Recently diagnosed with diabetes? Or were you diagnosed a while ago, but your children are now at the age where they start asking a lot of questions? Explaining diabetes to your kids can be tricky. You want to inform them, without overwhelming them.
Naturally, you want to protect your children. But shielding your kids from the truth is not the best way to do so. How can you have a conversation about diabetes with your kids without scaring or overwhelming them? Here are some top tips to help you do just that...
Tip #1 – Begin with Good News
If you were recently diagnosed, you may still feel a lot of uncertainty yourself. But stay calm and begin with good news. The first message your child needs to hear is that you’ll be okay. Kids need to know that diabetes is manageable. Tell them that you’ll be working with your healthcare team to stay healthy. Remember, kids know when a parent is worried, and will start to worry themselves. Try to keep the conversation as positive as possible.
Tip #2 – Meet Kids Where They Are
Kids, especially younger ones, may find it difficult to understand diabetes. Get creative and use toys or stories to help them understand. Consider using a stuffed animal to show them how you manage your diabetes. It’s also possible to find books written for younger children about diabetes. There are also a lot of online resources and videos that may prove helpful too.
Tip #3 – Keep it Age Appropriate
How much you tell children about your diabetes should depend on their ages. Teenagers may understand the basics of blood sugar and insulin, but this can be confusing for younger kids. For very young children, skip the big words and let them ask questions.
When explaining diabetes, going with the basics works best for young children. Maybe start by explaining that you check your blood sugar or take medicines to stay healthy. As they grow older, they’ll probably start asking more detailed questions. Then you can go into more detail.
Tip #4 – Be Honest with Your Children
Be honest. Kids need to hear the truth. Ask your kids what they think, or have heard, about diabetes. Listen carefully for any misinformation or fears. For example, they might think you can’t eat sugar or worry that diabetes is contagious. Correct wrong information gently, clearly, and simply.
When kids ask you questions, keep your answers honest. Young children may ask if it hurts when you prick your finger or take insulin. If it hurts, tell them, but in a positive way. For example: “Yes, it pinches a bit when I prick my finger, but it lets me check my blood sugar so I can stay healthy.”
Tip #5 – Address Potential Emergencies
No matter when you found out you had diabetes, you need to talk about potential emergencies when kids are old enough. Kids of every age need to know about proper safety. This means that they should never play with insulin, pumps, your meter, test strips, or other diabetes tools or medicines.
It’s also a good idea to tell children what they can do if you have a low blood sugar. Consider creating a box that is filled with important things like glucose tablets or gel. Then you can have your child grab that box if you have a low blood sugar emergency.
Tip #6 – Know How to Handle the “Will I Get Diabetes, too?” Question
It’s natural for your kids to ask, “Will I get diabetes too?” And it’s important to avoid saying, “No, you’ll never have diabetes.” The best option is to say something like, “Chances are you won’t get diabetes, but if you do, we already know what to do to help.”
This goes back to honesty. Lying is the worst thing you can do when kids ask this question. Instead, take the opportunity to reassure your children. They can take measures to prevent type 2 diabetes. And even if they do get it, diabetes can be managed. Being honest and upfront helps prevent unnecessary fear.
Tip # 7 – Keep the Conversation Hopeful
Sometimes, talking to your kids about your diabetes can be a little scary for them. Remind your children that there’s hope. Keep the conversation hopeful by talking about medicine and technologies that are quickly developing to help people manage their diabetes more effectively.
Why not invite older children to come to come to a diabetes education class with you?
Let your kids be involved in meal planning from time to time. This helps them to understand your nutritional needs better and what it means to manage diabetes.
If you don’t have the answer to one of their questions, look for the answer together.
- Accu-Chek, 2020. How to explain diabetes to your children. [webpage] Available at: https://www.accu-chek.com/life/how-to-explain-diabetes-to-your-children [Accessed: 03/03/2021].
- Rite Aid, 2018. Explaining diabetes to a child. [webpage] Available at: https://www.riteaid.com/articles/explaining-diabetes-to-a-child [Accessed: 03/03/2021].
- Diabetes Forecast, 2011. [webpage] Available at: http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2011/may/how-to-talk-to-children-about-diabetes.html [Accessed: 03/03/2021].
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Medical or nutritional information on the mySugr website is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult a physician or health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.