How to Talk to your Child About Diabetes

 

Parenting a child with Type 1 diabetes isn’t easy. Telling your child with diabetes about their condition is difficult. Trying to explain to them that they now have to eat according to a specified meal plan, that they will need glucose monitoring using a diabetes device that they may have to take insulin shots, and that their diabetes is here to stay requires honesty, empathy, and patience. Depending on their age, your child may feel angry, shocked, confused, and miserable.

Here is how to help your child understand their diabetes.

  1. Tell them the truth

Explain the condition to your kids fully. Don’t hide what having childhood diabetes means for them or the new things they’ll have to start doing. Tell them their Type 1 diabetes isn’t preventable, and won’t go away. Give them all the information about what life will now be like for them.

Inform them that they will need the right nutrition, enough exercise, insulin shots, and glucose monitoring. Don’t hide any facts, but don’t make it seem scarier than it is either. Inform them that their diabetes hasn’t come about because of something they’ve done, and that their life won’t stop because of this. Rather, they will just have to adjust to a new lifestyle.

      2. Stress that their life will mostly remain the same

Your kids may extrapolate and start worrying about their entire life-changing because of their childhood diabetes. Tell them that although they will have to be precautions they take and new adjustments, they can, for the large part, continue to live their life as it is. They can still go to school, play with their friends on weekends, go for sleepovers, camps, swim, as long as they do what’s necessary to manage their blood sugar levels with diabetes devices and glucose monitoring.

      3.Explain that they don’t have to stop consuming sweets

The most common misconception about diabetes is that if you have childhood diabetes, you have to completely stop eating sweets. Adults and children with diabetes can still eat sugary treats such as cakes and chocolate, so long as they fit into the eating plan for the day.

      4.Tell them that insulin is necessary

Explain to your child that their medication isn’t a choice- they must take their medication as prescribed. There can’t be days when they “don’t feel like it”. If you’re a child with diabetes, taking medication is necessary for their health.

      5.Help them understand their symptoms and glucose monitoring needs

Understanding your child’s symptoms is a big part of parenting a child with Type 1 diabetes, but you won’t always be there to spot them. You have to teach your child with diabetes to learn to spot them for themselves. This will be easier for older kids than it will be for younger children, although teenagers are more likely to recklessly ignore their symptoms in the pursuit of fun. 

Teach your children, however old they are, that listening to their bodies is important, and that ignoring them will do them much more harm in both the short-term and the long-term. Explain that when they feel their symptoms aggravate, they should inform you.

If they’re old enough, explain their glucose monitoring needs to them as well. Explain how to use a diabetes device and when and how often they should use it to check their glucose levels.

For more on parenting a child with Type 1 diabetes and glucose monitoring, check out our other blogs and website.

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