When you have diabetes, it can feel like no-one really understands. But, as corny as it might sound, you’re not alone. Type 1 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes in children and teenagers. Life seems to turn upside-down for a child when they are informed of being diagnosed with diabetes. Nothing about living with a chronic condition is easy, especially when a child is in his/her teen or young adult days.
A youngster newly diagnosed with diabetes will have a range of reactions and emotions that may include shock, anger, sadness, fear and guilt. The psychosocial impact of the chronic condition is omnipresent and requires involvement of the family, school and the society, as a whole. A child diagnosed with diabetes will have common response to the condition which would include:
• Anxiety about the condition
• Fear of needles and multiple injections
• Frustration over fluctuating blood sugar level
• Fear of experiencing hypoglycaemia in public
• Embarrassment about being a diabetic and sceptical to face friend’s possible negative reactions
• Difficulty coping with the emotional reaction of family members
Living with diabetes and managing it every day can be a struggle for a young child. They may be concerned about:
• Being a burden on the family
• Being treated differently and delicately as if they are “sick”
• Coping with constant parental pressure of questions on their diet, well-being and medication
• Finding a hidden corner to use injections/insulin or measuring their blood sugar level. Children unintentionally become the centre of attention when they prick themselves.
For a child, diabetes may seem to be a lifelong burden. Even if they have adapted to living with diabetes from a young age, they can find themselves feeling alone at times and distant from their friends or peers. They may not always want to be a part of social gatherings (like prom, eating out with friends, parties, or sports) like their friends. Some kids try to cope by downplaying their problems and pretending it’s not a problem. Others even tend to take dangerous risks (i.e. tweaking or adjusting their insulin doses) because they don’t want to feel different or be excluded from social events.
Children need to understand that being diabetic is nothing to be ashamed of; it’s a part of life. Their friends, coaches, teachers, etc. should be informed about the condition so that they can understand and take necessary steps to help when required.
Children and teenagers need to be encouraged to efficiently manage their diabetes right from the beginning. It might be challenging initially but with the support of their family and diabetes care team, over a period of time, they can lead a healthy and normal life.