Learning about your child’s diabetes diagnosis is a scary thing. But managing the disorder is even more challenging as it takes discipline, scheduling, lifestyle changes, education and help from others to ensure your child’s future wellbeing. Part of keeping your child healthy will be to take an active role in all that.
At first it can be very difficult as a parent to assimilate. However, you should know that type 1 diabetes is not your fault and there’s nothing you could have done to prevent it.
Then, treat diabetes in children not as disability, but rather as a chronic condition in which the pancreas merely stopped working. The way you yourself view the situation, will eventually shape how your child sees himself.
And finally, a parent’s responsibility is to provide the tools necessary for proper diabetes management long term. Eventually, when it’s your child’s time to fly solo, he will do it with confidence and ease.
If you do all this, your child will be able to do anything he wants in life.
However, teaching a child how to manage diabetes independently, without burdening him with too much responsibility, is a tricky thing. So, below we provide some tips for parents with diabetic children.
- Forget the word ‘diet’. A diabetic child doesn’t need to be prescribed a particular diabetic diet as such. Neither needs he special diabetic foods. The goal is to balance carbohydrates with the right amount of insulin. Moreover, you may find that some foods are better for your child’s blood sugar control than others. Testing 2 hours before and after meals can show you how different foods affect your child’s sugar. A general dietary advice is wholesome nutrition with plenty of vegetables, fruits, proteins and whole grains.
- Monitor blood glucose regularly. Regular monitoring will give you a better understanding of how your kid is adjusting to food, medication and activity. Moreover, it is the fastest way to know whether everything is under control. Remember that exercise, stress, excitement, illness can all cause blood sugar to spiral out of control. So, check blood sugar every time before and after meals, snacks, exercise and before bedtime – it’s important.
If you belong to those parents who avoid to double check their child’s sugar because it hurts, consider a continuous blood glucose monitor that allows to measure real-time sugar levels without the need to constantly prick fingers.
- Snack wisely. Plan snacks to fit your kid’s schedule, activity and sugar readings. He may need 2 or 3 snacks per day with a set number of carbs to ensure proper nutrition and stable sugar levels.
- Adopt an active lifestyle as a family unit. Sports are great for the child to take part in. Besides being good for social aspects and helping to stay fit, playing sports improves how your child responds to medication. But remember, any physical activity will lower blood sugar, therefore it’s necessary to test blood before engaging in it. If the pre-sport level is low or high, you shouldn’t start until the levels have returned to normal.
- Be transparent with others. Be honest and transparent with teachers, doctors, friends and family members when it comes to issues concerning medication, diet, activity level, etc. for both you and your kid. People are often unaware of the complexity involved in the care of a diabetic child. So, let them know.
- Advocate for your child at school. Managing the disease doesn’t take a break and your kid needs appropriate medical care at school as well. Schools must allow children to check sugar as needed, inject insulin if necessary and treat hypoglycemia. So, it’s important to be sure that you and your kid feel comfortable going to school and managing diabetes safely.
- Get your child wear an ID at all times. Be it a bracelet, necklace or something carried in backpack, can notify medical personnel what to do. It’s very important and even vital as an emergency such as hypoglycemia or hypertension is impossible to predict.
- Build a support team. Supportive diabetes network takes more than your child’s primary-care physician. So, call on your child’s best friend to help support him socially, and your child’s teacher to contact during the school day. Inform them about the symptoms of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia, so that they knew what to do in case of emergency and could help.
- Provide necessary equipment to be kept at school and make sure the school staff know how to behave in emergency and when or how to administer glucagon.
- Stay positive. Instead of focusing on how diabetes limits your child’s life, focus on how well your child is doing in managing the condition. In fact, your child’s condition may become the reason your family starts leading a healthier life. It’s up to you to decide whether the glass is half empty or half full.