If you are a parent of a child who has diabetes, you know that dealing with the illness can be a full time task. Even more difficult than dealing with insulin, sugar counts and keeping track of exercise can be the reality that your child just doesn’t care or can’t be bothered. Further compounding these issues, maybe you don’t know enough about diabetes yourself to be well informed. How can you help your child without becoming a nag?
Dr. Sarah G. Khan, resident pharmacist for Diets in Review, shares, “The biggest hurdle for children, I think, is understanding what is going on in their bodies. Parents should be very educated and give them a generalized picture. “Your body doesn’t produce as much or any insulin. Insulin helps the body when we eat something. That is why I need to give you this shot everyday.”
Focus on moderation in their diets. Often, children hear that they need to modify their diets and perceive it as an “all or nothing” type of scenario, and most of us don’t like to be told that we can’t eat certain foods. By helping your child to learn moderation and the reality that a treat can be incorporated in to the diet, you are teaching your child a valuable lesson.
Dr. Khan is a fan of Bayer’s new blood glucose meter known as the DIDGET. “The more the child tests (their blood) they get special codes to Nintendo DS games. It plugs right into a Nintendo DS or DS lite. Once they become more advanced with their blood sugar control it gives them a second level where they can monitor their sugar levels before or after a meal.”
Parents should be aware of the signs of low blood sugar. Ask your child’s doctor to share with you the warning signs, which can range from mild symptoms such as sweating when exercise isn’t involved or moodiness, and can progress to nausea, fatigue and in severe cases, unconsciousness. Anyone involved in your child’s care should be knowledgeable about the need for a balanced snack to help the mild issues and be able to administer a glucagon injection in severe issues. Don’t forget to discuss these realities with grandparents, if they are involved in caring for your child.
Many children with diabetes mature earlier than typical and are able to handle the realities of their care. Watch your child to see when you think he can be in control of his blood sugar counts and insulin, and don’t be afraid to take the reins if your child fails to follow the appropriate steps. After all, you are dealing with a life threatening issue and you have to help your child understand this.
Support groups can be immensely helpful and can give you a sounding board as well as support. Many local children’s hospitals offer support groups, but if you can’t find one, ask your child’s doctor – or consider starting your own!
Above all, talk to your child about things other than their diabetes. Your child is much more than his illness and he needs to know that you love him for who he is, and that his disease doesn’t define him.