This weeks blog is slightly different, and aimed for parents who have just had a child diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
Firstly I’d like to say to all parents that they have done nothing wrong and it is not your fault your child has been diagnosed. Unfortunately autoimmune diseases, including Type 1, arise with no clear cause and sometimes even no family history!
Having a child diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes can be so daunting, so keep reading for some basic tips to help get you started.
1. Learn how to recognise low and high sugar levels
This is super important to know, because some children can have specific symptoms or behaviours when they are having high or low sugar levels.
The general symptoms of hyperglycaemia and hypoglycaemia include shakiness, sweating, feeling ‘hangry’, paleness and so on. When your child is experiencing either a high or a low, pay close attention to how they look, act and talk about how they feel.
This is vital because this information can be passed on to other adults who care for your child, and so hypo’s can be dealt with before they become more serious.
One point to note too is that children sometimes like to use certain words when they are feeling like they have high or low sugars. It can be easier for children to learn simple words when they are feeling unwell to communicate best. A great example is the phrase, ‘I’m feeling funny’ because it’s easy for children to learn and easy for adults to recognise.
2. Make dietary swaps and simple lifestyle changes
There is a lot of information out there about what diabetics should and shouldn’t eat, and plenty of foods labelled as ‘diabetic foods’. It can make living with diabetes feel very complicated and confusing.
But, it can actually be really easy to implement simple changes into your child’s lifestyle that will really help glucose control. For example, swapping white carbs to brown carbs can help to prevent glucose spikes. For more specific foods to eat read my blog 5 foods diabetics should be eating!
Another tip I have is to make smart swaps with food products you are buying, look out for hidden sugars in sauces, yogurts and cereals. Of course when carb counting we need to make sure all carbohydrates are being taken into account.
A great brand example are Nairn’s. They make oat biscuits that are lower in sugar and are delicious! Perfect as a little treat or snack!
Exercise is also really important for sugar level control. Please don’t let fear of hypo’s stop your little one from exercising and having fun. Encourage your child to take part in physical hobbies and playing sports, just make sure you have a protocol for low sugar levels. Always make sure your child has a way to test sugar levels, enough snacks and water with them at all times.
3. Educate the school
This is super important because some schools may have never had a student living with Type 1. So take time to speak to your child’s school and tell them exactly what your child’s needs are, and how you and your child would like support. Whether that’s with blood test taking, insulin injecting or knowing know to use a CGM or insulin pump.
It is also really important to share any key words your child uses when they feel unwell, and how they might look or act if they have high or low sugar levels. This way key workers will know exactly what to do.
Furthermore, having everything in place for children to support them mentally is essential. Sometimes the burden of living with diabetes can feel never ending, especially for young children it can be really hard to talk about and explain. Therefore having the correct support is paramount. This leads me onto my next point!
4. Ace meetings and reviews
My first tip is to write everything down! Whether thats on your phone, or a list on your fridge, write down all questions and concerns that you would like to bring up in the meeting. There is always a lot to talk about and it can be easy to forget questions, so make sure you are prepared!
Having great HbA1c readings and blood test results is a fantastic achievement, but don’t forget that specialists should also be there for further support when it is needed.
What I mean by this, is if your child is going through a stressful period, for example exams, it will impact their sugar levels and make them harder to control. Diabetic specialists are there to support you and your child through transitions, they absolutely should be helping with a situation like this. Whether that is visiting you child’s school to put protocols in place, or referring you onto other specialists who can help with stress management techniques.
My final tip for this point is making sure you are encouraging your child to speak up in the meeting, and even take more control of the meeting if they would like to. This is amazing at getting your child into the habit of taking care of themselves and helping to prevent negative feelings about their condition.
5. Join Facebook or other support groups
The burden of having a little one with Type 1 can sometimes feel helpless! But believe me you are not alone and there are many parents going through the same situation.
If you are struggling with any form of stress, join a support group! This could be on social media or ask your diabetic specialist team if they have any resources or contacts of any other parents you can contact. A problem shared is a problem halved, and when it comes to Type 1 diabetes, there’s no one better to talk to than someone else dealing with Type 1 diabetes too.
Thank you so much for reading my blog, I really hope these tips help you. Always be sure to email me any questions or further advise on any topics!