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How To Explain Diabetes To A Child


Key Points About Type 2 Diabetes In Children

What is Type 1 Diabetes? Diabetes explained for children – Ask Dr.Smarty
  • Diabetes is a condition in which the body can’t make enough insulin, or can’t use insulin normally. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder.
  • High blood sugar can cause problems all over the body. It can damage blood vessels and nerves. It can harm the eyes, kidneys, and heart.
  • Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include family history, excess weight, and not enough exercise.
  • Children at higher risk of type 2 diabetes should be screened. Screening is done with blood tests.
  • Treatment includes a healthy diet, regular exercise, and weight loss. Medicines and insulin may be needed in some cases.
  • Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition. It requires lifestyle changes in order to keep healthy blood glucose levels. Its important to work closely with your child’s healthcare team to create an ongoing plan that works for your child.

How Is Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosed

How do you find out whether you have diabetes? Doctors can say for sure if a person has diabetes by testing blood samples for glucose. Even if a kid doesn’t have any symptoms of type 2 diabetes, doctors may use blood tests to check for it in kids who are more likely to get it â like those who are overweight.

If you have type 2 diabetes, you may visit a doctor called a pediatric endocrinologist . A pediatric endocrinologist helps kids with diabetes, growth problems, and more.

A Teachers Guide To Kids With Type 1 Diabetes

Editors Note: This content is a part of Beyond Type 1s guidebook, which includes guides for everyone who has a Type 1 in their life. Check out the rest of our customized guides for the different people in your life here!

Being a teacher comes with the responsibility of taking care of 20-30 children on a daily basis. In your career, you may have a student with Type 1 diabetes in your class. Although you may feel overwhelmed about what to expect, there is no need! This guide will make you aware of the conditions of a child with T1D, which will give you a better understanding of how to keep him or her healthy and safe at school.


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How Is Type 1 Diabetes Treated

Kids who have type 1 diabetes have to pay a little more attention to what they eat and do than kids without diabetes. They need to:

  • take insulin as their doctor prescribed
  • eat a healthy, balanced diet with accurate carbohydrate counts
  • check blood sugar levels as prescribed
  • get regular exercise

Kids with diabetes will have to do special things sometimes, like eat a snack on the bus during a long school trip. Or they might have to wake up earlier than everyone else at a sleepover to take their insulin and have some breakfast to keep their blood sugar levels under control.

How Can I Explain What Diabetes Is

Changing Diabetes in Children

There are a few ways you may wish to explain diabetes to your child in a simple way.

There is part of the body called the pancreas which is inside us close to the stomach. My pancreas has got damaged and it means I cant get energy from the food I eat unless I take injections of this fluid called insulin. When the pancreas is not working fully like this, its called diabetes.


If I dont take insulin, or dont take enough, too much sugar goes into my blood and without insulin it cant get used up for energy. I have to take just the right amount of insulin though, because if I take too much, I dont have enough sugar in my blood and that also leaves me with very little energy. So the insulin I take each day helps to keep me healthy.

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Using Simple Understandable Positive Language

It can be very helpful to keep your explanation simple. The information that you give should be appropriate to your child’s age, vocabulary, and understanding of the world.

When you explain type 1 diabetes to your child, try to keep your language simple and take care to explain any medical terms when you use them.

To keep things simple, consider using similes in your explanations, comparing the human body to something more familiar to your child. Diabetes involves complex and invisible processes, and it can be difficult for a child to imagine them.


You might, for example, illustrate your explanations with the idea of a car. This would be the equivalent of the human body. Explain to your child that a car needs fuel to move, just as the body needs glucose to function. If the car has a broken part, it can no longer use the fuel. The same is true for people with diabetes, who can no longer use glucose for fuel because their pancreas is not working properly.

Talking To Your Child About Diabetes

If your child has been diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you may feel shocked, sad, or even angry or guilty at first feelings that are perfectly normal.

But the more you learn about diabetes, the better prepared you’ll be to talk about it with your child.

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Managing Diabetes In Young Children

Your child will need insulin several times a day. This is given by injection or with an insulin pen. Another option is an insulin pump, a small device which is worn 24 hours a day and delivers insulin to the body through a plastic tube. A pump is not suitable for every child, so discuss this with your doctor. You may be eligible for a subsidy from the Australian Government to buy a pump. Visit the JDRF website for more information.


You will need to monitor your childs blood glucose levels regularly, up to 6 times throughout the day and night. You do this by testing a drop of your childs blood in a special testing kit. The aim is to keep the levels within a target range set by your doctor.

To keep blood glucose levels within the right range, you will need to carefully balance the food your child eats with the amount of physical activity they do and their insulin.

If their blood glucose levels fall too low, your child could develop hypoglycaemia, or if they are too high they could develop hyperglycaemia, which could lead to an even more serious condition known as ketoacidosis. Both of these conditions are medical emergencies and you will need to learn how to recognise and manage them.

You will also need to keep your child healthy by following an eating plan and making sure they get plenty of physical activity.

Try To Keep It Light But Always Honest

Explaining Type-2 Diabetes to Kids

It is important to know when to tell your child about the risks and complications of diabetes, as this will help them understand why they should be careful and diligent with their treatment. If they understand the underlying processes involved in the condition, they will be more willing to make the necessary changes.


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Effective Treatments For Type 2 Diabetes

  • make adjustments to lifestyle – healthy eating, an increase in physical activity and weight loss may prevent the need for medical treatment
  • most young people will need medical treatment at some stage, including tablets that help the body to use insulin more effectively, insulin injections or a combination of both
  • medicines do not cure diabetes and most people will have to take medicines for the rest of their lives
  • a child or young person living with diabetes needs a lot of care and assistance with establishing healthy habits to help and support them in living with diabetes

Tip #6 Know How To Handle The Will I Get Diabetes Too

Question At some point, most children will ask you, Will I get diabetes, too? Its important to avoid saying, No, youll never have diabetes. A better option is to say something like, Chances are you wont get diabetes, but if you do, we already know what to do to help. This goes back to honesty, lying is the worst thing you can do when kids ask this question. Instead, take the opportunity to reassure them that diabetes can be managed if they do get it. Being honest up front helps prevent unneeded fear.

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Telling Your Child You Have Diabetes

Not every parent with diabetes has to have a full sit-down talk with their children. For those who were diagnosed before their children were born, all of the little rituals and routines associated with Type 1 diabetes will seem normal. Instead, children will be more likely to ask questions as they go along. Expect lots of questions related to why friends and classmates parents dont have to prick their fingers or give themselves insulin injections. Its important to stress that your condition is perfectly normal, and that lots of people deal with it. Use everyday experiences as opportunities to explain to your children what youre doing and why.

Know About The Necessary T1d Items

diabetes management tips for parents with diabetic children

Your student will most likely always have a few items within their reach to keep track of their T1D throughout the day. These can include a blood glucose meter, fast-acting sugar to treat a low, and insulin pens or supplies for a pump. Also, a student may have a small device paired with their continuous glucose monitor or their pump that they use to deliver insulin or track levels. It is not a cell phone, they are actually checking up on themselves!


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Work With A Medical Team

Your child will need to see the doctor at least four times a year. If youâre having trouble controlling their glucose levels, it might be even more than that. If your doctor is making changes in your kidâs care plan, you may need to talk once a week or more.

Having type 1 puts your child at higher risk of other health concerns such as foot, eye, or kidney problems. Your child will need regular eye exams, and you may want to meet with a dietitian, too. You may also want to see a diabetes educator, a professional who helps people understand and manage diabetes.

Terms Can Be Confusing Here Are 6 Tips For Easing Fear For A Child With Diabetes

Lily, a 6-year-old diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a couple of weeks earlier, came into the child life playroom at the Vanderbilt Eskind Diabetes Clinic. As she quietly looked around, I introduced myself as a child life specialist, and we started to draw pictures together. As we were drawing, I asked her what she knew about diabetes.

She remained quiet and continued to draw pictures on the dry-erase board.


Is there glue in my blood?

What makes you think that there is glue in your blood?

It seems that when she heard the doctor talking about sugar in her blood, she kept hearing the word glue. I knew immediately that she had misinterpreted the term glucose. I took a marker and wrote the word glucose on the board, said the word out loud and explained that glucose is a fancy word for sugar.

As a child life specialist in a healthcare setting, one of my roles is to interpret medical language for children and teens.

Many times children will practice the language of diabetes through their play, activity or discussions, depending on the age. Its a time to reflect, practice and finally master new information. In these moments is an opportunity to intervene, to clear up misinterpretations and ultimately begin to decrease fear.


If you, as an adult, have to look up what a medical word means, recognize that your child probably doesnt understand its meaning either. Here are some tips for talking about diabetes with your child:

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Answering Will I Need To Inject Some Day

This can be tough question as it wed like to be able to give a definite no but it is possible that your children may develop type 1 diabetes as it is statistically a bit more likely in children of parents with type 1 diabetes.

You may want to answer with: Its hard to know what will happen to us. Its more likely that you wont have diabetes.

You could also add: I was upset when I first knew I had diabetes, but I soon got used to it.


It can be helpful to be honest about a possible risk in case your child does go on to develop diabetes but youll want to explain things in such a way so as not to frighten your son or daughter.

The Abcs Of T1d: How To Explain Type 1 Diabetes To A Child

What is Type 1 diabetes? A children’s guide | Diabetes UK

As with any chronic disease, the initial diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes can seem shocking. The subsequent lifestyle changes arent easy and when you add in the vocabulary you need to know relating to the disease, your to-do list is long.

The challenge is even greater when you have to explain everything to your child. The easiest way to break it down is to use analogies theyre familiar with. Using an airplane, butterfly, or bird can help your little ones better understand how to monitor their sugar. For example, tell them the airplane has to be in the zone to get to where its going for their blood sugar, in the zone represents their target glucose levels.

Here are the basic terms you need to know if youre taking care of someone who has Type 1 diabetes, and how to explain it to a child:

If your child is on an insulin pump, there are several other terms that may need to be explained.


Explaining medical conditions to kids is never easy, but using common analogies can help them to digest what they should be doing. It may also be helpful to draw a picture and show your child what it looks like when their sugar goes too high or low, using the plane as an analogy. Teaching your little ones these terms will help them to be the best flight captains they can be!

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A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association

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What Is Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus, is a disorder in which the body cannot properly use glucose as an energy source. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not make enough of the hormone insulin, which enables the body to properly utilize glucose. Type 1 diabetes develops when the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas are destroyed due to an autoimmune process in which the bodys immune system mistakenly destroys its own organs or tissues. People with type 1 diabetes need daily insulin shots. This is the more prevalent form of diabetes in children and young adults. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces enough insulin but the body cannot use it effectively, referred to as insulin resistance. Gradually, insulin production slows down, as is the case in type 1 diabetes. Previously unheard of in children and teens, type 2 diabetes is now being diagnosed more often in youngsters, which many public health experts blame on the rising tide of childhood obesity.


What Happens Without Insulin

  • Sugar is not able to enter the bodys cells to give energy.
  • The sugar builds up in your childs bloodstream.
  • The blood sugar will go higher. Things will start to happen that are dangerous to your childs health.
  • Your childs body begins to break down fats to get energy .
  • Fat breakdown causes ketones.
  • High levels of ketones in the body will make your child very sick.
  • The kidneys try to send the extra sugar in the blood out of the body in urine.
  • This pulls water from the body and causes your child to urinate.
  • Your child will drink and urinate more as the blood sugar increases.
  • This leads to dehydration.
  • Insulin by injection is the only treatment for type 1 diabetes.
  • Insulin injections will replace the insulin your child no longer makes.
  • There is no pill form of insulin.
  • Meal planning and exercise also help control diabetes.

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How Come Does The Truck Not Work Sometimes

Unfortunately, no. For people living with diabetes, the truck doesnt always work normally.

If the insulin truck is driving around but theres not enough sugar to deliver, the muscles will feel weak. This is called hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. When this happens, you need to eat sugar.

On the other hand, if theres much too much sugar to carry around, the truck will overflow and your muscles cant absorb all that sugar. This is called hyperglycemia or high blood sugar. People with diabetes then have to add more insulin to their body to capture the excess sugar.

Tips For Explaining Diabetes To Children

Diabetes Types 1 &  2 explained for primary school children

Having a plan before addressing the issue without children is very important. It can mean the difference between the conversation flowing easily and it becoming an overcomplicated mess. Therefore, we hope youll find the following tips to be of use:


  • Use clear and simple language that your children can understand. Be sure to adapt your wording according to age. Its very important to use examples to illustrate your explanation.
  • Reward children for the advances and achievements they make in regards to controlling their condition. This helps kids take on responsibility and, little by little, learn to take care of themselves.
  • Work continuously each day to prove the autonomy your child is acquiring. This helps little ones feel that you trust in their abilities to deal with the disease.
  • Children with diabetes need the tools to be able to explain their condition as naturally as possible in order to naturalize their condition. Whats more, its a good idea for parents to talk to their childrens teachers before this happens. That way, children have some positive reinforcement in the classroom.
  • Of course, we understand that this is all easier said than done. So, to help you explain diabetes to children, you can use the simplified version below. We hope, by offering this explanation, we can make these difficult times a little less complex for you and your little one.

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