When it comes to talking to young children about anything medical, there is a fair share of do’s and don’ts. If your young one has recently been diagnosed with diabetes, you may be left questioning yourself as to how to tell them in terms that they understand, without making it seem scary.
Always remember that you are your child’s rock –their safe place they can turn to no matter what. When they are older, you can talk to them in more detail about the disease, but at a young age they may easily be scared by the situation, and using the wrong words or the wrong context can give them frightening thoughts.
Take a step back for a moment, and throw away the intense medical terms. For now, stick with these helpful guidelines.
Control your Emotions
Children pick up how you are feeling very easily, often just by the way you look. As previously mentioned, you need to remind yourself that you are their rock.
It may seem hard at the time, and of course with the new diagnosis you will be overwhelmed, and might feel at a loss for words.
On top of that, you may be feeling angry, upset, sad, and worried about your child’s well-being.
But…be a rock!
It’s very easy to get swept up in the emotions, but stay calm for your child and they will stay calm about the situation as well. Keeping your patience and whatever worries you have to yourself will go a long way at putting them at ease.
Introducing the New Word
Don’t speak to your child as if they were an adult. Save it. Save the effects, symptoms, facts, and medical terms for your partner or when talking to other adults you are close to. A child’s mind can easily take one word you say and twist it into a million. Just the term ‘diabetes’ to them might seem scary –if nothing else because it sounds like ‘die’ at the beginning.
An easy way to do this is by telling your child that having diabetes is like having the flu, but it doesn’t exactly go away with time. Mention that, like the flu, they will have to take medicine and rest when they aren’t feeling the greatest.
Make it seem as though it’s just going to be a part of your family’s normal daily routine, like breakfast and dinner. Most importantly, remind them that it is not uncommon and that a lot of “grown ups and kids your age all over the world” have the same thing.
Encourage your Child
One of the most valuable things your child should learn from you teaching them about diabetes is to embrace it and not fear it. I know, it seems absurd to ‘embrace’ having diabetes, but think about it from your child’s perspective. They do get out of classes early most of the time to get their medicines, they get their meals early at school, and they acquire the skill set to teach others about it.
This can be very empowering to him/her, and motivate them to get more active. In this day and age, the internet is a great tool, and you can find support groups and meetups with other children who have diabetes if your child feels singled out in school. Why not take advantage of that?
Always take note that you are never alone, and your child isn’t either. What seems scary to you now will just be a normal part of your daily routine.
Always be there to support them, and don’t let your child think that diabetes is going to get in the way of their future hopes and dreams. It won’t –children are capable of anything and diabetes won’t hold them back.