Parenting is difficult enough, but raising a child with diabetes has its own unique demands. In most cases, you’ll be raising a child with type 1 diabetes, but type 2 is becoming more common in kids. According to the CDC, more than 200,000 people younger than 20 have a form of diabetes.
In either case, you’ll need a diabetes medical management plan to best manage your son or daughter’s health needs. Work with your family doctor or pediatric endocrinologist to develop a plan that outlines the special needs of your child so that day care providers, teachers and coaches are aware and can be supportive. The plan will spell out blood glucose monitoring routines, treatment strategies, nutritional requirements and involvement in sports and activities. The National Diabetes Education Program developed a free plan that is available online.
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Kids with diabetes are often scared and angry when they are diagnosed with diabetes, so it’s important that parents stay involved in every step. Involvement from mom and dad looks different for children with diabetes depending on their age.
Younger children need a greater deal of attention in the physical aspects of managing diabetes, such as giving shots, drawing up insulin and checking blood sugar levels. As early as age 3, some kids are ready to start monitoring their blood sugar levels. Kids 8 years old and older can be taught fingerstick tests, and some can even be taught to give themselves insulin.
Older children may need their parents to remind them to take their medicines and support them with good self-management behaviors. Researchers found that adolescent children were better managed and adhered to their medicines when their parents were involved in blood glucose monitoring. As a child’s body changes during puberty, diabetes might need to be managed differently, as some teenagers may need more insulin. Talk to your child’s doctor to see if you need to adjust the treatment plan.
Deciding how to punish children’s poor behaviors and choices around diabetes care is a difficult decision. Many children already feel punished for having diabetes and may feel resentment and anger around any additional reprimands. Only one study has examined the effects of disciplining children with diabetes, and it found that a parenting style that is firm but supportive and affectionate may help children ages 4 to 10 years old better manage their diabetes and adhere to their medicines. Severe punishment to change behavior usually only works in the short term, so parents have to choose whether they want short-term or lasting change with their children’s diabetes management.
Want to learn more about parenting a child with type 1 diabetes? Read “The Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis,” “Type 1 Diabetes and Sleepovers or Field Trips,” “Writing a Section 504 Plan for Diabetes” and “Top 10 Tips for Better Blood Glucose Control.”
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