Diabetes MILES Youth–The Netherlands. Diabetic Medicine, 2018, 35: 650-657.

Check out our other blogs about mindfulness and families.

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