Talking To Your Children About Type 2 Diabetes
Parents are often worried about their children’s risk for type 2 diabetes, with good reason. Type 2 diabetes in youth represents the most rapidly growing form of diabetes in the US and other developed countries. parents who have type 2 diabetes themselves also might be concerned about their children developing the condition. There are many ways that families can encourage healthy behaviors and stay active to reduce their risk of diabetes or health complications.
- Positively enforce healthy behavior in a nonthreatening manner that will motivate kids, not scare them.
- Inform and encourage children to be healthy and active; don’t frighten them or create worry needlessly.
- Give practical advice tailored to your child’s age and interests for activities that burn calories.
- Provide low-calorie food alternatives and eat together as a family.
- It’s important to reinforce positive behaviors. For example, if your child likes to ride his or her bike or snack on vegetables, show encouragement and even join them.
- Avoid using threatening language, for example: “If you don’t exercise, something bad will happen to you.” Threats can be damaging and may backfire.
- Integrate calorie burning, healthy activities that provide alternatives to “going to the gym” or playing a sport. Simple activities can easily be infused into your daily routine. Try these on for size:
- Choose places you normally go by car and walk. Encourage your child to walk one stop further than their regular bus stop.
- At the mall or grocery store, park far away from the front entrance and take the stairs instead of the escalator.
- Figure out ways to “waste energy,” for example, when cleaning up, make two trips to your room instead of one or make multiple trips up the stairs.
- Exercise together as a family to instill healthy, active values that your child will carry on through adulthood.
- Provide positive motivation by way of goal-setting. For example, offer praise or a reward for taking the stairs, cleaning your room or engaging in other “active” behaviors.
- Reverse threatening language. Tell your kids you can achieve a healthy life if you eat right and if you eat right you’ll feel even more energized later.
- Give your child opportunities to engage in and make their own healthy food choices.
- Plate-to-hand options: Provide nutritious foods that are ready to go and don’t require any effort on the child’s part. For example, stock the fridge with fruit that’s washed, sliced, and ready to eat.
- Buy pre-packaged 100-calorie snacks.
- Set healthy foods at eye-level in refrigerator.
- Remove diet drinks and sodas from your home.
- Be a good role model for your children by engaging in healthy behavior yourself.
- Avoid using the term “controlled/controlling” diabetes.
- Explain what diabetes is in language your child can understand. Try: Every cell in your body has a factory. Factories need fuel. With diabetes, fuel can’t get to the factory.
- Important bottom line: You can still live a long, happy, healthy life with diabetes.
- If you take care of your diabetes, you can avoid complications.
- Do the best you can, stay physically fit and eat well.
To learn more about managing diabetes for you and your loves ones, visit dailydiabetes.org.Additional editing by Henry Anhalt, DO, FAAP, FACE, FACOP.