Helping Your Child Manage Diabetes
You know your child best, so use that knowledge to gradually introduce her to the different aspects of diabetes self-management at the appropriate time. It's important to remember that children mature at different rates; what one child can handle at age seven another may be ready for at age four. In addition, each child's individual emotional and physical development can also progress at varying speeds. For example, you preschool-aged child may have the mental capacity to test her own blood glucose levels, but lack the fine motor skills to do the job. However, even the smallest child can be empowered to take part in her diabetes care by reading a blood glucose monitor screen, unzipping a supply case, or choose an injection or testing site.
Here are some basic diabetes management skill sets, and general guidelines on when your child may be ready to take them on:
Self-testing blood sugar levels. Somewhere between ages 5 and 7 children may start expressing an interest in testing their own blood glucose levels. As long as their testing method is correct, there's no reason not to pass along this task to your child. By age 8, most children should have this task mastered (unless they're newly diagnosed). Parents should remind children to test at the appropriate times and should help interpret blood sugar readings.
Counting carbohydrates. Between ages 7 and 9 children may begin asking about carbohydrates and engaging in simple carb counting. Child-geared systems that use visual aids such as flashcards and refrigerator magnets may help your child understanding carb counting earlier.
Taking insulin. Between the ages 8 and 12 most children should be able to administer injections; parents should oversee dose calculation and drawing up of the insulin, although doing so in a hands-off manner will help your child build the skills and confidence she needs to take over the task permanently. The same goes for regulating insulin pump therapy.
1 - National Diabetes Education Program. Overview of Diabetes in Children. (Accessed 2/19/08).
Reviewed by Francine Kaufman, MD. 4/08
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