Feb 13, 2024 - minute readminutes read

How to Best Support a Child with Diabetes

Your role as a parent to kids with diabetes will be crucial, especially in the early stages. As your child begins their journey with diabetes, you can help guide your child through all of their education and routines, explaining what to do and why in every situation they may face. 


Of course, to do that, you’ll need to develop an advanced understanding of managing diabetes and create a personalised plan for supporting your child. To get started acquiring the knowledge and developing the plan you’ll need to help with managing your child’s diabetes, we recommend following these steps:

1. Work with a medical team to develop a care plan

Schedule an appointment with your child’s doctor as soon as possible. During this appointment, work together to develop a comprehensive diabetes management plan for your child.

Your treatment plan should include both an outline of how you will help treat your child’s diabetes on a day-to-day basis and instructions on what to do in case of emergencies. You could even assign a “diabetes care team” of emergency contacts and equip them with the tools and information they need to help your child in the event you can’t. 

Ask follow-up questions about anything you’re unsure of, such as what raises blood sugar levels and what to do about high and low blood sugar test results. By the end of the meeting, you and your child’s healthcare team should have developed clear protocols for any diabetes-related events and emergencies you may face.

2. Learn to check your child’s blood sugar levels and interpret the results

During your initial appointment with your care team, make sure a professional teaches you how to check your child’s blood glucose level. Two types of devices can check blood sugar levels: a blood glucose meter and a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). 

Ask your diabetes care team which method of monitoring your child’s blood glucose levels is right for your situation. Make sure you know how to use it, how often to check your child’s blood sugar levels, and how to interpret the results of the test. 

Create and follow a routine for performing a blood sugar test with your child multiple times per day. Learn their ideal target level and have plans in place for what happens if they’re off-target. Blood sugar hypoglycemia is a very serious condition for diabetes, especially in childhood, so you should make sure you can immediately intervene if your child is hypoglycemic at any time.

3. Make sure someone is always able to check your child’s blood sugar level quickly

Coordinate with your child’s school, daycare, and other care providers to make sure someone supervising them always has access to the resources and knowledge they need to help your child with any diabetic needs immediately.

For example, the American Diabetes Association provides a “Safe at School” Diabetes Medical Management Plan for schools and pediatric diabetes health care providers to use nationwide. Provide this form to your child’s school to give the school nurse instructions on all necessary elements of your child’s care, including any assistance they may need to provide.

4. Learn how to give shots or use an insulin pump

There are four ways to administer insulin to your child: insulin syringes, pens, pumps, or inhalers. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and which is right for your child will depend on their unique needs and preferences.

Chances are, your care provider taught you how to administer insulin using one or more of these methods when they originally diagnosed your child. During your follow-up meeting, make sure that you’re following their instructions correctly and ask questions about anything you’re unsure of, such as where to store your child’s insulin equipment or how to maintain or replace it.

5. Make a meal plan for the whole family

Monitoring and regulating your child’s sugar intake is a very important element of managing their diabetes effectively. Work with your diabetes care team to develop a diet strategy as part of your child’s larger care plan. This strategy should include how much sugar your child should consume at different times of day and why based on the results of your regular blood sugar tests.

To help your child feel comfortable adjusting to their new dietary needs, take this opportunity to design a meal and snack plan for your entire family. You and your family members can lead by example and help normalise the act of following a prescribed diet in your child’s eyes.

6. Encourage your child to engage in physical activity

Physical activity will help your child’s body more effectively use and manage insulin levels, making exercise a crucial element of holistic treatment for children with type 1 diabetes. 

That being said, avoid making your child’s exercise about their diabetes if possible. The more a child feels they have to exercise, the more they may resent the process. 

Instead, naturally encourage your child to engage in exercises and other physical activities they enjoy, and join them when possible. This will help normalise physical exercise as something fun and normal, instead of something they associate with their diabetes.

7. Take your child to the dentist regularly

There is evidence that children with diabetes are at an increased risk of various oral health issues. For example, studies have found that diabetes reduces the amount of saliva children produce, which can increase their risk of periodontal disease and dental caries. 

For this reason, it’s especially crucial to schedule regular dental appointments for diabetic children. Your child’s pediatric dental care professional can explain how to take care of your child’s mouth so that their diabetes doesn’t harm their oral health.

8. Find people in your situation

Try joining associations and groups of other parents with diabetic children, such as the TypeOneNation Community Forum. Sharing knowledge, situations, and emotions always helps.

By following these tips with your child, you will be doing your part as a parent to make their coexistence with diabetes much less daunting and more manageable. 

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