Explaining Type 1 Diabetes to Your Child

Children will want reassurance that you’re going to be ok
Children will want reassurance that you’re going to be ok

In most cases it will usually be best to tell your children, at some point, about your type 1 diabetes.

Children are often curious and may need reassurance that you’re ok so they feel safe themselves.

Benefits of explaining your diabetes

There are a number of benefits of explaining your diabetes to your children.

  • If you develop complications or complications worsen, it may be easier to explain if they are already aware of your diabetes.
  • Your children will have a better understanding of any emotions you show either directly or indirectly as a result of your diabetes.
  • Your children may be able to help if you experience a short term complications such as hypoglycemia or ketoacidosis.

If you show signs of anxiety or frustration, it can help for your children to know why so they don’t think they’ve done something wrong. It is quite common for children to assume blame if they don’t understand the true reason for a parents anger.

Disadvantages of explaining your diabetes

Generally, honesty is the best policy but there could be some down sides to consider when explaining type 1 diabetes to your children. You’ll want to explain your diabetes in a way they’ll understand and in such a way as to not to cause them excessive worry.

It is possible that your child may become upset at hearing you have an illness. In the majority of cases, after showing some initial worry children should quickly come to accept the news well.

When is the best age to tell your child about your diabetes?

A good guide of the best time to tell you your child about your diabetes is when they start asking questions about it. It can be a good idea though to explain your diabetes before they reach primary school.

It is generally a good idea to have your diabetes in the open, that is to carry out blood tests and some injections with your child present so they recognise this as a normal part of life.

This way, when your child is ready to ask why you are injecting, you can let them know.

How can I explain what diabetes is?

There are a few ways you may wish to explain diabetes to your child in a simple way.

“There is part of the body called the pancreas which is inside us close to the stomach. My pancreas has got damaged and it means I can’t get energy from the food I eat unless I take injections of this fluid called insulin. When the pancreas is not working fully like this, it’s called diabetes.

If I don’t take insulin, or don’t take enough, too much sugar goes into my blood and without insulin it can’t get used up for energy. I have to take just the right amount of insulin though, because if I take too much, I don’t have enough sugar in my blood and that also leaves me with very little energy. So the insulin I take each day helps to keep me healthy.”

Answering “Will I need to inject some day?”

This can be tough question as it we’d like to be able to give a definite no but it is possible that your children may develop type 1 diabetes as it is statistically a bit more likely in children of parents with type 1 diabetes.

You may want to answer with: “It’s hard to know what will happen to us. It’s more likely that you won’t have diabetes.”

You could also add: “I was upset when I first knew I had diabetes, but I soon got used to it.”

It can be helpful to be honest about a possible risk in case your child does go on to develop diabetes but you’ll want to explain things in such a way so as not to frighten your son or daughter.

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