If your child was diagnosed with diabetes, You Are Not Alone. There are over 1.5 million children who have the disease in the US. According to the CDC data on diabetes, “more than 34 million Americans have [diagnosed] diabetes (about 1 in 10), and approximately 90-95% of them have type 2.”
Although type 2 is attributed to lifestyle, both 1 and 2 are treated through any combination of diet, exercise, and medication. The good news is that both type 1 and type 2 are very manageable. It can be a challenge, but you can do it. Here are some tips to help guide you through your journey.
Dealing With Diagnosis
Of course, it’s more difficult for your child, but being a parent to a child that has this disease can be difficult as well. Your attitude can make or break your family dynamics during this period. If you think positively, praise your child for what they can do, don’t compare them to others, and give hope that diabetes is something that they will live a long, happy life with.
Here 5 things you can do right away to get started.
- Join online/in-person support groups.
- Search websites or join seminars to find answers to frequently asked questions about diabetes and ways to develop a plan for your child.
- Join a diabetes-specific organization (JDRF or ADA) and attend events.
- Spend time learning how to count carbohydrates quickly and accurately, as well as learning what the various carbohydrate foods are for your child’s diet plan.
- Come up with fun ways to help your child physically and emotionally deal with diabetes.
Resources for Parents and Children
There are many charities you can get involved with which have great resources for both parents and children. A few are listed below. Please search Google for more help and information on local organizations if you don’t find what you’re looking for.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)
- The American Diabetes Association (ADA)
- Find Diabetes Camps for Kids and Adults
Support groups for parents whose children have diabetes might be helpful to you. Just knowing that others are going through the same thing as you is comforting. Oftentimes, kids with diabetes also join these support groups to meet other children who have the disease.
Also, many companies offer programs for free where a nurse visits your home to teach basic diabetic care and how to change the insulin pump settings. This is also helpful so you can learn everything necessary to keep your child healthy and alive.
Consider getting support from a local group or online community. Getting involved with nonprofits for diabetes like the ADA and JDRF is a great way to find the best resources and connect with your community.
Give Yourself a Break
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and family members. You have a lot on your plate as a parent so know when it’s time to ask for someone to take care of your child so you can have a break and recharge your batteries.
Helping Your Child Understand Diabetes
Having diabetes can be scary for kids, so reassure your child every step of the way. The more you know about diabetes, the better you can cope with it. If your child wants to make a career as a doctor, this is a good start. If not, it’s still a priceless tool for managing diabetes.
Not only is there a physical aspect to taking care of diabetes, but you also need to be aware of the mental and emotional elements, such as how it can affect mood, relationships with friends and family, self-esteem, and resilience.
There are a lot of great resources that you can show to your child. Within Your reach: A Journey Through Diabetes is an excellent book to start with. It’s a memoir about one man’s lifelong journey with the disease.
More Helpful Resources
The American Diabetes Association has premade written diabetes care plans you can customize for your child. It also has information on what treatments are available for children who can’t take insulin (using an insulin pump, taking medications).
American Diabetes Association: Family-focused Psychosocial Care for People With Diabetes.
JDRF: FAQs about Childhood Diabetes and Growing Up With Type 1 Diabetes.
Kids With Diabetes: Living with type 1, The basics of diabetes care for kids, Common questions from parents about insulin pumps, The ABCs of injectable medications, etc.
The University of Michigan Health has a guide for kids with diabetes, “Living With an Insulin Pump.”
JDRF: Drugs and Devices for Glucose Control, a guide for determining the best therapy for your child.
Life Expectancy for Children With Diabetes
Parents often worry about the future of their children. This can be due to social or physical issues, and children with diabetes are more likely to face problems in these areas than other children. If not well managed, some studies have shown diabetes’ impact on life expectancy. However, if you figure out a good plan, your boy or girl can live a normal life like any other child.
Caring for and Treating Your Child’s Diabetes
Diabetes is manageable, and with proper care, diabetes may not affect the quality of life of your child at all. It does take some lifestyle changes and/or medication to control it. Be frequent and consistent with checking blood sugar levels.
Keep a logbook to keep track of patterns and behaviors that affect the body’s ability to process glucose (sugar). This information will help your doctor better understand what triggers significant changes in blood-sugar levels and when these spikes or drops occur.
Tips To Help Your Child Manage Diabetes With Diet
Here are some tips for working with your kids to help them live happy, healthy lives despite their diagnosis. Your child can be involved, but it should be their idea if they want to face this challenge head-on and take the lead in getting through it together as a family team or by themselves if that is what works best for them.
Making Eating Healthy Fun!
Make it fun, often the best tasting things aren’t exactly healthy, but it’s not necessarily true. There are plenty of fun ways to get your child involved in healthy eating, and here are some angles you can take.
Let your child grow a garden. Set aside a place in your backyard to plant vegetables and herbs. They’ll be excited to pick out what goes into their own garden, then watch as it grows from seeds into full-sized plants.
Once the time comes for them to harvest their hard work, they’ll enjoy eating those newfound fruits and veggies. It will become even more fun when they learn to cook what they grew, their own recipes for them or your family.
- Buy vegetables or fruit with character, something new to try.
- Let your child choose the garden’s layout where they can stand while planting/watering it.
- Take your child to a local farm where they can pick their own vegetables.
- Let them see how the veggies grow up from the dirt.
- Have them help prepare it for cooking, washing, cutting, etc.
- Visit a local farmer’s market with different vendors with all sorts of products to try out.
- Go together as a family. You’ll be able to bond over the experience.
- Scavenger hunts! Bring your child on a nature walk where they can collect items like acorns, leaves, flower petals, etc. Write down different categories of items to find (flowers/leaves/berries/nuts).
- Plant a tiny garden in the backyard, complete with tiny shovels and pails for them to use. They can plant their own little tree or other plants. Create different spaces where they can water, weed, prune, etc.
- Let them keep their own little journal of what happens daily, how often it needs watering/weed pulling, if there are any tiny visitors to the garden that they want to keep track of, etc.
- Field trips! Places with a farm/garden theme, where kids can pick their own berries, pet animals at the zoo.
- Make fruit baskets for friends and family as a way to show you care about them by providing healthy snacks.
- Take the kids on a shopping trip to pick out unique fruits they can use.
- Visit your local grocery store where there are samples of different products. Let them taste test some out before making their own choices/buying their favorite ones.
- Cook with your child! Have them help measure ingredients and chop veggies. They’ll be excited to taste what they made themselves afterward.
Making Exercise Fun!
First of all, you must make sure your child knows the importance of keeping active and exercising. This will help them to control their blood glucose levels, as well as feel better overall! In order to do this, it is essential to make it fun for them. Here are some ways how:
- Go on frequent walks or bike rides together.
- Do dance routines with them! Teach them the moves, and they could even teach you!
- Find fun ways to make exercise time enjoyable, like playing their favorite song or listening to an audiobook during your workouts together.
- Compliment your child on how good it looks when they are active! Remember, children are much more likely to keep up activity when they know you enjoy watching them do it.
- If your child is a gamer, you can buy them mini-games that they can play on the go!
- Get creative and come up with fun activities for both of you to do together! It will be exciting for both of you!
Incentive charts are a great way to help your child stay aware of their exercise level and their food. It is important that they are able to see how much they have accomplished each day through the use of charts.
You can find cute, colorful ones online very easily! If you have a little bit of artistic skill, draw your own chart and fill it in with markers or crayons.
You could also save up your steps and make a big goal, for example saving up 10,000 steps to go on a vacation!
Food charts are a great way to help your child only eat the things that are good for him/her. You can find pre-made ones online or even just write them out on a sheet of paper and hang it in the kitchen.
When they fill up their entire row (or column!) with healthy foods and exercise, they get an incentive!
Remember that kids do not always need an incentive for their good behavior; sometimes, parents just need to let children know that they are proud of them! It is also important to remember that some things will be more challenging than others.
It is essential to be aware that sticking with an incentive chart for more than two weeks may not yield very good results. Try changing the goal to something else, such as how many stickers they can collect! Either way, the most important thing is to keep them moving!
How to Help Your Child Grow Up Happy, Healthy, and Strong
It is normal to feel frightened or overwhelmed when you hear that your child has been diagnosed with diabetes. However, know that a diagnosis of diabetes doesn’t mean the end of a healthy and happy life for either you or your child.
Education, emotional support, a healthy diet, exercise, and community support are all wonderful ways to help you and your child live happier, healthier lives and overcome issues from diabetes.
In many ways, living with diabetes will be easier for your child than it was before the diagnosis due to advances in technology and treatment. However, it will take time for your child to adjust to his new lifestyle.
Be patient with yourself as well as your child, finding whatever support you need along the way. While there are many challenges involved with living with diabetes, many families live happy, healthy lives together year after year.