Your child is at an age where they can understand a diagnosis of diabetes but may struggle to emotionally deal with it.
Look for indications of how your child is coping.
Your child may:
- Appear to accept having diabetes yet can be sad, angry or worried for you and themselves. This could be the reason for unusual, unexplained behaviour from your child. Reassure your child that you will all get through this together and that life goes on.
- Feel that you have let them down because they are used to being protected by you and now you can’t make their diabetes go away. You may need to explain to your child that sometimes things are just outside your power; that things happen out of the blue and unfortunately can’t be changed.
- Believe that diabetes has happened to them for a reason, perhaps because of something they have done wrong such as being nasty to their brother or sister. Frequent reassurance from you that diabetes happens to all different children, and is not a punishment, will help them. Meeting other children at diabetes camps or day activities helps your child to feel less isolated.
- Wish their diabetes away and try and ignore it. Sometimes they may be tempted to miss tests and injections or make up blood glucose results. Extra supervision may be needed despite your child insisting they can manage by themselves.
- Feel “different” at a time when they are becoming more sociable. Their friends are becoming important to them and they want to be like them. Reassure your child that everyone has difficulties to overcome – diabetes needs a bit more thought but shouldn’t stop them from doing everything that their friends do.
- Begin to lose confidence because diabetes makes them different. This may lead to them turning down invitations, for example to sleep overs. Encourage your child’s friends to come and sleep at your house which may help everyone to feel more comfortable – then gradually, as they become more confident suggest they go over to their friend’s house. Talk to their friend’s parent(s) so that they feel comfortable – sometimes a parent worries more than a child
- Be curious about diabetes and related tasks – at first it’s all new but then they realise that the diabetes won’t go away which may make them angry. Your support and encouragement is important to their self-esteem and self-worth.
- See diabetes as a barrier to joining in team sports that are of interest to them. Encourage them to join in and reassure them that they can try anything. As your child gets older they will begin to learn to take on more responsibilities – dialling up insulin and giving their injection – but they may still require your supervision and support when it becomes too much.
At this stage many children are:
- Capable of preparing simple foods and can start to recognise suitable foods and the need to eat regularly. Encourage your child to help at mealtimes and be involved with preparing food for school/sport.
- Better able to understand safety and danger and so they become more aware of the importance of eating extra snacks, for example before physical activity. Gentle reminders may be needed.