On Diabetes Symptoms, Bad Vision, when to See a Doctor, and Whether to Let a Child Suck Her Thumb

by on July 21st, 2010
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For the past week or so, my 8-year-old daughter has been complaining about her eyesight. She said everything is “fuzzy and dark.” Earlier this year, my daughter’s doctor said she showed signs of prediabetes. Could her eye problems be related to diabetes? We were instructed to carefully monitor her blood sugar, but I’ve been busy at work recently and my husband doesn’t have the discipline to monitor her blood. I’d take her to the emergency room, but we let our medical insurance lapse after my husband lost his job and we can’t afford to pay any medical expenses. I tried to take her to the free clinic, but they were closed for the afternoon. How should I handle this situation? Am I simply overreacting?


You are not overreacting, but underreacting.

If you are too busy to ensure your daughter is healthy, then you’re too busy. Give up something, I don’t care what, and set aside the time to monitor your daughter’s blood sugar. Is your husband an adult? If so, he had better cure this lack of “discipline.” It doesn’t take that much discipline (or time) to ensure a child takes a blood test once a day.

Rather than allow this answer to devolve into a rant, I will organize my thoughts in the form of three facts you need to know.

According to the American Diabetes Association , diabetes can lead to blindness, as well as other, less-permanent, vision problems. Most vision problems are treatable. But only if you actually visit a doctor. While some blood-glucose monitors are easier to use than others, none require a medical degree. Your doctor will show you how to use your device, if you do not already know. Financial hardship is no excuse for neglect. None of the arguments you used to justify your lack of care for your daughter would prevent a competent judge from taking this girl away from you and turning her over to someone who would actually take her to the doctor. If the clinic was closed today, take her tomorrow. If it’s closed tomorrow, find the next nearest clinic and take her.


My 12-year-old daughter still sucks her thumb. How can I get her to stop? Can you give me some tricks?


At age 12, the time for tricks is long over.

The problems related to sucking thumbs are well documented. Even children as young as ages 2 to 4 can start seeing problems with their teeth and speech. And children who continue to suck their thumbs through school age may encounter social stigmatization. Many tricks can work with young children – gloves or mittens, liquids with unpleasant tastes, redirection activities. However, your daughter is old enough to circumvent any of the common strategies.

Most children stop sucking their thumbs without parental help, either because they find new coping mechanisms or because other children tease them. But by age 12, your daughter has learned to either hide the habit or simply deal with the teasing.

At that age, you don’t need to wean her off the thumb, and you probably cannot give her a compelling reason not to suck. Most experts advise against punishment as a tool to stop thumb-sucking. And given the uniquely personal nature of the habit – and the fact that you didn’t mention any health problems – you have little to gain at this point by pushing the issue. The girl knows that she isn’t hurting herself by sucking her thumb, and if you try at this late date to make her stop, the situation may not end well.

Feel free to bar her from doing it in your presence, or in public. But if she wants to suck her thumb in the privacy of her own room, let her do it.

Choose your battles. In particular choose ones worth taking a lump to win, and choose ones that you can, in fact, win.

If you’d like to submit an Ask The Dad question, send it to bob@askthedad.com . If you’d like to read more questions and answers, visit www.askthedad.com .

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