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From Virginia, USA:

I have two children with diabetes aged 8 and 9. They were diagnosed at ages 2 and 18 months. They don't want to have anything to do with taking over some of the care, such as testing. They can recognize lows sometimes and get a couple of snacks throughout the day. Is this normal? If it isn't, what can I do to encourage them to participate more? They both tell me they don't want to grow up!


I think your children have said exactly what the problem is: they don't want to "grow up." Part of growing up with diabetes is assuming more responsibility for its management. Although it does become boring and routine to check blood sugars, give injections, etc., it must be done. If they are not yet motivated by a desire for independence, this will change around the teen years.

Still, it is advisable for your young ones to understand that the diabetes belongs to them and not to you. Just as you no longer brush their teeth, or bathe them, or change them; there is a time to include children in their own diabetes regimen too. Ease into it. Make it a family goal. Everybody has a role to play on the path to good blood sugar control. You buy the proper food, someone else earns the money, the pharmacy provides the medicine, and the child with diabetes learns to check sugars, give shots, and stay on alert for lows and highs.


Additional Comments from Lois Finney, diabetes dietitian:

Bribery or rewards often work. We suggest giving the girls a small (seems small to us but gigantic to them) task to complete, as doing their own testing for 2 days and then providing a reward, then have them give their own injections for a week, then do the reward.


Additional Comments from Dr. Tessa Lebinger:

Although I understand it is a tremendous burden on the parents to care for 2 young children with diabetes, it sound like your children are doing what most 8 and 9 year olds are capable of doing -- recognizing lows and taking responsibility for some snacks. Although the goal is to help the child eventually become independent, if you try to give a child more responsibility than they are ready for, they often rebel and actually do less.

It is my experience that children will take on more responsibility when it is worth it to them. They'll test their own blood sugar when not doing so prevents them from doing something fun, like spending the day at a friends house. Very few children this age should be given the responsibility of drawing up their own insulin or injecting it unsupervised. Often reassuring your children that you will be there to help them as long as they need you, will make them more interested in becoming independent sooner. Again I realize this is a tremendous burden on parents.


Original posting 18 Oct 1998
Addition comments added 2 November 1998 and 2 December 1998
Posted to Daily Care and Behavior


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