What to Tell the Kids
Diabetes is a family business. It tends to run from generation to generation, for one thing. And it is often the job of family to help those of us who get the diagnosis take care of ourselves. Fundamentally, it affects everyone in the household.
That includes the youngest family members. So Associate Editor Tracey Neithercott set out to explore how people with diabetes talk to their children about it—without freaking them out.
Personally, I have been cautious about telling my daughter about my diabetes. I really don't want to scare her. But kids have a way of forcing the conversation. When she was 4, she started asking about my "belly-button medicine"—meaning the insulin I injected into my stomach. Now, at 5, she runs over to me when she hears the first beep of the blood glucose meter, eager to see what she calls the "B." (She uses the initial letter because she finds the word "blood" upsetting, although she loves to see the substance itself.) Recently, she asked my husband, "Why does Mama do exercise?" He explained that I do it to stay healthy, in part because of my diabetes. I expect more queries soon.
Neithercott's story is full of great tips, to which I would add one of my own: Get your children involved in the cause. My daughter still talks with excitement about the "big ride" I did a couple of years ago: the ADA's Tour de Cure in Reston, Va. Regardless of how old your kids (or grandkids, or nieces or nephews) are, events like Tour de Cure or Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes can be a great way to teach them not only about diabetes, but about doing their part to support other people. It can help kids who are upset or frustrated by your condition to feel as if they are taking action that will make things better. And it gives all of us a sense of being part of a larger group, working together toward the same goal. Kind of like one (very) big family.