All about T1D and Greek Life...for Parents

Contributor
CDN Parents

So your child wants to get involved in Greek life…

While you may be freaking out on the inside, try to keep calm on the outside. Don’t immediately say no, and don’t start listing all of the terrible things that might happen to them. Here are a couple main points you can use to help guide your conversation with your child.

  1. Center the conversation around self-advocacy – discuss how to self-advocate and the best time to talk to the fraternity/sorority. These will be important skills for your young adult to succeed and stay healthy in Greek life (and in life, in general!)
  2. Trust your young adult – while it may seem scary, encourage your young adult make their own decisions. Let them know you are there to support them if they ever need help or someone to turn to without judgement.
  3. T1D shouldn’t hold your child back from anything in life – we get it, many parents have hesitations about their child being involved in Greek life. But just like any other aspect of life, you don’t want to let T1D hold you young adult back from achieving their goals. That includes experiencing college life and all it has to offer!
  4. Ask your young adult if they have any concerns – find out what they might be worried about, and then see how and if you can help, according to their terms!

Pledge, Rush, and Drinking

We’ve all heard the horror stories about fraternities and sororities, but every school is unique and has different Greek life culture. Many schools do not have Greek housing or a Greek life party culture, and focus their Greek system more on community service and engagement, while some schools require a dry rush. For those schools that do have a more traditional Greek system, make sure your young adult understands what the pledging process is like and has the ability and comfort level to self-advocate.

Tips

  • Have your young adult reach out to a current member of the fraternities/sororities they are interested in joining to ask them what their experience has been like and to learn a bit more about that specific fraternity or sorority’s culture.
  • Does your young adult know how to drink safely with T1D? If not, make sure they talk to a doctor or clinical provider who is knowledgeable and comfortable talking about these topics candidly with young adults. Need help? We can connect you and/or your young adult with a provider who can chat remotely, if there isn’t someone you trust in your area. Knowledge is power.

The positives of Greek Life

Let’s get something straight - Greek Life isn't all about beer pong and Toga parties. There are a ton of positives about being involved in Greek life. Greek life often has a heavy focus on volunteerism, advocacy work, and community involvement, not to mention a network of peers and alumni for your young adult to connect with in college (and for the rest of their lives). Let’s also consider some quick facts: 85% of fortune 500 CEOs were involved in Greek Life, and graduation rates among students in Greek Life is 20% higher.

Student Perspectives

“My fraternity brothers support me immensely as a T1D. I have brothers who constantly joke around with me about it, but in the end, they all have my back. Anytime I have gone low and did not have any fruit snacks, my brothers always help me out. They even carry some for me once in a while. Being in a fraternity is one of the best decisions I have made in my college career. Since I joined Greek Life, I have had more accomplishments than I have in my entire life. I ended last semester with a 3.85 GPA, and won the Vice-Presidents leadership award for my school. Greek life helped me to become the man I am today. Without the motivation and constant support from gentlemen I have the honor of calling “brothers”, I don’t believe I would have succeeded in the ways that I have.” – Aaron, CDN Chapter Leader at Florida Atlantic University

“Being in a sorority is like any other day. Diabetes does not get in the way of me having fun with my sisters. I am under aged, so I have not yet experienced getting drunk yet (no really, I haven’t!). And the Greek community at my school isn’t known for their partying. When I do get drunk, I want to do it in a controlled environment. I know that my sisters will look out for me, too. My advice to parents is that the Greek community is very supportive, so your student is in good hands. Greek is a great way to network and meet new people. T1D should not keep you from rushing. In the short time that I’ve been a part of Delta Zeta, I have found a great group of women who will support me. I send screenshots from the Dexcom app to my twin (we don’t have an older class to be our bigs, so we have twins) and she congratulates me or scolds me depending on the day and the trend line. The whole point of going Greek is to find family, and my new family definitely supports me in taking care of myself and T1D.” – Maddie, CDN Chapter Leader at CSU-San Marcos

Parent perspectives 

Don’t just take it from us – here’s some actual parent perspectives and experiences on their T1D student’s involvement in Greek life.

Setting boundaries and expectations: 

“[Our son] really wanted to pledge a fraternity his freshman year, and we asked him to wait until sophomore year so he could get acclimated to college life, but he ended up pledging in the spring of his freshman year. After being on the Dean’s List fall semester, we felt he could handle it and he offered to pay the dues, which we allowed as long as he kept his GPA/Deans List for spring...which he did!!”

The same opportunities as every other college student:

“My husband and I were both part of Greek life when we went to college and we loved the experience. For the parent of a T1D, it is a very scary experience, but we felt that our son was old enough to make his own decisions and that he should have the same opportunities as every other college student.”

Being a self advocate:

“In general, the scariest part for me is definitely the few months my son is a pledge. I have found that the most critical thing during this period for a young adult with T1D is that they self-advocate. This means making the other members of the pledge class and the house aware that he is diabetic (and what this entails), knowing his limitations, and being able to stand up for himself when he needs to. We are constantly working on our son to make sure that he is doing this. When he first started as a pledge, we didn’t believe he was self-advocating and threatened to step in. Our son told us he would move to another campus if we interfered in the house. We agreed to back off is he agreed to step up as an adult and takes better accountability for his situation as a T1D. We saw a big shift in his behavior at that point. He is now weeks away from completing his pledge period and I as a parent will breath much easier once he is a full member of the house.