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Diabetes News


aving a child or teenager with diabetes

adds a new and different dimension to

parenting. To love and care for the child and

promote all of his or her potential is one

dimension – to take good care of diabetes

is quite another. Often these goals seem

to contradict each other, yet they need not

do so.

This is the view of Rosemary Flynn,

a clinical psychologist at the Centre for

Diabetes and Endocrinology (CDE). She

says that while major advances have taken

place in recent years in the management

of young people with type 1 diabetes, one

cannot step away from the psychological

repercussions of a challenging, never-ending

condition that needs constant management.

‘Advances have helped lessen the burden of

everyday living for youngsters and reduce

their risk of long-term complications but the

condition still has an impact on behaviours,

self-esteem, sibling and peer relationships,

and family dynamics’, she adds.

Flynn says that an understanding of the

needs and emotions of children at various

stages of development can help us to better

identify and understand a child’s specific

needs and emotions at each age. ‘This is

particularly true for children between birth

and 12 years old. Diabetes management

in adolescence needs to be tackled very

differently’, she says. ‘Teenagers have a lot

to deal with just being teenagers. When

diabetes is added to the process, they

need both resilience and resourcefulness to

manage successfully. Emotional turmoil at

times is inevitable.’

Flynn says it all starts with seeing the child

as more than just a physical being. ‘There is

more tomanaging diabetes than coping with

the physical aspects’, she says. It involves the

whole of the teen – the physical, emotional,

social, spiritual and mental dimensions.

How well the body copes with the diabetes

is strongly linked to how the child thinks,

feels and relates to others. Each of these

dimensions will have an impact on how the

child behaves. She says although changing

emotions are a normal phenomenon for

anyone, in children with diabetes, they have

the potential to make blood glucose levels

unstable. The body reacts to emotional

trauma or even emotional excitement by

triggering chemical reactions, which make

blood glucose levels rise. ‘When working

Dealing with the emotions of children with diabetes

with a child with diabetes, it is so important

to try to understand the child holistically

to achieve and maintain optimum health.

Focusing on only the physical aspects of the

diabetes will never be sufficient to ensure a

well-balanced and healthy child who is at

peace with managing his or her diabetes.’

Flynn offers some crucial insights for

parents raising a child with diabetes:

Initiative and self-control: these develop

progressively with age and maturity and

are often influenced by the parenting

style of their parents. Both initiative,

being able to make the right decision

as needed, and self-control, being able

to follow the regimen of managing

diabetes, will be needed to enable the

child to negotiate his or her diabetes.

Developing a conscience: so much of

the successful management of diabetes

depends on a well integrated conscience.

Every day of their lives, children with

diabetes face the temptation to eat

too much, to avoid eating, to eat the

wrong foods, to avoid injections or

finger pricks, to have extra insulin, to

avoid exercise, to over-exercise, to falsify

blood glucose results, and so on. For

children to take responsibility for their

own health and make the right choices

depends to a large extent on values such

as honesty, success, achievement, self-

reliance and being co-operative. Having

a well-integrated conscience is the key

to developing these values.



parenting that is

flexible but firm

works well in all



and responsibility is

gradually given to

the children as they

grow and develop.



better when they

have clear limits,

expectations and

rules, which adapt

as they move into

their teenage years.

The relationship is

always respectful

and kind and it is

one in which the

family can solve problems together.

Feelings are valued and the connection

between parents and children is of

utmost importance. Like sailing a boat,

your family must roll with the wind and

weather the storms andmake continuous

adjustments as you try to keep the boat

balanced. If you can get this right, you

will truly be a flexible family and be

blessed with the benefits of that.

Sibling relationships: while siblings can

play a significant role in the process of

managing the condition, they can also

take a great deal of strain because of the

diabetes. Parents should find a balance

in the way they handle their children.

Somehow, they need to give each of their

children quality time. They need to find a

way to divide the time they have available

between all their children without

jeopardising the health of the child/

children with diabetes, to make each of

the children feel loved and nurtured, and

to make sure their own needs as a couple

and as individuals are met.

Managing anxiety: research on children

with diabetes has found that if too

much anxiety is present, such children

cope either by avoiding management

altogether to reduce their anxiety, or

else by becoming so frenetic in their

approach to self-management that

their stress levels become intolerable. In

either case, control of diabetes is lost.

Coping with diabetes is always a family

Support groups for children: Youth with Diabetes –

Facebook support group for parents: Kids powered with insulin.