Managing type 1 diabetes is stressful. Worrying about blood sugar levels, tests, insulin shots and carb counting can be overwhelming, even for an adult. Now imagine what it must be like for a child.
According to a registry published in 2015 about 97000 Indian children have type 1 diabetes. If your child is one of them, making sure that he or she is happy, healthy and confident begins with a conversation about the disease. It's important for them to know you'll be there to help them manage their diabetes nutrition and show them that their condition is manageable.
Doing so starts with having effective discussions. Here are six tips to keep in mind.
1. Tell them the truth. Your child should know what it means to have type 1 diabetes. Answer your child's questions, and be clear that their diabetes isn't something that will go away. A realistic understanding of diabetes nutrition will set them up for better habits.
2. Make it less scary. The truth can be scary, but it's your job to help soothe your child's fears. As a parent, you have the power to help your child feel in control of their disease. Remind them they're just like every other kid, and that they can still exercise, play and have fun like one, too. Let your child know that if they pay proper attention to their nutrition — and reiterate that you'll help them with this — that their diabetes can be managed effectively. Be sure to speak to them in their own language. Explain complicated concepts in ways that your kids will easily understand and internalise. And don't get freaked out if your child has questions about diabetes; finding the answers will help you learn more about managing the condition, too.
3. Explain why insulin is necessary. Your child should know the importance of their medication and the role insulin plays in their treatment. Emphasise the importance of insulin for regulating their energy and the rest of their body. If their insulin routine scares them, allow them to hold a stuffed animal or watch a video during its administration.
4. Avoid labelling blood sugar levels as "good" or "bad." You don't want your child to think they have been bad because their blood sugar is too high or too low. Help them understand that their blood sugar reading isn't a reflection of who they are.
5. Let them know that sweets can still be on the menu. But explain that sugary treats need to be accounted for in their daily eating plan, and that you'll likely need to adjust their insulin doses when they eat sweets.
6. Reassure them that their type 1 diabetes isn't their fault. Type 1 diabetes isn't preventable, and it isn't a punishment. Remind your child that they didn't get diabetes because of their choices. Rather, their body just doesn't make enough of the hormone that helps turn sugar into energy, so they have to figure out alternative ways to keep their blood sugar under control.
Health conditions such as type 1 diabetes can be confusing and scary for young children. But it's important that your child understands what their diabetes means for them, and you should help them find ways to lower blood sugar. Having important conversations with your child from the get-go about their health can keep them active and happy. A type 1 diabetes diagnosis doesn't mean a kid can't be a kid.
Disclaimer: This publication/article/editorial is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any products. Please consult your doctor/healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.