Many children and teens worry about telling their friends and peers that they have diabetes. They are concerned that their friends will treat them differently, won’t like them anymore, or will think that diabetes is contagious.
You can help your child prepare to tell friends about diabetes. Here are a few tips:
- Listen to what your child is worried about when telling others. Don’t dismiss their worries —your child’s feelings are important. Their concerns do not mean that they don’t have to tell anyone about the diabetes but your child needs to have his/her feelings heard.
- Some children are very open and public about their diabetes. They are fine doing a health project on diabetes to present to their classroom. Other children are more private. If your child is shy about telling others about the diabetes — help your child figure out who at this point, has to know. Perhaps their closest friends, or a friend with whom they do sports or a friend they hang out with a lot.
- Remind your child that they would want to know if one of their friends had diabetes. Friends care about each other and worry about them. They would want to help if your child had a low blood sugar. If they don’t know about diabetes, they can’t help you!
- Discuss with your child when they might tell their friend. A natural time to bring it up would be at a snack or lunch.
- Role play with your child about how the conversation might go. Discuss what will be said about low blood sugars and how your child’s friends could help (get a snack, get an adult).
- Prepare your child for questions their friends may ask:
- Can I catch it from you?
- Did you get it from eating too much sugar?
- Can you ever eat a candy bar again?
- Does it hurt to test your blood?
- Ask your child if it would help if you as the adult contacted the parents of their friends first. This may make it easier for your child to talk about it then.
- Discuss with your child who you as a parent want to talk to about your child’s diabetes. You may be friends with the parent(s) of some of your child’s friends. You don’t want to surprise your child by telling one your friends who then says something directly to your child without first giving your child a heads-up.
- Help show friends and family how your child takes care of his health. As friends and extended family come over to your house, model for them taking care of testing and injecting insulin before eating. Talk about low blood sugars and what they should do to help.
- Many children (and adults) will learn about diabetes and how to react to it by the tone you and your child set. Diabetes is nothing to be ashamed of. Take care of diabetes as “something I always do” and then go about your usual business. Diabetes does have to be managed but the message is that you are able to do it and continue on with school, sports and life in general.
NOTE: For those times your child is not with you or friends that know about the diabetes, ALWAYS have your child wear a medic alert.