Explaining Your Diabetes to Children
Have you been recently diagnosed with diabetes? Perhaps your diagnosis was some time ago, but your children are finally old enough to question why you always prick your finger.
Explaining your diabetes to kids can be tricky. You want to inform them, but you don’t want to scare or put them off the topic. Naturally, you want to protect children but shielding kids from the truth of your diabetes can create barriers and make living with the condition tricky. So how can you start to have these conversations without scaring or overwhelming? Here are some helpful tips to guide your talk.
Tip #1 - Start off with good news or positives
If your diagnosis is new, you still may feel uncertain about things yourself but stay calm and begin with good news. It is natural that a child wants to hear that it is going to be Okay, therefore starting with the positives helps break down any uncertainty. It really helps if children know that diabetes is manageable in order for them to understand the condition.
Tip #2 - Talk about it in a familiar environment
Children, especially younger ones, may find it difficult to understand diabetes, breaking it down into sections might help. Websites like JDRF.org offer kid-friendly resources and videos that may prove helpful, too.
Tip #3 – Keep it Age Appropriate
How much you tell children about your diabetes will depend on a number of things including their age. Teenagers may understand the basics of blood sugar and insulin, but this detail may confuse younger children. For very young children, skip the big words and let them ask questions. When explaining diabetes, going with the basics works best for young children. Maybe start by explaining that you check your blood sugar or take medicines to stay healthy. As they grow older, they’ll likely ask more detailed questions. Then you can go into more detail.
Tip #4 – Be honest with them about diabetes
Be honest, children need to hear the truth to help them understand for the long term. Ask them what they know about diabetes. Listen carefully for any misinformation or fears and try to reassure these. For example, they might wonder if you can eat sugar or if diabetes can be contagious. Correct wrong information gently, clearly, and simplify as much as possible. When children ask you questions, keep your answers honest. Younger children may focus on things like if it hurts when you prick your finger or take insulin. If it hurts, tell them, but in a positive way. For example: “Yes, it pinches a bit when I prick my finger, but it lets me check my blood sugar so I can stay healthy, that’s the main thing.”
Tip #5 – Address potential emergencies
Again, try not to scare but diabetes emergencies are important to explain, as children of every age need to know about proper safety. This means that they should never play with insulin, pumps, your blood glucose meter, test strips, or other diabetes tools or medicines. It’s also a good idea to tell children what they can do if you have a low blood sugar. Consider creating a box that is filled with important things like glucose tablets or gel, you then know it is accessible for both you and them in the event of a diabetes emergency like low blood sugar emergency.
Tip #6 – Know how to handle the “will I get diabetes, too?”
Question At some point, most children will ask you, “Will I get diabetes, too?” It’s important to avoid saying, “No, you’ll never have diabetes.” A better option is to say something like, “Chances are you won’t get diabetes, but if you do, we already know what to do to help.” This goes back to honesty, lying is the worst thing you can do when kids ask this question. Instead, take the opportunity to reassure them that diabetes can be managed if they do get it. Being honest up front helps prevent unneeded fear.
Tip # 7 – Keep the conversation hopeful
Sometimes talking to children about your diabetes can be a little scary for them. But you can remind your children that there’s hope. Keep the conversation hopeful by talking about medicine and technologies that are quickly developing to help people manage diabetes more simple and effectively.
- For older children, invite them to come to a diabetes education class along with you.
- If you have multiple children, talk to them
- Let kids be involved in meal planning from time to time. This lets them understand your nutritional needs better and first-hand.
- If you don’t have the answer to one of their questions, look for the answer together.
This is general information and does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied upon as such. Please always speak to your healthcare professional about what may constitute a diabetes emergency for you. The content is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely – you must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content. Although we make reasonable efforts to ensure that the content is up to date, we make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content is accurate, complete or up-to-date.