Conversations We Need: Talking About Diabetes With Our Children

By Corinna Cornejo

A mother holding her son

Children are curious about the world around them. Asking questions is one way they learn. When they see people around them taking medicine or injections, or being careful about what they eat, or just not feeling well questions will come up. 

“How come you do that?"

"Will I have to do that too?"

"What will happen when…?”

Sometimes the questions the children in our lives ask are uncomfortable. But we cannot shy away from them — especially when it comes to questions about our diabetes. 

We need to help the children in our lives understand that we are living with diabetes and what that means for us and the people around us. Our children need to be told what we do to take care of ourselves and how they can help. These are conversations (more than one) we need to have with our children as they grow and mature.

Little Pitchers Have Big Ears

It’s easy to think “Oh, I don’t want to burden my child with my health,” or “They’re too young to understand.” But children see what’s going on around them and they sense strong emotions. If we try to hide what we’re going through it can cause more difficulties than we expect.

Left on their own to make sense of what’s going on and how they fit in, our children will likely end up misunderstanding or even feeling anxious about what they see and hear. They can get the wrong information and make assumptions about what’s going to happen.

Don’t Try to Sugarcoat It

Being honest, especially with children, can sometimes be difficult. But starting with honesty, even if that means admitting to not knowing something (like what will happen in the future), is how we build trust. When a child knows they can trust an adult in their life, they feel more secure and learn how to build healthy, supportive relationships. 

Tips for Having Healthy Conversations About Your Diabetes

Here are some tips for having conversations about diabetes with the children in your life.

Keep the Conversation Going As They Grow

Talking with the children in our lives about our diabetes is not a one-and-done task.

Different events can trigger conversations. It might be something they see in a commercial on TV or a change in your diabetes care routine. Sometimes you’ll need to cover the same ground more than once or in different ways before the child fully understands. As they grow and mature, different concerns and questions will come up. Each of these situations can be a chance to deepen the conversation, add to understanding and strengthen your relationship.

The point is to keep the conversation going so that diabetes remains a manageable part of everyone’s life.