Growing up and diabetes management

Growing up and diabetes management

Helping children and young people with diabetes to move towards self management has 3 key parts: having knowledge, having skills, having support.

Key points to remember about growing up and diabetes management

  • as a child or young person with diabetes grows and develops, what they know about diabetes and how they manage it, will also change
  • this growth and change is a gradual process
  • helping children and young people with diabetes to move towards self management has 3 key parts: having knowledge, having skills, having support

How does understanding of diabetes develop as my child grows up?

As a child or young person with diabetes grows and develops, what they know about diabetes and how they manage it, will also change. This growth and change is a gradual process. One part of this change is diabetes knowledge:

  • how a child or young person understands what diabetes is
  • how it affects them and those close to them
  • how to manage it

How might a 5 year old understand their diabetes? 

A 5 year old may know that they have diabetes, that certain foods and drink are good for them (and others not!) and that they need to have insulin to stay well.

How might a 12 year old understand their diabetes? 

A 12 year old will know the same things but at a different level - they may know more about how their body works and how diabetes can affect them, why certain foods and drink are better than others and how to use this in the management of their diabetes.

How might a 14 year old understand their diabetes? 

A 14 year old may not give any value to knowledge that has been 'handed down' from adults or parents regarding diabetes management. This might result in not following diabetes management regimes as well as other risk taking behaviours.  

How can my child develop diabetes management skills?

Another part of this growth and change is the development of diabetes skills. Just as we expect a typical 12 year old will have better coordination and physical abilities than a 5 year old, there are different expectations of a 5 year old with diabetes, a 12 year old with diabetes and an adolescent with diabetes. 

What diabetes management skills might a 5 year old have?

A 5 year old with diabetes may do their finger prick test but not read their result or inject.

What diabetes management skills might a 12 year old have?

A 12 year old who has had diabetes for some time will probably have the knowledge and skills to their finger prick test, read their result and inject.

What diabetes management skills might a 14 year old have?

A 14 year old may not carry out blood glucose testing at all despite them having the skills and knowledge to be able to do so.

How can I  support my child living with diabetes?

Having support (a 'buddy') can often make a difference - having someone to encourage, remind, praise.

Knowing what to do and how to do it does not always mean we put it in to practice! We know that it is better for our health and wellbeing to have a healthy lifestyle including regular exercise. Knowing we should exercise regularly and having the skills (we know how to walk, jog, cycle) does not mean that we always do this. Having support (a 'buddy') can often make a difference - having someone to encourage, remind, praise.

Support from someone close (especially parents) is essential in having good diabetes management

In the same way, people with diabetes (of all ages) need support and encouragement. We know that even for young people who can self manage their diabetes, support from someone close to them (especially parents) is essential in having good diabetes management. Having diabetes can sometimes be a pain and having someone who can understand this and stay positive really seems to help young people with their diabetes control.

Young people with diabetes may need supervision as well as support

The support and encouragement needed depends on age and stage. When a person with diabetes is younger, or newly diagnosed, they may need supervision as well as support. They need someone to remind and help them with:

  • testing and reading the results
  • decisions around food and exercise
  • insulin adjustment and with giving injections

Moving towards self management

2 young adults playing sport

  Helping children and young people with diabetes to move towards self management has 3 key parts:

  • having knowledge
  • having skills
  • having support

The diabetes team can provide information and teach skills for managing diabetes for children and young people with diabetes as well as their parents and others who look after them and support them.

Please contact your local diabetes team if you would like further information on this or other ways to support your child or young person with diabetes as they move through the stages of childhood to adolescence.

You may find the general information in our parenting teens section useful.

The Paediatric Society of New Zealand acknowledges the cooperation of the Starship Children's Hospital, Auckland District Health Board. The content on this page has been produced in collaboration with the National Clinical Network Children and Young People's Diabetes Services.

This page last reviewed 04 May 2016.
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