Finding out that your child has diabetes can be life changing. I haven’t experienced it personally, but I did grow up with several friends who had diabetes and I’ve met several parents of diabetic children. I know it’s something that is life changing, whether it’s Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes that the child is dealing with. So, this post is about how to handle diabetes in children… even though I don’t have a child with diabetes, I felt that it would be important to get that information out there in the special needs parenting aspect.
I am not a medical professional and any advice given here should not be used for diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult with your child’s regular pediatrician.
Type 1 Diabetes
Contrary to popular belief that only older people suffer from chronic diseases, such as diabetes, more and more kids are now are diagnosed with this illness all over the world. The type of diabetes that kids are prone with is the “type 1 diabetes.” Also known as ” juvenile diabetes,” this type is diagnosed in almost 40 children everyday in the United States of America alone.
Type 1 diabetes can be considered as the rarest type compared to other diabetes types such as “type 2 diabetes” and “gestational diabetes” but now, more and more people–especially the younger ones suffer from it. Type 1 diabetes usually occurs when a person’s body is stopped form producing enough insulin, which is a type of hormone that every human needs. In order to survive, people–especially kids–with this type of diabetes should have insulin injected in their bodies every single day in order to continue living.
With the help of modern technology, kids with type 1 diabetes can live a normal life because they have better options in terms of blood glucose testing and insulin administration which are just some of the common processes that diabetics undergo. To help kids cope up with their condition, more and more medical facilities now offer treatments that can help the child live an active, healthy, and a life filled with fun excitement just like other regular kids.
Type 2 Diabetes
Children are turning up with diabetes in staggering numbers throughout many developed countries. Coincidentally so are obesity rates among kids. More than 1/3 of children in the United States are overweight or obsess. Children as young as five years of age are obese. Really, this is no coincidence at all, but in fact, a causal effect exists between obesity and type 2 diabetes.
What makes children at risk for type 2 diabetes?
Some kids are at higher risk of getting diabetes type 2 than others. The main risk factors include the following:
• Having a family history of diabetes
• A lack of exercise
• Being overweight or obese
• Being a girl
• Belonging to certain ethnic groups, such as African American, Native American, Hispanic or Latino, or Asian.
• Entering puberty
The above risk factors have been augmented by children spending more time in front of a television, computer, or gaming system.
Today, kids spend so many hours sitting in their bedroom or living room that they have no time to exercise. They race to their Playstations after school to vegetate in front of a video game, or to their computer screen to browse the web. They tend to eat more in front of a screen and have no means of burning those calories up and so they become obese.
This lack of exercise, overeating, and obesity cause insulin resistance, which is a state where the insulin produced by the pancreas because of elevated blood sugar cannot effectively put the sugar into the cells for cellular nutrition.
A feedback loop erupts in which insulin levels rise, become ineffective at bringing the blood sugar down and the blood sugar continues to rise. Type 2 diabetes develops.
If you think your child has developed diabetes, look for the possibility of the following symptoms:
• Increased thirst
• Dry mouth
• Unexplained weight loss
• Frequent urination
• Blurry vision
• Slow healing of cuts and sores
• Numbness of feet or hands
Even with no symptoms, a high-risk child could be in the early stages of diabetes and it would be worth it to have the child undergo blood glucose screening under the supervision of a doctor.
How to Handle Diabetes in Children
Be Ready for Misconceptions
Parents and diabetic children will have to deal with various misconceptions and myths about diabetes. It’s good to look over some of the more prevalent myths and questions, and have a ready answer for them. You may want to coach your child in answering these misconceptions as well.
* “Will I catch diabetes from you/your child?” Of course not – diabetes is not communicable.
* “I can’t invite you/your child to my birthday party!” Children with diabetes may not be invited to birthday parties because many hosts/parents do not want the responsibility of a diabetic child, especially one surrounded by sugary birthday treats. Hopefully, you can work with the parents of kids who are having birthday parties and let your child participate in whatever capacity you’re comfortable with.
* “Will you die if you eat sugar?” Some people think that diabetics will be “poisoned” if they eat sugar.
* “You must have eaten too much sugar as a baby/child; that’s why you have diabetes.” Many people think that eating too much sugar causes diabetes.
To help make the disease seem less scary, research the terminology and realities of the disease. That way, when your doctor talks to you about the disease, you will not feel intimidated by the terms and will know what he or she is talking about. Knowledge can help you feel empowered. You can also use your research to help formulate a plan, which makes a lot of families feel more secure.
Include Other Family Members
When you can, include the family in the scheduled meal times and even snacks. Some families make a nightly together time of the snack before bed that most diabetics need. Everyone in the family should know how to recognize signs of a problem – high or low blood sugar especially.
Involve yourself in the diabetes community in your area and/or online. There are diabetes camps, online forms, and various support groups that can help your family live with diabetes. These groups can also help your child learn how to cope with diabetes now and in the future.
Encourage and Help the Child to Develop Healthy Eating Habits.
Once a child is diagnosed with diabetes, it makes his or her world smaller. There will be more restrictions especially in eating. These restrictions can lead to eating problems that will be harder to manage once they get older. So as early as now, parents must instill among their kids the importance of eating healthy and well-balanced food to avoid further diabetes complications.
Parents must also make sure that the child follows the regular schedule in taking in snacks and eating meals. But if the child doesn’t want to eat a certain type of food you’re offering, don’t force him or her. Instead, give the child a variety of healthy foods that he or she can choose from.
Ensure to Test Blood Glucose Levels Regularly.
The ideal frequency of blood glucose testing is at least four times per day. If possible, the parents should monitor this themselves to ensure that if the child is coping with the condition or not. This is especially important for children with Type 1 diabetes were frequent blood testing is necessary.
Instill in the Child the Importance of Regular Exercise.
To avoid being obese that can lead to more complications among kids with diabetes, parents must make exercise a part of the child’s daily living. This exercise should not be so rigorous, it can be a simple walk, jog, or even helping out with household chores as long as there’s enough movement for the day.
Reassure the Child of Your Love and Support.
There are kids with diabetes who think that having the chronic illness is their fault. Many of them also think that they have that condition because they did something bad or they are not just good enough for their parents. To erase these doubts in the child’s mind, parents must always ensure their child that they will support him or her no matter and they will love the child no matter what.
Parenting a child is challenging enough. But when a child is diagnosed with a chronic illness such as diabetes, parenting and raising this child becomes more difficult, challenging and at times, frustrating.