Helping your child manage his or her diabetes can be overwhelming. It’s hard enough to get children dressed, fed and out the door in the morning without the extra worries of blood-glucose levels, insulin injections (or pump maintenance) and carb counting.
Here are steps you can take to understand your child’s diagnosis and help you to combat some of the stress and ease the lifestyle transition as your child learns to live with type 1 diabetes:
• Regardless of your child’s age, you need to take an active role in diabetes-management tasks. Family teamwork is important in order to ensure that your child consistently checks his/her glucose levels and receives insulin in a timely manner. Adolescence, in particular, has many competing demands so ask your teen for ways to help him or her with diabetes management tasks.
• Work with a healthcare team that is knowledgeable about pediatric diabetes. At the Joslin Diabetes Center, we have a large, multi-disciplinary team of doctors, nurse educators, nutritionists, mental-health specialists, child-life specialists and other allied health professionals to assist you. Once you put a healthcare team in place, make sure you schedule visits with its members at least four times a year.
• Be honest with your health-care team. Do not be afraid to tell them what is difficult for you and your child.
• Stay positive with your child. Tell him or her all of the things they’re doing well, rather than focusing on what they need to work on. Provide realistic expectations.
• Be mindful of your facial expressions and what you say – especially, when you see an out-of-range blood-glucose level. Stress to your child that there is no “bad” blood-glucose level, because you want them to be honest about their levels. All blood glucose levels are important because they provide the information needed to select the best insulin dose and to safely manage exercising with diabetes.
• Make sure to talk with your child about non-diabetes issues as well – as you do with your other children. For example, when your children come home from school, ask them all about their day rather than focusing only on the blood-glucose levels of the child with diabetes.
• Make sure your child does everything he or she would have done if they were not diagnosed with diabetes (e.g. sports, sleepovers, parties).
• Prepare healthy foods for the entire family. A healthy-meal plan for someone with diabetes is the same as for someone without diabetes.
Diabetes plays an important role in your and your child’s life. But it is important to remember that your child is a child first, who happens to have diabetes. Keeping these tips in mind will increase the likelihood of your child having a happy and healthy childhood—and maintaining optimal glycemic control to ensure normal growth and development and the prevention of diabetes complications.