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Type 1 kids: Growing confidence

mother caring for daughter

Tips for caring for a child with type 1 diabetes. 

The challenges you face with your child’s diabetes are likely to change as he or she grows. Your diabetes care teamDiabetes care teamYour diabetes care team may include a primary care doctor, a diabetes and hormone doctor (endocrinologist), a registered nurse, a diabetes educator, a dietitian, a heart doctor (cardiologist), a foot doctor (podiatrist), an eye doctor (ophthalmologist/optometrist), a kidney doctor (nephrologist), a dentist, a pharmacist, and a mental health professional. members are the best ones to advise you on care during each stage. But here are some common issues that lots of parents face:

child with diabetes development

Infants and toddlers (up to 36 months)Blood glucoseBlood glucoseThe main sugar found in the blood, and the body’s main source of energy. can be hard to predict. It may go from high to low and back again due to not eating regularly.

Preschoolers and grade school (3–7 years) – Appetites and levels of activity can change all the time. These are good years to get kids more involved in their care and build their self-confidence.

Children of older school age (8–11 years) – It’s important to make their diabetes care routine flexible enough to allow the child to join school and/or peer activities.

Preteens and teenagers (12–19) – These years come with even more challenges.

Puberty often brings a need for more insulinInsulinA hormone made by the beta cells in the pancreas that helps glucose move from the blood into the cells. Insulin is also an injectable medicine that is used to treat diabetes by controlling the level of glucose in the blood..

  • Managing blood glucose becomes harder because of changing hormones during this time

Teens can now handle many parts of their diabetes care.

  • But they are changing and want more freedom
  • They also may start acting in a way that leads to behavior that is risky for their health

And this can all cause clashes between you and your teen.

Giving your child with type 1 diabetes a little freedom

When your child has type 1 diabetes, tracking blood glucose and insulin quickly becomes part of your family’s daily routine. And while it’s tempting (and probably quicker) to do everything for your child, it’s important to involve even young children in their own care.

For your toddler: 

  • Think about letting him or her choose the site for insulin injections or the spot on the finger to poke for blood glucose checks, with your guidance. It might make your toddler feel more in control

As your child grows and develops, his or her needs will change. They will become more independent and want to take a more active role in their diabetes routine.

For your school-age child:

  • Encourage your child to keep a healthy lifestyle to help achieve blood glucose control
  • Build their self-management skills and a sense of responsibility for their own care, especially when they are away from home

For your teen:

  • Give them the space they need but stay close by. You can let them take a bigger role in handling their diabetes care. But make sure they know they can always talk to you and ask for help
  • Help them find additional support. Teens may be more open to support from a peer. An in-person support group or diabetes camp can be a great place for him or her to meet other teens with diabetes and talk about their challenges
jumping on bed sleepover

School trips and sleepovers

There is no reason why your child can’t go on school trips or stay at a friend’s house as long as:

  1. they are prepared
  2. the people responsible for looking after them are confident in managing their diabetes

Here are a few tips for making trips and sleepovers go more smoothly:

  • Talk to your child’s teachers. Make sure they know how to manage your child’s diabetes during a school trip. You may want to arrange a meeting before the trip for more training
  • Remind them of low blood glucose warning signs. If an overnight stay is planned, make sure both your child and the adult in charge are aware of signs of nighttime low blood glucose and how to manage it if it happens
  • Plan and pack. Find out what activities are planned and what meals will be provided. You may want to pack your child a lunch if it is a day trip. Also, pack enough fast-acting carbs to help manage low blood glucose, such as:
    • glucose tablets
    • sweets
    • cartons of fruit juice

See that they have enough insulin and supplies for all their prescribed doses during the trip. And make sure to put the supplies in a place that they can get to easily.

After-school activities and parties

As children get older, they may want to be a part of after-school activities or clubs. They may also be invited to parties at other children’s houses.

Here are a few tips:

  • Make sure the person in charge of your child knows his or her diabetes needs and how to manage them
  • If they are going to parties, find out what food will be available at the party and discuss with the other parents what and how much your child can have
  • If they are taking part in physical activity, think about whether they will need an extra snack or a different insulin dose
  • If the activities/party gets in the way of their normal dosing routine, speak to your child’s doctor to see whether the dose can be taken later

Older teens/young adults naturally want freedom from their parents. As they start going out with friends and going to parties, it gets harder to watch what they may be eating or drinking. It’s also harder to know if they are taking insulin correctly. This is a time when talking to one another is vital.

  • Timing is key – Sit together when it’s just you and your teen or talk during the times you are together such as cooking or walking
  • Mood matters – Discuss issues when all is calm and you both can think clearly
  • Deal with big matters first – Take care of the most important concerns, rather than every small issue

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