Helping Your Child Manage Type 1 Diabetes
As any parent knows, raising kids is not easy. Parents of children with type 1, or insulin-dependent diabetes, face all the usual challenges of child-rearing plus the unique issues that come with their child’s disease. Even the simplest activities, like birthday parties or playing ball, can be stressful if they are not carefully planned.
Children with diabetes need to keep their blood glucose under control to maintain normal growth and development, and a normal lifestyle. While doctors and dietitians provide the specific treatment your child needs, the following tips can help you teach your child how to live with this disease.
Your child will have plenty of questions about their diabetes as they get older. But it’s important to remember that while diabetes is a big part of your child’s life, it’s only one part. Here are some pointers to help you instill both knowledge and a positive attitude in your child, in any stage of their young life.
There will be times when your child has difficulty with the routine of blood tests and injections. Try to anticipate what kind of problems you may encounter based on your child's history. You may be tempted to skip tests or injections when your child is being extremely uncooperative. If you do so, you will be doing more harm than good. It is important to stick with the routine and not get caught up in bargaining. Keep the lines of communication open in order to find out what the real issues behind the behavior are.
Infants and Toddlers
Children under the age of two are too young to understand what’s going on. Stay calm and try to test blood and inject insulin quickly. Comfort and reassure your child afterward.
Explain diabetes-related terms and what you are doing to treat the disease, simply and often. Make sure your child understands they did not do anything to cause diabetes and the steps you take allow them to control it. Reiterate that controlling diabetes allows them to do what they love doing. This reassurance should be repeated beyond your child's preschool years.
Children 5-12 Years Old
Slowly let your child take on more diabetes-related tasks such as meal planning and doing blood sugar checks, but stay involved. Use your child’s maturity, skills, readiness, and interest to help you determine how much they are ready for and when. Also, answer any questions your child has and make sure they can talk comfortably about the disease. This will help their peers feel comfortable with diabetes too.
The teenage years can be a time of rebellion and experimentation. Puberty brings growth spurts and body changes, making glucose control more difficult. This may lead to poor diabetes management. Teens usually do not consider the consequences of skipping tests and injections. They may not understand or worry about the long-term implications of poor glucose control and the dangers that diabetes carries.
Help your teenager through this time by being honest, sensitive, and supportive. Teach teens the facts about diabetes and how the choices they make will affect them. Get help from teachers or counselors if necessary. Don’t forget, Try to anticipate teenage temptations such as alcohol and give your teenager the tools they need to address these temptations without creating diabetic disasters.
Last reviewedJanuary 2014by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.