women

Don’t sugarcoat it.

Explaining diabetes and the impact it will have on your child’s life isn’t an easy conversation for parents, but it’s necessary. For young children, keep the story simple: They need this medicine to make them better. Be sure to balance the seriousness of the disease with hope. “Type 1 diabetes requires meticulous care, but people with type1 diabetes do very well,” says Maahs. He tells his pediatric patients about famous people with diabetes to underscore the fact that diabetes isn’t limiting. And kids may believe they’re responsible for their disease, so it’s important to reassure them that diabetes is not their fault.

Description: Don’t sugarcoat it

Don’t sugarcoat it

As kids age, it’s vital you continue to inform them about their disease. “Be honest and truthful about things with the older kids,” says Gee. “Say, ‘You know, this isn’t going to be easy. Sometimes this is going to be hard, but we’re going to stick together and we’re going to get through it.’ ”

Give feedback on the plan. Checking blood glucose levels, injecting insulin, carbohydrate counting, and treating highs and lows as your doctor ordered are the main goals directly after your child is diagnosed. But the starting treatment plan is just a guideline. While doctors have formulas that predict the best insulin dose and carbohydrate allotment for people with diabetes, getting it just right is a process that requires frequent discussions with your health care provider. “It’s a lot of communication, especially with a new diagnosis during the first few months,” says Nimmo. “It’s a lot of work, it’s a process. But it can all be worked through.”

In the Near Future

Do your research.

Description: Do your research

Do your research

Newly diagnosed kids usually spend several months receiving insulin injections before their doctor will consider putting them on an insulin pump, but you don’t have to wait that long to learn your options. The major differences between shots and a pump (besides cost and the number of pokes): Your child will have more flexibility – without extra shots – in when and what to eat, you can enter formulas to dose insulin with greater precision and less math, and there’s less risk of hypoglycemia.

Involve the whole family.

Regardless of who is diagnosed, diabetes will affect your entire family – as it should. “It’s really important for everyone to be on board,” says Gee. Your young child’s siblings might not need to play an integral role in day-to-day diabetes care, but it’s important they understand the disease, respect any dietary changes the family needs to make, and can help their sibling in an emergency.

Description: Regardless of who is diagnosed, diabetes will affect your entire family – as it should.

Regardless of who is diagnosed, diabetes will affect your entire family – as it should.

Because the disease can be isolating, it helps if family members experience some of the scarier aspects of diabetes alongside the child. “If there are other siblings, let them [test their blood glucose], too, so they know what the child is going through,” says Barbara Maslaney, RN, BSN, CDE, a diabetes educator at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Maslaney says having her siblings experience blood glucose testing was important for her as a young child with type1 diabetes.

Support each other.

Dealing with your child’s diabetes diagnosis can be an emotional drain, but it’s easier to handle when your partner or another loved one is carrying some of the load. When things get hard, remember that you’re on the same team. Maxwell says the diagnosis is a challenging event, but it can also bring families closer.

Join the community.

Diabetes can be a lonely disease if you let it. But there are plenty of ways to connect with other parents of children with diabetes, whether it’s through a support group at your hospital or an online forum like ChildrenWithDiabetes.com or the American Diabetes Association’s The Place for Parents (diabetes.org/messageboards). “The number of questions that arise can be so overwhelming,” says Maxwell, who started Juvenation.org, a type1 community created by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. “The most helpful thing was being able to reach out to others, even if it was just confirmation that we did the right thing.”

Description: “The most helpful thing was being able to reach out to others, even if it was just confirmation that we did the right thing.”

“The most helpful thing was being able to reach out to others, even if it was just confirmation that we did the right thing.”

Take a deep breath. Don’t worry if you’re completely overwhelmed or feel as if you’ll never figure this diabetes thing out. Keep contact with your provider, who has many resources for you and your family, ranging from support groups to mental health specialists. Even the most knowledgeable parents of kids with diabetes struggled in the beginning. “If you feel like you’re going through a million different emotions, from elation to grief, you’re not crazy,” says Rose. The good news? It gets easier. “Right now it seems like you’re not making any progress in knowing what’s going on, but in a week you’ll see the baby steps you’ve taken,” says Gee.

Most of all, know that diabetes doesn’t have to control your life. “There is life besides diabetes,” says Nimmo. “You can get past it, and you can get through this.”

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