My child has just been diagnosed with diabetes. Now what?

If your child has diabetes, you need to be educated in three key areas: meal planning, physical activity and the use of insulin to control diabetes. Consistent family support can make all the difference in how well your child handles diabetes.

If you just found out your child has diabetes, you are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2010 about 215,000 people younger than 20 years old had type 1 or type 2 diabetes in the United States. Diabetes in general affects 25.8 million Americans which equates to 8.3% of the U.S. population.

Diabetes is a disease that affects the whole family, especially when a child is diagnosed. Consistent family support from parents, siblings and other family members can make all the difference in how well your child does physically and psychologically. Denise Lovinger, registered dietician and certified diabetes educator (RN, CDE) for the Hillsdale Community Health Center in Hillsdale, Mich. agrees wholeheartedly with this statement from the American Diabetes Association. Denise says that when a child has diabetes it has to be a family issue. The whole family needs to make lifestyle changes to support the child with diabetes.

Denise knows that education is key to learning to live life with diabetes. Parents need to be educated in three key areas: meal planning, physical activity and the use of insulin to control diabetes. With the help of insulin therapy and other treatments, even young children with type 1 diabetes can learn to manage their condition and live long, healthy, happy lives.

Type1 and type 2 diabetes must be treated differently. Denise explains that children with Type 1 diabetes are often thin and must take insulin to survive. With type 1 diabetes the meal plan, including snacks, must be coordinated with physical activity and insulin to control blood glucose levels. Children with type 2 diabetes are usually obese and the focus would be on weight loss through healthy food choices and fun physical activity.

Don’t base your child’s condition on what you have heard about adults with type 2 diabetes. Learn all you can about the type of diabetes your child has.

Whether your child has type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it is a good idea to contact your local hospital to find out what resources are available for your child and your family. When you call the hospital make sure to ask about working with a certified diabetes educator. Regular appointments with your primary care provider and certified diabetes educator are vital so that adjustments can be made, with your input, to help your child maintain normal activities.

Keeping a routine can be very beneficial to a child with diabetes and the rest of the family as well. Diabetes should fit into your lifestyle with some adjustments – not the other way around. This takes time and experience but the transition can and should happen so that your entire family is living happy, healthy, normal lives.

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