Type 1 diabetes is a condition where the body’s immune system fails to produce much-needed insulin. Once called juvenile-onset diabetes, it accounts for about 5 percent of all diabetes diagnoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most often occuring in children between the ages of 5 to 7 years old.
For families, caring for a diabetic child means taking on a challenging, active role of learning everything about high and low blood sugar, glucose, insulin shots, meal planning and administering round-the-clock care.
Whether they’re a toddler or a teenager, start with these tips to managing your child’s diabetes:
Stay calm and comforting during treatments. Creating a calm atmosphere is important for children when they need injections daily. Let your child hug their favorite stuffed animal or watch TV; the distraction diverts attention away from finger pricks or insulin shots. Keep calm yourself — a positive attitude can help put them at ease in the face of needles.
Prepare healthy meals for the whole family. According to the Mayo Clinic, diabetic children need high-nutrition, low-calorie foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and fewer animal products and snacks/sweets. Make their meal plan the entire family’s meal plan, and get everyone eating right.
Exercise together. Similar to meal planning, the Mayo Clinic says that regular physical activity is good not only for a child suffering from diabetes, but for you and your family members. Encourage them to make physical exercise a part of their daily routine, and exercise with them.
Work with the right health care professionals. Diabetes in a young child can be just as intimidating for parents as it is for them, so having the right doctors in your and your child’s corner is imperative. The Joslin Diabetes Center recommends working with a healthcare team knowledgeable and experienced with pediatric diabetes.
Be positive and encouraging with your child. Health setbacks are common in diabetes, and children may reason that it’s somehow their fault. The Joslin Center says to stay positive with your child. Remind them of all the things they’re doing right instead of focusing on what they may need to do better on. Don’t prevent them from doing the things they would do if they didn’t have diabetes, like sports, sleepovers and parties.
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