A Parent’s Guide to Helping Your Child Learn to Manage Diabetes

Helping your child manage their diabetes may seem cumbersome at first. However, over time it becomes a regular part of you and your child’s daily routine. If managed properly, diabetes should not keep your child from having a normal, happy, and successful life.

Types of Diabetes

There are two main types of diabetes that affect children. Type 1 more commonly develops during childhood. Type 2 typically occurs in adults over age 40 who are overweight or obese. However, as child obesity rates rise, so do instances of Type 2 diabetes in children and young adults.

Diabetes is a disorder that affects your metabolism by impacting the body’s ability to efficiently produce or use insulin. Sugars and carbohydrates provide our body with glucose, a material that acts as fuel for our cells. In order for our cells to use glucose, they need a hormone called insulin, which is found in the blood. Diabetes affects your body’s ability to produce insulin, the ability to efficiently use insulin, or a combination of both.

Type 1

When you have Type 1 diabetes, your body is not able to produce enough insulin. This makes it impossible for the body to properly metabolize glucose, and so it builds up in the blood. This leads to too high blood sugar levels, which causes the these main symptoms of diabetes:

  • Increased urination
  • Thirst
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss

Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age. However, it appears more commonly at ages 5-6 and 11-13. Often, one of the first symptoms is an increase in urination, both in frequency and in amount. Your child will likely also experience other symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, and increased appetite. If not diagnosed in time, your child can become ill.

Type 2

When you have Type 2 diabetes, your body is not able to effectively use its insulin. This type of diabetes is often seen in overweight or obese adults; but, it can develop in children, particularly if they are overweight or obese. People with Type 2 diabetes may not experience any symptoms, or the symptoms may be quite minor. It is common that Type 2 diabetes may be discovered by a routine blood test.

These are the main symptoms of Type 2 diabetes:

  • Increased hunger and thirst (especially after eating)
  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss (even though you are eating and feel hungry)
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision

Diabetes Management for Children

When creating a diabetes treatment plan for your child, it is important to give them responsibilities, rather than leave them completely reliant on the adults in their lives. This will allow your child to take ownership of their body and feel more independent.

Once you have a routine diabetes management plan, life should slowly return to normal. A child with diabetes can still do much of the same things as any other child, including eating out, exercising, and going on trips.

Below are the essential components of a successful diabetes management plan.

Closely Monitor Blood Sugar

You and your child’s doctor will create a routine to regularly check your child’s blood sugar level. This is typically done in two ways.

The first is conducting frequent blood sugar checks using finger sticks. Your child will need to do this at least four times per day, maybe more.

Another is a continuous glucose monitor (CGMs). These are worn devices that automatically measure blood sugar every few minutes, via a sensor inserted under the skin. These provide a more accurate reading of your child’s blood sugar level, and can help make diabetes management more convenient.

Insulin Therapy

Treatment for Type 1 diabetes requires your child to take insulin. There are many different methods of administering insulin, including syringes, insulin pens, and insulin pumps.

There is an alternative to insulin called incretins. They work by helping the pancreas produce insulin, which lowers blood sugar levels, and by lowering glucagon, another hormone produced by the pancreas. Lowering glucagon also helps keep blood sugar low.

Talk to your child’s doctor about the best treatment option for them.

Diet

Diet is an important part of managing diabetes. You must be especially vigilant of the amount of carbohydrates your child consumes, as these foods increase blood sugar levels. Creating a strict diet for a child, however, can be difficult, especially with birthday parties, holidays, and events with other children. You do not want your child to miss out on the fun, and thankfully, you do not have to.

It is possible for your child to partake in these fun events, as long as they are aware of their carbohydrate intake and blood sugar level. Talk to your doctor about making a special plan for events, and plan for them with your child. Teach them to ask what is in the food they eat, to count carbs, and to understand how to handle fluctuations in blood sugar. For example, exercise can help reduce blood sugar levels when they get too high.

Exercise

It is true that exercise can lower blood sugar levels, which is why many people with diabetes avoid it. However, it is possible to exercise safely, as long as you properly monitor your blood sugar. Exercise is especially important for children, as it is an essential method of play. Instead of forbidding your child to exercise, create a diabetes treatment plan that includes exercise in it.

Inform Friends, Family, Teachers, and Babysitters about Your Child’s Diabetes

It is important that your entire community be aware of your child’s diabetes, some people more than others. For example, any primary caregivers should be familiar with your child’s treatment plan. This includes teachers, babysitters, and family that see the child often. Beyond knowing what to do in an emergency, these people can offer emotional support to your family.

Create a Diabetes Treatment Plan

If your child has diabetes, it is essential to have a doctor to help you manage the condition. ARcare can help you find a qualified medical team in Arkansas. Our Arkansas doctors can help you create a diabetes treatment plan for your child. Our diabetes management program includes individualized assessment, nutrition education, meal planning, exercise classes, and support group meetings. Visit your ARcare walk-in clinic, schedule your appointment online, call (877) 876-8032.

Reader Interactions