Juvenile Diabetes is an autoimmune disease that affects millions of children. With this, the body cannot break down or store glucose (sugar) properly. Therefore, glucose begins to backup in the bloodstream, which then leads to an array of health-related issues. Diabetes as an adult is bad enough but as a parent, it becomes critical to learn ways to help a child with juvenile diabetes, especially if the child is extremely young.
For children, this disease is taxing both physically and mentally. Regardless of age, children become overwhelmed with the required care regimen and while really young, they often struggle to understand the effects that diabetes has on the body both short and long-term. As your child ages, the disease can be mismanaged, thereby creating serious and even life-threatening risks.
Not only is juvenile diabetes hard on the child but as the parent, you might go through periods of feeling like an inadequate caregiver. It is important to note any symptoms, especially if there is a family history of diabetes. Keep in mind that every child is different so the exact symptoms and level of intensity will be unique.
The following are the first symptoms that would appear in a child with juvenile diabetes.
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Excessive hunger coupled with weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Chronic fatigue
- Medical Care – The first and most important thing you can do for a child with juvenile diabetes is to make sure he or she is under the care of a qualified doctor. After getting a firm diagnosis, the doctor will determine the most effective treatment but also provide ongoing care. Based on the findings, your child will need to take medication or depend on insulin shots.
- Education – It is also important to educate your child about the disease and treatment, especially if multiple insulin shots are required daily. For some children, the hardest part of the journey is accepting the facts. However, being patient and honest will go a long way. It is also essential to let the child know that juvenile diabetes is not a death sentence. Taking the fear factor out of the equation also helps.
- Diet – If your child is diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, proper diet is critical. Because someone with this disease must eat certain foods but also stay away from others, it would help for the entire family to follow the same meal plan. There are excellent diabetes cookbooks and delicious recipes found online that everyone can enjoy.
- Exercise – People with diabetes are often overweight so if your child needs to be on a weight loss plan, again it will help if everyone gets involved with physical activity. For this, the goal is to choose fun and healthy activities such as swimming, walking, biking, or tennis.
- Support – Even with the best medical and in-home care, there will be times when a child with juvenile diabetes needs outside support. Thankfully, there are excellent support groups around the country dedicated to children. If interested, you can check with local hospitals, ask the treating doctor for recommendations, or make inquiries with online diabetes organizations and groups such as JDRF.
- Independence – As your child ages, we recommend making him or her part of the solution. When ready, most children appreciate the sense of being independent, which comes from self-care. At first, you will need to provide supervision and encouragement but over time as your child begins to take medication or shots without assistance, his or her level of self-confidence will increase.
- Talking to Friends – Some children with diabetes fear that friends will abandon them and peers will tease or bully them. Unfortunately, this does happen but just talking to your child’s friends and explaining what juvenile diabetes is often makes a significant and positive impact. After all, just as your child did not understand the disease when first diagnosed, it is expected that friends will have questions and concerns.
We want to stress that with proper care, your child can lead a perfectly normal and happy life. However, initially and while growing up, there will be periods of adjustment. During these times, your child will likely experience challenges socially, emotionally, and psychologically. For you as the parent, it is important to remain alert, stay engaged, and provide unconditional love and support whenever needed.
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