Yes, your children are at increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, says Amber Taylor, MD, endocrinologist and director at Mercy Hospital’s Diabetes Center in Baltimore. But being at higher risk does not mean either of your kids will definitely develop the disease.

When you have a positive family history for Type 2 diabetes this generally translates to having someone in your immediate family, meaning a parent or a sibling, with the disease, which puts you at elevated risk. Having grandparents, aunts/uncles, or cousins with diabetes also ups risk, but not by as much. Let your children know that they have a genetic predisposition (higher likelihood of developing a disease based on genes) to diabetes, but that they have the power to avoid this plight by taking good care of their health.

Kids with a family history for Type 2 diabetes who are also overweight are in a dangerous predicament. These two things combined make up the biggest diabetes risk factor. While your kids can’t change the former, they can, with your encouragement, change the latter. Specifically by eating healthy, exercising, and maintaining a healthy body weight, they can steer clear of diabetes. Today, Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed at increasingly younger ages, even though historically the disease developed in the adult years.

How To Nurture A Diabetes-Free Home:

  • Avoid buying sugary drinks, especially regular sodas, and stashing them in the fridge
  • Make sure your kids don’t skip breakfast
  • Ensure they get sufficient sleep
  • Limit their time spent on computers and devices and watching TV
  • Keep the fruit bowl filled and introduce fruit-based snacks (for example, pear slices with nut butter, or cherries with cottage cheese)
  • Stock veggies to serve at meals and as snacks (for example, veggie sticks with hummus)
  • Invite your kids on an after-dinner family walk (even if for 10 minutes)
  • Model and encourage exercise, aiming to get moving for 30 minutes a day, five days a week (tip: try recruiting the troops to march in place before dinner, or while watching TV)
  • Set aside time on weekends for family activities centered on staying active (tip: sign up for a scavenger hunt, or host your own)

You might also consider developing a game or points-system that rewards your kids for making and eating healthy snacks and/or playing outdoors. If you can get them to engage in a little friendly competition to see who can model the healthiest lifestyle (read Biggest Loser, home edition): Score.