How to Decrease Pain for Children with Diabetes

Children with diabetes have to do many things that can be overwhelming and scary.  Glucose checks, shots, infusion set insertions, having blood drawn at the doctor, and many other things can be scary for children and tough to deal with as parents.  The “Wow and How” technique is a simple way to help make things easier at times.  I used this with my daughter and now I have something I can easily say to help her, by simply asking “What are you thinking about this time?”

The “Wow and How” is used by therapists more with children who are frequently hospitalized and have to undergo frequent medical interventions that can be painful, such as those on chemotherapy.  But it can also be used easily with other populations.  It is a very simple technique, yet it helps the child learn new ways of dealing with pain and fear.

Here’s how to do it.  Simply observe when your child is doing something that usually upsets him/her, then notice when it does not hurt as much.  Reflect this to your child, saying something like “Wow!  I notice that didn’t hurt as much!”  Then listen and reflect back what they say.  (Just rephrase what they say back to them, not adding any judgement to it.)

Then add the “How”.  Ask, “How did it not hurt this time” or something similar.  Listen and reflect back to them what they say.  Then help them problem solve how that can help in the future.

Here’s an example of my using this with my daughter.
Sara was putting in an infusion set one night.  Somedays this seems to hurt more than others.  We were going through a time when it seemed to hurt more.  One night, it did not hurt as much, so I said “Wow, that didn’t hurt as much.”  Then I reflected back what she said, and asked her “How did you make it not hurt as much?”  Notice that this lets her know that she has the power to help it not hurt as much.  She said “I thought about the ocean.”  So now we have an easy way for her to distract herself for a minute to help minimize the pain.

Try this today and see if it helps and let me know your stories!  Comments welcome, we all grow and learn from each other!


About Sylvia White

Sylvia is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, and Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in diabetes education and insulin pump training. She is the mom of 3 children, 2 of which have Type 1 Diabetes.
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