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Discussing Diabetes With Your Child

Just got your diagnosis? Or is your child growing up and starting to ask questions? In either case, you’ll eventually have to broach the topic with them. Here are a few tips to guide the discussion:

  1. Test the waters. Once the news is out, ask your child what they know about diabetes. Listen carefully, then set the record straight, correcting misconceptions if necessary (e.g., diabetics are contagious or can’t eat sugar).
  2. Be concise. Briefly explain what diabetes is, how your medication works and what you need to do to stay healthy. Choose simple words such as blood sugar instead of glucose.
  3. Be positive. Don’t show that diabetes worries you; your child will pick up on it and start worrying too. Tell them that you’re doing well, that the disease can be controlled and that you’re taking care of yourself.
  4. Be honest. Even if it’s not easy. Your child might ask you if you’re going to die or if they will “catch” diabetes too. Don’t try to conceal or sugar-coat the facts—this is a serious disease with genetic factors, so it’s possible that your child might suffer from it someday. That said, make sure that they know it’s not inevitable, especially if they adopt a healthy lifestyle, and that you’ll be there to keep them healthy no matter what.
  5. Talk about safety. Your child must understand that they aren’t allowed to touch your medication and your equipment. First, they could hurt themselves on the syringe, and second, they could be putting you in grave danger by moving your insulin or medication. Set clear boundaries, and keep your things out of reach of younger children.
  6. Establish a routine. Have your child participate in meal preparation to teach them about your dietary needs and promote the importance of healthy eating at the same time. It’s a great way to have fun learning!
  7. Explain the useful facts. Older children should know what type of diabetes you have, whether you wear a pump, what medication you take and what you should do in case of high or low blood sugar.
  8. Make an emergency plan. Again, this all depends on your child’s age. The youngest ones should know how to call 911 if you pass out. As they grow up, you can teach them to detect signs of low blood sugar and ask them to bring you a glucose tablet or a glass of juice to treat it.
  9. Provide additional information. Some examples: direct your child to reliable online sources or invite them to diabetes information sessions. As they grow older, they will probably want a better understanding of the disease you’re living with.
  10. Have an open-door policy. Explain to your child that you will always be there to answer any questions they may have. Diabetes can be a scary thing, but through dialogue, you can calm those fears by showing that you are knowledgeable and in control of the disease. Communicate, communicate and communicate more—that’s the key to establishing trust and promoting understanding.

References:

American Diabetes Association, “How to Talk to Children About Diabetes”: http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2011/may/how-to-talk-to-children-about-diabetes.html?referrer=https://www.google.ca/. Accessed February 3, 2016.
Diabetes.co.uk, “Explaining Type 1 Diabetes to Your Child”: http://www.diabetes.co.uk/explaining-type1-diabetes-to-your-child.html. Accessed February 3, 2016.
Roche, “Newly Diagnosed? How to Explain Diabetes to Your Children”: http://www.accu-chekdiabeteslink.com/newly-diagnosed-how-to-explain-diabetes-to-your-children.html. Accessed February 3, 2016.

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