How to Shift Diabetes Care as Your Child Grows Up

2016-04-20 14:00:24 by Janet Haas, RN, CDE, as posted on the blog.


When your child is an infant or toddler, you must take complete responsibility for his diabetes care. But as children mature, they can gradually handle more self-care.

You should follow these general guidelines for each stage of your child’s development.

Less than 3 years old

At this age, children are developing gross motor and speech skills. They start responding to love and are learning to trust. You must:

  • Accept diabetes care as a part of normal life and perform all care activities.

  • Give insulin shots.

3 to 7 years old

These young children are naturally self-centered and have an undeveloped sense of time. While they can't think abstractly, they do think imaginatively and concretely. You must:

  • Still perform all tasks related to diabetes care, although your child will gradually learn to cooperate for blood sugar tests and insulin shots.

  • Watch what they eat, since children in the age group are inconsistent with their food choices and may still need insulin after meals.

  • Manage all of their insulin needs.

  • Be aware that your child can gradually lean to recognize hypoglycemia.

8 to 12 years old

Children this age tend to be concrete thinkers. They become more social, responsible, curious, logical and understanding.

Be aware most children younger than 12 cannot comprehend that doing something now (like managing their diabetes) helps prevent problems in the future (such as diabetes complications). At this stage, with supervision, your child should be able to:

  • Test her own blood sugar levels.

  • Occasionally draw up and give his own shots – at age 10 or 11 with supervision.

  • Make her own food choices and start counting carbs.

  • Recognize and treat hypoglycemia.

  • Remember snacks by age 11 or 12, although she may still need reminders.

  • Administer his own insulin pump boluses, with reminders from adults.

13 to 18 years old

During the teen years, your child becomes increasingly independent and responsible and may spend more time away from home. Behavior varies, body image is important, and your child develops the ability to think abstractly.

Fortunately, teens are now able to understand the importance of doing something now to prevent problems later. They can:

  • Manage the majority of blood sugar tests and insulin shots or pumps themselves – although parents may still need to help determine dosages.

  • Count carbohydrates and make their own food choices.

  • Gradually recognize the importance of good sugar control to prevent later complications.

  • Be more willing to inject multiple shots per day.

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