The moment when you child is diagnosed with diabetes is life changing, and while there will be a lot of new information to take in, you are not alone managing diabetes and parenting.

A number of changes to your daily life will need to be made, and you may be plagued with uncertainty and questions. The more knowledgeable you can be, though, the more beneficial you will be to your child.

Accepting your child’s diabetes diagnosis

There are a number of questions that parents have following a child’s diagnosis of diabetes, including how to best manage their blood sugar levels and how will they get the best care at school.

The diagnosis will likely come as a big shock, and can be hard to accept for parents. It can also be challenging to anticipate how much of an effect it will have on you.

Feelings of denial, anger and depression can be common, and last for many years, but there are methods to steer you away from feelings of grief and accept what you must do to help your child.

Education

Learning all you can about diabetes will be pivotal to educate yourself and your child. Obtain information from your health care team and learn from others who have experienced the difficulties you are facing.

You can also ask your diabetes team about The Diabetes Medical Management Plan (DMMP) and other diabetes self-management education and training courses you can attend to enhance your diabetes knowledge.

Patience

It can be quite hard to hide negative emotions, but do not assume that a healthier response is to keep your feelings hidden.

Share your feelings with other family and friends rather than bottling your emotions, and understand that sadness derived from a diagnosis of diabetes is perfectly normal.

Show patience with yourself and your child’s diabetes – it will be a long process towards accepting and managing the condition.

Managing your child’s blood sugar levels

Hypoglycemia can be frightening for parents, especially when you are learning to recognise hypo symptoms and teach them to your child.

Keeping watch for these symptoms, as well as recording blood test readings is all part of managing your child’s glycemic control.

Your child will in likelihood not enjoy testing their blood, or injecting, and will try to avoid this. Persist with your child, as monitoring blood glucose is important in establishing why high and low blood sugars develop.

What diet should my child have?

A particular diet is not likely to be prescribed to a child with diabetes, but blood testing can show you which foods are better for your child’s blood glucose levels.

Testing around two hours before and after a main meal will allow you to observe how certain food affects your child’s blood sugar.

Generally, all dietary advice for people with or without diabetes will recommend a balanced diet that is high on vegetables and low on processed food.

Diabetic foods should be considered before purchase, as while they are marketed as being sugar-free, they often more expensive not particularly more beneficial than standard products.

Children with diabetes at school

Many children with type 1 diabetes find they go through school with very few problems relating to their condition.

There are precautions to take, however, to ensure that your child’s school have all the knowledge they need to about treating diabetes.

All teachers need to be aware of your child’s diabetes, and the right facilities need to be available to perform blood tests and injections. The school should also understand any timetables of snacks or medication that your child requires.

If your child’s school doesn’t understand aspects of their care plan, it may be necessary for a diabetic nurse or health care professional to speak with them.

Taking part in sports

Sport is great to keep your child keep fit, bond with classmates and regulate blood sugar levels.

However, your child’s blood sugar should be tested before vigorous activity and some sugary supplies should be kept nearby.

Hypoglycemia is a possibility without proper blood sugar management before, during and after exercise, and if a low reading is registered before a sport, this should be corrected before starting.

Similarly, if a high reading (anything over 240 mg/dl) is caught beforehand then sport should be stopped – the production of ketones can occur when exercising with high blood sugar.

If a test reads 240 mg/dl or above then ketones should be checked for. If they are present then should not begin exercising as this can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis.

If your child’s blood sugar is in a normal range, there’s usually no reason why they shouldn’t take part in sports.

Coping with emotional issues

Diabetes can be a frustrating condition, especially when you are young and have enough to learn without understanding how to manage diabetes.

Frustration and aggressive reactions can be common, whether it is due to daily injections or having to account for low and high blood sugar readings.

Your child may rebel against certain aspects of controlling their diabetes, so spending extra time with them and trying to understand their concerns will be important to help them move forward.

Brothers and sisters of your diabetic child may at times feel as if their sibling is getting more attention, so this can be a balancing act. Talking with parents in similar situations can be useful to assess how to understand your children’s emotions.

Socialising with other children

It can be a natural feeling to want to protect your diabetic child, but preventing them from socialising with other children could lead to emotional difficulties later in life.

As long as they have medication and the parents of the other child or children are aware of your child’s diabetes, then letting them be social will be of great benefit to your child.