Dealing with childhood diabetes is a stressful, full-time job for both parents and diabetic children. Parents, especially of young diabetic children, have to juggle their child’s diabetic diet, insulin shots and sugar charts with work, school, sleepovers and vacations. Children have to deal with what they perceive as unfair restrictions (“How come he gets to eat all that ice cream and I don’t?”), overprotective family members, guilt and resentment. It’s not uncommon for a child to believe that living with diabetes is actually some form of punishment.
No child wants to be seen as a diabetic first, and a person second. Your child’s health care and diabetes control have to be tempered with patience, awareness of your child’s feelings, and often a fair bit of humor. Here are a few suggestions for meeting the challenges of childhood diabetes:
The Young Child: Health Care for Children with Diabetes
Young children cannot be expected to be responsible for their own blood tests, or to follow a diabetic diet without supervision.Treatment of diabetes in children under the age of seven falls largely to the parents. Young children cannot be expected to be responsible for their own blood tests, or to follow a diabetic diet without supervision. Yet at the same time, the child should be actively involved in diabetes management whenever possible. After all, childhood diabetes does not go away with age.
Young children should be made aware that diabetes is not a punishment, and is certainly not their fault. Finding a good registered dietitian who can create a “kid-friendly” diabetic diet is well worth the time and effort.
The Older Child: Health and the Teen with Diabetes
Older children, especially teens, often rebel against the restrictions of a diabetic diet and daily testing. Giving older children as much control over their diabetes treatment as possible may help foster a sense of independence. Parents should try to remember not to be too protective at this stage (easier said than done!). Keep tabs on the child’s blood sugar testing and meal planning, but when possible, older children and teens should be allowed to manage their diabetes themselves.
Discussing the matter with your doctor, or getting parenting advice from other parents who’ve dealt with diabetes in children may help you deal with the most difficult part of child health care and diabetes: letting go.
Things to Consider If You Have a Diabetic Child
- Don’t blame your child for diabetes-related mistakes. Even adults with diabetes can miscount carbohydrates or forget to take blood tests.
- Avoid being over protective. Diabetes in children does not mean that they cannot go to camp, sleepovers or birthday parties. It does mean that such events require more planning, however.
- Be honest with your child. Talk about how you felt when you discovered he or she had diabetes.
- Make sure they understand their disease as much as their age allows.
- Get time to yourself: managing childhood diabetes can be exhausting work.
- Find a sitter or family member you trust, teach them how to handle diabetes and take some time for yourself. Too many parents don’t.