A diabetes diagnosis is a difficult thing to deal with at any age. Unfortunately, it’s a condition that affects 200,000 diagnosed children across the United States, plus many more living with undiagnosed diabetes.
For children, it’s likely they won’t understand all of the repercussions of having the condition, and the daily management tasks will just become a part of their routine. Nonetheless, diabetes can have impacts on both their physical and mental wellbeing, so it’s important for parents to understand the best ways to support their child after being diagnosed.
Understand the diagnosis
Children are naturally bound to feel confused and frightened upon learning about their condition. Especially when speaking with doctors, there’ll be a lot of information to take in, and it can quickly become overwhelming for a young person. As a parent/carer, it’s important you take the time to fully understand what diabetes is. This will give you the best opportunity to provide the most helpful care for your child, plus it means you can translate any complex information to help them to better understand the situation themselves.
Type 1 is the most common diagnosis amongst children, but young people are also susceptible to type 2 – especially in their early teens. The latter can be more aggressive in children compared to adults. Regardless of the diagnosis, it’s important to take a proactive approach to managing the condition, to support your child in taking control of their health from the very beginning.
Promote a healthy lifestyle
One of the most important ways to support your child is to help them establish and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Both exercise and a balanced diet are vitally important components in helping to manage the condition on a day-to-day basis, and children often need some encouragement to keep these things on track.
A great way to help your children to maintain healthy habits is by committing to them as a family. From cooking healthy meals to engaging in physical activities together, making it a part of everyone’s routine will benefit the whole family and prevent your child from feeling like they’re being singled out.
Encourage open conversations
Although diabetes primarily impacts sufferers' physical health, it can take a huge toll on their mental wellbeing as well – regardless of their age. Common issues associated with the condition include eating disorders, stress, anxiety and low mood, with a diabetes diagnosis seeing people become two to three times more likely to be depressed.
There are lots of ways you can support your child’s mental health when living with diabetes, but one of the most important is facilitating an ongoing conversation around how they’re feeling. If they’re able to, talking about the challenges of living with diabetes could help them to feel more in control of the situation, so it’s important not to shy away from what can be an incredibly difficult thing to talk openly about. If your child feels unable to express their feelings within the home, you could seek external help from a specialist counsellor or healthcare professional.
Kelly Peterson, Content Writer & Researcher - For three years, Kelly has been writing with great passion. Her areas of interest include health, lifestyle, travel, and anything that she comes across in her daily life. She finds inspiration for her writing through her personal experiences and the people she surrounds herself with, such as family members and friends.