Management Tips for Parents with Diabetic Children
Common Health Issues

Management Tips for Parents with Diabetic Children

The best way to deal with your child’s diabetes is to learn all you can. Read all you can about diabetes and talk to your child’s doctor and diabetes educator. In general, you will want to learn about how to test your child’s blood glucose, how to give insulin and how to figure out an insulin injection plan. The most important thing to remember is that every child is different. What works for one may not work for another. Your job is to find out how your child’s experiences diabetes and what are the best ways to help.


You should meet with a diabetes educator for help in coordinating your child’s diabetes care. You will also want to meet with a dietitian and figure out a healthy eating plan. Make sure to take into account your child’s particular likes and dislikes. You and your child should not feel that having diabetes means having to eat differently than anyone else. All kids should be eating healthy food, whether they have diabetes or not. In fact, you will help your child and family if you eat the same foods. You will be able to work out with your child’s dietitian ways to include special treats in the meal plan. You will just have to take time to make sure your child with diabetes is balancing meals with his insulin schedule and physical activities.


Talk to your child’s teachers about any special needs your child will have in school. Once you and your child figure out the daily routine and work out ways to deal with special events and circumstances, you will both feel better knowing you can cope with diabetes.



Your Attitude and Feelings

Finding out your child has diabetes can come as a great shock. You may feel disbelief, sadness, or even guilt. You may feel that it’s just not fair or you may feel overwhelmed, wondering if you can give your child the care he needs. Life is stressful anyhow and being a parent today is demanding enough. It may seem at some point that you just won’t be able to handle it.


Once you learn enough about diabetes, you will soon realize that your child should be able to live just like any other kid. It is just a matter of balancing your child’s meals with insulin injections and physical activities. Perhaps the most difficult part for a parent is learning how to adjust and come to terms with your feelings.


Be aware that your child is watching you for guidance. If you accept your child’s diabetes in stride, so will your child. But if you react with anxiety, apprehension and fear, so will he. Try to maintain a sense of calm as much as possible, and deal with diabetes matter-of-factly. At the same time, be sensitive to your child’s fear or concerns. The more you and your child know about diabetes, the more relaxed you both will be.

If you are overanxious and nervous about your child’s diabetes, your child will sense your fear. Don’t try to do everything for your child. Let your child have some say in his diabetes care plan. At the same time, don’t overindulge your child. If you let your child skip a blood test or insulin because you don’t want him to feel so tied down by diabetes, you’ll do you child a great disservice. 


You have to treat certain things as a given, with no questions asked. As soon as your child realizes that certain procedures are not negotiable, he won’t try to get you to let him off the hook. If you don’t provide enough discipline, your child will learn that he doesn’t have to pay attention to diabetes care. The best way is to establish good diabetes care habits early and matter-of-factly, so that they become a way of life.


Of course, you also want to make sure that you don’t become too much of a perfectionist when it comes to your child’s diabetes care. Don’t make your child feel guilty if blood glucose readings are out of range, but take steps to remedy the situation and try to prevent it from happening again. Don’t use words like “cheating” or refer to glucose readings as “good” or “bad.” Instead discuss your child’s blood glucose level as “low,” “normal,” or “high.” Try to work out ways to adjust diet and exercise that give your child flexibility and allow him some special treats every now and then. 


As long as things remain in balance and precautions are taken, your child should be able to have a cupcake at a birthday party or go to the movies with a friend. You just need to develop a plan for handling these situations. If you are too inflexible, your child is bound to rebel at some point. Set the attitude that you can work with your child to develop a plan that works for his lifestyle.

Your child’s level of involvement and responsibilities will change as he matures. During your child’s infancy and toddlerhood, you will have complete responsibility for all aspects of care. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t involve your child, however. You have to be in charge of the timing of insulin shots or blood tests, but you can let your child pick the injection spot or choose which finger to poke. This is a good way to get your child used to having a say in his care, and it will ultimately help your child to take greater responsibility as he gets older.


When your child begins preschool, you are still responsible for making sure he is eating according to plan, testing when needed, and taking the right amount of insulin at the right time. However, during this period, your child can begin to take over some of these tasks. Many 3-year olds can learn to conduct a blood test and do their own finger pokes. By age 12, most children can take their own insulin. Your child can manage this even sooner with an insulin injection aid, such as Inject-Ease. You may also consider getting your child an insulin pump to give him greater flexibility and independence. It is important through this period that your child learn responsibility, because he will often be with friends or at school and out of your watchful field of vision.


Adolescence is probably the most challenging period for both teens and parents. Even if you are the world’s most perfect parent, there will be times when your child resents you. This is normal part of establishing independence. Once you and your child are educated about diabetes, you should both participate in treatment decisions. Adolescents may try to deny their diabetes in an effort to fit in and appear just like everyone else. They may have a tendency to skip insulin doses, ignore their meal plans and even falsify blood glucose readings.

It is not uncommon for an adolescent to feel depressed. Eating disorders, especially among girls, are common. One particularly dangerous type of eating disorder is to skip insulin, which enable your child to eat and not gain weight. If you start to suspect that your child is developing any sort of coping problems, don’t hesitate to seek the help of a professional counselor. 


You may suggest that your child go to visits to a diabetes educator on his own. This may help him develop a sense of responsibility about diabetes care. When your child is treated more like an adult, he may act more like an adult. It is important that your child understands the importance of good diabetes care and recognizes that it is his responsibility to take charge of that care.


Handling Emergencies

Once you and your child work out a diabetes care plan, your child should be able to live just like any other kid. However, it is important that you and your child be aware of signs that could signal an emergency situation. Severe hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia are both dangerous situations. It is important that both you and your child recognize the warning signs. 


Hypoglycemia can affect the brain and lead to unconsciousness and coma. Hyperglycemia can lead to life-threatening situation known as diabetic ketoacidosis. The key to preventing either situation is to recognize the warning signs, test blood glucose right away and treat promptly. Talk to your doctor in advance about what you should do if your child’s blood glucose levels fall too low or rise too high



Any time your child’s blood glucose level falls below 60mg/dl or whatever value your child’s doctor suggests is too low, your child may have hypoglycemia. Signs of hypoglycemia include nervousness, shakiness, sweating, irritability, impatience, chills and clamminess, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, light-headedness, and hunger. When hypoglycemia begins to affect the brain, your child may also appear sleepy, angry, uncoordinated or sad. He may also experience nausea, blurred vision, tingling or numbness in the lips or tongue, nightmares, crying out during sleep, headaches, or strange behavior. In severe stages, confusion, delirium, personality changes and unconsciousness can occur.


If your child is experiencing any of the symptoms of hypoglycemia, have him test his blood glucose right away. If you don’t have time to test, treat anyhow. Usually anything below 60mg/dl requires treatment, but check with your child’s doctor to see what value requires treatment for your child. To treat, give your child a fast-acting carbohydrate snack: 2 to 5 glucose tablets, 2 tablespoons of raisins, half a can of regular soda, 4 ounces of juice, or 5 to 10 jelly beans, Lifesavers or gumdrops.


In general, you want to give your child 10g to 15g of a fast-acting carbohydrate. Wait 10 to 15 minutes and test again. If his blood glucose is still low, give another dose of carbohydrate. If your child sows any signs of severe hypoglycemia (confusion, delirium or unconsciousness), he needs emergency help immediately. Call your doctor and/or call for emergency help. The quickest way to get blood glucose levels up is to give an injection of glucagon. Ask your child’s doctor to show you how to give a glucagon injection and under what circumstances you should give it. This will require a doctor’s prescription. Make sure your child wears jewelry identifying him as a person with diabetes at all times.

Hyperglycemia and Diabetic Ketoacidosis

If your child’s blood glucose level rises too high, he could develop hyperglycemia and diabetic ketoacidosis. This is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate attention. Symptoms of hyperglycemia include extreme thirst, dry parched mouth, and sleepiness or confusion. Your child may also have warm, dry skin with no sweating. If you notice any of these symptoms, have him test his blood glucose immediately.


If it is over 250mg/dl, also have him test his urine for ketones. If your child has moderate to high levels of ketones, call your doctor right away. Also, call your child’s doctor if your child has a lack of appetite, stomach pain, vomiting or feelings of nausea, blurry vision, fever, difficulty breathing or a fruity odor on his breath. Call your child’s doctor if your child has a blood glucose reading over 350mg/dl whether or not there is evidence of ketones. If your child has a blood glucose reading over 500mg/dl, take him to an emergency room immediately.

Sources and References

The Diabetes Problem Solver—Quick Answers to Your Questions About Treatment and Self-Care by Nancy Touchette

Addressing Diabetes Distress in Clinical Care: A Practical Guide by L Fisher, W H Polonsky and D Hessler 

PETS-D (parents education through simulation-diabetes): Parents' qualitative results by K Stern, Mary Lee et al   


Rich Health Editorial Team

Health Research

Rich Health Editorial Team is made up of medical practitioners and experienced writers who provide information for dealing with health issues in a simple and easy-to-understand manner