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Finding out that your child has diabetes can be frightening. All the things you need to know may seem overwhelming. But you don’t have to learn it all right away. You and your child can learn together.
Diabetes is a condition that happens when the pancreas can no longer make insulin (a hormone). The body needs insulin to turn the glucose (sugar) from food into energy. If the body doesn’t have insulin, the level of sugar in the blood can get too high. Over time, high amounts of sugar in the blood can harm the body. Diabetes is a chronic (lifelong) disease, so there is no cure. But there is treatment to help control it so your child can lead a full, healthy life.
In managing diabetes, you and your child will get the support of a healthcare team. They will help you and your child learn to control your child’s blood sugar. Special healthcare providers in your child’s diabetes care team may include:
An endocrinologist (doctor who treats people with diabetes)
A diabetes educator
A health psychologist or social worker
Type 1 diabetes can be controlled by monitoring blood sugar level, replacing insulin, eating a proper diet, and being active. These help your child’s body keep healthy blood sugar levels.
Monitoring: Your healthcare team will work with you to set a blood sugar target range for your child. You will also learn how to check blood sugar level. This helps you monitor whether your child’s blood sugar is in a healthy range.
Insulin: Your doctor will give you a prescription for insulin for your child. You will be taught how and when to give the insulin to your child.
Eating: A dietitian will help you develop a meal plan. You will learn which foods are best for your child, how much your child should eat, and how often your child should eat.
Activity: Daily exercise can help lower your child’s blood sugar level. Ask your doctor about how to keep your child active. A diabetes educator or exercise specialist can help you decide on the best activity or exercises for your child.
Living with diabetes is a lifelong challenge. The more you learn, the more you’ll be able to help your child build skills. But dealing with the details of managing diabetes is only one piece of the puzzle. You’ll also be coping with your child’s emotions—and your own.
Dealing with grief: It isn’t your fault that your child has diabetes. It’s not your child’s fault, either. But even if you know this, you and your child may feel angry or guilty, as well as scared or sad. Or you both may be tempted to deny what’s happening. These feelings are normal. They’re part of grieving for the losses that come with a chronic health condition. These feelings may come and go. But if you face them, they won’t take over your life.
Staying positive: Diabetes is a serious condition, but people with diabetes can have long, healthy, active lives. Having diabetes need not stop your child from playing sports, doing well in school, or having a family someday. If you believe that your child can live well with diabetes, you’ll help your child learn to believe it, too.
These organizations provide information, educational programs, and other services. They are there to help you.
American Association of Diabetes Educators
American Diabetes Association
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse
American Dietetic Association