Adjusting to Life With Childhood Diabetes

March 14th, 2011

It's hard enough to cope with parenting an adolescent, and if you throw juvenile diabetes into the mix it may feel impossible. Educate yourself, make a plan with your diabetes team, and keep lines of communication open between you and your child, and you can go back to disagreeing about things like dating and borrowing the car.

Signs and Symptoms

Because of the changes your child will experience with puberty, the signs and symptoms may be difficult to recognize, so regular check-ups are important. Type 1 diabetes usually shows up at 10 to 12 years of age in girls and around 12 to 14 years of age in boys, but may present earlier or later. Some of the symptoms of diabetes in children are:

  • Fatigue
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased thirst and frequent urination
  • Irritability

If you notice these signs in your child, it is important to talk to your doctor so that she can run tests. If the tests confirm that your child has diabetes, he may need to go straight to the hospital to get help stabilizing his blood sugar levels. Your doctor and other health care professionals will work with you to make a plan to maintain those healthy blood sugar levels. This may include diabetes medication, insulin injections and diet and exercise changes.

Making Changes

As you make the necessary lifestyle changes continue to talk to your child so that he is aware of what he needs to do, and more importantly, why he needs to do it. Giving him the tools and information he needs to fully understand the situation will help him to make healthy decisions down the road.

Ease into the changes so that the transition is not too jolting. If your child is inactive, start with small amounts of activity as a family every day. Buy whole grain products instead of white flour, and try to incorporate vegetables or fruit at all meals.


Stay calm when discussing your child's diabetes with him. Instead of focusing on what he won't be able to do, or all the things that will change, focus on all the things that he will continue to be able to do. He will still be able to have fun with his friends, play sports and go to school. Get him involved in meal planning and, when you and your child feel he is ready, let him do his own insulin injections. If he feels he still has independence it will make the adjustments easier on everyone.