Type 1 Diabetes in Children: Emotional Issues

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Topic Overview

A diagnosis of type 1 diabetes can be difficult to deal with at any age, but it can be particularly hard for a child. Children face special emotional and physical challenges in dealing with their disease. Your child will probably experience a wide range of emotions, which may change from minute to minute. Be sure you are as supportive as possible as your child learns how to manage the disease and cope with feeling different.

A child's diabetes diagnosis can also be very hard for parents to accept. And many parents have feelings of guilt or anger. Your child may perceive these emotions as being directed at him or her rather than at the disease. You may need to tell your child that your frustration lies with the situation.

Your child's diagnosis will likely affect your entire family. It may at times seem as though your child's diabetes has completely taken over your family life, affecting the entire family's eating habits and lifestyle. Feelings of resentment are not uncommon. But for your child to have the most effective treatment and achieve the greatest level of control over diabetes, it's important that you play a supportive role in his or her treatment. This can be a difficult balancing act, because children need support and help but also need to develop independence.

Because children are still developing emotionally, a diagnosis of diabetes often affects the way they think of themselves in relation to their peers. It may help for your child to explain to classmates what diabetes is and to show them how a blood glucose meter works. Insulin injections or an insulin pump may seem strange to your child's classmates. You or your child may have to explain to them why insulin is needed.

It is important that you allow your child to do activities that other children do. Your child can still play sports, stay overnight with friends, and eat the foods that classmates do. It just takes a little more planning and preparing than it did before.

Young child with diabetes

If your child develops diabetes at a young age, you will need to take most of the responsibility for his or her treatment. This means giving injections and closely tracking what your child eats. This can be a very frustrating experience, as children often fail to grasp the importance of their treatment and may resent it. Also, if your child is very young, he or she may not understand why you are giving the injections. Your child may also perceive your frustration as anger at him or her for having diabetes.

Teen with diabetes

Although the treatment for diabetes may be the same, a teenager with the disease will likely confront different emotional issues than either a child or an adult would.

  • The teen years are times of rapid physical growth and development.
  • Thinking that they may be seen as different from their peers is particularly hard for teenagers as they strive to be part of a group.

Teenagers have more control over their treatment, which can be both positive and negative. This independence gives parents a reprieve from constantly caring for their child. But it may be just as frightening to have your teen monitoring his or her own treatment.

  • Will your teen remember to eat?
  • Will your teen remember to take the shots?
  • Will your teen remember to test his or her blood sugar levels?

There are also the added challenges of a teen learning to drive, playing competitive sports, and going on weekend trips. You are not with your teen every moment to make sure he or she is following the diabetes treatment.

Your teen will have the normal rebellious tendencies of all teenagers. He or she will sometimes make mistakes. During these times, help your teen learn from the experience. Developing or having diabetes during the teenage years isn't easy. But your teen is at an excellent age to understand the disease and its treatment and to take over some of the responsibilities of his or her care.


ByHealthwise Staff

Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics

Specialist Medical Reviewer Stephen LaFranchi, MD - Pediatrics, Pediatric Endocrinology

Current as ofMarch 13, 2017