7 tips for raising children with diabetes

cotton candy, girl merry go round

Facing and accepting your child’s diagnosis with diabetes is rarely easy. Unless you were able to catch the signs of diabetes early on, a scary and traumatizing experience all too often leads to the discovery that your child needs to take special precautions when eating. There are ways you can manage the disease with diet obviously.

It’s important to remember that—while childhood diabetes is a difficult disease to manage—that you stand with others. In the United States alone, it’s reported that nearly 200,000 children deal with diabetes and most live perfectly healthy lives.

Consider the following seven tips in order to successfully raise your child with diabetes:

Tell everyone—who needs to know

Diabetes often comes with the need to check in on blood sugar levels multiple times per day. That means that pretty much anyone partially responsible for your child’s healthcare—especially those who give food to your child—need to know about specific considerations when caring for your child.

Consider taking one-on-one with teachers and coaches—explaining to them what they need to do and who they need to call in case of an emergency.

It’s important to remind the influences in your child’s life that—while they may have diabetes—they deserve to be treated like any other child in their care. Don’t single out your child or demand special preferences due to your child’s diagnosis.

As important as it is to tell healthcare providers and teachers about the diagnosis, it isn’t necessary to make a grand public announcement. Respect the agency of your child and allow them to tell who they want—when they want.

Consider seeing a family therapist

Since childhood diabetes often involves a greater involvement with your child, you may experience fatigue and anxiety while taking on the extra responsibilities. Others in your family—such as older and younger siblings—may also dislike this extra care, and perceive it as favoritism.

Remember that mental healthcare is just as important as physical healthcare.

 Booking an appointment with a family therapist will give you the tools to understand and relate to the social difficulties that may come with a diabetes diagnosis.

If you’re experiencing problems within your family unit, or even if it’s not an issue, it never hurts to allow a medical professional to try and find new ways for your family to grow together while you transition into newfound responsibilities.

Find conscious ways to punish diabetes-related issues

Your child may know they need to eat certain foods, or check in on their blood sugar regularly, but they are still children. You may find your child willingly disobeying rules that were meant to keep them safe.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) provides a helpful guide for parents on how to navigate punishments for diabetes-related behavioral issues. This is an especially difficult topic to address, as all too often a child feels as if they are being punished for having diabetes—as opposed to any other behavioral infraction.

If you’ve talked to a family therapist, this would be a good discussion to have to help mitigate disciplinary action and help both sides understand and realize that you still need to be the parent.

Forgive yourself—and your child

There will be hard days ahead—times when your child feels abnormal or broken, or when you’re struggling to balance all of the responsibilities of parenthood on top of a diabetes diagnosis. This is especially true if the child had a diet which was loaded with sugar and unhealthy foods. Sometimes in broken homes sweets are used for comfort and nurturing or they are handed out easily by grandma as a way she shows her love. 

Don’t be overbearing

Diabetes is a disease that needs constant attention, but that doesn’t mean sacrificing your child’s relative freedom in exchange for your peace of mind.

Learn to take a step back when possible. There’s no need to call teachers at every minor worry or inconvenience along the way. Being too overbearing on your children—with diabetes or without—only serves to breed dishonestly, deception, and distrust.

Don’t miss your appointments

As with all illnesses, it’s important to take your child in to see their physician or doctor when needed. These routine check-ups may seem superfluous at first, but never allow laziness or distain keep you from keeping up with your child’s healthcare.

Don’t deny your doctor’s expertise. Chances are, they only want what’s best for your child.

Let them handle it

As your child grows up, relinquishing control on their lives is never a comfortable transition. For children with diabetes, this may mean allowing your child to manage their diabetes without your intervention or knowledge. Since your child will eventually be dealing with the disease on their own, it is crucial that you let them take small steps towards independence.

Update 2022: new sugar-blocking gum based on the gurmar plant may help sweet addictions in children in adults and serve as a way to reduce blood sugar spikes. 

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