Type 1 Diabetes: Talking to Your Child

DIABETES CARE|Nov.13, 2018

Managing type 1 diabetes can be a whirlwind of ways to lower blood sugar, testing, insulin shots and carb counting. All of this can be overwhelming to a child — but a type 1 diabetes diagnosis doesn't mean kids can't be kids.

Good health, understanding and confidence for kids with type 1 diabetes starts with talking about the condition. As you help your child manage diabetes nutrition, you can talk with them about it to make the new diagnosis feel manageable.

Here's how to help your child understand their diabetes.

Having Effective Discussions

1. Be truthful. Your child should know what it means to have type 1 diabetes. Answer your child's questions and be clear that their diabetes isn't something that will go away. A realistic understanding of diabetes nutrition will set them up for better habits.

2. It's not their fault. It's common for kids to think they did something wrong. Type 1 diabetes isn't preventable, nor is it a punishment. Remind your child: They didn't get diabetes because of their choices. Rather, their body just doesn't make enough of a hormone that helps turn sugar into energy, so they have to figure out alternative ways to lower blood sugar.

3. Make it less scary. The effects of extremely high and low blood sugar levels can be difficult, but it won't help your child to live in a state of fear. As a parent, you have the power to help them feel in control of the disease. They should know they can still exercise, play and have fun like other children. Let your child know that with their proper attention and your help, you can manage diabetes nutrition effectively.

4. Avoid labeling blood sugar levels as "bad." You don't want your child to think they have been bad because their blood sugar is too high or too low. Help them understand the reading isn't a reflection of who they are.

5. Explain that insulin is necessary. Make sure your child knows the importance of their medication and the role insulin plays in their treatment. You want to emphasize the importance of insulin for regulating their energy and the rest of their body. If their insulin routine scares them, allow them to hold a stuffed animal or watch a video during it.

6. Let them know sweets can still be on the menu. But explain that sugary treats need to be planned into their eating plan for the day, and that you'll likely need to adjust their insulin doses, too.

Health conditions can be confusing for young children, no doubt, but it's important for your child to understand what their diabetes means for them.

With the right information, diabetes doesn't have to stand in their way. Having important conversations with your child about their health can keep them active and happy and help your daily routine go more smoothly.