Parental Guidance: Helping Your Child Manage Their Diabetes
Children are largely diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, previously known as Juvenile Diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce any insulin, hence requiring daily insulin injections to ensure normal body function. This, coupled with the fact that blood glucose levels can shoot up with even the slightest diet and lifestyle changes makes it difficult to manage; especially for children. Through the following lifestyle and behavioral changes, you can help your child manage diabetes and enjoy everything that life has to offer:
1. Acknowledge and Reduce Their Fears
This is true for all physical and mental health conditions. While it shouldn’t be encouraged, children, especially younger ones, should not be berated for fearing their daily insulin shot and told to ‘be brave’. Instead, use positive responses like ‘we’ll try to make it hurt less the next time’. Reduce the anxiety by counting down before administering the shot, and establish a ‘no-injection’ zone in the house (may be a room or a particular space) where shots aren’t given to induce a sense of security.
Also, explain to your child that administering insulin or checking their blood sugar in public is routine, like an asthma inhaler, and not an embarrassment.
2. Talk and Look Positive
Children often tend to lie about their habits and activities when faced with an out-of-range blood sugar reading, which can result in multiple short- and long-term health effects. Encourage them to be more open by controlling your facial expressions and reactions on seeing an abnormal reading.
Normalize the condition by teaching your children that there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ glucose. Replace them instead with ‘low’ and ‘high’.
3. Motivate and Build Independence
Encourage healthy self-care practices by offering them rewards for certain tasks, like extra allowance for checking their blood sugar a specific number of times a day, or administering insulin at the right times.
Also, along with helping them manage their diabetes, allow your child to gradually manage their condition starting from small tasks. This will help keep them from acting out by deliberately engaging in diabetes-negative activities and build much-needed confidence in the long run. Moreover, teach your child to always check their blood sugar before driving to avoid accidents once they’re old enough.
4. Eat Together
Diet is an essential part of diabetes management. However, instead of making your child feel left out and make them grow to despise their condition, implement a family-wide, diabetes-friendly diet detox. Not only will this release the burden of preparing extra meals, but also contribute towards good family health; as a diabetes diet and a regular balanced diet are often synonymous.
5. Monitor Exercise
If your child plays sports or has plans to, inform the coach of their condition beforehand and educate them on emergency protocol, especially glucagon administration in case of seizures due to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
Next, determine your child’s post-exercise norm, as increased physical activity can increase insulin sensitivity for up to 24 hours and impact blood glucose levels. Check their blood glucose before, during and after the activity to find out whether extra insulin or additional glucose-elevating snacks are required.
6. Be Tech-Smart
Consider using a Continuous Glucose monitor, which is placed under the skin to measure blood sugar levels every few minutes and sounds an alarm in case of out-of-range glucose via a transmitter. This can help ease the constant monitoring for parents.
Some physically active children may also prefer portable insulin pumps like the Insulato Insulin Pump, which eliminates the need for intermittent insulin self-injections by automatically providing insulin when required.
7. Involve the Circle
Diabetes doesn’t have to be a personal struggle. Work together with your child’s teachers and doctor to ensure proper diabetes management at all times. Also, encourage your child to talk about their condition with friends. Not only will it increase the condition’s acceptance by the child, but will also equip peers with necessary knowledge in case of an emergency.
Diabetes management can be difficult, but with a little perseverance, support, and the right tools and treatment, your child will soon be on their way to becoming a freely functioning, independent adult.